I'll 'fess up -- on our wish list earlier this week, I was the one who asked (reasonably, I thought) for an Apple Camera. I've been shopping for a DSLR lately, and while the quality of some cameras are great, the interfaces are pretty terrible. I really do wish that Apple would step in and redefine the digital camera interface, matching it with the quality of a professional DSLR lens. But I am probably in the minority at this point, because for most people (as a few of you said in the comments), smartphones are enough.
Indeed, according to a new report from NPD, the percentage of photos taken with a smartphone has jumped from 17% to 27% in the last year, which means more than a quarter of photos taken nowadays (and monitored by NPD, obviously) are taken with smartphones. And those photos are coming at the expense of traditional cameras, which have dropped from 52 to 44 percent.
Most of that image volume is camcorders and lower-end point and shoot devices, however, says NPD. I agree with this -- I bought a point and shoot camera about six years ago, but even that shoots with fewer megapixels and less quality than the iPhone 4 I have (and the iPhone 4S' camera is even better than that). If you have a fairly modern smartphone, or one of Apple's current iPhones, there's really no reason to invest in a point-and-shoot camera, unless you're aiming for one of the high-end features like quick shooting or a zoom lens. A smartphone, as NPD suggests, is almost always "good enough."
That said, I've been playing around with a few DSLR cameras trying to figure out which one I want, and I will say that the ability to manually control the finer aspects of photography, not to mention the quality of a shot that you get directly from a lens, still gives me reason to sometimes want an actual DSLR over a smartphone, and obviously professional photographers need a dedicated camera rather than (or in addition to) something attached to a cell phone.
But maybe, as Apple's on-device cameras get better, the company will end up closing that gap even further. Maybe, if Apple continues to progress the way it has over the next few years, we won't need a separate camera device at all.
PORT WASHINGTON, NY, DECEMBER 22, 2011 – Smartphones are becoming the go-to device for many consumers who want to take photos and videos on the fly. According to leading market research company The NPD Group's new Imaging Confluence Study, the share of U.S. consumers taking photos and videos on their smartphones has grown, while the camera and traditional camcorders share has declined. The percent of photos taken with a smartphone (Apple iPhone or any other smartphone) went from 17 last year to 27 this year while the share of photos taken on any camera dropped from 52 percent to 44 percent.
"There is no doubt that the smartphone is becoming 'good enough' much of the time; but thanks to mobile phones, more pictures are being taken than ever before," said Liz Cutting, executive director and senior imaging analyst at NPD. "Consumers who use their mobile phones to take pictures and video were more likely to do so instead of their camera when capturing spontaneous moments, but for important events, single purpose cameras or camcorders are still largely the device of choice."
Camcorders and lower-end point-and-shoot cameras appear to have taken the brunt of the movement to smartphones. According to NPD's Retail Tracking Service, the point-and-shoot camera market was down 17 percent in units and 18 percent in dollars for the first 11 months of 2011. Pocket camcorders were down 13 percent in units and 27 percent in dollars and traditional flash camcorders declined 8 percent in units and 10 percent in dollars.
There were, however, positive growth segments of the market. Detachable lens cameras increased by 12 percent in units and 11 percent in dollars over the same time period, with an average price of $863; and point-and-shoot cameras with optical zooms of 10x or greater grew by 16 percent in units and 10 percent in dollars, with an average price of $247.