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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 Johnmcl7 on 4/18/2011 8:38:54 PM , Rating: 2
I see DSLRs moving more towards the EVIL cameras. Really, the entire mirror system really isn't needed anymore. If you remove the mirror, you can put the sensor much closer to the flange. Smaller flange focal distances mean smaller lenses for the same focal length/aperture, on top of the fact that the camera body is so much thinner. It's a win/win, and the only thing you give up is the optical viewfinder that can either be replaced with an electronic version, or ditched altogether for live preview.

While there are advantages to mirrorless cameras, it's most definitely not the case that the mirror isn't needed anymore. I say that as someone who's heavily invested in both micro 4/3 and a Nikon FX setup. The micro 4/3 cameras and lenses give me a very compact walk around setup as I can pack a pair of bodies, a couple of primes, an ultrawide and either a superzoom or telephoto into a small shoulder bag. However there are some limitations the lack of mirror imposes. The first is the slower autofocus, the GH2's autofocus is impressively quick even over the GH1 which was no slouch but because CDAF doesn't show whether the camera is front or back focussed it can't touch a decent SLR particularly in tracking.

On top of the slower AF, there's also the problem with the added shutter lag. An SLR using its OVF simply needs to open then close the shutter which on a decent SLR means an exceptionally quick response to pressing the shutter. Mirrorless cameras however have to hold the shutter open to drive their viewfinder/screen which means when they take the picture they have to close their shutter, reopen it for the actual exposure, close it and then reopen to resume liveview which adds noticeable shutter lag.

Holding the shutter open and keeping the sensor powered up to produce the liveview image drains the battery whereas on an SLR using an OVF is barely using any power as the shutter is closed and the sensor powered down.

I can certainly see the benefits of the mirrorless systems which is why I get a lot of use from them but even the GH2 which is the flagship mirrorless camera is a long way from being able to match the better SLRs.

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