Manufacturers made technological breakthroughs in the past years. Not only that sensors are becoming more and more performant year by year, but technology is becoming more available to the masses. Advancements in sensor technology allowed smartphone users to compete with older DSLR sensors and reduces the gap between mirrorless and smartphones more and more. The latest Iphone 14, Samsung S23 Ultra or Google Pixel 7 are able to produce beautiful pictures with the press of a button. There is no need to have the skills of pro photographers. You are able to capture really good pictures. This was not possible in the past.
But if the gap between mirrorless cameras and smartphones cameras what can manufacturers do in order to improve the performances of the current mirrorless cameras. While the sensor on a mirrorless full frame or crop factor camera is huge compared to the sensor of a smartphone camera, smartphones have another advantage. I personally consider smartphones an entire ecosystem. They are more than a simple camera. They offer a lot more. What exactly? Well let’s see:
- camera for taking photo and video
- processing unit using latest AI algorithms
- editing platform to edit your photos and videos
- sharing platform to upload content to social media
Therefor smartphones are an entire ecosystem which can be used for much more than capturing the moment. And this is the reason why these devices reduce the gap year by year.
While we have highlighted which are the reasons for which smartphones are better than mirrorless cameras, there is one key element which we need to focus on.
Year by year manufacturers are not only launching new and new phones, the smartphone manufacturers are making huge efforts in optimizing the systems. The engineers of Google, Apple, Samsung and not only are pumping millions of dollars in development. What type of development I am referring to?
Well, the main reason for which pictures captured by these devices narrow the gap year by year is given by advancements in the usage of image processing algorithms. These algorithms are responsible of a vast majority of tasks:
- correct exposure of the scene
- scene recgonition
- noise reduction
- depth of field computation
- white balance and color adjustments
- and a lot more
And to make matters even more interesting manufacturers have integrated the latest artificial intelligence technologies and neural networks. This facilitates to the algorithms not only to obtain superior results compared to traditional programming, but also are able to learn and improve.
Improvement is key of success to any company. We live in the age of BIG DATA and this big volume of information can be used to make technological improvements.
But if these algorithms are so smart, how come that the gap has not been bridged? We will find it. out in the next section.
Where smartphones fall behind
All this technological improvement in algorithms and usage of AI technology narrows the gap, the smartphones suffer from the same problem all photographers are highlighting, small sensor size. Their sensor sizes are no match to the size of a crop factor or full frame sensor. This is pure physics. At the same number or megapixel count the pixel size on the smartphone is smaller compared to full frame. And the smaller the sensor the prone it is to noise. This is the point where these algorithms step in and manage to clear out the content. The bigger the pixel size, the more light it is able to gather and to filter out unwanted noise.
Until, no further technological developments are done, this gap will still be present. But what is happening at mirrorless manufacturers.
Mirrorless at their best
Mirrorless systems tend to dominate the market. The age of DSLRs is approaching it’s dawn. Sorry to tell you that, but manufacturers realized that mirrorless is the new trend. They don’t want to invest anymore money and resources in their development. This is leading to the death of this segment.
Image source [SLRlounge.com]
The latest advancements in the latest mirrorless cameras made these pieces of equipment a marvel of technology. They take a huge amount of tasks and responsibility from the shoulder of the photographers like:
- exposing the scene
- focusing on the subject
- correct metering
- tracking the subject
This allows the photographer to focus on capturing the moment without being afraid of not taking the correct image. But even if you are able to capture exceptional moments, when it comes to other activities they fall behind.
Where mirrorless fall behind
I was saying that mirrorless cameras are good for what they are designed for: taking photos and videos. But as photographer and content creator which is driving a business, mirrorless fall behind.
The biggest advantage of smartphones is that they are an entire ecosystem which can be used from capturing to processing and sharing the content. This is where mirrorless fall behind.
After image is being taken the steps are the same:
- capture the content
- remove memory card
- download the content
- process the content in an editing software
- share the content
All the above steps can be achieved using a modern smartphone. And even if these devices would be able to offer these features the gap between smartphone and mirrorless camera would be small.
So why would someone pay $5000 on a mirrorless camera if he/she is able to achieve the same results using a $1500 camera? Therefor analyzing the problem from this perspective smartphone can be considered as a potential alternative.
Where mirrorless can improve
Probably the biggest areas of development would be the following:
- integration of AI technology and neural networks in the processing algorithms
- connectivity features
Imagine what would happen if advanced algorithms would be used in processing the images. Today mirrorless cameras have superior performance under low light conditions. But with the use of such technologies you could obtain clean, less noisier images. Imagine if you could take pictures without noise at ISO 25600 and above. Today only a few cameras are able to take pictures at this ISO. And these can be considered barely usable.
Also if you consider that you’d apply these algorithms on lower end cameras, these would gain performance to today.
But in order to achieve that, camera manufacturers will need to invest serious amounts in the development and integration in the current cameras. Generally, these technologies have a cost behind. New technology is always expensive and becomes more and more affordable as the technology is democratized. Additionally cameras would need to be equipped with additional processors that will cover the other functionalities. This will involve additional cost and additional battery consumption.
Whether photographers would pay an extra $1000 for a camera that costs $5000 already is a big question mark. For sure there will be a percentage that can allow this amount if the feature pays off.
The dream would be to have a camera which is capable of taking breathtaking pictures and you don’t need the steps required today to share these images.
Even if the latest advancements in AI and neural network technology have been implemented in the latest smartphone cameras, manufacturers will have a hard time in beating a full frame sensor.
Not only that today’s mirrorless cameras have some gaps to bridge, they are full systems. We are not speaking only the camera itself, but an entire system comprising of:
- huge choice of lenses
- huge choice of lights and modifiers
- additional accessories
While photographer can see the presence of these accessories for smartphones as well, it will not be likely to see the same number of lenses like for mirrorless cameras.
I am really curious of what the future may bring and with the current pace of advancements we might have a surprise. It may be possible to see smartphones and mirrorless even in terms of quality in the next 5 years.