Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cell Phone Cameras vs. Digital Point and Shoots: Which is Better?

Camera vs. Phone: which one wins? Read on to find out!

As technology gets better, a legitimate debate has arisen in photographic circles: are cell phone cameras killing the entry-level point and shoot digital models that have been a staple of the photographic world for over a decade. Yes, there is undeniable proof that cell phone cameras are getting ever better by the year and that their popularity is increasing, but do they pose a legitimate chance at killing the pocket P&S?

NEWS: Polaroid announces phone-like, Android-powered camera

In a recent article published by the BBC that focuses on American camera sales, it has been reported that, in the first 11 months of 2011, basic point and shoot camera sales fell by about 17% while entry-level pocket camcorder sales took a 13% plunge. The culprit (according to an online survey): smart phones, whose cameras are ever-increasing in their capabilities, possibly to the point of equaling dedicated, entry-level photo gear. So, do phones pose a legitimate threat to cameras?

Hardly, if you ask me.
There are several things that make true cameras stand out: better resolution, better AF, more versatile optics (think zoom), external buttons that allow for quick changes to settings, and the laundry list of customizable options that do not appear on any cell phone. In addition, point and shoot cameras can be made to be water, freeze, and crush-proof, too.
For anyone who is serious about taking pictures, any smart phone's user interface is its biggest drawback. On a cell phone, you are forced to dive into menus and scroll around for every single setting change you want to make. On a camera, the basic setting controls are at your fingertips in the form of buttons, no menu diving required. With this vital attribute, someone with a real camera can be snapping a once in a lifetime photo while the smart phone user is scrolling through menus, trying to find the setting he/she wants to change.

However, the numbers don't lie, do they?

One important consideration in the survey was the nature of the question, which found that phones were more likely to be used in “fun, casual, or spontaneous” settings. Well, duh, of course they are! Question: how often do you have a cell phone on you? A camera? Chances are, unless you're serious about taking photos, you're not like me and don't carry a pocket P&S at all times, too. For this reason alone, cell phones are going to be taking more spontaneous snaps than true cameras.

Another key finding in the survey: dSLR sales are getting stronger, not weaker, and that for planned events where picture taking would be on the agenda, dedicated cameras and camcorders were still the favored medium for imaging. Again, duh. After all, who shoots their daughter's wedding with an iPhone (as cool as it may be)?
In the end, camera phones are creatures of opportunity as many more people regularly carry a phone at all times than a camera, which means more on the fly pictures will come by way of phones. Also, phones can have great cameras but lousy user interfaces, which means that, when it comes to serious shooting, real cameras are still the way to go. Unless you're only wanting the bare bones of photographic applications (namely aim and shoot) and are willing to settle for “good enough,” don't ditch your camera anytime soon.

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