Pic taken by Nokia 1020.
Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a camera called the Box Brownie.
Box Brownie came on the market 114 years ago and its lineage can be traced
through to the Compact cameras of today.
The Brownie popularized low-cost photography and introduced the concept of
the snapshot. The first Brownie was a very basic cardboard box camera with a
simple meniscus lens that took 2¼-inch square pictures on 117 roll film.
With its simple controls and initial price of $1, it was intended to be a
camera that anyone could afford and use, with the slogan, “You push the
button, we do the rest.”
So the Brownie brought photography within the reach of the masses, but it
had one problem. It was a large camera box! What people wanted was a camera
as simple as the Brownie, but would fit in the pocket. It would be small and
thus ‘compact’ and before long the market was flooded with what was now
called the Compact cameras.
Looking at what is available in Compact form, there are many, perhaps too
many, for what is a shrinking market.
Examples of these include the Canon PowerShot A1400 and the Olympus VR-340.
Mid-range compacts are represented by the Canon PowerShot Elph 330 HS, and
for even better imaging in a compact package, the prime-lens Ricoh GR and
the zooming Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 are worth looking at.
But now enter the Smartphone, the camera built into the ubiquitous mobile
phone. Originally looked on with suspicion and derision, the Smartphone is
now increasingly being thought of as a genuine alternative to the compact
Handling is one area in which the true camera beats Smartphones. The big
physical shutter button, the easy to use zoom and the accessible function
buttons and knobs make it easier to control the Compact camera. But that is
about where the camera advantages end.
Compact cameras have small, low-resolution LCD monitors, but smartphones
have large, high-resolution screens with better sharpness, color and tones.
On the Smartphone you get a better idea of what you are taking and a better
review of what you have actually captured.
Zooming features with Smartphones generally rely on cropping the image, so
it looks like a zoom. Nokia have a Smartphone with 41 megapixels on a larger
sensor, so zooming by cropping becomes a perfectly acceptable option up to
the equivalent of a 5x zoom.
Aussie testers say the 41 MP top line Nokia 1020 has been made with serious
photographers in mind and it has manual controls. The full-resolution images
can be saved in Adobe’s DNG RAW format.
The Nokia 1020 is outstanding. Resolved detail is amazing. Exposure and
focus are spot on and color is realistic, say the testers.
The iPhone photos always look sharp and brightly colored, and fits the bill
as the perfect box camera. You press the button and the phone does the rest.
The statistics tell the story of where the low end of photography is going.
By 2003, more camera phones were sold worldwide than stand-alone digital
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.
Up to November, 2011 US retail sales of entry-level cameras fell 17 percent
to 12 million units from 2010. In that same time-frame cam-phone makers sold
95 million in the US.
When you look at the advantages of the Compact camera over the Brownie, it
really is ‘no contest’. The Compact group is far better.
But now when you look at the advantages of the Smartphone over the Compact
camera, it is again ‘no contest’. The Smartphone group is much better. The
Brownie is dead, and the Compact is on its last legs. R.I.P.