Smartphones are simply more convenient than a standalone camera can ever be. Add on top of that the incredible computational imaging capabilities that have been developed over the past few years and the quality of images you can get from the size of optics and pixels that these devices have is amazing and more than good enough for 99% of people. There is nothing that the camera industry can do to access this market in any meaningful way.
The standalone photographic camera industry is going to be reduced to professionals and enthusiasts that need/want things like reliability and ruggedness, long focal lengths, creative control, and the process of taking a photograph.
Sony and Fuji are really the only two companies that really get the current camera market IMO. Sony is putting out technologically amazing cameras that are bringing smart auto-focus systems, high resolutions, video, etc. that catch the eyes of tech enthusiast photographers and professionals alike. Fuji is selling a whole experience of the art of photography. Canon and Nikon are selling to... Canon and Nikon users.
At the same time, these companies also obviously don't get it. I still can't figure out why someone hasn't added computational photography and a smartphone-like user interface for the enthusiast crowd (Why are you still not listening Sony? Your cameras were literally built on Android!). Why do we still have to mess about with camera tethering when it should be seamless to have photos transfer to a device for professional shoots, or to your smartphone for posting to social media?
One is the smartphone user who desires good quality for whatever the situation, who just wants a photo uploaded to Instagram or whatever, NOW. They don't want to learn how to adjust exposure compensation to expose-to-the-right for optimal raw image quality.
This user wants lots of R&D spent on computational photography, lots of processing power on the phone, and a simplified UI that just gets out of the way.
The other is the enthusiast photographer who shoots for either pleasure or maximum quality.
This user wants all the control, all of the time: they've invested time and effort into nailing exposure, mastering autofocus, all while composing beautiful shots. A smartphone interface is not what you want: the best images are often captured in difficult environments where a touchscreen just gets in the way and you must have hard control points.
As far as processing goes, they don't really need any of it; they'll often just process in post. Just gimme the raw data and that's all I need.
Can any manufacturer manage both? Much less in the same camera? For a competitive price?
I'm not sure.
Just take their current flagship smartphone, double the thickness to fit a halfway-between-smartphone-and-full-frame sensor, an SD card slot, ability to export RAWs, and a compact zoom lens, and sell it for like $2000. For extra credit, make a standard lens mount and make it swappable and now you have the manufacturer lock-in that keeping Nikon alive. The margins on the camera business plus the refresh cycle of the phone business might actually save both those divisions.
Instead Sony's camera division and smartphone division are too busy trying to not step on each other's feet and both are suffering for it.
Plus the built-in camera app was awful to use, but 3rd party camera apps had awful image quality. I don’t know if that was Sony’s fault or related to general Android fragmentation. Either way, I got the impression they weren’t trying very hard.
I also remember the poor kid who had a portable CD player almost red hot trying to play the Columbia/Sony music CD he had bought - riddled with purposeful errors to avoid PC copies.
Making war on customers, indeed ...
And no one will buy it. It has been tried before, by Nokia.
Not saying you are wrong but “Nokia tried it” is not any kind of marker.
edit: Yes even when I just post to instagram you can immediately tell the difference between a DSLR photo and a phone photo. Even with all the computational power of an iPhone X, the DSLR's optics and bigger sensor win hands down despite being a 2015 model. (Rebel T6i)
Lightroom mobile, etc., could then have the images swiftly processed and uploaded, and could probably be implemented with minimal changes to the newest models of camera.
The only reasonable implementation however would be something like a permanent BTLE connection that wakes up wifi whenever there are unsynced files on the camera. Just push that while I'm shooting, keep it alive until synced (or until permanent connection loss) when the power button is pressed, leave the phone side UI of what to do with all that data to the phone. (OTOH I'm not even sure if phone OS still allowed an app to do that, idle on background BTLE, then fire up the WiFi without user interaction. OYAH this would be the perfect crossover feature for Sony, because a hardware manufacturer could definitely include it in their Android - but even then, if they did it they'd certainly botch it with sticking to their proprietary raw format instead of opening up to Snapseed by going .DNG)
When my phone is involved, I don’t want to do any processing, except maaaaybe Instagram-like filters. Those photos are not for print or anything like that. When I want good photos not meant to be consumed just on 5” screens I want control.
I would much rather have a reliable rugged camera with manual only mode, weather sealing, huge battery, huge sensor, and cheap glass, than a smart camera.
Since then, I
- Open the Sony app, press "receive"
- View the picture I want to transfer, press "transfer" (physical button), select "confirm" (or select further pictures).
The UI could perhaps be slightly nicer, but it's not really a barrier here.
Also, I almost always seem have to restart the app once or twice until my camera shows up. This is on three different android phones that I've gone through since I bought my a7II.
While current DSLRs typically have baked-in WiFi functionality, the idea of having them auto upload "to the cloud" seems a bit absurd to me. You're looking at ~50 MB per image if you're shooting raw. While you may want to auto backup the images to a nearby device it's unlikely you'd want to wait for that much data to be sent out over the internet.
You're probably thinking of an EyeFi, which is a third party product. First party WiFi support is typically either baked into the body itself or a dongle you'd clip to the side of the camera or flash shoe.
What I would really like to see from a camera is the ability to take a photo, say when travelling, and having it automatically end up on your phone with computational imaging already applied. Then with a tap, be able to pull the RAW for more in depth processing if required. I know that I do most of my processing in DxO Photolab precisely because it takes a guess at the editing for a photo before I even touch it, and therefore I spend less time post processing.
You'd be surprised.
Enthusiast users clamor for good autofocus, want automatic HDR and bracketing, and lots of other things...
Having better autofocus, automatic HDR and bracketing, etc., to me, has nothing to do with having a smartphone like interface or computational photography.
I do want those things (or, kind of - I want better autofocus across the board, and I want the option of automatic hdr and bracketing) but I don't want an iPhone or Android style camera interface. That's damn near the opposite of what I want.
A7R III is already another crowd, there are tons of people like simpler DSLR (e.g. Nikon D3500), simpler mirroless (e.g. Olympus PEN) and compacts (tons of models). Those could all use a "smartphone like interface" and "computational photography".
Now, for more hardcore enthusiasts:
>I do want those things (or, kind of - I want better autofocus across the board, and I want the option of automatic hdr and bracketing) but I don't want an iPhone or Android style camera interface.
Well, I'm a pro photographer (or have been, more into dev now, with a side of video), but I absolutely could use all that things.
Though by iPhone or Android camera interface I don't mean seeing the same thing in your mirrorless screen.
I mean more like the ability to download/write apps, advanced functionality made simple, things to automatically update/sync/post images, etc.
Think more like Magic Lantern -- and the ability to write or download stuff like that with an official API.
I guess? I dunno. Perhaps it's my lack of ability, but it's only a small fraction of my shots that I want to do anything with, and I usually do at least some post processing on them before I do anything with them. I can't imagine wanting to do much of anything with any photo I take without doing at least some basic work in lightroom first.
My treatment largely focuses on software, but if you consider SW a mechanism for delivering interface and output, it applies to a physical + controls system such as cameras. Previous iterations of this phenomenon include audio equipment and bicycles.
This, and as the old adage goes: "The best cameras is the one you have with you". I, for one, have taken technically superior photos with my camera - unsurprisingly - but certainly the more interesting photos with my smartphone. Now you can argue what is better, but I'd say interesting beats technical superior any day.
> Sony and Fuji are really the only two companies that really get the current camera market IMO.
So much this, and if you compare the two: Sony is so much ahead of Fuji that they play in a different league in my opinion. As much as I hate Sony, I think they nailed it. In some sense I'm tempted to add Leica, because I think the Q and Q2 show that they get the current market too, but considering the price, the price/performance ratio, comparing that to Sony and then comparing it to my smartphone ... just nay.
Another interesting data point is that younger artists, like Eric Kim, don't have a problem to add smartphone photos to their portfolio.
Most certain the answer is no, which leads to the question why you felt the necessity to take this picture at all?
Given the abundance of photographic material available today, I came to the conclusion that I'd prefer quality over quantity (your old adage basically just leads to more pictures you'll never do anything with). I can get a mediocre picture of nearly everything interesting in a matter of seconds on the net, but I'll have trouble finding a picture which I can use on my 32" 4K-desktop or print as a poster. And while I might eventually (today, quality isn't there yet...) have more choice when taking pictures with a smartphone, my real wall capacity is limited and it's definitely a lot cheaper to go smartphone shopping with the camera falling right off any priorities list.
I take photos to capture memories, not to post on social media. I greatly value being able to look back at my old photos, because they trigger memories that I'd long forgotten. Sometimes I share my photos, but most of the time I keep them to myself. In this case, smartphone-quality is fine.
I also take photos because the process is enjoyable. I enjoy the technical side of it, finding that perfect angle, then editing it to use as a perfect desktop background. That's what I use my standalone Sony for. I don't bring my standalone camera with me wherever I go, so my phone gets taken out a lot more often.
Also expressed as "F/8 and be there".
Numerous online references, one at random:
I think this is the real answer for the standalone cameras: treat it as an extension of the smartphone.
It's embarassing that in 2019 it's _still_ not possible to wirelessly transfer RAW files from a camera to a phone. I haven't seen a single camera that can do this. iOS is perfectly ready for it too: there's platform-level support for RAW images and processing and plenty of apps take advantage of it, including the built-in Photos app.
Related: does anyone know why cameras typically have horrendously slow wireless transfer speeds? My iPhone can easily reach 600Mbps over WiFi yet even third-party devices made solely for the purpose of quickly transferring photos can only manage ~60Mbps.
For Sony cameras, the fact they can run android .apk's allows some workarounds for jpg/raw WiFi transfer, see http://www.stg-uploader.xyz/
You can backup via WiFi to Google photos or FTP, then open from there with mobile Lightroom on your phone/tablet
That only works for the older ones unfortunately. They dropped the installable app thing a few years ago.
There is zero reason a DSLR camera is needed for this setup. Ten years ago it was the best option, but for our application we really don't need it. Sadly, the software we use is 10 years old, usupported and half written in German. Calibrating was a fucking nightmare, more than half the variables in the configuration file were German and the machine support people stopped supporti.g it years ago and don't have any staff familiar with it any more. Anyway tangent aside, a high quality cell phone cameram that's easy to interface with and doesn't have the problems associated with a ten year old DSLR camera would be so much of an improvement.
I also learned because of all of this, cabin cameras have a finite internal memory because of the way pictures are stored internally on the camera's storage and the only way to get more than 10,000 pictures, even if the pictures aren't being stored on the camera is it insertt an SD card which will work once to reset the camera's interal counter which should give you another 10,000 pictures.
They are almost universally features you can get on your phone cheaper or even free with much better UX. Maybe at the resolution or raw area or some other dimension they might be better. You can also tether to your phone but why would you? It's just too tedious.
I don't think anything is going to save cameras. I keep one which I pretty much only use for super telephoto (400-800mm) and for ultra wide/fisheye. If a phone optically offered both of those things built in I'd stop using that camera completely.
Note: A snap-on 3rd party lens system would not get me to switch but a built in mount might (if Apple or Google or Samsung, ideally Apple, designed some kind of mount for lens I'd totally by them). In fact I'm a little surprised Apple hasn't already done this. I can imagine 2 or 3 tiny notches or mag-divits or something in the back or edge of the case near the lens that external lenses attach to. Apple could offer 2 or 4 lenses and maybe a ring light and easily pull in another billion a year as all the instagrammers go buy them all.
That's not entirely true. The usual excuse is that transcoding generates significant heat and without sufficient cooling the cameras will be damaged. To some extent this is true.
It tends to depend on the bitrate; 4k will get hotter faster than 1080, and 480 will go for long enough to not be a problem generally.
If you stream to an external transcoder/recorder, you can typically record indefinitely with most modern bodies.
For an example of idiocy that's not government-enforced, see the arbitrary 30 second limit exposures on a lot of cameras. If you want to take a 5 minute long exposure, most companies will make you go buy a shutter release cable, which is just the most idiotic thing I've ever seen.
I'd love to see basic camera control from a decent iPhone app over Bluetooth LE, but nope... gotta buy a cable like it's the 1980s.
Check out the Nikon app: https://apps.apple.com/au/app/wireless-mobile-utility/id5541...
WiFi only, so it'll eat your battery, and the review score is 2.2 out of 5!
The overheating thing is also just an excuse. Video encoding is not that power hungry, as long as they're using modern chips with an efficient process such as 7nm or 10nm. Most cameras are made with a legacy stepping size on the order of 22nm or larger to save money. That's why they can't fit in a bunch of formats, can't do 10-bit, and can't do 60 fps. Because they're saving $15 of parts on a $4,000 camera.
Well there is a bit of something you know. Think of it like vi or emacs. I know the Nikon menu system. It's easy for me to move around and do what I want. My wife has a Sony mirrorless camera and I curse every time I have to go into the menu system because it's foreign to me.
I shot Sony since the NEX series came out, starting with the 5000R. Paired with a fixed Zeiss 24mm this camera took absolutely astounding images. Pair a Sony with a smartphone and you get easy upload to social media. What's missing, exactly?
Incidentally I sold all my Sony gear last year. The UI and handling of these cameras is just as ugly as any smartphone can be. It takes seconds to start. The animated/touch UI is just fancy, but slows any operation down. Most modern cameras have humongous menus which are hard to navigate and make little sense as dozen of features get added, but Sony is really on the worst end when it comes to placement and behavior of all the functionality they pack into their cameras, which is sad.
Their "app" store is the most useless thing I've ever seen, including stuff which should be bundled in the camera but when used precludes the functionality of the camera itself.
I'm lucky I always had a great group of friends from which we exchanged cameras and I was able to use most of the others you mention too. If you pick any Nikon, Canon or Fuji camera and start taking pictures you immediately realize why menus are placed in a certain way, the UI is intentionally minimal, and why the body is shaped the way it is. It's a night and day experience if you know what you're doing. No operation takes more than half a second to perform. It's form-follows-function. These cameras cater to pros _first_. You don't need to upload to social media and/or you basically never want to have smartphone-like post-processing in camera because the normal workflow is to either take the built-in jpeg because it's already good enough, or process the raw yourself. Transferring the image via wifi/ble/nfc is decent enough in most 2017+ mirrorless cameras.
Granted, Sony made _huge_ steps forward since the NEX line, but you can definitely see how the camera is influenced by the smartphone market. Sony even released the QX1, which essentially is a camera _for_ the smartphone.
Somehow I have the impression that smartphones themselves will eat away all the middle market as the small optics keep improving. If you want images for instagram you'll probably never care about the improvement in image due to a larger sensor anyway. But a pro will definitely seek superior handling and behavior in a camera, and that is almost tangential to how a smartphone operates.
This has been certainly true in the alpha series. The A6300 handles definitely more like a DSLR than it's predecessors.
I'll take that one step further (and with a family member in professional photography it's a painful conclusion): the convergence between photography and mobile communications devices will make the photographic camera industry disappear because the numbers won't be there to make the devices economical enough. It's basically a continuum between 'doesn't work at all' to 'works for almost all cases'.
System cameras will at some point be as rare as hole through CPUs.
It’s a good camera but it’s frustrating in some ways. No GPS. No easy way to transfer pics to my phone. I probably care less about in camera processing but one has to believe Canon and Nikon could do far more interesting things in camera than they do given the hardware resources and glass they have to work with.
And yeah. Even if I have my DSLR with me I find myself shooting pics on my phone so I can share them now and not in a month when I get around to processing the ones in my camera.
What breaks away is basically the customer base focused on documentary photography, not the artists. They may even gain more artists that get hooked through smartphone photography and convert into enthusiasts.
The documentary focused customers could be won back with 3D technology and virtual tourism in VR, "re-experience your photographed/scanned holiday shots".
Not everything can fit into smartphones, and I'm suprised that the camera industry isn't taking advantage of that.
These computational imaging capabilities are good enough for 99% of people because they're taking pictures on their phone and viewing them on their phone. They are NOT good enough for professional uses.
https://spectre.cam/full-res/Full%20Size%20Comparison%20for%... <--- this is from an 11 pro, and was posted on a related article several days ago. The left side has had contrast tweaked to make it more obvious, but on both you can see that the iPhone 11's computational photography is doing very weird things to the picture that become pretty obvious when you start to look at them closely. You'd never notice on a phone, but on a monitor, or if this were to be printed for display, you notice that they look almost more like photorealistic paintings than they do actual photographs.
This sort of thing would be completely unacceptable on a prosumer+ camera. There's some programs out there that can do similar things on your computer, like Luminar, that are significantly better at it - but are also using significantly more computing power to do it. Doing the same sort of processing in Luminar on a raw out of my a7r 3 takes 30-40 seconds to apply on an i7-7700k running at 5.2Ghz, and the results still sometimes come out looking similar to the iPhone shot.
The tech isn't nearly there for this to be used on standalone cameras. Maybe in 5-10 years, but certainly not today.
I feel Sony are the only company to be looking far enough forward, catering well to the overall industry direction. But even the very best very smallest camera system doesn't fit in your pocket.
I have a bulky DSLR and a mirrorless that I use for bird photography. Most of the time, when not doing that specific task, the camera phone will be good enough if I didn't want to bring my other cameras. And mirrorless cameras are tiny! I can fit a professional quality camera system in a satchel no bigger than my cupped hands, yet the convenience of just keeping my phone on me is impossible to beat.
My process was take a bunch of pix, wait till I got back to my hotel room, plug the camera's memory card into my laptop, transfer the pictures, open up email, attach pictures, email them.
This has been tried and it didn't sell well, see the samsung galaxy cameras, and the nikon coolpix s800c. Also smartphone cameras have gotten really good, and in practice a fully fledged cell phone with a good enough camera is not that much more
Computer + X = Computer
It doesn't matter if X is a screen, an audio system, a network terminal, a phone, a GPS locator, a fingerprint reader, a 3D scanner or a camera. What matters is the fact it's a computer, and the standalone thing will either retreat into a specialist niche or die. Even train tickets and credit cards are going the same way.
Now somebody should simply come up with the idea of a camera that is also a phone. I mean you did but somebody should make that idea a reality. Hey, my camera is ringing ...
The first iPhones compared very poorly with existing camera phones from the likes of Nokia. So much so that they de-emphasised the camera in importance almost as an after thought.
Cameras that are also phones is also very old. Nokia and others have tried it and failed.
If I ever need to think about who invented the first X, it's usually not Apple. They do a great job at making things better.
Still, Apple discovered a user problem—stringing together multiple apps to create a one-step process—and is trying to solve it. Are the camera companies doing the same? Doesn't seem like it.
So for now I can only dream about the camera that lets me load some variables into the EXIF data of an image (hashtags, caption, destination, resize choice, priority) while shooting, pushes that over to my phone via something like SnapBridge, and then because that phone app supports Shortcuts, allows me to say "Hey Siri, Output Images with Priority 1." Plus, when I get home be able to say to my computer "Hey Siri, Archive all Images."
Camera makers have done some half-assed wifi, Bluetooth, and NFC integrations with smartphones, but for the most part the camera still lives on its own, still uses out-of-date SoCs, and generally behaves like the year is 2005, not 2019. The various cameras I've used aren't even smart enough to do simple things like transfer a selected image to a given social network whenever the camera gets within range of a wifi access point it knows. And almost none of the camera makers seem to be serious about working on this problem. It's like Sony missing the iPod (a useful analogy because Sony is in the camera industry and, apart from its imaging sensor division, has missed the wave yet again).
Edit I forgot to add that I believe Sony just introduced a new $1400 flagship camera, the a6600. https://www.dpreview.com/articles/6975583891/sony-a6000-a610.... It has a 4-5 year old sensor in it and software that is even older. Kitted out from scratch with high quality lenses, it's probably $2,500 – $3,000. Imagine how many iPhones Apple would sell if the sensor were not much changed from the 6s and the camera software not changed at all.
I've noticed this too and I have a pet theory about why.
It all comes back to the Canon 5DMk2. The Mk2 was an industry first: integrating video into a full frame sensor in an affordable body. It was an enormous hit. An entire generation of filmmakers grew up using the Mk2 and doing shots that were basically impossible on movie making equipment in the same price range. It made entire movies possible.
The problem is this: Canon also makes extremely high margin movie cameras and lenses. This equipment costs a lot more (and is probably what you want for a full production but I digress) and Canon makes a lot more on it. My impression is that the Mk2 killed an entire segment of Canon's product line and scared the shit out of them.
Since then, Canon has been extremely careful to roll out video features on prosumer cameras (like the Mk2) cameras slowly. They will only support lower quality video codecs on these cameras. They have made a new line of cheap-er video-first cameras.
I think that when the camera makers cannibalized their own products, a common move in smart devices, they got incredibly scared and ran away. The only one really making moves in this area is Sony and that's because Sony has nothing to lose - they had no business when they started making their name by releasing cameras with a lot of tech. Even so, they are not very good.
>Imagine how many iPhones Apple would sell if the sensor were not much changed from the 6s and the camera software not changed at all.
Honestly, very little of the advances in cell phone cameras since the 6s have come from sensors; it's all computational. We're up against the brick wall that is photon noise.
Finally, the A6600 is very much not a flagship. The A9 II is the flagship, at three times the price ($4500).
And as is typical one ends up with a half-assed solution that will stop working in 2 years when Apple/Google change some API or the app isn't maintained any more.
No matter how awesome it seems at launch and how good the quality, anything relying on smartphones is basically disposable.
It's hard to go back to a regular (non-upgrading) car after driving a Tesla, for example. If some camera maker realises that software is just as important as hardware, and continuously upgrades one model for 5 years, including tight integration with apps, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.
What did livery owners do when the car came? They closed shop is my guess.
I don't really think there is much the camera companies could do. They've tried making it so you can use your camera from your phone. It's too cumbersome. They've tried making it so you can post images directly from the camera to the various services. Again too cumbersome. I have my phone always. I rarely have my camera. They've added apps stores to their cameras. They've added APIs. No one cares, it's not enough. Except for a few pros they're just not something anyone needs anymore.
If by "serious" you mean "studio," then you're probably right.
But there are plenty of "serious" photographers that find geotagging very useful. Newspaper photographers, travel photographers, scientific photography, etc...
Battery life is a general problem for GPS but if I can have GPS on a watch I’m not sure it would drain a big DSLR camera battery all that much.
how often does Sony release new APS-C sensors?
I find that in many everyday situations my smartphone just doesn’t cut it. Trying to take photos of my kids running around at dusk or indoors, for example. Or trying to take a decent portrait.
I bought an A7iii to take photos in these situations, and I’m really glad that I did. I don’t always take it out with me and there are lots of situations where my smartphone strikes the right balance between quality and convenience. But my a7iii has allowed me to capture great images that I will cherish for the rest of my life and probably wouldn’t have been able to take with my smartphone.
With that said, the 11 pro takes great shots with little fuss. But, my d7100 with a 50mm prime still easily beats it in image quality. I want to get to the point where I don't need to carry around my d7100 (or an DSLR), but we are not there yet. Then I have shots like this, that I don't see how I would ever have caught on a phone camera.
i shoot with a pretty recent APS-C Nikon D7500 & good glass these days and i can tell you that its dynamic range is still nothing compared to what a new (or even older) iphone can get by bracketing a shot at 960fps and stacking it automatically for you. i would happily sacrifice half its resolution for the kind of dynamic range you effortlessly get with an iphone.
i had a good Fuji mirrorless X-T2 and its low latency electronic viewfinder sucked the battery dry in an hour and lagged + looked like shit in low light.
My 2008-era 1Ds3 still crushes a modern phone (I have a Pixel 2) in dynamic range when processed properly, and a D7500 is even better still, not to mention the latest full-frame models like the D850 and such.
Phones do, counterintuitively, have the advantage in extreme low light because they're able to stack multi-second exposures very reliably. But then again, I'm comparing my phone against a 2008 camera... the very best latest full frame cameras might be on par (at an extreme depth of field disadvantage though).
This site uses user-submitted raw files to calculate the dynamic range. I'm not sure whether this is only a single iPhone shot or not, and it's an Xs, not an 11. (Incidentally, that's data from my personal 1Ds3.)
If you're looking at DxOmark reviews, I'm fairly certain that they do not review ILCs and smartphones on the same scale, and I take every number they give with a huge grain of salt.
Re: computational techniques:
You certaily could get infinite dynamic range, and perhaps the iPhone 11 does better than my Pixel (I hear it does multiple exposure durations instead of repeating one exposure duration), but at least with my Pixel there's tons of shot noise everywhere, even in the midtones and highlights, because the full well capacity on the dinky sensors is accordingly tiny.
You just rarely scrutinize a cell phone photo alongside a large-sensor camera photo so you gloss over where the heavy sharpening plus noise reduction has smeared the fine detail to paste.
The processing has a lot to overcome, after all: the small lens-sensor combinations are running at the limits of diffraction and thus are extremely soft if viewed at the raw data level. Sharpening it heavily just to level the playing field with a large sensor (which you can safely do because a lot of the blur is just diffraction) enhances the noise a ton, beyond what the dynamic range numbers derived from the raws would suggest.
Camera performance continues to be a major differentiator / selling point and upgrade draw for smartphones. Therefore to draw in that next $100 billion in device sales, companies like Apple can spend orders of magnitude more dollars investing in the phone's camera performance than a legacy camera company can invest in their entire device.
Another major factor is that the massive processing power of the phone can be leveraged for image capture, just as it can be leveraged for gaming, and web browsing. Users can amortize the cost of all that computing power and fast storage across the several major categories of tasks that a smartphone can perform. So a processor that makes perfect sense in a smartphone is going to be very hard to justify in a SLR, versus integrating the minimum set of ICs required to process the image, with a low-power processor to run a bare-bones UI. Likewise the BOM for the screen on a smartphone is worth investing hundreds of dollars into, whereas the screen on an SLR is kind of like the backup for the viewfinder.
Finally, the raison d'être of a camera in 2019 is to share photos with friends and family, using perhaps the built-in Camera app, but most likely a dozen other social apps which all have their own custom UI, filters, and accoutrements. An SLR will simply never be as effortless and fun to use for this purpose as your smartphone.
 - https://www.instagram.com/p/B2b8pEDIBDb/?utm_source=ig_embed
To some extent, I fear that "the eye" of the public has simply forgotten what sort of photographs are possible, and are happy with snapshots taken in perfect conditions, which do look OK on phone cameras.
Remember the old architectural style with tilt-shift lenses, where tall things would imposingly loom over you with perfectly parallel lines? You can remove the "distortion" from tiling your camera up in software, but it tends to look pretty terrible compared to a camera on a tripod that is perfectly level and is just taking the image from the bottom of the image circle.
Remember how it's nighttime half the time, but you never see good pictures taken at night? Stars exist, waves bend into glass, and the moon can glow over your mountains and valleys. But not if you're holding your camera in your hand and have a fingerprint on the lens. So we don't see those pictures anymore.
Even product photos in ads look pretty bad a lot of the time. You can get a white table and take a snapshot with your cell phone, but it looks like you did. Maybe it doesn't matter, though.
Ultimately, the problem the camera industry has is that very few people need to take perfect pictures in tough conditions. Fine art, wildlife, sports... phone cameras just don't yield as good of results as a larger camera. But not many people are taking that kind of picture. They just want to say "hey friends, I went to this place, look at it" or "look at my friend here". And a phone camera is great for that. It's the perfect balance; it takes up 0 space (since you were carrying a phone anyway), and the image quality is good enough. Smaller dedicated cameras (like an RX100) just don't provide much of a leap in quality.
I think you’re mistaken.
The people who would take stunning photographs with any equipment available to them, still do so.
It’s just that there are nearly infinitely more photographs floating around because the tools have been democratized, and thus it’s harder to find the spectacular ones.
If I were Sony or Nikon or Canon, I would buy the subway ad next to Apple's and show a stunning night shot as their example. In comparison, the iPhone camera might not look like such a must have. (Especially in a world where "dark mode" and the color blue are so popular, I think it could work.)
I was shooting Canon for about 12 years and now have a Sony A7rIII because of it's amazing eye-autofocus, and a heap of lenses. With the DSLR I take the picture, download it to the computer and then play with it on Capture One, often using the great smart masking feature to add some punch to people's faces vs background stuff.
Now on the iPhone 11 range I shoot in portrait mode, which now also works with the 26mm lens (previously just the 52mm). Basically the portrait mode uses semantic segmentation to identify people and clothes. I then use iOS 13's picture editing to get the look right on the picture (usually a little too yellow), add vignette, etc. and then use the portrait lighting to brighten people. There is a huge difference in the before/after of the photos, and they look really impressive. No manual masking, no delays.
Ok, so I can notice the funky bokeh effects sometimes, and it's not on par with the Sony + 35mm f1.4 , or even the 35mm f1.8, but the ease of getting impressive shots is amazing if you know how to process them.
RAW can be done on phones (I use it on my iPhone), but the result seems to be extremely noisy (but at least you get the detail, which generally gets lost in jpegs from the built-in Camera app).
Edit: The article linked below says I'm wrong about why phone cameras have wide depth of field. Based on skimming it, I'm right in that phone cameras will have wide depth of field, but it's due to the the small focal length.
For a given field of view your focal length must change for different sensor sizes so effectively you see a shallower depth of field.
While computational imaging is doing amazing things right now, I've yet to be impressed by any sort of portrait mode, they simply do a mediocre job at creating a realistic sharpness falloff and fail far too often at identifying the edges of a subject. Once they get it right however, they could theoretically do some absolutely amazing things by simulating different bokeh and as small of a DoF as you could ever desire.
The one exception would be movements: most 4x5 cameras can do tilt and shift, whereas tilt/shift lenses for DSLRs are very expensive and specialist.
Now I spend mere seconds processing each raw image, and they look way better than I can get with the default processing on a smartphone.
When you have the benefit of a large sensor, you don't actually need multishot HDR capture; even older cameras have plenty of dynamic range, as long as you expose properly.
Now if only there were a camera with a beefy processor that I could port my software to run on...
For pro tier cameras, the problem is that no software manipulation can ever read the mind of the photographer and what they want, so you have to have a way to opt out of in-body post processing or there will definitely be times you're fighting the camera to get what you want. On professional shoots or at fast moving events like a wedding, no professional will tolerate their camera having a mind of its own and editing the files in a possibly-unpredictable way.
So if that's the case, why even include the options at all? Professional photographers have the technical skills to get what they want from the camera by turning the normal ISO/shutter/aperture knobs and don't need those headaches. Casual users don't know or care what's possible and just want a photo that "looks good" which usually means in focus and a little extra saturation. "Prosumers" or "techy users" are the hardest to pin down, but that market may be disappearing anyway.
> Why should anyone who wants to take decent pictures suffer through the pain of spending thousands of dollars on a camera system, many hours of learning how to use the camera and how to post-process images from it, when the alternative is to use a small, portable and idiot-proof device that they have in their pockets at all times?
Smartphones are amazing now at producing decent pictures in adverse circumstances. The amount of manual effort required to produce an equivalent with a DSLR in post processing is therefore going up.
Is there room for a iCamera, with the smartphone processing but large interchangeable lenses? Maybe. Are the camera companies able to build it? No.
That's the biggest difference between a market where casual users just want to take "pictures" vs the semi-pro market where users actually start caring about the process in itself rather than just the final outcome. It's not like "one size fits all" at all. I use both DSLRs, Mirrorless and smartphones to take pictures and I know when I want to use which. I also know that a DSLR picture is going to take more time to edit and all but I enjoy the process and I also find the picture is massively better than anything I can take with a smartphone: there's not even a metric where the best phone can compare with a medium-priced DLSR. I also know that my DLSR pictures will still look great 10 years from now while my smartphones pics are for instant consumption only and a good 75% of them are borderline junk (too much noise when it gets darker, distorsion, not taken exactly at the right moment, slightly blur, etc).
For me this is the same difference between people who buy computers just because they need one and hardcore gamers who assemble the best piece of hardware they can get their hands to because they have very specific needs or wishes. Looking thru a huge list of hardware options, comparing prices, is also fun if you are in the right mindset - and this is not "for all people".
ehh, I have a photo from the iPhone 4 printed out and hanging on the wall, still very happy with some shots I took with it :)
> too much noise when it gets darker
To be fair, many older DSLRs (Canon 600D) have horrendous performance at high ISO too, while smartphones have Night Sight type stitching of multiple exposures, but these require steady hands and non-moving subjects of course.
Basically, what the author identifies and yet misses is that most phones these days are no longer phones. A normal camera has similar capabilities except it has better optics and happens to not have a 4g/5g chip in it (typically) or be used for taking calls.
The status quo of the last 15 years is basically convergence of devices around a form factor that fits in your pocket that is good enough but frankly a bit awkward for many things. They've gotten uncomfortably big and yet are still uncomfortably small for many things (like typing). You only have one phone and the myth companies like Apple are built on is that that one phone comes from them and is the center of your life.
However, making phone hardware is getting so cheap now that you can produce fairly decent ones for around 100$. Manufacturers like Apple have been looking to expand in the camera domain to justify higher prices. If you look at the most expensive phones, their number one feature is always the camera.
The next logical step from a technical point of view is separating those two again. After all, if phones are cheap, there's no good reason why any camera can't be a phone as well. The only reason that's not happening is that traditional camera manufacturers (like most electronics manufacturers) are lousy at software. Eventually one of them will figure it out.
Another thing that I've been expecting to happen is that Apple will figure out that selling just 1 device to people with too much money is bad business. Right now they have a one size fits all phone and that's it. You buy it and then you replace it after a few years. The next logical step here is to own multiple devices and start treating them more as accessories to be used in different contexts. The phone you use while biking to work might be different than what you use while you are sitting on the bus or at home. It might not even be a phone. It's like owning just one pair of shoes for jogging, weddings, office, and gardening. Once companies figure out how to make switching from one device to the next seamless, there's an enormous amount of potential for all sorts of specialized devices to be sold that seamlessly integrate. Including high end cameras.
Creating a device that every person needs to replace after a few years is a very sound business model. The issue is how many years you generally need to replace it. Apple used to be able to convince folks to replace their phone every two years. Now a two year old phone is not bad at all, and many people are moving to a three year cycle or even longer. This is significant, if 50% of folks move from replacing their phones every 2 years to 3, that's a 16% drop in sales.
Apple's real challenge is to keep innovating to convince folks to keep to shorter phone life-spans. However, as Moore's law keeps it's pace towards the graveyard, that will be be harder and harder to do.
Which is why Apple has pushed in to services and other halo devices (Apple Watch, AirPods) around the phone. People incorrectly think that a drop in iPhone sales means fewer people using iPhones. While that may happen at some point, I think the iOS user base is steady/still growing. It will take time, but Apple is already working to make themselves less dependent on the 2 year upgrade cycle.
We should not be cheering this initiative, it's a sign of bad things to come. It means that hardware innovation is slowing, and to compensate, there has to be more software innovation. Software innovation is relatively easy to copy, and the most profitable business models involve selling personal data to advertisers. It'll be harder for Apple to compete in this market, and they will be strongly tempted to make compromises with user privacy to satisfy growth and revenue expectations.
However, the root cause of this, is that hardware innovation is slowing, which is largely due to the death of Moore's law. Few are thinking about the profound changes that will arise if Moore's law does indeed come to a complete stop, Apple's business strategy is just one small example. If Moore's law does hit a dead-end (it's currently on its last dying wimper), there will profound affects through society, our economy, and our general expectations for the future. It's frightening that more people aren't sounding the alarms about it.
And yeah, basically if it's just sentimentality, maybe a rough, blotty sketch of reality might suffice, but given that photos are kind of unnecessary from this angle, I somehow find trading quality and money for arguable convenience sort of schizophrenic.
As for the aspect of getting pictures of the camera: my cheap big-C-things have an alright app for that, I think it even does raw-files. A USB-cable/card-reader certainly also does the job.
Seeing this, as it is, I wonder how many people really need higher quality _and_ high troughput. The small minority of one-person-online-only-celebrity-cos might profit from convenience and fast turn-around times of even better smartphone cameras, but this is a really small minority. Everyone else doesn't really need both. Professionals (aka selling pictures compared to selling some lifestyle) will still need the quality and all the sentimental people who think they need to shoot crappy photos, would be better served by other things for their obvious long-term-needs. Still, seeing how much emphasis marketing places on plainly overpriced smartphone cameras, it's a fair guess, that the latter group today is mainly concerned with their ephemeral and completely commercialized social-media presence noone will remember tomorrow.
A decade ago I printed a bunch of photos taken on my 2006 Sony Ericsson K800 (one in a line of cell phones to come with a real Xenon flash instead of the LED rubbish we suffered with after) and they looked fine as prints - it's on a bright, high-res computer screen that they look horrid.
I'm culpable of jumping ship to the new but worse technology too early myself, but in this instance I didn't stop carrying my "real" camera until the iPhone 6s.
There was a period where phone photos looked bad even when viewed on phones, then for a long period of time they looked great on the phone but when viewed on a monitor they were absolute shit.
I'm much happier with the ergonomics and quality of my phone camera than I ever was with my dedicated cameras, even a dSLR I owned for a while. On top of that, I always have it in my pocket and the response time is insanely short compared to a dedicated camera.
 Most recently, https://jefftk.com/pictures/2018
- How amazing the iPhone XS Max cameras already are
- How far there is to go before they feel as “photographic” as something shot with a big lens big sensor DSLR.
The curve moved a lot with the iPhone 11 and the latest Android devices, but if you shoot thousands of iPhone photos and then pick back up your full frame Nikon D4 or Sony A9 with some big glass (say, an 85mm 1.2 or a 24mm 1.2), you’ll realize something was missing.
This generation of smart phone pictures are a little like listening to music from speakers by Bose. All the fancy duct work sounds like a pretty good simulation of real drivers, but there’s just less there there.
How will we look back on today’s artificially blurred backgrounds and impossibly HDR photographs in a decade or two?
It's pretty clear that the first type of "art" created by computers or "AI" on a large scale is photography. Today, smart cameras don't just assist with objective factors like lighting and focus, they make subjective decisions on which areas to highlight, skin tones, shadows, parts of the scene to blur, and a variety of other details that are typically in the realm of artistic component of photography.
As a society, we have essentially determined what a "good" photo is, and have programmed that into each camera that we carry in our pocket. There are many upsides to this, but it raises an obvious question: are these cameras really being programmed to create the "best" images, or are we being programmed to believe that the images they create are the "best"?
Automation and AI are not a one way street; we don't just create machines that think like us, the machines we create change the way we think.
I gave up my film DSLR in 1998, I gave up my digital DSLR in 2012, ago and went to a superzoom, now I’m giving up my superzoom for an iPhone 11.
I’d rather become an expert with the a limited camera I always have, versus being an expert with an almost unlimited camera I rarely have.
What’s funny is that I’m taking better pictures with the iPhone than I’ve ever taken before.
Camera manufacturers can't make competitive software, and usually end up gimping cameras because they have different competing product lines. Just give us an external sensor with either a good fast fixed lens, or a reasonable lens mount, to hook up to a phone/tablet, those do everything else better than a camera. Usb-c has good enough bandwidth and can provide enough power to the external sensor module.
For stills mobile phones with small sensors are already pretty close to DSLR quality, for video it will be a while - the small sensor/pixel size means lots of noise and you can't fix it with multiple exposure averaging like you can with stills. Similarly faking shallow DOF for video is a much harder task than for stills
Samsung tried building Android-based cameras a few years back, struggled to gain any sort of market share, and got out of the interchangeable lens camera market altogether. It’s a shame too because the cameras got really good reviews.
The camera industry is totally backwards, though. That is true.
But it has been already done in 2013: https://www.tomshardware.com/news/Samsung-Galaxy-Camera-DSLR...
Also https://zx1.zeiss.com/ is coming (not soon) with a fixed 35mm f/2 lens, a 37.4MP sensor, built-in 512 GB SSD storage, integrated Adobe Lightroom and wifi to share.
Also remember https://www.motorola.com/us/products/moto-mods/hasselblad-tr... and https://www.redhydrogen.com/
So, I don't think there is an obvious solution. Just integrating a mobile Operating system in a DSLR doesn't solve the underlying problems.
How many customers want to put a sim card in their camera to have a really convenient way of sharing to social media?
Do users really want to edit and grade their photo's on a 6 inch display?
How many users find the pocket size form factor of an iPhone outweighing all the photo quality advantages of a bigger lens?
So, maybe the conclusion is that these are different markets whereby the casual camera mass market will use a smartphone and prosumer and professional camera market don't have the same needs like smart image processing or sharing on instagram.
Nikon's stock is down over 2013 but I'm not seeing the end days reflected in that. AMD was down for ages but computers didn't go out of fashion.
I recon smart phones will kill for-purpose cameras the same year they kill the PC gaming industry.
I would not point to Nikon as the DSLR bellwether (and I'm a Nikon shooter). Nikon has moved into mirrorless at a glacial pace. The Nikon 1 system was a joke. If I didn't have so much Nikon glass, I would have moved on to Sony years ago.
The new Nikon Z bodies give me hope, but the Z6 and new Z50 made some weird decisions particularly around memory cards. The Z6 uses the XQD which are super expensive and the Z50 eschewed dual slots which I make use of in d7100. The new Z mount also means I'm probably going to end up replacing many of my lenses anyway.
Why does such a difference exist?
Is it industry culture?
Is it because the DSLR camera market is too small to finance the innovation?
Is it lack of imagination? I mean the size of the DSLR platform lends itlsef to way more computing power / features than a smartphone with the huge constraint on size and power consumption.
Not sure exactly what you meant, but that sounds terrible.
On my Nikon DSLR I can adjust just about any setting using physical buttons, very fast, most often without even taking my eye off the viewfinder. The camera UX is optimized for speed and efficiency.
On a phone, I'd be scrolling through touch screen menus to do anything. By the time a shot is taken the subject is long gone (unless it's static scenery).
Beyond prosumer DSLRs and prosumer Mirrorless there is an opinion among professional photogs that these software enhancements are gimmicks and are not pure photography, although I kind of doubt that being anything but a footnote in decisionmaking since if you feel that way you can simply not use that feature.
No, nobody is still wondering that, not for many years. And indeed, of course it is. That should've been the end of an article that could've been quite prophetic in 2007/8, not a few months shy of 2020.
I still have my Nikon DLSR set up but when I want to “do photography” for fun these days I use a Fuji X100F.
This is a somewhat limit camera although I can get fixed focal lengths from 28-100mm eqv. and it has some other neat tricks.
I hardly ever shoot RAW now and if I do I process the RAW in camera.
This means I can’t take ever possible shot but I really enjoy working with the camera flaws and all. It’s only for fun so you get what you can.
What I don’t get is why the camera makers haven’t expanded on the creative options for their systems. Why aren’t they offering flash systems with better integration than say Godox?
Why don’t they offer control of flash colour temperature for balancing?
What about photo stacking in JPGs?
The Fuji X100F is about 3 times as heavy then a usual smartphone. So carrying it around would quadruple the weight of my "camera equipment".
I wish somebody would run around with a pocket camera and a phone for a day and then write a blog posts with comparison shots.
For convenience you can’t beat a smartphone. I only take the Fuji with me when I’m specifically in the mood to take photos. I don’t blog but if you do then maybe the camera you have with you is the best choice.
On the question of quality again it’s interesting. The latest generation of smart phones are reputedly very good so I don’t know what the difference is.
The other thing is that with the X100F you get lots of control but no training wheels. Smartphones lack control over what picture you get but you’ll still probably get something pretty most of the time.
The Fuji has stuff like a leaf shutter so it will let you do certain tricks with flash exposure you can’t easily do in post. It also has really good film simulation and a good optical/digital view finder.
Now that’s pretty specific so if it’s not something you think you need a smartphone will again be more useful.
In reality the X100F, while compact, is camera-size and camera-weight, so the actual dimensions matter little. It won’t fit in a pocket, that’s the dimension that really matters.
I swapped for a slightly better camera (X-T30) which is about the same size and with a lens that is also slightly longer (talking actual length here).
The shots I get of my family and kids are the prize. The difference between my phone and camera results make the strap around my neck worth it. But it’s still a challenge not to leave it at home.
From the point of view of the camera user, smartphone should be detachable lcd viewfinder. Or from the point of smartphone user, camera should be beefy detachable lens and flash you can put on a tripod nearby when composing the shot. People want better lenses and lightning for their smartphones. If they are wireless it's even better.
Smartphones take astoundingly better pictures than almost anyone needs or wants, and will only get better. There will always be some market for dedicated cameras, however for most people they do not add any value.
The first is the complete lack of innovation. Without any meaningful APIs, end users cannot do much with their DSLR. There's no app store where I can buy apps to enhance my DSLR. There's a lot of room for creative photography if we could only program our own DSLRs. Smartphones, on the other hand, often do provide such APIs. This is how you get people doing astrophotography on a smartphone with a vastly inferior sensor.
The other reason is much more banal. For various reasons, people jumped to the DSRL bandwagon thinking that would make for better photos compared to more compact cameras (false for most people). DSLRs never should have become as popular as they did. In the film days you had simple compact cameras and SLRs. Only enthusiasts bought SLRs. That was the case in the early digital days, but then around 2005 people suddenly decided to switch to DSLRs, despite their not benefiting from them.
Over a decade later, people have realized that the eagerness with which they jumped to SLRs was misguided, and are now back to using something convenient. Unfortunately, camera manufacturers assumed this temporary rise in interest in DSLRs would be permanent.
I disagree here entirely. The DSLR "app" market predates and has been the inspiration for all of these apps we see on phones. Photoshop filters, lightroom presets and actions, etc. All of the stuff that that inspired things like instagram filters have been around for decades now, and have consistently always been a step ahead on power and quality. You don't run them on camera, but... you wouldn't want to! When you're shooting with a DSLR you're shooting for consumption at higher resolutions than you can see on your LCD display. You want to be able to look at things in more detail than you could ever do on the camera itself.
>The other reason is much more banal. For various reasons, people jumped to the DSRL bandwagon thinking that would make for better photos compared to more compact cameras (false for most people)
You're right here, but I don't think people actually wised up to this.
If we're talking specifically about DSLRs, mirrorless cameras are just better for most people at this point - Sony has almost single handedly rendered DSLRs obsolete for the vast majority of use cases where people need prosumer or professional cameras. If we're talking about prosumer+ cameras in general, it's even simpler than your reasons: Most of the people taking pictures with their phones are doing so for people who are consuming them on their phones.
You simply don't need a DSLR or mirrorless or medium format camera when everyone viewing your pictures is also using a phone. People aren't getting photos printed, and they're not viewing them on monitors. I'm really impressed with my iPhone 11 Pro camera - it works fantastic! - for viewing photos on the phone. But throw it up on my 4K monitor, and the pictures don't compare at all to my old D5300, much less my a7r 3 or even my rx100 m7 (assuming good shooting conditions and manual mode - the 11 Pro auto settings are quite good and significantly better than the 5300, and in some situations seem to be about as good as the rx100). I haven't gotten any printed to put up on display, but just seeing how poorly they compare when I'm looking at them in Lightroom, I wouldn't want to.
The way the majority of people consume photography has changed, and the requirements for producing photos for that medium has changed with it.
I'm talking about APIs that control focus, aperture, shutter etc - not post processing. Phone companies have performed more innovation on this front than camera manufacturers.
I want to write a program that will focus stack for me. As in I want to tell my camera to take N photos, each with a slightly different focal point. I want to specify the boundaries (min and max focus). Bonus points if it stacks all the photos in the body as well. Photoshop cannot do this for you.
You already see it in some phones - great nice shots with low noise because the camera is taking N pictures and taking the median of all the pictures. Why can't I program my DSLR to do this?
As for my other point - it was that most DSLR owners never needed a DSLR. They were fine with prosumer/compact cameras, but decided to pointlessly pay an extra for DSLRs. Some a huge amount extra for full frame. DSLRs never should have been this popular. This story should have been about the decline of compact cameras had that alternate history played out.
Why don't camera manufacturers allow me to do this? I know if I overdo it I'll damage the lens, but that's simply not enough of an excuse. There are ways to mitigate these concerns.
I've been doing this in photoshop and lightroom for more than a decade now. I'm not sure how this isn't doable in them?
It's not always about the result, sometimes it's about how you got there. That said, my phone takes awesome snaps