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