Remember the time when you could shoot just 36 photos in one go? In the technological chain of evolution, that now seems pre-historic. It gives you a sense of the frenetic pace at which the cameras have evolved. Point-and-shoot digital cameras, the next big thing, quickly went from modest 2-3 megapixel devices to outrageous 30-40 megapixel ones.
They also became more affordable and faster than DSLRs. The compact digitals may have killed the compact film camera. But they, in turn, might be on their way to extinction, thanks to a device not built primarily to take photos: the cell phone. Japan, the primary manufacturer of digicams, reported an annual drop of 48% in global shipments of point-and-shoots in September 2012. There are still opinions both for and against the compact camera. Here’s what you need to consider before you make your next buy.
Phone cameras have come a long way since the VGA. They now have features, 5-8 megapixels, HD video recording, burst and low-light capture, that can rival mid-range digicams. Photographer Natasha Hemrajani, who uses her iPhone for professional work, says, “I see it as a new photography medium. Yes, there are limitations. There’s a lack of depth, so it’s not great for shooting landscape; but for objects you can get close to, products, food, it’s good. Also, I’m not looking to blow up and print every image.”
Photographer Chase Jarvis famously said, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” And that’s inarguably the phone that’s in your pocket or bag. Madhurima Chatterjee, who swears by her cellphone camera, says, “They are handy. Just take it out of your pocket and click. They now have all kinds of modes. Add to that the easy availability of programs like Picasa or Photoshop and you are sorted.” Hemrajani adds, “When shooting people, you will get a more intimate moment with a cellphone than when you’re sticking a big, fat lens in their face.”
Cables and memory card readers aside, you can only upload your photos from the digicam once you’re back home. Pratik Udeshi, another avid cellphone camera user, says, “Smartphones give you the ability to edit and share on the fly. Apps like Instagram also help apply various filters to the image without even going through the pain of post-processing.
Battle is not over yet
There is still some ground to cover before smartphones catch up to high-end compacts. Bigger sensors on digicams also mean better quality, thus prints. And manufacturers still seem optimistic about the future of compacts. Curiously, Olympus launched eight new point-and-shoots this year, a major vote of confidence for a device believed to be dying. Kenichiro Mori, managing director of Olympus Imaging India, says, “A cellphone cannot replace features such as zoom, optical resolution and better image quality.” Also, WiFi-enabled cameras might see a whole new species of smarter cameras.
5 best smartphone cameras out there
Nokia Lumia 920: Arguably the best in low-light conditions.
iPhone 5: Produce the most vibrant photos; in daylight, can rival high-end compacts.
Samsung Galaxy S4: The eagerly awaited phone sports a 13MP camera. Enough said.
Sony XPeria Z: Also sports a 13MP camera; best for macro shots.
HTC Droid DNA: Image quality is just above average, but the camera has no lag.