Is your smartphone replacing your camera?

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

Syd Bolton, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:55 PM ET

Earlier this year, Apple produced a commercial promoting the fact that its cameras (contained within the iPhone) were the most popular in the world. If you look at the statistics contained within Flickr, the world’s most popular photo site, it would appear that claim is true. The top three cameras are the iPhone 5, 4S, and 4. Are the days of using a regular camera over?

One could argue that Kodak, once the largest camera company in the world, failed to move more quickly on the change from traditional film to digital technology and that led to their downfall in the photography business. The truth is that Kodak developed the first digital camera in 1975 but fear of it threatening their traditional business led them to build business outside of those technologies, and ultimately led to their restructuring as a digital imaging company (Kodak emerged from bankruptcy protection just last month).

Purist photographers will tell you that cameras on smartphones are mere toys when compared to the power of DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera. Honestly, they are correct. However, the problem is that cellphone cameras are killing the point-and-shoot market, creating a great divide between the casual photographer and the professional. According to CIPA, a site that tracks shipments of digital cameras all over the world, shipments in 2012 worldwide totaled over 1.1 billion cameras. In 2013, from January to August, the number is just over 500 million. There is no question that there is a major decline in camera sales, but other studies show people are taking more pictures than ever.

For companies like Canon, who have market share in many other areas (including high-end medical devices), the shift in the market will likely be one they can recover from. For companies with more of focus (pardon the pun) on cameras, like Nikon, the future may not be so rosy if they can’t adjust their business model to adapt to the change in the world. While it’s difficult to argue that smartphone cameras are better than dedicated cameras, for most consumers they are “good enough” and that is causing major change.

The one positive response from the competition felt from the camera wars is that many camera manufacturers who once offered lenses and add-ons that worked only with their own equipment have now adopted a more universal approach. The one area that traditional cameras have over smartphone cameras is the flexibility in lenses, which ultimately controls the quality of the pictures you take. Since smartphones tend to be so thin, their lenses are limited.

Perhaps the real answer to all of this is somewhere in the middle. A recent LifeHacker article discusses how to use your smartphone to get better pictures with a traditional camera. Sony has even released lenses that work with your smartphone as the body of the camera, and there are many companies offering attachments for tripods and other more traditional photography gear. The options, it would appear, are limitless.

Another great article I came across offers 10 tips on how to take better pictures with your smartphone. There is no denying that the convenience of having a camera with you all of the time does have value, and if you can take better pictures with it, then why wouldn’t you? Like traditional photography, the best tips are to get the best lighting possible and be as close to your subject matter as you can be.

With the middle ground of cameras in question, I wonder what the future is for "prosumers" – those that are hobbyists that perhaps won’t spend too much money on a camera but are willing to spend more than just an average point-and-shoot. Will the divide between the high-end and low-end get bigger? I suppose only time will tell.

What about you? Has the smartphone camera changed your world? Are you taking more pictures now than ever before? Make sure you share your thoughts with me, and even better, your pictures.

Syd Bolton is the curator of the Personal Computer Museum and the manager of Information Technology at ACIC / Methapharm. You can reach him via-email at sbolton@bfree.on.ca or by snail mail care of The Brantford Expositor.

 


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