Why your smart-phone will replace digital cameras

One of the greatest smart-phone features is that apps such as Instagram and Vignette allow us the ability take amazing photos, make them look artsy and then post them to our social networks instantly.  With the new generation of smart-phone cameras now possessing 8mp resolution, flash and zoom capabilities – why would I buy a digital camera?

The photography class you took in college (kinda) still matters!

Now please understand, I am not proposing that phones will replace fancy Nikon or Canon DSLR’s. The photos that a great camera with a skilled photographer can take are truly incredible. However, these take experience to get just right and at least a basic knowledge of some photo editing software to work out the kinks.  For the average person, it is becoming preferable to use their smart-phone coupled with a cool app over using a digital camera to take photos of friends at parties and simple landscape shots.  With the smart-phone user base increasing by the day and fun new apps giving everyone the ability to look like professional photographers with ease, it is not hard to imagine a world where point-and-shoot digital cameras no longer exist.

I don’t have enough pockets!

The merging of phones and cameras was inevitable.  Most of the time you do not plan on seeing something awesome and photo-worthy.  I remember taking tons of terrible pictures with my old phone when it only was .3mp simply because I either forgot to bring my camera or did not plan on needing it.  Additionally, being that I don’t (routinely) carry a purse, I really only have enough room in my pockets for my phone, wallet and keys. My camera just does not make the cut. Fortunately, my shiny new smart-phone packs a nice 8mp camera which, when combined with the Vignette photo app, takes some seriously awesome pictures.

(Took this picture of the Boston Harbor with my phone.  Soooo artsy.)

It’s all about the apps

The hard truth is that current camera designs simply cannot compete with the bevy of amazing photo apps available to the consumers. Most people don’t want to load pictures into their computers and mess with them. They want to look at them right at that moment and show their friends what a crazy cool picture they just took.

(How else could I have talked alllll night about how I made NYC look like a Sci-Fi movie…)

But my camera takes out red-eyes and blemishes!

I have seen some camera’s try to allow basic photo editing within the device itself but have not been impressed with the capabilities.  For the most part, these cameras lack automatic updates and the ability to share via social networks.  Lacking these capabilities makes these “new features” seem archaic when compared to the capabilities provided by smart-phones.  But how can cameras compete with such devices?

So whats a camera to do?

I want to step back and point out that current digital cameras really do take better quality pictures than the lens that is built into into even the most advanced smart-phones.  A device that is specialized in taking photos will be packed with electronics that specifically make your photos look as amazing as possible.  However, to reiterate previous points, convenience coupled with amazing apps makes the average user simply turn to their smart-phones.  Can traditional cameras possibly compete with such an offer?  In short, with their current technology, no.  The only way I could see traditional digital cameras possibly compete would be through opening themselves up to the various app marketplaces and allowing developers to add them to the lists of devices they support. This, of course, is no easy task and would mean that the camera manufacturers would have to adhere to some form of technological standards so that apps could actually work with them.  There would also need to be some form of data connection so that people could A) actually download these apps and B) share their photos on various social networks.  So will digital cameras ever be able to do all those things? Possibly, but by the time they do, smart-phone cameras will be advanced enough to make them obsolete anyways.

Does this spell out the death of the camera industry?

Absolutely not.  As I mentioned before, true photographers will always want the best equipment.  DSLR’s take amazing photos that will never be able to be matched by smart-phones.  Even cool camera apps can only do so much as they are ultimately limited by the hardware of the device. There is also a huge market for specialty cameras such as waterproof/shockproof features that separate them from the pack.  I personally am in love with my Olympus Tough camera since I can take it snorkeling/ snowboarding and never have to worry about breaking it.  I don’t care how many “waterproof/shockproof” cases come out for smart-phones, I will never take my phone out in situations that could ruin it.

There certainly is still a huge market for cameras but ultimatly the days of point-and-shoot digital cameras are coming to an end.  Not that I am complaining, mind you.  Less devices in my pockets is always a welcome improvement.  Besides, if I really ever needed to take amazing photos with my phone I could always just get this:

(Image courtesy of the Photojojo Store. This is a real product by the way…)

So what about you?  Would you ever buy a digital camera considering the technology that current smart-phones possess?


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6 Responses to “Why your smart-phone will replace digital cameras”

  1. Blair
    July 13, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    I love drawing you made for this topic. I’m a perfect example of someone who won’t buy a digital camera because I can take decent pictures with my iPhone, change them around to look artsy, and upload them instantly. AND…unlike my digital camera I used to have…I have my phone with me EVERYWHERE. I can capture anything at any moment. You remember back in the day when you used to say “Where’s the camera when I need it?”

    Those days are over.

    • Pat Kent
      July 13, 2011 at 10:32 am #

      Yep, and then I would take a really crappy picture with my .3mp phone anyways and be sad. No more! I couldn’t imagine throwing money away on a digital camera when my phone takes way cooler pictures anyways. I would love to get a nice fancy camera to take on vacations some day but 90% of the time I’ll be using my phone.

  2. Chris Ferdinandi
    July 13, 2011 at 6:30 pm #

    Is it really the apps? While I do enjoy the periodic vintage looking photo, does every pic really look better when it’s “instagramed”?

    The real reason why I think smart phones will heavily supplement (but not fully replace – at least not yet) the point-and-shoot is the other thing you pointed out: convenience.

    You always have your phone with you, and the technology has gotten good enough with in-phone cameras that the pictures look as good as what your P&S takes. Why bring a camera with me when my iPhone takes equally good photos?


    • Pat Kent
      July 14, 2011 at 10:45 am #

      That’s a good point, I suppose apps are different things to different people. I personally love making a sunset look funky and messing around with tilt-shift to make landscapes surreal. Though I do understand that won’t be for everybody.

      I agree, convenience is definitely the main drawing point for most users. Each generation of phones will see significant upgrades to their photo-taking technology until people simply stop bothering to bring their P&S in most situations.

  3. Matthew Karsten
    August 18, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    I’m waiting for the iPhone5 to come out so I can ditch my point & shoot. Who wants to lug around so much crap? :)

    • Pat Kent
      August 18, 2011 at 11:39 am #

      Exactly! I only have so many pockets and camera phones are only getting better. Thanks for visiting the site :-)

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