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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: Flickr
By Solandri on 4/18/2011 1:56:12 PM , Rating: 2
I would hypothesize that if you plotted similar stats for all camera phones on a log scale, the slope of their lines would match the iPhone 4's. That is, percentage-wise, their use is growing as quickly as the iPhone's (e.g. quadrupling in x years).

Likewise, the comment about Android not being as popular as the iPhone for photos is bunk. To properly assess that statement, you'd need to sum up the number of photos taken by all Android phones and compare to the iPhone, not look at single models. Same as with Android phone sales - no single one approaches the iPhone, but as a whole they crush the iPhone.

The one thing the article got right is that camera phones are supplanting point and shoot cameras. The top graph is misleading however - even back in the film days all photographers knew that the SLR market was peanuts compared to the point and shoot market. It's why Canon and Nikon's traditional lineup only had 3 SLRs, while they had about a dozen point and shoots.

The most revealing thing to me is that DSLRs are unaffected by the rise of camera phones. They are essentially independent markets. In fact, aside from the Canon Rebel, DSLR usage actually seems to be going up. My guess is that's due to people being frustrated by their camera phone's quality. They want a better camera, but can't really justify buying a point and shoot since it's only slightly better than their camera phone. So they splurge for a DSLR.

RE: Flickr
By SPOOFE on 4/19/2011 7:47:47 PM , Rating: 2
My guess is that's due to people being frustrated by their camera phone's quality.

Or it could be due to their investment; you buy any appreciable amount of SLR lenses, and you're going to want to use them. The human mind tends to assign greater value to something that's had time and effort (or money) dedicated to it.

Heck, go search for Chase Jarvis, a very experienced photographer who's lately been doing a lot of photography exclusively with his iPhone.

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