In the fight for camera supremacy, smartphones have emerged as the clear winner over point-and-shoot models.
Sales of new smartphones and their improved cameras totaled about 329 million units in the second quarter of 2021 alone, according to technology research and consulting company Gartner, Inc.
But sales of digital cameras, which peaked at 120 million in 2010, plummeted to about 9 million in 2020, wiping out more than four decades of growth. The global pandemic accelerated the decline, crippling production and sales.
“The bottom line for those making digital cameras is this: Quite ironically, at a time when we are taking more photos than ever, cameras are a dying industry,” business consultant and college professor David Wyld wrote in Better Marketing.
The collapse of digital camera sales is similar to the decline of film cameras, which flourished for a century but began a downward spiral in the late 1990s when digital cameras arrived in stores.
Today’s lighter smartphones make it easy for owners to shoot, share and store photos, and feature cameras that capture images as sharp and clear as those taken with virtually obsolete compact cameras.
For example, the new iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini have two improved cameras with 12-megapixel wide and ultra-wide lenses. The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max feature three new cameras with 12-megapixel wide, ultra-wide and telephoto lenses. The new iPhones can now take night mode images.
A camera phone is wedding photographer Amanda Stratford’s preferred choice when taking most photos of her children.
“There’s a saying, ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’ and I usually steal this statement anytime anyone asks me about which camera they should use,” said Stratford, who operates photo studios in Satellite Beach and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“Having a phone now means having a camera with you at all times. That’s a luxury previous generations didn’t have. The random moments we are able to capture throughout our entire day is pretty amazing.”
Stratford still uses her “real” digital camera for holidays and special events.
“The quality is better, the file size is larger and I have control over the exact settings I want to use,” she said. “The images taken on it stand the test of time, whereas phone photos look dated in a few years as technology improves. This isn’t true for all cameras, though. There are many phones that do a better job than older point-and-shoot cameras.”
Stratford has some advice for photographers who prefer smartphones.
“Don’t forget to back up your images and print them,” she said. “If your phone dies tomorrow, how many images will be lost?”