Has the Smartphone Finally Replaced the Compact Camera?

taking pictures
Have smartphones finally replaced compact cameras?

Will smartphones ever replace compact camera’s? Surprisingly the answer might be yes and no.

The online photography forums have been buzzing with discussions about the end of the compact camera due to the growing use of cell phones as the primary tool for taking pictures. Proof for and against its demise are plenty.

Instagram & Facebook

Some might say the large number of Instagram members (100 million users at the start of 2013) alone support the theory that most people are using smartphones to take photos.

After Facebook went public last year, they acknowledged that more and more people are logging in through their smartphones (including sharing photos).

I did an unscientific study and asked 10 of my friends what they use to snap photos and what they did with those pictures. Not surprisingly most said a cell phone and to share on social networks. The ability to instantly share a photo on a social site increased the “joy” of taking a photo and all said they now did it more often.

Where’s the proof?

Yes, yes I know, this doesn’t prove anything right? Well actually it does.

It proves that people are taking more pictures than before. And for the average person it’s with a cell phone.

Here are a few facts:

So by now you’re probably thinking…”yup, that’s it, the compact camera is dead”. Well it may be declining in sales, but dead it’s not. And here’s why.

Instagram Photo Taken with a Compact Camera?

During my unscientific study above, all those friends were not photographers or photography enthusiasts. When I asked some of my photo buddies, all said they owned and used a compact camera along with their cell phones.

When it came to Instagram, some admitted to me that more than 50% of their photos on Instagram were taken with a compact camera or DSLR. Yup, not all Instagram pictures were taken with a cell phone. I myself am guilty of that. On a Instagram account for a surfing website, I’d say more than 70% of the images I posted were taken with a compact camera or DSLR.

Why am I opting to upload pictures taken with a DSLR or compact camera on Instagram instead of a cell phone? Because with a compact camera I have more control of the image I’m producing, allowing me to create “pretty images”. Whereas a cell phone camera only allows me to take pictures of “pretty things”. It’s the difference between “capturing” and “creating”.

As long as people (photographers and photography enthusiasts) want to “create” their own photos, compact camera’s will always win over a smart phone camera.

The Photographer Factor

Ask most photographers and they’ll tell you that a camera is just tool of the trade. A smartphone camera simply adds another option in a photographers gear bag.

When I take pictures, there are many factors that go into deciding what camera I’ll use. The factors range from lighting conditions to how important the event or person I’m photographing is to me and what my final intent with the image will be.

So in the past, the range looked like this: small compact camera > high end compact camera > DSLR

Now it changed to: smartphone > high end compact camera > DSLR

Why do I consider a smart phone to be below that of a compact camera? Mainly it’s due to the lens. A mid to upper level compact camera has a optical zoom lens. Unlike a cell phone camera with a fixed wide angle lens.

For example, this image was taken with the new Samsung Galaxy Note II. It has an image size of 2448×3264 and focal length of 3.7mm. If one wanted to zoom in and take a picture of the tree one will need to get up and walk closer to it, otherwise use the digital zoom, which always is a bad option.

So for a photographer or photo enthusiasts, a smartphone camera is fine for wide angle shots taken when there is no other camera around.


There’s no question that the popularity of compact cameras are in decline. Smartphones are usually with us at all times and it’s easier to carry it than a compact camera. So for the general public they’ve made their choice and we’re seeing it in the lower number of camera sales. But for those photographers and enthusiasts, don’t worry companies will continue to create new compact camera’s.

We’ll likely see more high end point & shoots like the the Canon G series. The options on the lower end will decrease as the market shifts once again. I for one see the smartphone camera as a plus for the DSLR market. Smartphones peak the interest of new DSLR buyers, thus increasing that market. But only time will tell.

What do you think?

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