Smart Phones – or dumb users?

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I make no excuses for my stand on camera phones.  I dislike them.  They are debasing the art of photography and instead of propelling mankind to higher planes, are reducing photography to where it was over a century ago.  An image recorder and very little else.

However, there is no ignoring just how camera phones have taken over the position previously held by point and shoot cameras.  The numbers say it all.  By 2003, more camera phones were sold worldwide than stand-alone digital cameras.

Hasselblad ELM 500. Hasselblad ELM 500.

In 2005, Nokia became the world’s most sold digital “camera” brand.

In 2006, half of the world’s mobile phones had a built-in camera.

In 2008, Nokia sold more camera phones than Kodak had done with film cameras and became the biggest manufacturer of any kind of camera.

In 2009, camera sales continued to slide as camera phones improved their auto- focus, zoom and low-light features.

In 2010 the worldwide number of camera phones totaled more than a billion and sales of separate cameras continued to decline.  Even inexpensive mobile phones, were being sold with a camera.

Up to November, 2011 US retail sales of entry-level cameras fell 17 percent to 12 million units from 2010.  In that same time-frame Smartphone makers sold 95 million in the US.

Another interesting statistic, though I have no idea how they got these figures, were that U.S. consumers used Smartphones to record 27 percent of their photos last year, up from 17 percent in 2010, while the share of photos taken with a point and shoot camera fell to 44 percent from 52 percent.

One of the problems faced by the camera manufacturers is the inherent laziness of mankind.  We all carry a mobile phone, but we don’t carry a camera as well.  Rather than have a camera within reach, we take the easy option – the phone that will record an image.  What is next?  The wristwatch that takes images, as well as allowing phone calls and telling the time?

Fortunately for photographers, as opposed to mobile phone chatters, the camera makers are making every effort to keep their latest models from becoming victims of Smartphones.

Canon’s new point and shoot is the PowerShot G1X, and will include the ability to prioritize face detection of children, meaning that even the shortest attention span child’s expression will appear in focus.

Samsung’s DV300F, one of eight models it plans to begin selling by March, will let users upload images and videos directly to online sharing sites, including Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and YouTube, and to wirelessly send images to a computer.

The DV300F also includes a small screen on the front to let users see self portraits, which will make it a hit with Thai females, plus a feature called Motion Photo that lets users eliminate blurry backgrounds when capturing a moving subject in the foreground (and that sounds fairly useless to me).

These new developments are aimed at reversing the slide in entry level digital cameras, and to carve out a profitable niche that can compete effectively against the expanding smartphone market.  They must be ready to combat improved camera technology in Smartphones from Apple, Nokia.

Sony’s newer cameras focus on taking pictures in 3D and on capturing and downloading “precious moments”, even in extreme conditions such as underwater.

The company’s follow-ons to 2011-model cameras such as the Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V and DSC-T55 emphasize taking pictures quickly, with zoom lenses that capture photos at greater distance and with more clarity than phones can achieve.

My main beef against camera phones is the lack of creative control.  You cannot isolate the subject from the background by selecting the best focal length.  Long time-exposures are not possible.  Slow shutter speeds cannot be selected to give a speed blur effect.  In fact, what you are getting is a very simple camera image, where the Box Brownie was about 100 years ago.  However I have decided that I am going to invent the first man’s belt buckle with WiFi and 44 megapixel camera.  With the proceeds I will buy an old Hasselblad ELM 500 and a year’s supply of film.  My phone?  I’ll leave that in my car.