Are digital cameras still relevant?

Sam Chada
Nov 13, 2013


Last week Juro Osawa from The Wall Street Journal published a blog titled “Phones Imperil Fancy Cameras: Shipments of High-End Models Are Falling as Mobile Devices Gain in Popularity”. In this post, Osawa finally calls out the elephant in the room:  the realization that high-end cameras may eventually succumb to the rise of smartphone cameras. According to research by IDC, the premier global provider of market intelligence, shipments of what’s called “interchangeable-lens cameras” or high-end models that let users swap out different lenses are expected to fall 9.1%--from 19.1 million units to 17.4 million units.

In defense, camera makers have argued premium products, like Digital single-lens reflex cameras (or digital SLRs), shouldn’t be affected since they offer a level of control and picture quality that smartphone’s tiny lens and sensor can’t replicate.

Canon spokesman Takafumi Honga uses a food analogy to articulate the difference between smartphone cameras to digital SLRs, stating that “taking photos with smartphones and editing them with apps (i.e. Instagram) is like cooking with cheap ingredients and a lot of artificial flavoring. Using interchangeable cameras (i.e. digital SLRs) is like slow food cooked with natural, genuine ingredients.”

It’s easy to see both sides of the coin in this particular argument. However, with the emergence of smartphone camera accessories I wonder if digital SLRs will be able to maintain their vitality in our ever-evolving, technologically advanced society. Online companies like Photojojo! have developed a niche in this market space by providing tips and tricks for photography projects, ideas for DIY projects, a book (available in our Adult Nonfiction section) and accessories for your smartphone camera.

Through the Photojojo! online store, photo and smartphone enthusiasts can purchase a variety of telephoto phone lenses (like fisheye, wide or marco), attachable spotlights, and gorillapods, a tripod for smarthpones that has three sturdy, bendy legs that stand up or twist around anything you see (which is on my holiday wish-list this year!).

I tend to use my smartphone to take photos because of the convenience and the fun photo editing apps that are available. But I agree with Takafumi Honga from Canon: using a digital SLR camera to snap a photo often captures the enriched and organic emotions that can be felt through thoughtful photography.

Do you have a digital camera preference? Leave your thoughts in the comments section! 


Don Lee

I occasionally use my phonecam with the philosophy that the best camera is the one you have with you, but I find the tiny, menu-based controls and the long response time to be unwieldy (by the time the phonecam's "shutter" responds, the intended subject is gone). At best, it's better than a sharp stick in the eye. In addition to more options to control exposure, etc., my DSLR takes the picture when I press the shutter release and doesn't require me to account for how far a surprising number of things can move in a fraction of a second.
I have a couple smaller, "bridge" cameras that're good for about 90 percent of what I shoot, but when the subject's moving fast and the shot has to count, then there's no choice to be made: it's the DSLR, period end.

Eph 2 8-10

I love my Nikon D7000 DSLR. Smart phones just can't compare to mid-range and high end DSLR's for their capabilities. And furthermore, smart phones can't shoot in RAW, the preferred image quality of professionals.


Don Lee,

You are right on track. One problem with phone cams and smaller LCD digital cameras is they are hard to use outdoors on bright days. I solved the problem with a very inexpensive Canon A1300 Powershot. It has the LCD monitor and a view finder along with 5X zoom and 16 MP. I have found just about the right combo (this was very hard to find BTW). However, a nice DSLR would do the job just as you describe but I do not have that photographic need any longer.


Don Lee

PoppaWidge, the Canons are excellent cameras. I also like my Pentax X5, an inexpensive 16MP "bridge" camera with both a a bright screen and an eyepiece viewfinder and pretty amazing telephoto. (That it runs off AA-size batteries, rechargeable or not, also comes in handy if it goes dead while I'm away from my charger but there's a dollar store nearby) ... however, it's no good for action shots. For sports, air shows and the like ... I take my DSLR, a Pentax K10-D (what can I say, I'm brand-loyal to a fault) which kills my neck but gets the shot I want.


Yes, the AA battery issue is a significant.

A relative that teaches photography at a major state university nearby is a strong supporter of digital. I would have thought he would be a purist and want to stay with Kodachrome or something like Super Hypan from days gone by. No, he says the technology is just too good, too convenient, and extremely affordable.

From the Grave

I don't see how it's different than 35mm compared to Polaroid or smaller film format cameras of years ago. If anything, I would think that digital SLRs would be MORE in demand because they ARE digital.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

For daily life and business I use the camera I have built into my phone. It takes amazing close-ups for eBay as well as wider photos for when we have events. For "general use" it has been amazing. But if you are into the hobby, more professional tools would be needed.

Don Lee

I'm amazed, actually, at the latest phonecams. My niece has one (a Samsung Galaxy, I think) that seems to be more camera than phone. Lots of nice gimmicks. The things that mitigate against them (for me) are the small size of the physical controls (too small for my big ham hands), the inconvenience of menu-based controls, and the (so far) slow shutter response in action-shot situations.

Stop It

Phone cameras ARE digital?

Eph 2 8-10

They sure aren't analog.....


The difference between a SLR camera and any smart phone is the difference between a picture and a photograph.

Don Lee

That difference lies more in the person behind the camera than in the camera itself. I'd be more interested to see what, for example, a photog the caliber of Luke Wark or Tim Fleck does with a phonecam than what most people, including me, would do with a high-end DSLR.