Will iPhone X Finally Topple Consumer Cameras?


DFZ

Those of you who read my rumblings on here will know that I recently got the iPhone 7 Plus to use primarily as a video instrument on our most recent safari. The main reason I wanted the Plus and not the stock standard iPhone 7 was because of the dual camera found at the back of the phone. This camera combo offers 2x optical zoom, and using both cameras together with a lot of complex programming driving them, it can produce some very interesting results (sometimes referred to as "computational photography"). One of these interesting results is the "portrait mode" which can be used to create bokeh effects. The feature is still in beta and even after yesterday's iOS 11 update it is still not quite perfect, but for casual use when creating images for your social media followers, it can create decent results if the edges of the subject aren't that sharply defined. 

 

With the announcement of the new iPhone models comes better cameras and I am guessing that when it finally hits the streets in November the iPhone X will be producing much better bokeh effects than the current model 7 Plus, or even the new 8 Plus. This morning I read an article on Yahoo! news about a pro photographer's impressions of the iPhone 8 Plus cameras and he is saying that the detail and colour is much improved on the 8 Plus. 

 

So, this leads me to the point of my post: will these new smart phone cameras finally topple the consumer camera industry? I think they might very well deliver the final knock-out blow. Taking myself as a prime example, I now never take my Olympus mirrorless cameras out on a social occasion since I got the iPhone 7 Plus. It's too much hassle and I can have fun immediately with the iPhone. If I want to get serious(er) with the smartphone camera I can shoot in RAW and edit the results right on my phone using Adobe's Lightroom mobile app (which is actually free, believe it or not). When I first got the phone I made this image of my wife while we were on a short holiday in the Drakensberg. 

 

The original DNG looked like this: 

APC_0023.jpg 

 

But after a few taps and drags with my fingers in Lightroom Mobile I had transformed it into this: 

APC_0024.jpg

 

My wife thinks I am a genius. It's not perfect but it made her happy and isn't that what taking personal photographs is all about?

 

When we were on safari in Sabi Sabi I didn't take any small lenses so when it came time to do our traditional group photo I used the iPhone, put it on the selfie stick with the table top tripod feet and used the detachable Bluetooth remote to make the shot. Stupidly I forgot to use the Lightroom app, so this was the standard jpeg from the iPhone app. I wouldn't have dared to do this with my older iPhone 5S. 

 

safarians2017.jpg

 

I think that if smartphones are getting good colour, with great detail and users don't have to fiddle around too much with settings, what's not to like about cellphone photography? I literally didn't spend the $2000 on upgrading my Olympus E-M1 to the Mk II because of the iPhone 7 Plus. I am still very happy with the material I get out of that almost 4 year old mirrorless camera and that's why getting the iPhone ended up being a no-brainer. I didn't have to outlay any money because I opted to take on a new cellphone contract which not only gives me this awesome device, but I also get a data plan and free calls to numbers on the same network. And it's a business expense, not capital expenditure. At the end of the 2 year contract period I will have access to the next level of phone (probably iPhone 12), again with no outlay. By then I expect the camera on the smartphone to be so good that I may not need to even use an ILC on safari. Just kidding... 

 

The knock on effect that this loss of revenue for the camera company will have, when multiplied by enormous numbers of consumers who see things the same way I do when it comes to making happy snaps, can only mean one thing: downsizing and specialising. The end result, which we see happening already, is that the specialist equipment costs much more than it did in the past because those companies have to make up their margins to accommodate the loss of their consumer sales. The Nikon D5 price is an example of this. So is the price of the Olympus E-M1 Mk II. At $2000 it caused me to pause. If iPhone X provides a kick-ass camera, GPS navigation, internet, voice communications, personal assistant and entertainment, why on earth wouldn't people spend the $1000 on it? I would. 




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I'll have to give iPhone RAW a try, if mine can do it.  While I find it does 'casual' shots ok eg people, basic scenic stuff, I have found some stuff I shoot for work can catch it out.  Such shots of lumps of soil and rock seem to suffer a loss of detail in areas of relatively uniform colour.  I'll see if I can find a suitable example that isn't identifiable to a particular job, but imagine some of Merlin's rocks without the stunning landscape around them. 😉

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I really don't need a telephone that takes photos, anymore than I need a camera that makes telephone calls.

As to the evolution of the "consumer camera industry", I don't care.

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The mobile phone is the 21st century's Swiss Army knife.  Useful only because it is always in your pocket, but a complete waste of time if you actually need a machete.

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Never needed a Swiss Army Knife myself, so I don't even have a smartphone (other than a very basic one which doesn't have a simm card at all and is used as an alarm/clock radio, wifi'd via my Internet connection, and which never leaves its dock).

 

Cameras, on the other hand, I have in abundance here, along with heaps of lenses. Wouldn't have it any other way.

 

Do I care if people think I'm old fashioned? Not at all. :D

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33 minutes ago, vivionm said:

I really don't need a telephone that takes photos, anymore than I need a camera that makes telephone calls.

As to the evolution of the "consumer camera industry", I don't care.

 

Until your "professional" ILC starts to cost 2 or 3 times what it does today. Then you'll wonder if it is actually worth the money when the smartphone can do pretty much everything you'd normally do. 

 

The point I was hoping to make is that instead of paying $2000 to Olympus for an upgrade to my camera, the money went to a phone company for the reasons given. That's $2000 less that Olympus has in their bank and $1000 more that Apple has in theirs. When enough people start to do that the whole economy that props up the professional camera industry will change radically. I think that the iPhone X will be the last leg that breaks them. 

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2 minutes ago, DFZ said:

 

Then you'll wonder if it is actually worth the money when the smartphone can do pretty much everything you'd normally do. 

 

 

It won't cost me any sleep at all. 

 

P.S. I have a Swiss Army Knife. Never use it.

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Unfortunately not everyone has as much money as you do to outlay for the pro cameras. 

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1 minute ago, DFZ said:

Unfortunately not everyone has as much money as you do to outlay for the pro cameras. 

With respect, you have no idea regarding my financial situation. 

What a gratuitous and useless comment!

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Well, you did say you won't lose sleep over it, so I'm assuming you're talking about the money. If not, apologies. 

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I wouldn't use terms like collapse, it is more the case of the end of a boom period.  In film days most people wouldn't think twice about hanging onto cameras for 5-10 years rather then the 2-3 years that has become the norm in the digital era.

 

We are seeing the technology plateau, which is going to slow sales as camera mark IV is only a bit better than mark III, whereas mark II was a huge leap over mark I.  The technology has has also reached a point where it is good enough for the average person.  So all that means if you are no longer able to keep up with the new market, the second hand market will become a more reasonable option again, you'll not be getting something that is so obsolete. 

 

Then of course you could make other compromises, such as camera phones or just hanging onto cameras for longer (mine are all at least 3 generations old)

 

 

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I think phone cameras will see the collapse of point and shoot camera market. I am amazed at the quality coming from phones these days, where do you see a young person with a point and shoot these days, nowhere it's all camera phones!

 

And of of course they will only get better and better!

Edited by Mike G
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19 minutes ago, Mike G said:

I think phone cameras will see the collapse of point and shoot camera market. I am amazed at the quality coming from phones these days, where do you see a young person with a point and shoot these days, nowhere it's all camera phoned! 

 

And of of course they will only get better and better!

 

Exactly, Mike. If you follow the link in the article to that Yahoo piece you'll see what the pro who used the iPhone 8 Plus has to say about its capabilities. I think the X will be even better. The young generation don't care much for ILC's and they are the future. Neither of my sons has the slightest interest in ILC's or learning anything about how to use the camera. As long as they are able to shoot something cool, post it instantly to Instagram and get the likes, they have achieved their photographic aims. 

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5 hours ago, DFZ said:

 

Exactly, Mike. If you follow the link in the article to that Yahoo piece you'll see what the pro who used the iPhone 8 Plus has to say about its capabilities. I think the X will be even better. The young generation don't care much for ILC's and they are the future. Neither of my sons has the slightest interest in ILC's or learning anything about how to use the camera. As long as they are able to shoot something cool, post it instantly to Instagram and get the likes, they have achieved their photographic aims. 

Its only us old fogies who still want ILCs, soon babies will be born with a mobile phone in their tiny hands. :crazy:

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This is only a return to the way it used to be some decades ago - not everyone had a camera, and those that did rarely used them because of the cost of film and processing. Those who regularly took photos were usually either pros or dedicated amateurs (of the type who joined camera and photographic clubs).

Nearly everyone in first world countries had a phone, even though it was fastened to the wall by a cord.

 

Smartphones have cameras, true, but taking photos or videos is not their primary function. If it were, they'd be cameras....... :D 

 

Cameras will return to being the domain of relatively few, their price will increase as a result, as will their model range reduce. I think it's a nonsense to suggest that ILC cameras are doomed and smartphones will take over completely. Camera companies will not disappear, nor will cameras cease to be made, any more than black powder muzzle-loading rifles have ceased to be manufactured.

 

For one thing it is physically impossible to reproduce the effect of a long tele lens on a larger sensor with a large distance between the lens elements and the sensor. Some people will always want that capability. A smartphone will always have a "flange distance" of a couple of mm or so and thus be incapable of this - short of introducing interchangeable lenses and a protruding lens mount and a large sensor, at which point it becomes more an ILC camera with a phone.

 

My recent foray into using old M42 lenses has also revealed that there is a huge trade in these going on which indicates strong interest, which in turn indicates that far from a dying thing, photography outside the use of a smartphone is alive and well.

 

Let's not get carried away with Internet marketing "hype" articles which promote a fad like smartphones. Smartphones will dull in time as VR takes over people's entertainment time, and not everyone will glaze over with stars in their eyes over Apple's continued quest to relieve people of as much money as they can is as shorter update cycle as they can get away with. The ludicrous situation of announcing the replacement for a model as it is just being released testifies to the veracity of that statement. Smartphones of tomorrow will occupy that same space of disinterest that laptops do today - their replacement is already on the design sheets.

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I use the iPhone 7+ with the Olloclip lens system when I travel light. It doesn’t beat the quality of my Sony RX100 IV but it’s a heck more convenient and both with me and good enough.

 

I think that’s a valid point too btw - good enough. Undoubtedly p&s Digital’s are better quality - although Apple do seem to have some image processing wizards on their team!

 

Yes, this is an iPhone pic of an android pic of ... (actually the original is better - snapseed added a lot of noise here)

 

 

B3557881-BBD2-4443-BA95-739DA3CA2710.jpeg

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Alan, smartphones are most definitely not a fad. They are the only thing that matters to the generation emerging at the moment. I'm not saying the ILC market will disappear as a result. Not at all. I'm saying that it will be very different to what it is today, mainly because the average non-professional consumer's photography needs are totally different today. The average "consumer photographer" is about sharing images now, getting likes and creating social media followings, especially on Instagram. That's what they want the phones for. If the image looks good on a phone and they get the likes, that's the dopamine hit for them right there. They don't care about dynamic range, detail and the minutia of specifications that most of us seem to fawn over.

 

I like the phrase @GrahamWelland used: "good enough", because it's true. That's what I hear from most people when they talk about the camera in their smart phone. It's only the enthusiast who is going to go out and lay down $2000 for new equipment that makes still photographs or better quality video. And that price of $2000 equipment is going to rise considerably as more and more enthusiasts realise that they can do "good enough" on their smart phones (for a lot less money). This is what we enthusiasts need to be wary of. With every release of smart phone the cameras are just getting better and better and easier to use. 

 

Something else to consider is the rise of gear rentals for big ticket items like 400/2.8 lenses and above. I see this a lot on our safaris. Not everybody wants to (or is able to) outlay masses of cash for these treasured items that they might only use 2 or 3 times a year when they can go and rent them for pennies on the Dollar. That's a big threat to the specialist camera manufacturers. I don't know how they are going to deal with it to be honest. They are getting one end of their market eroded by smart phones and the other end by rental outfits. It's a tough environment for them. 

 

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the only way out for them is to get onboard the smart phone train in some or other way. If the likes of Canon, Nikon, etc, can make a great camera, surely they can make a great smart phone? 

 

 

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I've said THIS before and I'll say IT again, I have no interest in a telephone that takes pictures, nor a camera that makes telephone calls.

 

I hope that this site does not "evolve" towards more emphasis on pictures made with telephones - nor on moving pictures for that matter.

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"They are the only thing that matters to the generation emerging at the moment"

 

Uh-huh.  A fad by that very definition.

 

As I said, the replacement for the smartphone is already on the design sheets of electronic corporations. It will probably be in some conveniently wearable form that can be engaged with at any time without interfering with other activities. Images (video or still) will be transmittable/receivable instantly and hands-free, probably in VR form, captured and sent via the wearable device in real time. VR will become wearable in a way perhaps as yet unannounced and which will tie in perfectly with the concept of driverless cars.

 

I reckon smart phones have maybe 5 years to run in their current form, if that. They are awkward, fragile and too easily stolen or lost. The electronics are basic, they are too expensive and even the service providers themselves are probably on a path to redundancy - connection will rapidly head towards an inclusive cloud service provided by the manufacturer supplying the device. Buy or rent the device and you're connected to whomever and wherever as long as you have it. As the device's storage will be cloud-based and independent of the device itself, security, location and connection will no longer be device related as with a simm card. Voice or face recognition will connect you to your cloud data and prefs (when using any device).

 

This is all not fanciful. With the exception of perhaps the final VR component, all the technology either exists already or is immediate next-gen stuff. Holding a flat thing out in front of you and having to press a button, store the shot and send it by pressing more buttons (or indeed, having to access the device at all) will be a thing of the past. Look at something, say "photograph" or "video start/stop" and a destination name (or something similar to that), and it's done. The dangers involved with driving, texting and taking "selfies will end. The future hands-free setup will make the current methods look like chiselling cuneiform on a stone tablet. By the time this all fully develops in the near future, the smartphone will have been as long dead, buried, and as forgotten as the rotary phone dialler.

 

And, need I mention, people will still be using cameras to take photographs and print them, just as people will still take to canvas with paint and brush, make things out of clay and stone, play wooden instruments with strings and tickle the ivories of pianos. The smartphone thing is to do with communication, and that will change in its form. Those other things are to do with personal creativity and expression, and they will endure. It's an essential part of being human, and one of the main things that sets us apart from nearly everything else on the planet (with the exception, perhaps, of birds, which can also display a creative streak at times :D ).

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Alan's assessment is correct. The market for telephones that are not plugged into the wall is already saturated. Sales are stagnant and will soon start to fall.

 

Photography with cameras its not just about the output. It's about the process, which is situated somewhere on the frontier between art and craft.

 

You can buy a super-accurate quartz watch for a few euro, yet sales of high-quality mechanical self-winding watches are booming.

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Augmented reality is now rearing itself in the smartphone. If it transforms into something that is not as hideous and as widely rejected socially as Google Glass was, then it might gain traction. However, given what happened to 3D television recently, I don't know if wearable tech for your head will catch on. Apple seem to be moving in the direction of the "smart watch" (now with a sim card) which has never appealed to me, but then again, I'm not 16 years old and the thought of aiming my wrist to take a photo, or receive a voice call doesn't appeal much. 

 

At the end of the day, what society wants is the ultimate convenience. Whatever brings that to them in the best form factor will win them over. Smartphones seem to have done that. for now. What I do know is that customs do change, so yes, perhaps you may be right about them disappearing if there is something more convenient to replace them. But then that lends credence to my point about camera makers being in serious trouble. They aren't making any inroads into the changing consumer patterns at all, and that will affect those of us who still buy cameras. 

 

 

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6 hours ago, DFZ said:

 

Something else to consider is the rise of gear rentals for big ticket items like 400/2.8 lenses and above. I see this a lot on our safaris. Not everybody wants to (or is able to) outlay masses of cash for these treasured items that they might only use 2 or 3 times a year when they can go and rent them for pennies on the Dollar. That's a big threat to the specialist camera manufacturers. I don't know how they are going to deal with it to be honest. They are getting one end of their market eroded by smart phones and the other end by rental outfits. It's a tough environment for them. 

 

 

I think rentals will probably help with the ultra exotic lenses.  I'm sure that I heard somewhere that some of these lenses sell in numbers in the region of one hundred per year, so a couple of rental houses picking up half a dozen each would be a big boost.   What will probably suffer are the mid-range lenses as people decide to skip buying and hire something higher range.

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I agree that rentals may increase sales of exotic lenses.  I have rented lenses that I would never consider buying, and I am sure that many others do the same.  That may well translate into rental companies carrying more stock.

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On 20/09/2017 at 18:13, crowecg said:

I'll have to give iPhone RAW a try, if mine can do it.  While I find it does 'casual' shots ok eg people, basic scenic stuff, I have found some stuff I shoot for work can catch it out.  Such shots of lumps of soil and rock seem to suffer a loss of detail in areas of relatively uniform colour.  I'll see if I can find a suitable example that isn't identifiable to a particular job, but imagine some of Merlin's rocks without the stunning landscape around them. 😉

 

Here is a comparison shot, which illustrates the phone just not understanding the image and overdoing the smoothing or compression or something.  I know it is not a particularly normal type of shot, which the phone can often get close to a reasonable image.  I guess the people at Apple just don't think that anyone wants to take photos of lumps of soil and rock.  (the other image was from a Nikon 1 J1, which I've zoomed a bit closer to try and get the same size, despite slightly fewer pixels in the camera compared to the phone).

comparison.jpeg

 

The overall shot was just looking down at a stretch of river bank, whilst this was not actually a work shot, I might take one like this if there was cracking and instability along the bank.

 

DSC_3905 (1).jpg

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Smartphone cameras will definitely affect DSLR sales. The manufacturers aren't in danger w/ professionals and serious armatures, but the mainstream folks who just want a picture (and there are a lot of them) are already quite happy with smartphones, and will be more and more so in the future.

 

Not sure where this will all land, but seems to me that there won't be enough customers for all the manufacturers. It may come down to just Nikon, Canon, and Sony in the not too distant future. 

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