OnQ Blog

Smartphones Gain on Compact Cameras

Mar 22, 2012

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Guardian reporter Jean-Louis Gassée issued some free advice for the camera industry today: make your products more like smartphones, or you’re history.  His prophecy is delivered in a story bluntly titled “Compact cameras die in a flash thanks to smartphones.”

In it, he discusses how the image sensors in smartphones have gotten so good they’re starting to replace compact cameras -- something we've thought about as well

To break it down a bit, a compact camera is typically defined as pocket-sized, costing less than $500, with an optical zoom. In these cameras, the image sensor is the digital equivalent of film. Most of the time, the bigger the image sensor, the better the quality will be. 

The main reason why smartphone sensors used to be so low-quality, was because it was absolutely crucial for them to be small.

But all that has changed as sensor technology improves. Devices such as the HTC Titan II can now snap photos rivaling some of the best compact cameras, despite having a smaller image sensor. Another example, is the upcoming Nokia PureView 808, which will feature a compact-camera sized image sensor that can produce a shocking 41 megapixel image. Another win for smartphones is handy photo editing, effects, and processing apps, along with easy ways to share photos, Gassée points out.

But the camera industry refuses to roll over and die. Canon recently launched a shooter that has built-in Wi-Fi and a corresponding app for your iOS devices. Once the app is installed, you can wirelessly transfer photos between your camera and phone or tablet. Polaroid introduced a 3x zoom camera that runs the full Android OS. Another example is Samsung, which recently announced tentative plans to bring an Android camera to market.

Qualcomm project Manager Tim Yates recently hosted a seminar on the Snapdragon S4 processor's camera capabilities. He describes how the processor’s components produce computer power that increase image quality and speed for apps. Like Gassée, he suggests that soon the smartphone industry will be setting the market standard, rather than the once-king compact camera industry. 

What do you think? Will you ever ditch your point-and-shoot for smartphone-only photography?