I have always been a firm believer that the best camera is the one that is with you. Images are about story and feeling, not megapixels and dynamic range. When a moment happens, you want to be ready. Buttons, menus, confusing UI and accessories just delay a photographer from capturing those moments right at their peak. The less switches, buttons and taps your camera takes to get ready to take the shot, the better off you are to be ready to take the shot.
Enter iPhone; the world's most popular camera on the planet. Great camera, access to apps and always with you. Even with the original iPhone, Apple has always put an emphasis on image quality and making their device as easy to use as possible. Just slide up from the home screen and your camera is ready to go. And ever since Steve Jobs introduced his phone (can we still call it that?) in 2007, Apple has been slowly chipping away at the point-and-shoot market.
Camera phones were nothing new when the first iPhone launched, but quality was low and images were not photographs, they were grainy snapshots and more of a gimmick than an actual camera replacement. Phones had poor ways to get those photos off the phone and little memory to store more than a handful of images.
The beauty of the iPhone is, it is more than a phone. With each new version of the iPhone, Apple seems to be trying to take one more thing out of your pocket and put it into its device. Cell phone, camera, wallet, and now even the keys to your house. So it comes as no surprise that fewer point-and-shoot cameras are seen in the wild. Those family photos at Disney World, once taken with a wallet sized camera, are now taken with a wallet sized smartphone.
But I have a feeling you already knew all that. It's obvious the point-and-shoot market is in decline. But could it soon be nonexistent? Photo website Flickr regularly graphs the popular cameras for their mountain of photographs shared on their site. With the exception of the Sony RX100 Mark 3 (thanks volgers) the top five point-and-shoot cameras are in decline and have been for a while.But what might be even more telling is that of the top five camera brands on Flickr, three are smartphone manufactures. Apple, Samsung and Sony's Xperia line take the first, third and fifth spots respectively. But even on top of that, all five of the top cameras in use on Flickr are smartphones, with four of them versions of the iPhone. So why are DSLR and mirrorless cameras not dead on arrival as well? To be honest, the professional community is keeping them alive. iPhones are great for photos and selfies, but do not hold up to professional cameras many photographers need. While some apps give you control over shutter speed and other settings like a professional camera would, the ergonomics and control that a professional requires are not there on the iPhone. The iPhone is great to have with you, but when you need advanced features and photography is your job and getting the perfect image is your livelihood, you need more pixels, better dynamic range, and the power of a DSLR or other professional camera. Imagine showing up to a wedding shoot with nothing but your iPhone 6 Plus.
And while accessories like the DxO ONE build off the iPhone and give a user 20 megapixels and direct access to iOS, it still requires two hands and plugging it into your phone before you're ready to take a shot. You also have to carry it around with you all the time too.
That's not to say people are not trying to replace DSLRs with their iPhone. Many short films and even national advertisements have been shot on iPhone including Bentley and Apple's Shot on iPhone campaign. All proving the camera can hold up in some scenarios.
Now with the new iPhone 6s, the biggest shot to the heart for point-and-shoot is Apple's change in the sensor. Having been steady at eight megapixels since iPhone 4s, the recent boost to 12 megapixel while maintaining image quality and low-light sensitivity are basically going to make point-and-shoots obsolete. And while more megapixels does not equate to better images, Apple justified the bump in pixels with new technology their marketing department has given a fancy name called, "deep trench isolation." Apple claims this help eliminate the possibility of light leaking from one pixel to another.
Besides taking nice pictures, 12 megapixles now allows the iPhone to take 4K video, which we know will be obsolete next year when we're all on 8K. But jokes aside, the ability to capture and edit 4K on such a popular camera will push 4K even further into adoption. Millions of people will be shooting 4K by the end of this year and YouTube is about to get chalk full of more pixels. How many point-and-shoots do you know of that shoot 4K?
Finally, iOS is a platform developers can build on to take your photos from the phone and put them anywhere and everywhere. Until now, the point-and-shoot might have been a better camera spec wise, but rarely has apps or connectivity beyond a memory card and Wi-Fi. iOS, Android and other mobile operating systems make it simple to publish, print and share photos in seconds. A photo can go from capture to Instagram in moments which is a direct contrast to many other cameras which require file transfer to an internet connected device...like an iPhone.
So while these graphs showing the decline of the point-and-shoot to almost zero are not heart rates or beats-per-minute, it's clear that the point-and-shoot market is in a code blue and soon to be a moment in our history. Apple is taking the most popular camera in the world and making it better, and they show no signs of slowing down.
Do you still own a point-and-shoot? Know someone who still uses their point-and-shoot regularly? Is the point-and-shoot dead?