The iPhone Is Killing Point-and-Shoot Cameras

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The quality evolution of iPhone photography.
The quality evolution of iPhone photography.

Remember how digital cameras did in film? That progression appears now to be in its second-generation as the iPhone and other smartphones seem destined to do away with the ubiquitous point-and-shoot digital camera. A new report finds phones take a third of all photos as phone-based photo quality dramatically increases.


According to the NPD Group, the percent of photos taken by a smartphone jumped to 27 percent, up from 17 percent in 2010. Likewise, The number of point-and-shoot cameras fell 17 percent this year with consumer spending down 18 percent in November. A key factor is quality of cameras available to phone owners. In 2007, when the first iPhone launched, a 2-megapixel camera was on board. The iPhone 4S, launched in October, has an 8-megapixel camera.

Acceptance of smartphone camera photos has also increased. Gone are the days when you apologetically explained the blurry photo with ‘I only had my phone with me.’ Instagram, a service providing a way to share your camera photos, says users upload 26 photos each second. The iPhone 4 is credited with posting more photos on Flickr, than any other camera.

How can camera makers compete? One answer is to sell devices that accept detachable lenses. The number of such devices sold in November jumped by 12 percent compared to the same time in 2010, according to NPD. Another tactic, say researchers is to ensure point-and-shoot camera offer optical zoom greater than 10x. Point-and-shoot camera that did so saw sales increased 16 percent.

I’m not sure how long detachable lenses will allow point-and-shoots to survive. My daughter just told me she bought some nifty zoom lenses that magnetically attach to her iPhone 4. The iPhone 4 will never replace a professional digital camera, such as the Nikon D series or Cannon’s Mark IV, but smartphone cameras are quickly making point-and-shoots, well, pointless.