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11/8/2013
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Smartphones Destroying High-End Camera Sales

Smartphones with powerful cameras have begun to take a toll on sales of expensive, dSLR cameras. But are they really good enough to replace them for most users?

Smartphone makers such as HTC, Nokia and Samsung have made it a point to build powerful cameras into their mobile devices. Many of today's leading smartphones offer not only high megapixel counts, but astounding software that lets them shoot in a wide variety of different modes. The appeal of camera-equipped smartphones has led to a decline in point-and-shoot camera sales for some time. Now it appears that these uber-devices are impacting sales of high-end, professional cameras, too.

Research firm IDC predicts that shipments of what it calls "interchangeable-lens cameras" (or dSLRs) will drop 9.1% from 19.1 million last year to 17.4 million this year. At the same time, Canon and Nikon, the leading dSLR makers, have been forced to lower forecasts for the year. Further, Tamron, a third-party maker of lenses, saw shipments slump by as much as 22% during the first three quarters, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"We are seeing tough figures at the moment, but I don't think this will last forever,'' said Nikon Chief Financial Officer Junichi Itoh. "There still is potential demand, and I think China is the key."

Tamron knows it is in trouble. "Smartphones pose a threat not just to compact cameras but entry-level dSLRs as well," said general manager Tsugio Tsuchiya. Nikon and counterpart Canon blamed the slower shipments on a weak global economy, but that's not the only factor at play.

In July, Nokia announced the Lumia 1020, a smartphone that boasts a 41-megapixel PureView camera. The camera features lossless zoom and controls that often match those of dSLRs when it comes to adjusting the behavior of the camera. Nokia has made no secret of the fact that it wants its powerful smartphone cameras to set Lumia-branded smartphones apart from the competition.

Last month, Apple introduced the iPhone 5s with an 8-megapixel camera. Apple took pains to improve the camera with a wider aperture and more sensitive sensor. The same is true of the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4, LG G2 and other top smartphones. Many of these device manufacturers pitch their phones as replacements for stand-alone cameras.

The phone makers aren't alone. The app economy has risen to support smartphone-based imaging. Consider Yahoo's Flickr. It has revised both its Android and iOS apps in the past 12 months and offers customers 1 TB of online storage for free. Then there are apps such as Instagram that make editing and sharing picture fun and social. Social networking sites, including Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, all place a premium on posts that include images. All three have worked hard to make it easy to share images online from smartphones. Combine good cameras with appealing software and the easy portability of smartphones, and you have a recipe for disaster as far as dSLR makers are concerned.

Canon doesn't quite see it that way. "Taking photos with smartphones and editing them with apps is like cooking with cheap ingredients and a lot of artificial flavoring," said Canon spokesman Takafumi Hongo to The Journal. "Using interchangeable cameras is like slow food cooked with natural, genuine ingredients."

If there's one thing people like to do with their images, it is to share them. With dSLRs, this often involves removing a memory card, putting it into a computer, downloading the images and then sorting through them before posting them online. The immediacy offered by smartphones is compelling.

There's no question that dSLRs and other stand-alone cameras often produce better results than smartphones in the long run. Professionals will likely always use heavy-duty imaging gear when on the job, and prosumers are likely to prefer dSLRs to their smartphones for advanced hobby use. The general population, however, may find that smartphones fulfill their imaging needs.

An old saying goes, "the best camera is the one you have with you." For an increasing number of smartphones buyers, that will always be their mobile device.

What do you think? Have you given up on advanced cameras, or do you find them preferable to smartphones?

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Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/14/2013 | 3:13:10 PM
re: Smartphones Destroying High-End Camera Sales
One of the other things about these camera sales is that they can also be one per household, instead of mobile which is one per person. DSLRs are rarely monopolized throughout the day, so they are ideal for sharing, and families/couples may make a one time investment in a solid camera to last them years while mobiles are replaced every two years. As mobile cameras get better, the situations where a DSLR will make a world of difference are watered down "eh, my phone camera will do."
Becca L
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Becca L,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/14/2013 | 3:08:07 PM
re: Smartphones Destroying High-End Camera Sales
Great point about the weight of the DSLR. Our laptops are getting lighter, our phones are getting smaller and sleeker, but cameras get bulkier - and that's seems to be preferred by those using the cameras professionally, but as an amateur/casual photog, I can not be carrying these things around with me all day. For the life I lead, the convenience of a DSLR camera is just about nill.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
11/12/2013 | 9:08:30 PM
re: Smartphones Destroying High-End Camera Sales
Interchangeable lenses for iPhones also have the problem of (probably) not being forward compatible. I've avoided getting an iPhone snap-on lens simply because I expect that the next phone I buy will not work with lens acquired for an earlier model phone.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/12/2013 | 12:00:35 AM
re: Smartphones Destroying High-End Camera Sales
It's hard to argue with the ease-of-use, sharing features and, increasingly, the picture quality of smartphone cams. Granted, snapping a sunset with your iPhone and throwing an Instagram filter on it is not exactly photography, but it looks enough like it to please most folks -- and really hurt dSLR sales. The pros know the difference, but smartphones are getting closer and closer to the real thing.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
11/11/2013 | 9:58:15 PM
re: Smartphones Destroying High-End Camera Sales
I don't think anyone disputes the quality difference. It really comes down to what you want. Purists want great pics, but most of us just want something adequate.
Like wines - I can't stand most of them, but some are okay. However, wine snobs would denigrate me for my choices and say I have no idea what I am doing. Same applies here.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
11/11/2013 | 9:50:20 PM
re: Smartphones Destroying High-End Camera Sales
I think the point is that I can hit two buttons on my phone and do the same without moving anything.
GAProgrammer
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GAProgrammer,
User Rank: Ninja
11/11/2013 | 9:48:55 PM
re: Smartphones Destroying High-End Camera Sales
My only disagreement with your statement is that they will regret it in the future. Many of the pics taken today are just Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter fodder which reduces the size that most people see it in. The quality reduction is no big deal for them. I take pics with my phone all the time and it is good enough for my purposes, but my wife still loves to have a separate "take real pictures" camera.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
11/11/2013 | 9:28:53 PM
re: Smartphones Destroying High-End Camera Sales
For soccer games, the iPhone is not enough. You need a good telephoto lens.
FredB493
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FredB493,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/11/2013 | 7:11:27 PM
re: Smartphones Destroying High-End Camera Sales
I'm not really a camera wonk, but IMO anyone who finds a smartphone to be a decent replacement for their dSLR, or even a good point and shoot. Their tiny lens's limited light-gathering capabilities and non-existent optical zoom means they are very limited in their capabilities. Fine for quick snapshots and in situations with good lighting, but there are so many shots they're just not capable of taking. I don't have an SLR, but I will continue to use my Panasonic ZS-1 when I want to take better pictures. OTOH, my phone is pretty much always with me, so it's the go to for quick snapshots that I wouldn't have taken otherwise. Under the right circumstances it takes pictures that are comparable to those a better camera would take, not like the crappy camera phones from years ago.
JeffM935
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JeffM935,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/11/2013 | 6:12:27 PM
re: Smartphones Destroying High-End Camera Sales
If you add up every photo taken with any camera, what percentage of those images actually get printed out to a 16x20 print, matted, framed and hung on the wall? Maybe .0001 percent? The ones that actually look good are photos taken with a better DSLR camera. You don't need much to make a photo look good on a computer monitor and even less on a small smartphone screen. So, unless you are doing some real photography work, the smart phone is all you really need. But I can't imagine some of my favorite prints hanging around my office with blue ribbons dangling from them ever being taken with a smartphone. There is much more to quality than pixel count.
Page 1 / 4   >   >>
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