Monday, April 24, 2017

Are cellphone cameras winning the camera war

An ever going argument among professional photographers is how there are, "too many photographers!"

I find it funny because the one thing always missing from this argument is the qualifier of what type of photographer they are ranting about. I've come to believe they are just ranting on the fact that there are so many cameras nowadays that no one needs the professional photographer for the more mundane documentation they were hired for two decades ago.

Cameras, as we all now understand, are quite ubiquitous. We don't need statistics to know that almost everyone has a camera today, but what are the statistics? How far is the tipping point between photos taken by a 'traditional' camera and one taken by a 'cellphone' camera? I thought I'd find out from one place that serves as a one of the world's largest depository of public images, Flickr.

While not the most scientific way of measuring tech usage, it does provide a fairly real world overview of camera usage by 'normal' photo takers. That and the fact that Flickr tracks camera statistics quite nicely and is the source for this post. Let's take a look at the numbers.


Right at the very top Flickr posts the top five most popular camera brands their members use. If you're a die hard Canon or Nikon user go ahead and grab your box of tissues, I won't judge.

Further down in the page there is a breakdown of the number of camera models for each brand people post with. You can see that even though Canon and Nikon fall into the number two and three slot of brand popularity, they are grossly outnumbered by the variety of cellphone cameras available.

Rank Brand Top Models Model Types # of Models
1AppleiPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone 5sCameraphone, Point and Shoot
27
2SamsungGalaxy S6, Galaxy S5, Galaxy S7Cameraphone, Digital SLR, Mirrorless Camera, Point and Shoot, Video Camera
277
3CanonEOS 5D Mark III, EOS 6D, EOS REBEL T3iDigital SLR, Mirrorless Camera, Point and Shoot, Video Camera
261
4NikonD7100, D750, D7000Digital SLR, Mirrorless Camera, Point and Shoot
212
5SonyXperia Z3, A6000, Xperia Z2Cameraphone, Digital SLR, Mirrorless Camera, Point and Shoot, Video Camera
349

Among the statistics are also the number of images posted under each of these brands so I thought I'd do some math. Since this is not an in depth study I sampled only the top five of each  list.

Apple Samsung Canon Nikon Sony
612,556,297
192,886,802
515,547,833
29,881,615
     34,026,445
1,384,899,042
115,974,537
136,293,447
34,611,321
76,098,935
129,945,297
492,923,537
156,604,100
100,649,578
197,194,011
72,018,014
230,984,770
1,166,887,373
63,480,128
32,719,573
156,135,014
76,956,694
29,242,472
358,533,881
35,048,485
* 37,644,884
21,214,774
* 8,387,424
* 5,270,087
107,565,654

* These Sony numbers correspond with a mirrorless camera, not a cellphone camera.

As camera technology gets better, we will continue to see these numbers tip even further away from traditional camera models. So what do these numbers imply? One would argue that it heralds the end of large dSLR cameras and their equally as bulky counterparts, the mirrorless camera. I hardly doubt it, but I do see them returning back into the hands of professionals and less in the hands of the casual shooter. Just the small sampling of data above shows that cellphone cameras have exceeded regular cameras as the main consumer image maker.

It has been proven that the general public demands image quality and for many years that meant either a Canon or Nikon. These two companies were the kings of the hill but that post is being challenged by the very technology that put them in that place. While the demand for image quality will never diminish, other factors are also driving the market. The general photographer also wants something that is easy to use, compact enough for every day carry and the ability to share images instantly. The cellphone camera answers these needs on every point, and then some.

For those who want greater control without the bulk and expense of a dSLR the answer comes from a most unlikely source, Sony. Taking their cues from the many complaints the larger cameras have, Sony is engineering smaller cameras that pack as much power as a large pro camera. Still hefty in price though but I predict that will eventually change also.

What does this say about the camera market? First, you don't need a big, bulky camera to get good quality images any more. At least not for the everyday consumer looking to document their everyday life.We'll also see more cameras in use. Where it used to be a single camera household we now have households where every member has several cameras. We've already seen the decline in retail professional photography and that won't likely change anywhere in the near future but we'll see the pro level cameras return back into pro hands. I'll include the serious hobbyist in that category as well since their goals would be the same as a pros as far as image quality and capture goes.

I also think that as the general public gets better educated about what goes into creating a professional image there will be a better appreciation for those images and their worth. In the business market though, not in the retail end. Specially since we are loosing brick and mortar stores and relying more on online sales where images are key to making profits.

I hope you found the above data as interesting as I did. Feel free to share your thoughts on any of the points I brought up by posting your comments.

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