Smartphones will render compact digital cameras extinct by 2015

The rate of change in technology and in our behaviour with electronic devices is quite stunning. Just a handful of years ago I travelled with a whole pile of devices. A mobile phone, a laptop computer, an MP3 player, a portable gaming device, a camera, a watch etc. Nowadays I just take two, my iPhone 5 and my Canon S100. These two do everything a whole pile of older devices did and a lot more on top. In fact I haven’t worn a wrist watch for over 5 years.

The photography business has simultaneously been undergoing a similar revolution with the demise of film for popular use and its replacement by digital photography. So once you own a smartphone or digital camera the cost of taking a photograph has come down to zero, which means that vastly more photographs are being taken than ever before. This has been accompanied by a whole range of online services that are centred around digital images. Instagram, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook. Soon they will be joined by an exciting new concept we have under development at Kwalee called project Silver.

The changes wrought by smartphones and digital photography have been very significant. Kodak, the biggest photography company in the world, filed for bankruptcy protection as its products and services fell out of demand. But there is an even bigger jump to come, the demise of the compact digital camera.

If you look at smartphones over the last few years the area of their performance that has grown fastest is their cameras. Now 8 megapixels or more is quite common as is 1080p video capability, both beyond the specification of a compact camera just a few years ago. So when friends show me their photos I can no longer discern easily whether they were taken on a phone or on a dedicated camera. Basically a dedicated, separate camera will be redundant by 2015.

In fact in many ways my phone is better than my camera as a photographic device because I can use it to instantly share my snaps. I can edit them, add effects, then email them or use one of the many online services to publish them to the world. It means I can tell my friends and family about my experiences as they happen.

Cameras in phones will continue to get better. And the computing power and communication capabilities of the phone will be used even more, in innovative ways, to add to the experience. So soon a camera that isn’t a phone will be seen as inferior, as lacking in the features that real users in the real world will take for granted. Then within the coming years the dedicated compact digital camera will be dead as a consumer device.

Obviously high quality cameras will still be used by professionals and photography hobbyists, but for the rest of us they would just be unnecessary clutter and an unnecessary expense.

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