Smartphone industry killed digital cameras?
The technologies we see today on our smartphone evolved to such an extent that today they are able to replace a large number of device. In the past you have used your watch to check what time is. You have used dad’s or grandpa’s good old camera to take pictures or you saved all your money to have yours. You took an agenda to take notes. Today your smartphone replaces all these tools. Today’s smartphones offer so many tools under one hood that a lot of industries suffer today as a consequence of the smartphone industry development. Because of that, today, one of the most impacted industries is the industry of digital cameras.
Why are digital cameras affected?
Advances in sensor technology and microprocessor development transformed the smartphone. It has become a powerful tool capable of offering similar results to modern digital cameras in a smaller form factor. Seems like the smartphones revolutionized a lot of habits and taking photos is no exception from this rule.
If in the past you needed high quality lenses to take perfect shots, the trend shifted towards the image processing capabilities of the smartphones. Thanks to the powerful processors available in modern smartphone together with the advances in algorithm development the captured images can be manipulated in such an extent that they can offer unimaginable HDR (High Dynamic Range) results. Also thanks to social media the industry was revolutionized.
As today, smartphones represent the major photography platform. Every day, people upload only on Instagram 40 million photos. You read it correctly, 40 million. Imaging the space the photos take on the hard drives. If we consider that the average smartphone today has an 8 Mpx camera then the numbers add up. An average 1Tb hard drive can store around 350.000 photos in jpeg. As a result each day, people upload enough images which can fill up 115 hard drivers with 1Tb storage capacity each. Furthermore the numbers are increasing day by day. As a result the sales of digital cameras dropped significantly in the last 5 years. The below chart speaks for itself. There is no need to add additional comments.
Worldwide unit sales of digital cameras from 2011 to 2016 (in millions)
If in 2011, the the number of digital cameras sold worldwide was 148 million units, five years later this amount is 3 times less. We can clearly see that something happened with the digital camera industry. No other major event could have caused this as the development of smartphones. Why? Because if we analyse other industries like the production of watches then we will see the same market shrank. Our smartphones have step by step substituted a lot of our tools we used in the past.
But can a fancy smartphone really replace good glass?
We would say that even if the algorithms can deliver impressive results, a true photographer will always prefer a good camera instead of a smartphone. And the reason is easy to understand. Nothing can compare to the feeling a camera offers when held in the hand. Nor can the process of taking a photograph be replaced by a smartphone. I have told taking a photograph not an image. These two are totally different matters. Sure everyone can take out it’s phone and make dozens of shots with the press of a button. The point is not that.
It is really easy to understand what is happening on the market. Marketing and smartphones are getting very popular among people willing to share their artistic skills. Even though the numbers show a shrinkage of the market, I think the market is not dead. It just needs to align with the needs of current customers offering more attractive features to their cameras. A good example in this direction is the launch of the new Sony α9 which is planned in May.