Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sony: Smartphones Could Kill Digital Cameras

Last week, Sony announced its DSC Cybershot HX50V, a pocket-sized 30x zoom point and shoot. In and of itself, the new Sony makes for quite the camera (on paper, at least) thanks to its optics, sensor, wireless connectivity, and manual modes, which could lead many to overlook an unusual, and telling, statement in the press release.

In the official announcement of the new camera, Patrick Huang, director of the Cyber-shot digital camera business at Sony Electronics, stated that “despite the emergence of smart phone cameras in today’s market, the HX50V model gives photographers plenty of reason to invest in a dedicated pocket camera.” The implication: Sony recognizes that smartphones threaten the traditional dedicated camera business.

So, will the smartphone kill the pocket cam? 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 most cell phones. 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 pretty much every single setting change you want to make. On some (but not all) pocket cameras, 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.

In the end, many smart phones have great cameras that can produce pictures that are just about impossible to distinguis from a traditional camera. The problem: lousy user interfaces.

Bottom line: unless you're only wanting the bare bones of photographic applications, namely aim and shoot, it will be wise to hold onto your camera for the time being because, while both can make great pictures, it's ust a lot less frustrating to use a real camera when time is crucial in getting or missing that fleeting, once in a lifetime photo-op.

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