Long Term Impact of Cell Phone Cameras

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by demiro, Jun 1, 2013.

  1. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    It has been accepted fact for a while, I think, that cell phone cameras are eating away at the P&S market and will continue to do so as technology narrows the capability gap between phone cams and P&S. This has led some to speculate that all of the camera manufacturers will be in trouble to some degree as they lose profits from their most mass-marketable products.

    Here's a different theory. In the pre-cell phone cam world a given number of people (let's say it's X) purchased and used P&S cameras. Today the number of people using phone cams has far exceeded X (by magnitudes).

    The camera makers are losing sales rapidly, but they are gaining people who take photographs to the pool of prospective customers. Those folks are much better potential long term customers than people who have never had a desire to take photos. Is there a chance that a significant number of "new" photo takers will seek better quality photos and more capable gear? In 5 years might we see more people with "good" cameras, be they ILCs or higher end fixed lens cams, than we see today?

    Wishful thinking I imagine. More than likely phone cam tech will keep improving and remain "good enough" for all but the photo-geeks, but I'm trying to imagine a future where we aren't in the same box as those still playing vinyl records on turntables (not that there is anything wrong with that).
  2. twalker294

    twalker294 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 18, 2010
    I don't think so. I think that a large part of the reason that cell phone cameras have become so popular is convenience. Everybody has their phone with them 24/7 whereas most people don't carry a camera around all the time. Image quality is secondary to this convenience therefore most people won't be interested in a p&s camera at all.
  3. deckitout

    deckitout Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 28, 2010
    Essex UK
    I took what I consider to be decent quality portraits of my step daughters, but what do they put up on facebook, there crappy cell phone images of them messing about pulling faces........sigh....youth of today

  4. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I think there will be a number of people who want to upgrade from cell phones to better cameras if only for limited use. Many people who use cell phones as cameras have found out that they fall short but because of them they have become interested in photography. Sadly, I fear the number of losses(p&s to cell phones) is as big as any gains(cell phones to real cameras).

    Photography as a hobby has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade, however. Years ago when I first started there were far fewer people seriously interested in photography. The digital revolution has made cameras easier and quicker and overall more affordable. Computers and software are also part of the equation. So I do not think that camera companies are all going to fold. Some may go and of coarse the products will be more and more oriented towards the serious.
  5. m1pui

    m1pui Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 30, 2010
    Sunderland, UK
    In general, I think no.

    Very few of the population bother to print their photo's now and, gradually, fewer are viewing their photo's in large version. People take photo's (everything from goofy faces to family occasions) on their phones to share via Facebook, rather than printing, framing and physically presenting them to a friend/relative.

    The same people were happy viewing them on a 19" desktop monitor, which became a 15" laptop monitor, which became 4" phone screen, then a 10" tablet... You get the idea. But whichever option they choose, rarely does the photo they're looking at display larger than a 5x7 print.

    For all of this, the quality that a camera phone produces is deemed more than adequate. Even the reduction in quality from digital zoom doesn't cause people that much concern.

    Add in the rise in use of photo-filters in apps like instagram, at a cost of pennies, and any creative editing that people want to do can be done in seconds in any location. Compare that to the process of taking a photo with a camera and transferring it to a computer via memory card, then editing it in a comparatively expensive and complicated programme and it's a no brainer.

    I work in a restaurant and see quite a few people taking photos. Over the past few years, I could probably count on hands with fingers to spare, who have used something other than a cameraphone to take photo's. Women and older generation still sometimes use an actual camera, but they are either old 35mm P&S or very cheap/basic digital cameras that are a few years old. Simply because these people don't need anything more advanced. I might've seen 1 DSLR in the past year and never seen a CSC used in the restaurant.

    Consequently, I can't see where this new generation of photo takers will go really.

    You'll of course get a handful (relative to the whole market) that will, like many of us, grow an interest in photography and, hopefully, drive the market for CSC & DSLR.

    The entry level market seems like it might be about to get swallowed up by the cameraphone. As the older generation is phased out, will this generation want a £100 camera to supplement their 100-megapixel cameraphone with 40 built in filters.

    The only market I think may grow is the bridge/superzoom sector It seems like the only thing that the cameraphone, currently, can't do is long zoom. Things like the Panasonic TZ range. And sadly, I don't think it will be due to "image quality" that the majority will buy them. More likely just because "my iGalaxy can't zoom in enough for me to get a decent photo at the Justin Beiber gig" type of thing.

    This could all turn out to be massively wide of the mark, of course. But you never know :biggrin:
  6. Savas K

    Savas K Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 10, 2013
    Many are used to taking crap photos. Now they can conveniently take crap photos with a phone. More so because of the concept of internet friends and friending and getting in on all the action of photo sharing; lots of it stupid subjects, such as "here's today's breakfast" or "take a look at the huge dump I just dropped into the toilet." It is the more discriminating photographer who finds phone photography lacking, if only for the knowledge of what is possible given appropriate controls of photography's facets as it pertains to challenging scenes.
  7. robbie36

    robbie36 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 25, 2010
    rob collins
    I have 2 thoughts on this subject....

    1) If the technology we are now seeing in liquid lenses which change shape progresses, I can rather see mobile phones having 20-200 2.8 lenses in 5 or 10 years time. Varioptic - Home

    2) I remember that 25 years ago everyone was interested in premium hifi and sound. People would discuss amplifiers and premium reference speakers. Now everyone is happy to have pretty good sound in a very small box and premium sound is very much a minority sport. I suspect photography is heading that way.
  8. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Nov 7, 2010
    I totally agree about the parallels between audio and photography. But the one difference is that I don't think the MP3 player brought that many new listeners in to the fold. Whereas the cell phone camera is doing that for photography.

    Don't get me wrong, I agree with everyone saying the result here will not be more photography enthusiasts in the future. But I do think the dynamic is interesting. If I was a Marketing guy at Canon or Nikon I'd be considering this scenario. I don't think making a camera more like a phone is the answer. They either have to motivate consumers to want more or work on an exit strategy from large parts of the market.
  9. m1pui

    m1pui Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 30, 2010
    Sunderland, UK
    10-15 years ago, the walkman was something that commuters, joggers and kids carried around.

    Nowadays people from all demographics are listening to music that they want on the move. Old people on buses, regular joe walking around the supermarket and everyone else you can be seen with a set of earbuds in. No longer are they restricted to 15 songs on a cassette/cd and half a dozen radio stations.

    The cameraphone is doing to the camera what the iPod (not just MP3 player) did to the walkman/discman. Convenience, all the features (95% of people) ever need in one box and most importantly, to get big numbers of followers, simplicity.

    It may not have produced "more listeners" but it's produced "more listening." The camera phone isn't really making more photographers, just making people take more photographs.

    Then, more photographs isn't necessarily going to breed more photographers. For me personally, my interest really flared up from the enthusiasm a friend of mine had in photography rather than anything I had taken. Up until that point, I pointed, I shot, the camera invariably made picture work. I had no idea or interest in apertures, shutter speed and white balance until my friend started explaining them to me.

    As long as people can stick a camera in Auto mode and the camera takes all of the variables away, the majority will happily carry on with that method. What you'll find is that these people will be the type where they'll pull out their cameraphone and take a picture, if it doesn't work/expose properly they'll just say "It must be too dark, oh well" and put the phone away as opposed to think "What could I do with a better camera?"
  10. madogvelkor

    madogvelkor Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 22, 2013
    I think that there is a lot of opportunity with the growth of cellphone cameras. It allows a lot of experimentation with new technologies, and opens up a lot of creativity via app development. I think there's a lot of room for traditional camera makers to partner with cellphone handset makers to develop the technology even further.

    There will always be a place for larger sensor cameras, simply because of physics. How ever good the sensor tech gets with cellphones, the same tech can be used with bigger sensors. And you have a lot more versatility with lenses on a dedicated camera.

    I think one area cameras can learn from phones is on the software side. Samsung seems to be good in this area, probably because they are also a leading cellphone maker.

    I do think the point and shoot market is dead though. The zoom capabilities and higher resolutions are probably the only thing still attracting people vs. cellphones. And younger people are being introduced to photography via their phones and tablets, so zoom might not be as important to them.

    I think there is a real need to educate people about camera technology though. Almost no one I talk to who isn't a hobbyist or pro has no idea about sensor size, pixel size, how that effects FOV and IQ, etc. At work we have a collection of P&S bought by various people over the years who have no idea about cameras. The intern doing our social media was remarking how much better her photographs were with a Canon G12 vs. the newer Nikon P510 they had told her to use. I explained a bit about the bigger sensor in the G12 and the faster lens, and that was why she was having better luck. But everyone had assumed the Nikon was better because it had more zoom and more megapixels, as well as looking more like a DSLR.
  11. Savas K

    Savas K Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 10, 2013
    Hi-def sound and sound coupled with home theater is alive and well.

    Blu-ray & HD DVD

    Blu-ray Forum - Blu-ray Community and Forums

    High Def Forum - Your High Definition Community & High Definition Resource
  12. fsuscotphoto

    fsuscotphoto Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 15, 2013
    St. Cloud, FL
    Unfortunately, we are going to lose at least this generation to history and maybe more. Photography and paper (letters, diaries and such) have given us an insight to the world before us. We still go into attics and find a box of pictures, along with a stack of old letters that told us about mom and dad (in my instance) and what they thought about and what was important during World War II. Now everything is on a whirling platter that will eventually die, or not be able to be read. It will be discarded, like yesterday's newspaper, if there still is one. So few people make prints that will last, that the average guys and gal of today may not exist unless they made the news at some point, or in the archives of their state's DOT because they had a driver's license. That doesn't even account for all the letters that are now emailed, instead of written.

    Many of us know what our great grandfather looked like because someone took the time to print a picture. In fifty years will anyone know what we looked like?

    Sent from my iPad using Mu-43 mobile app
  13. RK777

    RK777 Guest

    My take and wild guesses:
    - The Point & Shoot market is in it's final throws. The latest camera phones can hold their own in the quality department for most people taking the kind of photograph important to them. Convenience is the deciding factor, and P&S's do not compete against the camera that everyone already has in their pocket. The very idea of storing your photo on a "card", then having to connect it to a computer just to view it will be quaint in a few years. Live streaming is here and will be the norm soon.
    - The lost generation and long-term durability: Technology has already addressed the concerns about photographs disappearing and being "lost to the wind". Future generations will have billions of photographs that document their grandparents lives, instantly and permanently accessible, stored forever, never fading, cracking, or lost to disaster. The nostalgia will be the generations prior to the 2000's, with only a few hundred photos of a person, trapped on negatives or paper. A child of the 2000's will have hundreds of thousands of photographs and videos of them, at every stage of life, documenting every event and activity. This is the long-term benefit of camera phones. Full-life documentation, permanently stored and preserved. If you are thinking of photos as JPG's stored on a spinning hard-drive that is soon crashed and lost to your kids' memories, you are stuck in a very narrow window in time and should grasp the reality of today. The vast majority of photos taken today are not at risk of loss, because they are stored "out of harms way". The issue of "lost digital images" is quickly disappearing. A photo taken with a phone today is instantly stored in the cloud. If the camera...er...phone is lost, the phone can be recreated on a new unit, including the photos. This is the norm today. Why doesn't everyones physical camera also do this? There is no excuse for any photo to be lost today, due to hard drive crash or tornado, or theft. Cloud back-up is instant, cheap, available now, and permanent. No excuses. Are you listening Panasonic? Olympus? Canon? Nikon?
    - As we reading here already know, physics does play a role in the quality of photographs. This gap has and will continue to narrow, but will likely always exist for certain aspects of photography. Sports, nature, and long-distance types of shots that require premium, fast lenses for magnification will remain the realm of high-end glass for the near future. Low light, macro, and casual photography has been addressed by current technology already, and will be a minimal issue for cameras and "phones" going forward.
    - This new generation has already embraced photography much more than those of the previous decades, and that will benefit photography as a whole overall. Manufactures will adjust, and we will find that the market for cameras will be fragmented into specialized niches. This fragmentation is a natural result of the change to the broad, middle ground that camera phones have created.
    - Going forward, will will have the "phone" part of camera phones in many devices. Tomorrows m4/3 will have the ability to make phone calls. Though actually talking on the phone is not something the younger generation embraces, ask any teenager. Nikon and Samsung already have Android based cameras. The phone market will also splinter into various "specialties". If you are an avid photographer, there's no reason to carry a traditional phone when you have your camera or DSLR with you, since it will be able to text and make calls, and is app-based instead of the old-school way of having a proprietary software and menu system like today. This is the area that camera manufacturers such as Canon and Nikon and the 4/3s are way behind in the user-interface marketplace, and are vulnerable to disruption. Anything that is not physical glass on a camera is over-ripe and due for massive change in design and technology in the near term. There is no excuse for still using storage cards and 1980's based menu systems in a camera made today.
    What is the #1 camera brand today in terms of number of photographs taken? Apple. I could see a company like Apple using their $100 Billion dollars in cash to buy Panasonic or Nikon, completely revamping the photography experience from a user and technology perspective much like they did with the music experience.
  14. fsuscotphoto

    fsuscotphoto Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 15, 2013
    St. Cloud, FL
    Ask any pine user if they can find a picture from two years ago....98% of them will give you the blank stare as most of them don't have a clue what the cloud is or how it works.

    Sent from my iPad using Mu-43 mobile app
  15. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    The Bassman
    Phone accessories?

    Growth in consumer photography has always jumped from workflow improvements. The first (?) was the Kodak, which enabled consumers to get their pictures printed in the "cloud" - they mailed their cameras with exposed film to Kodak, and got back prints and a camera loaded with fresh film. No chemicals!

    To survive, camera makers are going to improve the workflow from their products in a way that users want (eg connect the camera to the Internet and a variety of photo sites) and/or start to think of their camera as an accessory to the phone that enables better pictures via the phone's connectivity. There is no alternative.
  16. janneman

    janneman Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 6, 2012
    Jan (John) Kusters
    Back in the sixties and seventies, Instamatics and simple, pre-set camera's were by far most used, not to mention all those disposable camera's. Not for serious work, but they were 'good enough' for a birthday cake picture or that visit to an amusement park. Only a small group was interested in getting better pictures.
    As far as I can tell, the cell phones are already better than those old camera's, and the group interested in getting even better pictures is larger than ever.
  17. madogvelkor

    madogvelkor Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 22, 2013
    True... I know my camera phone is light years better than my old Kodak disc film camera I had as a kid. :)  Better than the P&S film cameras I had in the 90s too, at least for 4x6 prints.

    I think we'll only continue to see progress. In a decade a camera phone equal to the RX100 shouldn't be uncommon.
  18. dav1dz

    dav1dz Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 6, 2012
    I welcome all of this change. I personally would love to have a device that does everything for me. A single device.

    It is a minimalist dream come true.
  19. bassman

    bassman Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 22, 2013
    New Jersey
    The Bassman
    Exactly. Which is why camera makers need to focus on more than improving IQ, which already exceeds most consumers' needs. They need to solve the workflow problem. People want images, not cameras. Build a device that lets them get the image and share it in the most convenient fashion, and then we can talk about IQ. Oh, and by the way, "art filters" and the like have a selling price of about $0 when packaged as apps.

    What's difficult to do on a phone is bigger glass, and more useable controls (maybe). Virtually every other advantage you can get from a big camera will be overcome by digital technology:

    - Sensor technology is going to continue to erode the sensor size advantage that real cameras have;
    - in-camera processing will be able to stack multiple exposures to eliminate noise from high ISO and to provide arbitrary DOF thru focus stacking
    - most consumes like large DoF which comes with small sensors anyway, because it makes focusing errors less likely;
    - the number of pixels on a tiny sensor makes digital zoom more useful (look at the number of posts on Nikonians about the 1.3 crop mode on the D7100, or using DX mode on a D800);

    So you can either fight a loosing battle selling features and capabilities that consumers either don't need or don't understand, or get with the program.

    There's no doubt in my mind that the compact camera business is already dead.
  20. RichDesmond

    RichDesmond Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 18, 2011
    Very, very good points. I hadn't thought about it in quite that way before, but connectivity to the cloud, in as simple and automatic a manner as possible, is the way forward.

    Imagine being able to upload raws, have a Lightroom-like set of presets that you normally use automatically applied to them, and the jpegs posted to your Flickr account. (with the raws saved too, of course.)
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