Are Camera Phones killing the Compact Cameras?


Most casual photographers nowadays end up taking more pictures using their mobile phone cameras than their compact cameras. With more and more users wanting to showcase their photographs up on social networking sites immediately after capturing them, apps like Instagram, Hipstamatic and Camera+ are gaining popularity. With these apps users can easily capture, edit and upload the pictures taken on the mobile phone cameras to social networking sites quickly and with more ease. With the introduction of newer and better camera phones, with higher megapixel count and a slew of other functions being added, customers tend to look at the camera specification as a major deciding factor in buying mobile phones. Recent surveys by NPD show that amount of photos take on mobile phones are increasing every year. Liz Cutting, executive director and senior imaging analyst at NPD says “Thanks to mobile phones, more pictures are being taken than ever before.” Another study by DxOMark recently showed that the best smartphone on the market for shooting still images takes better photos than a 5-year-old high-end compact.
Will all these changing trends spell the demise of the compact cameras?

While mobile camera phones are the favored device for capturing pictures instantaneously, compact cameras will remain remain the popular with consumers for events and activities. Here are some reasons why the compact cameras are still the better option.

Performance
Try shooting a fast moving object with you mobile phone, chances are you will end up with a blurry and noisy image most of the time. Compact cameras are better at shooting moving objects and tend to have better image quality over their mobile phone counterparts. Also compact cameras have better start-up times, shutter lag and can autofocus better. Try focusing with the mobile phone screen and you will see how much easier it is to do a half shutter press to autofocus on a compact cameras.

Sensor
The megapixel number alone is a bad way to judge the quality of a camera. The size of the sensor is also important. Mobile phones have a much smaller sensor size compared to the compact cameras. The larger the sensor, the larger your pixels. The larger the pixels, the more light you can collect. The more light you can capture, the better the picture.

Form-factor
Compact cameras are ergonomically designed to be used for taking photographs, whereas mobile phones aren’t. Most compact cameras have buttons and switches built onto the body for various functions, the same on the mobile phone cameras can be accessed only through multiple menus which can be accessed through the screen. Also stability is an important factor to capture clear shake free images and the compact cameras formfactor does a better job at it.

Battery Life
Battery life is any day better on a compact cameras as the battery power is used solely for capturing pictures. Whereas in a camera phone the battery power is shared between the data and the voice calls and other functions and hence can’t be dedicated only to capturing pictures. Prolonged uses of the camera on a phone will drain the battery at a quicker rate.

Optical Zoom
Most compact cameras come with a certain amount of optical zoom along with digital zoom, Whereas mobile phone cameras come only with digital zoom. Optical zoom constitutes an array of lenses found within the body of the compact cameras. The magnification provided by the optical zoom is done we moving the array of lenses within the body of the compact camera. Whereas digital zoom provides digital magnification of the images by pixel manipulation. The biggest drawback of digital zoom compared to optical zoom is that it degrades image quality heavily.

Image Stabilisation
Image stabilisation systems in compact cameras consists of Sensor Shifting technology or Lens Stabilisation technology, whereas in mobile phone cameras they are done digitally. Hence the image quality is degraded on a mobile phone.

Conclusion
A lot of it depends on the kind of use you have. Even a regular compact camera will give you better image quality than a mobile phone camera, but at the cost of the convenience a mobile phone provides. If convenience should be your main factor for determining what you want, then the mobile phone camera has an edge. If control and quality over the image you capture is the determining factor, then the compact camera has an edge. To sum it all, I don’t think the compact camera is a dying breed.