iPhone revolution: Smartphones are destroying high-end camera sales

“Many of today’s leading smartphones offer not only high megapixel counts, but astounding software that lets them shoot in a wide variety of different modes,” Eric Zeman reports for InformationWeek. “The appeal of camera-equipped smartphones has led to a decline in point-and-shoot camera sales for some time. Now it appears that these uber-devices are impacting sales of high-end, professional cameras, too.”

“Research firm IDC predicts that shipments of what it calls ‘interchangeable-lens cameras’ (or dSLRs) will drop 9.1% from 19.1 million last year to 17.4 million this year,” Zeman reports. “At the same time, Canon and Nikon, the leading dSLR makers, have been forced to lower forecasts for the year. Further, Tamron, a third-party maker of lenses, saw shipments slump by as much as 22% during the first three quarters.”

“Tamron knows it is in trouble. “Smartphones pose a threat not just to compact cameras but entry-level dSLRs as well,” said general manager Tsugio Tsuchiya. Nikon and counterpart Canon blamed the slower shipments on a weak global economy, but that’s not the only factor at play,” Zeman reports. “Last month, Apple introduced the iPhone 5s with an 8-megapixel camera. Apple took pains to improve the camera with a wider aperture and more sensitive sensor. The same is true of the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4, LG G2 and other top smartphones. Many of these device manufacturers pitch their phones as replacements for stand-alone cameras.”

Zeman reports, “With dSLRs, this often involves removing a memory card, putting it into a computer, downloading the images and then sorting through them before posting them online. The immediacy offered by smartphones is compelling.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: dSLR cameras should have become iPhone docks by now.

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A look at the technology inside Apple’s amazing new iPhone 5s camera – September 30, 2013
Apple iPhone 5s camera leaps two years ahead of entire camera industry – all cameras, not just smartphone cameras – September 13, 2013
iPhone 5s supply to be severely constrained; sales start at 12:01am PDT online, 8am local at Apple Retail Stores – September 13, 2013
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Apple iPhone now most-used camera on Flickr – August 18, 2009


  1. Steve told companies that make “buggy whips” that they need to keep up. Like Nokia, many old mgt. types say ….. Why change?

    There are a number of things that they could make but they don’t care

    Too bad.

    1. Yea, agreed. Sony was smart enough to get their parts included in iphones. Canon and Nikon will still be around, but they may want to battle Sony to get their tech in iphones, and other smartphones.

    1. Yes. I installed it on an iPhone 4 and it is as slow as TAR. Also the white keyboard, borders, ribbons etc. are too white and bright when working on files with colored backgrounds in Number, Pagesc etc.

  2. “Smartphones pose a threat not just to compact cameras but entry-level dSLRs as well,”

    This may be true, but not this:

    “these uber-devices are impacting sales of high-end, professional cameras, too.”

    I’d like to see a pro shoot a wedding with a smartphone!

    Plus, not all interchangeable lens cameras are dSLR’s. There’s a growing market of mirrorless cameras that have dSLR image quality in a much lighter and smaller package. All the new ones have wi-if and iPhone apps for immediate uploading of photos.

    1. You have set a new record for ‘those who don’t get it.’ At no time does anyone else imagine that there will never be another high end dSLR camera made or sold. This article clearly indicates that the market high end is being impacted by the fact that the iPhone does a good enough job that many potential purchasers of high end cameras will opt to just use their already very handy and capable iPhones.

    2. All high end cameras are not being bought by Pro’s. Because of their Pro status, many well-heeled consumers also buy them, the goal being to get better pics at any cost. If the images that phones create now are the new “better than good enough” then those sales are lost. Your market shrinks to ONLY Pros who NEED them instead of Pro’s plus a bunch of wanna-be’s.

      The question becomes whether or not this smaller market can support the Research and Development costs required to keep driving innovation. If not, then it becomes a downward spiral.

    3. Exactly. My Panasonic GX7 can be controlled with my iPhone. Pretty cool.

      Actually, smartphones are killing low-end point & shoot camera sales, because image quality is close enough AND you always have it with you. Panasonic, Olympus and Sony are all cutting back on P&S models and production.

      Today, with high-end cameras, sensor size is key, so cameras with so-called full frame (35mm film size), APS-C, and Micro Four Thirds and 1″ sensors are all selling reasonably well.

      Mirrorless cameras are the wave of the future, so cameras that rely on the old mirror box will slowly be relegated to specialist and true professional tools.

      If you want good image quality, you use a real camera, with a large sensor, and good lenses. A smartphone simply can’t compete in that regard.

    4. I agree with the sentiment that those sales to those who need a truly high end dSLR are not being impacted. I find it impossible to believe that those who will buy a EOS 5D Mark III or a Nikon D4 or D3X or Hasselblad H5D-200MS or virtually any Mamiya Leaf will opt to use a cell phone, any cell phone, in place of one of these high end cameras.

      Are point and shoot cameras being replaced by cell phones? Absolutely. In fact to a large extent they already have.

      Are low to mid range “presumer” dSLRs being replaced by cell phones? Yes. And the replacement rate will continue to accelerate.

      However, true, high end dSLRs are NOT being replaced by cell phones. The quality and flexibility of the imagery from the truly high end dSLRs is far, far beyond anything you can get from any cell phone today or in the near future.

      It is no different than the subset of people who still use 4×5 inch and 8×10 inch film. They exist even today. True, they are a small subset, but they continue to exist even a dozen years after the so called end of the film era. To them it is all about the quality of the imagery and the value of significantly better imagery to their customers.

      The time frame when the high end digital cameras will be a small niche like the large film plate segment is still several years off. It is coming, but it is *several* years away. Today the difference in the quality of the imagery from *any* cell phone and that which you can get from say a high end Mamiya Leaf camera is so dramatic that anyone can see it.

      The point and shoot digital camera vendors have already seen the writing on the wall. The low end and prosumer dSLR manufacturers are starting to see that same writing too. The truly high end dSLR manufacturers that I mentioned previously have several more years before they need to start to worry.

  3. I have no doubt this revelation will provoke the following:

    1) dSLRs will become just as ease-enabled, aka user-friendly, as the iPhone. Wi-Fi by default, etc.

    2) dSLRs will also offer lots of included software trickery. (Canon has actually been doing a good job at this already. Highly recommended).

    3) dSLR pricing will lower.

    4) Highest end dSLRs will get strange with power tools for the pro.

    But I don’t expect dSLRs will become phones.

    1. … and he is a “Pro” – network consultant. Hey … all it really takes is money!
      (1) That said, he recently sent me an ad for a WiFi-enabled SD card I could use to nearly instantly connect my camera (in the field) to my computer (at “home”) for near-instant uploads.
      (2, 3, 4) Yeah, some of that has been going on.
      What the better compact cameras – as well as dSLRs and the like – have going on is the zoom lenses. AFAIK, no phone has chosen to match that feature. The iPhone is working around it by offering more pixels so the “zoom” can be performed in “post”. That works, as long as you can afford to reduce the effective pixel count and your stabilization has kept up. My 16 MP at a wide “28mm” is still 16 MP at over “200 mm” while the iPhone has lost over 96% of it’s pixels with such tight cropping. And my camera gives me an accurate view of the cropping as I zoom and sharpens the stabilization as well.
      As for many of the in-camera tools becoming available, many of those are more for the wanna-be-Pros than the actual Pros. The Pros add those effects in “post”. My son with the dSLR? Doesn’t see a reason for “post” – even for editing out seriously flawed – or even blank! – pictures.
      Did the author consider (I know he wasn’t THINKING) that the loser sales of these items – Pro and Pro-sumer cameras and lenses – might as easily be linked to the ECONOMY? I could be wrong, but I see that as a more likely villain in shutting off the sales of Pro-sumer wares – especially those with questionable “features”.

  4. The convenience of a quality camera embedded into a phone is certainly a good thing for consumers but the will always be a need for the dSLR. dSLR makers will continue to lose sales coming from the consumer market but the pro-sumer and professional markets know that a pinhole size lens can never capture enough light and detail as a quality dSLR lens no matter what the megapixel size. Just because the sensor can produce an image the size of a billboard doesn’t mean the quality of the image will look good when viewed at actual size.

  5. iPhones have destroyed the small pocket camera market. They may do some damage to the dslr market. However, they will not destroy that market. My iPhone 5 is nowhere near comparable to my Sony A65 with a 28-200mm lens.

    Zoom is much better on the A65, digital noise levels, dynamic range, speed of focus, object tracking etc are at least ten generations ahead of my iPhone.

    Don’t get my wrong, I like my iPhone camera, I use it all the time, but it is not comparable to my Sony A65.

    1. “Zoom is much better on the A65”

      Zoom exists on the A65, period. Digital zoom, which is all that most phone cameras have, doesn’t hold a candle next to a proper optical zoom.

      1. … Sony A-mount lenses and the Konica-Minolta AF-mount lenses. The 28-200mm optical zoom lens mentioned is only one of MANY options.
        “Digital zoom, which is all that most phone cameras have, doesn’t hold a candle next to a proper optical zoom.” – too true!

  6. I gave up on using my Nikon DSL D90 because It doesn’t have GPS as compared to my Sony Cybershot. I travelled extensively this year through the middles east and Europe and ended up leaving the bulky DSLr in the hotel most of the time. The Sony did great and I know where I took every image. When I went to Japan last September I didn’t even pack my D90. You still can’t get a DSLr with built in GPS.

    1. … my son alerted me to also offers GPS. That may not qualify as “built in”, but it solves the problem.
      I see two problems with most dSLRs … the bulk, which you mentioned, and the fact that it takes you out of the picture. What do people do when they see a camera aimed their way? They react. For example, my grand-kids “anticipate” a flash when Dad aims their way in the house. Grampy is less intrusive – my compact can take decent low-light pictures without a flash. Usually.
      There are good reasons to use a good dSLR – typically when it will not “change” your shot and when you need “the best” to catch JUST what you need. Like a high-speed sports shot, or a shot needing a lens >200mm, or a low-light shot that requires a REAL flash.

    1. That’s so true.

      On my walls there are eleven framed large photographs, they represent the best of the thousands of pictures that I have taken over the last fifty years. Eight of those pictures were taken either with my iPhone, or before it with my venerable Olympus XA 35mm rangefinder camera. Only three of them were taken with one of my SLR cameras.

      That Olympus XA was bought in 1980 and until my iPhone superseded it, it was always with me in my coat pocket. It was very compact, had a fast lens, being mostly manual it allowed creative use of settings ( especially as you could tell it that you were using a different ASA rated film to what was actually loaded in order to better control the exposure ), was near-silent in use and was as rugged as hell. That camera remains perfectly operational and is still using the original battery !

      There is no argument that my DSLRs take vastly better pictures and their interchangeable lenses allow pictures to be taken that wouldn’t be possible on a fixed lens camera, but the fact remains that the impact of a picture is usually more to do with the subject than the technology and having a pretty decent camera always with me has allowed me to take lots more great pictures than I would have otherwise been able to do if I could only take pictures when I had my SLR with me. You can’t capture the moment if you have nothing with you to capture it.

      It also has to be pointed out that I am now much less likely to take my SLR bag with me on day trips. If I’m expecting photo opportunities, then I’ll always take the SLR bag, but if I’m just having a family day out, I’d rather travel light and enjoy the day more – using either my iPhone or maybe a compact Canon superzoom for any pictures.

      I’ve been a keen photographer since childhood and had my own darkroom too, but digital photography has drastically changed all that and smartphone photography has also made quite a significant impact. It’s quite obvious that I’m spending less on photography than I used to, yet I’m taking many more pictures than I ever did and getting a high proportion of really pleasing pictures too.

      1. I second the XA; loved mine. The ten-second exposure in the dark was a nice feature.

        Now I use a Panasonic Lumix ZS15. A bit bulky, but it goes from super-wide to super-zoom with excellent picture quality.

  7. It’s true that the best camera is the one you have with you, but it’s also true that the best camera for instantly telling the world about anything with a still photo or a video is a cell phone.

    The next step is bound to a fusion of the two technologies: the interchangeable lens camera, with an embedded cell phone. The iPhone would be perfect. Imagine your Canon or Nikon with a depression in the back where your iPhone would snap in. Now you take your gorgeous photo with your big $1000 stabilized tele lens and instantly send it to the news room or you tube etc.

    Would enough people want that instant distribution capability in a high end camera? I’d think there would be an excellent market for it.

    1. The article didn’t mention it but your suggestion reminded me of the Canon Lens/Sensor snap-on for the existing iPhones. That means you can get a larger sensor, lens aperature, and stabilization and just feed the data to the cellphone memory.

      What people may not realize is that for true pro use, a lot of pros are not buying still cameras anymore! Am I lying?

      A lot of magazine and promotional stills are now shot on high def video, so the editor can pick out just the right frame of video to use for the best image in his advertising, etc.

      Check out Red cameras brought to you by Jim Jannard creator (or owner of the dog named …) Oakley sunglasses.


      The world is awash in change and it is terrific to be a part of it.

  8. I love my iPhone’s camera and got lazy for a while but when I can I now pull out my Nikon D300 or Canon 60D and I am always wowed by the superior result. The iPhone makes for a nice simple portable camera in a pinch but it won’t replace a DSLR with mirror or mirrorless for superior results in many situations.

    1. Best comment of the whole string. The phone has a cool camera but it can’t do what the Nikons and Canons can do. Maybe for those who don’t know how to use the DSLRs but not for those who do.

      1. “those who don’t know how to use the DSLRs but not for those who do.”

        This is part of the problem. The fact that there is a “know how to use” indicates there’s a quality versus effort equation. Non-DSLRs have gotten better with quality, but DSLRs haven’t gotten better on ease of use. That leads many to just use their smartphone and not to purchase a DSLR.

        There was a time where you could give a novice a smartphone and a DSLR and they would ALWAYS get acceptable or better results from a DSLR. Now, 90% of the time, they’ll get better higher quality results from their phone AND they didn’t have to fiddle with controls. That won’t KILL the DSLR market, but it will hurt how much money is available to go into R&D.

  9. My old 6 MP Nikon D40 takes way better pictures than any phone camera, and not just by a little bit. The market may be down some at the low end because of phones though for sure. The high end though suffers from saturation of great DSLR cameras. You don’t need a new one because your 5 year old one takes astounding pictures.

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