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The days of the point-and-shoot camera may be numbered, if usage metrics are an indication.  (Source: Geekologie)

The iPhone 4 is leading the smart phone push to ditch the dedicated camera. It will soon be the most used camera device on Flickr.  (Source: Flickr)
Flickr use of point and shoot designs is plunging while iPhone images are soaring

Cisco Systems Inc.'s (CSCO) sudden decision to kill its "Flip" line of cameras and digital camcorders surprised many.

But a report from TechCrunch's MC Siegler puts the news in an interesting context.  He points to data from image-sharing site, Flickr, offering the surprising conclusion that point-and-shoot cameras appear to be dying breed, while smartphones -- particularly the iPhone -- are taking over.

Flickr, a property of Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO), is a good barometer for the imaging industry, thanks to its tremendous popularity (some sources call it the world's largest imaging sharing site).  According to Flickr, usage of the most popular point and shoot cameras -- the Canon PowerShot series -- has plunged.

Meanwhile the iPhone 4 has exploded onto the camera scene, surpassing the PowerShot family in number of photos uploaded.   According to Flickr, the most single most popular digital camera -- the Nikon D90 single-lens reflex camera -- will soon be passed by the surging iPhone 4.

Surprisingly, Android users don't seem to be as on board the trend to ditch the point-and-shoot for the smart phone.  The only Android cameraphone to crack the top five was the HTC EVO 4G from 
Taiwanese gadget maker HTC Corp. (2498).  It remains in a virtual tie with the iPod Touch, behind the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4.

While imaging on smartphones, including the iPhone has dramatically improved, it still lags a bit behind leading point and shoot models.  But the gap isn't as big as one might think.  

The Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS, the most popular point-and-shoot according to Flickr, packs an 8 megapixel image sensor.  Many Android smartphones include 8 MP cameras, and even the iPhone 4 -- a bit dated in hardware at this point -- offers a 5 MP camera.  Of course, the resolution only tells part of the story.  The physical size of the image sensor on point-and-shoot cameras tends to be larger than in cameraphone modules, meaning their images will be better at the same resolution.

Still, the superior imaging point-and-shoots appear to be dying due to their lack of connectivity.  Smartphones can take a shot and instantly upload it to the cloud from virtually any moderately populated location across the country.  That ability appears to be making the iPhone the new leader in the world of digital imaging.

Android is drastically outselling the iPhone, which makes the iPhone's lead in imaging all the more impressive.  Having extensively used both the iPhone 4 and the 8 MP HTC EVO 4G, it's not surprising that the iPhone 4 is a bit ahead.  

While the EVO clearly has the edge in resolution, we find the iPhone snaps photos a bit faster and has a bit better image processing software.  As a result, images from the two phones tend to be roughly comparable, in our experience.  However, the iPhone 4's associated software is a bit easier to use than the Android "Froyo" 2.2/HTC Sense combination on the EVO.

That said, despite Apple's early lead, expect Android smartphone imaging to pick up soon as well, given its massive sales.

All that bodes very poorly for traditional camera companies like Eastman Kodak Comp. (EK), Canon Electronics Inc. (CAOEF), and Nikon Corp. (NINOF).  Having survived the painful transition from film to digital, they now face yet another round of minimization, this time at the hands of cameraphones.  When the dust settles it would be unsurprising if many of these companies only survive as SLR makers, as cameraphones grow to match the capabilities of today's point-and-shoots.


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RE: Title is VERY misleading
By MrTeal on 4/18/2011 1:24:07 PM , Rating: 2
You're confusing an EVIL camera with a P&S. There's no reason why an APS-C or full-frame sensor can't be put into a camera without a mirror. Instead of the mirror diverting the light up to an optical viewfinder and then flipping out of the way when you want to expose an image, you remove the mirror and have the sensor act as both the capture device and viewfinder. Cameras like the NX10 have APS-C sensors, interchangeable lenses and no mirror.

To repatch, there's going to be some cases where standard DSLRs would be superior to mirrorless ones. I didn't mean that DSLRs would disappear, especially in the pro space. For most people though, a small APS-C EVIL camera with a pancake lens gives you most of the performance of a DSLR in a package that's much more portable. I can see many of the people who buy the D5100 or T3i moving towards these kinds of cameras.

RE: Title is VERY misleading
By SPOOFE on 4/19/2011 7:26:19 PM , Rating: 2
You're right about putting a big sensor in a mirrorless body (look at the Sony Nex series, as well).

The problem with big sensors, however, is that using them continuously (for Live View or recording video or what-have-you) causes a lot of heat to build up in the sensor, which in turn can result in higher noise levels. And if you're using it on a hot day, it will just plain shut off.

Further, removing the mirror box and prism means you need to find some other method of phase-detect autofocus, versus contrast-detect. Phase-detect has an advantage in speed, because it can tell if it needs to focus closer or further away to lock on the subject; contrast-detection just kinda guesses, which means focus will tend to "wander" more.

I'm sure there are ways around this - Nikon, for instance, is looking to imbed "phase-detection" pixels within the actual imaging sensor - but for the foreseeable future, the mirror box is absolutely essential for the blazing fast focus and shutter responses that DSLR's provide.

Everything after that is just a matter of developing a solid ecosystem for an EVIL camera; getting enough lenses, flash units, and the like to really give a user options.

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