Digital Imaging Reporter

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Smartphones vs. Digital Cameras : Cameraphones Are Getting Better All the Time, but Do They Really Compare to Cameras?

September 2011 By Stewart Wolpin
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Many consumers suffer from guilty photo-taking consciences. They whip out their smartphones to snap the precious moments of their lives, knowing full well the results won’t be as picture-perfect as they would be if they’d used a digital camera.

Their consciences aren’t bothering them too much, though, since more and more consumers are acting as if their smartphones are their primary cameras.

How much more? From a hardware point of view, the Consumer Electronics Association says 72 million smartphones will be sold in the U.S. this year, most of which can shoot both multi-megapixel digital stills and at least 720p HD video. Apple alone sold 20.3 million iPhones in its third quarter this year, mostly iPhone 4s with its 5MP camera and 720p video recorder.

By comparison, CEA projects only 36.8 million digital cameras will be sold in the U.S. this year, but according to Digital Technology Consulting, only a third of these are capable of recording HD video—the only digital cameras providing a true alternative to a modern smartphone.

From a picture-taking point of view, this year consumers in North America will shoot 75 billion pictures with a digital camera and 42 billion with a cameraphone, according to Lyra Research.

But wait, you’re saying this looks as if consumers still favor their digital cameras. That’s because “we use smartphones to take one or two photos at a time,” observes Steve Hoffenberg, director of Lyra’s consumer imaging research, “while we use our digital cameras less frequently but to shoot a lot more photos when we do.”

And Hoffenberg points out that while the number of photos snapped with either device is growing, the number of photos shot by smartphones is growing nearly twice as fast. One reason: smartphones are becoming much better cameras, while digital cameras fail to provide wireless features found on smartphones.

                                  The Smartphone Advantage
Consumers may intellectually realize digital cameras make better, well, digital cameras, than do smartphones. But as in all things, especially technology, convenience trumps quality every day and twice on Sunday.

For instance, other than the fact consumers always carry around their smartphones and therefore always have them at the photo-snapping ready, most smartphones feature 3.5- to 4.3-inch LCD touch screens. Being able to touch a screen enables a user to focus in a particular part of a scene, and the more a photographer can see, the easier it is to shoot.



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