by Harry Flashman
Do you really need a DSLR?
I read a most interesting piece of research which came from the Sony people.
According to the Sony survey, 72 percent of DSLR buyers only use their
cameras to “capture family memories and for fun.”
Also, the greatest spur to buying a camera at a specific time is an imminent
trip. These people are not going to do a crash course in serious photography
before they take off, so the requirement of competent, fully automatic mode
is reasonable. And wanting to get the best possible images is
understandable. Then there is weight. Who wants to lug a brick around Venice
when a small compact camera will do the job?
The compact camera section of the marketplace is certainly the most
volatile. As Sony found, only 28 percent of camera buyers are going to go
for the all-singing, all-dancing DSLR.
Those numbers look correct to me, with the bulk of the non-compact “cameras”
being smart phones. There is no ignoring just how camera phones have taken
over the position previously held by point and shoot cameras. The numbers
say it all. By 2003, more camera phones were sold worldwide than stand-alone
In 2005, Nokia became the world’s most sold digital “camera” brand.
In 2006, half of the world’s mobile phones had a built-in camera.
In 2008, Nokia sold more camera phones than Kodak had done with film cameras
and became the biggest manufacturer of any kind of camera.
In 2009, camera sales continued to slide as camera phones improved their
auto- focus, zoom and low-light features.
In 2010 the worldwide number of camera phones totaled more than a billion
and sales of separate cameras continued to decline. Even inexpensive mobile
phones were being sold with a camera.
The physical make-up of camera phones is simpler than separate digital
cameras. Their usual fixed focus lenses and smaller sensors limit their
performance in poor lighting. Having no physical shutter, most have a long
shutter lag. Most have no flash or optical zoom or tripod screw. Many lack a
USB connection, removable memory card, or other way of transferring their
pictures more quickly than by the phone’s inherent communication feature, be
that 2G, 3G or 4G.
The principal advantages of camera phones are cost and compactness; indeed
for a user who carries a mobile phone anyway, the additional size and cost
are negligible. Smart phones that are camera phones may run mobile
applications to add capabilities such as geotagging and image stitching, but
most do not. A few high end phones can use their touch screen to direct
their camera to focus on a particular object in the field of view, giving
even an inexperienced user a degree of focus control exceeded only by ‘real’
photographers using a ‘real camera’ with manual focus.
What I have against camera phones (as well as the lack of sharpness in the
image) is the lack of creative control. You cannot isolate the subject from
the background by selecting the best focal length. Long time-exposures are
not possible. Slow shutter speeds cannot be selected to give a speed blur
effect. In fact, what you are getting is a very simple camera, where the Box
Brownie was about 100 years ago.
Now, some of those complaints do apply to the very basic compact cameras,
but the compacts have been upgrading. A mini-zoom is available in many of
them. Canon’s new PowerShot G1X includes the ability to prioritize face
detection of children, meaning that even the shortest attention span child’s
expression will appear in focus.
Samsung’s DV300F will let users upload images and videos directly to
Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and YouTube. It also includes a small screen on the
front to let users see self portraits, which will make it a hit with Thai
females, plus a feature called Motion Photo that lets users eliminate blurry
backgrounds when capturing a moving subject in the foreground (and that
sounds fairly useless to me).
However, back to the beginning, Sony’s advice is right: if you are not
serious about getting to grips with the functions of a DSLR then don’t buy
one. On the other hand, if you are deadly serious about your photography,
don’t buy anything else.
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