Smartphones are taking over the photographic world. Good or bad?
The iPhone, launched by Steve Jobs in January 2007 after years of rumours, has revolutionised the photographic world. Before the iPhone people used point-and-shoot digitals, such as the Canon IXUS range, or film cameras like the Olympus mju. But buying a camera was a conscious decision, requiring some dedication and the willingness to carry it around.
All photographs in this article are by Mike Evans and the Olympus PEN-F with the M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 lens, equivalent to a 150mm prime in full-frame equivalence.
Then came the smartphone and it took over the market. As the years progressed, the smartphone became ubiquitous. Suddenly, almost everyone found that they had a useful camera with them at all times. There was no need to buy a dedicated device, charge it or find a space for it in your pocket.
Yet the advance of the smartphone created a great deal of angst for camera manufacturers. They saw nothing but gloom ahead. The smartphone would eventually annihilate the lower end of the camera market, according to the commonly held view.
To a large extent it has done this. The cheaper, sub-£100 point-and-shoot market has certainly declined. After all, there isn’t much point in spending money on a basic camera that can hardly outperform a phone. But the long-term outlook for photography has just taken a huge leap forward.
Wherever you go these days you see photographs being taken. Selfies have taken over the world. Most of these shots, it has to be admitted, are taken with smartphones. Of the one trillion photos taken in 2015 a majority were snapped with a smartphone. By next year some 80 percent of all pictures will come from phones. Yet the conclusion must be that the smartphone has brought new converts into the world of photography. It is well on the way to creating the next generation of enthusiasts and professionals.
The smartphone, you see, flatters to deceive. Most of the impressive photos taken with a phone are never viewed on a big screen, never printed for exhibition. The majority are lucky to be expanded to iPad size. Smartphones such as the iPhone 6 do a great job of producing great shots with zero input of photographic talent and, on the small screen, all look very presentable.
The millions who are now snapping away with their phones begin to believe they have a real talent for photography. This is a good thing and, without a doubt, many of them do. Those who like what they can achieve on a phone are only one step away from the notion that a “proper” camera could enable them to take even better photos.
It’s the lower starter DSLR that most people choose for their first foray into serious photography. Some, however, start in the mirrorless field and most of them gain an enthusiasm for taking pictures. Owning a proper camera enables newcomers to begin to learn the basics of photography and, in many cases, this leads to enthusiasm.
The smartphone, therefore, is a cheerleader for the camera market in general. Everyone is now a photographer and a large proportion of these new converts will go on to buy better cameras, perhaps even eventually owning a really expensive device such as a Leica or a pro DSLR.
It’s good and it is encouraging. The iPhone, far from killing the camera market, is set to expand it.
All this experience with smartphones leads eventually to buying a proper camera and opens up a whole new world of photography.