The enormous growth in popularity of smartphones in the past three years has had many consequences, some of which were in retrospect easy to predict, and some of which are not yet fully understood. This is true especially in the field of digital photography. Smartphone users, it appears, take a lot of photographs. The Apple iPhone 4 is currently the most popular 'camera' on Flickr.com, and millions of dollars are being made by mobile developers who can't create photo apps quickly enough to satisfy the demands of a new breed - 'serious' cameraphone photographers.
It would be a hard-hearted soul indeed who would argue that more people taking more pictures is a 'bad' thing, but not everyone is excited about the potential of mobile photography. Just ask Cisco. Just two years ago, Cisco acquired Pure Digital Technologies, manufacturer of the then-popular Flip pocket camcorder for a hefty $590 million. Cisco was convinced that it was onto a winner. But then the Flip flopped.
|The Flip pocket camcorder went through several iterations and was - for a while - a hugely sucessful device. However, the growth in popularity of video-enabled smartphones made the USB-reliant flip look out of date, and Cisco 'retired' the line in April this year.|
There are many possible explanations for Ciso's failure to make good on its investment, but there's no denying that once HD video recording became standard on smartphones in 2009-10, the smartphone-sized Flip lost its unique selling-point. Why take two devices out with you when you can just take one?
Smartphones Get Serious
This article isn't about camcorders, pocket or otherwise, but the rapid demise of the Flip is worth mentioning since it might have worrying consequences for the mainstream digital camera industry. According to Nigel McNaught, Director of the Photo Marketing Association, quoted recently in Amateur Photographer magazine in the UK: 'It’s realistic to assume some of the loss in compact camera unit sales is down to smartphones'. His explanation is simple: 'Smartphones are getting better’. Whatever the reason, compact camera sales have plummeted and in July 2011 plunged 13%, compared to only the month before. In the UK, figures from the PMA show that the revenue generated from compact camera sales fell by £46m for the year to June 2011. Sales of compact cameras dropped 5% in this period, but DSLR sales rose by 9% and mirrorless interchangeable lens camera sales rose by an astonishing 166%.
It will take time before cameraphones are good enough to seriously challenge enthusiast compact cameras in terms of baseline functionality, but more and more, images from smartphones are appearing in online publications and even the occasional newspaper story, that would traditionally have been the preserve of professionals carrying 'serious' cameras. It's not just the spontaneity of cameraphones or their increasingly impressive image quality that makes them appealing to photographers. There are a huge range of photo-related apps available that can enhance the picture-taking process.
One of the areas in which cameraphones beat traditional cameras hands-down, at least for now, is connectivity. The vast majority of cameras are 'dumb' devices in the sense that they cannot send and receive data wirelessly. If you want to manipulate, resize and share photographs taken with a traditional digital camera, you're going to need a computer with an Internet connection. With a smartphone, however, you can take, manipulate and disseminate your shots in no time at all, on the same platform.
For evidence of the appeal of this way of working, you need look no further than Instagram. Only eight months old, Instagram currently has over 5 million users and hosts 100 million images, all uploaded from iPhones.
Instagram is incredibly popular but of course it isn't alone. Images are an integral part of social networking sites like Facebook, Flickr, Google+, Photobucket and Tumblr. There are also websites dedicated to mobile photography, including EYE’EM and MobiTog. P1XELS is another excellent site dedicted to 'iPhoneography' as an art form. Set up by new media artist Knox Bronson in December 2009, it has a huge following.
But is it Really Photography?
One of the apps most strongly associated with 'iPhoneography' is Hipstamatic. Hipstamatic and its various competitors have been embraced not only by the consumer market but also by professional photojournalists. Damon Winter, Staff Photographer from The New York Times garnered some unwarranted notoriety after winning third place for a feature submitted to the Pictures of the Year International 2011 competition. The pictures were made with an iPhone using Hipstamatic - an app not known for its subtle manipulation. The pictures had previously appeared in print in the New York edition of the NYT along with a version on the newspaper's site.
|Photographer Damon Winter took third prize in the Pictures of the Year International 2011 photo competition with a portfolio of images taken using Hipstamatic on his iPhone. Winter said he couldn't have taken those particular pictures using his SLR, claiming that using the larger equipment have made his subjects uncomfortable. |
He likened the informal and discrete picture-taking with a camera-phone to that of those taken by the soldiers themselves, letting him in only capturing the snap-shots with a professional photographer's eye.
|Barbara Davison won the same competition with a more traditional portfolio of images shot with a dedicted stills camera. |
Her monochrome studies are heavily vignetted and are shot with a very shallow depth of field. Hardly a strictly 'naturalistic' view of the world but one that we're more used to seeing from conventional photojournalism.
The controversy surrounding Winter's entry was not so much the choice of camera, but more the Hipstamatic app's manipulation of the scene compared to a 'straight' shot. Winter asserted no content was altered or obscured and that the choice of Hipstamatic to give a certain 'look' was analogous to choosing a particular type of camera (he mentioned a Holga, specifically), film stock, or film processing method.
We're not all professional photojournalists working in warzones of course, but wherever you are, you might sympathise with Winter's argument that sometimes snapping pictures with a smartphone is much more practical than it would be with a DSLR. A common complaint amongst photographers all over the world, peaceful and war-torn alike is that police and security officials, as well as ordinary people regard them and their equipment at best with suspicion, and sometimes with open aggression. In this environment, the cameraphone comes into its own. Small, discrete and connected, it can send photos and video around the world in seconds, from places where pulling out a DSLR or compact camera might just create unwarranted attention.
The increase in popularity and variety of mobile photography apps isn't a huge surprise given the explosion in smartphones, but few people foresaw the emergence of third-party hardware accessories for for cellphone photographers. Amongst those manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon is Schneider Optics, which recently announced an iPro Lens System for the iPhone 4.
|Schneider Optics' iPro Lens System for the Apple iPhone 4 is designed to turn the phone's fixed camera lens into a telephoto or fisheye via included converter lenses. Schneider is not alone - several other manufacturers are exploring the potential of hardware 'add-ons' to expand the photographic abilities of today's smartphones.|
The iPro Lens System consists of wide angle and fisheye lenses that attach onto a dedicated iPhone case via a bayonet mount. At $199 it’s not cheap, but Schneider clearly believes that it will sell enough of the kits to make development worthwhile. Rollei has thrown its hat into the ring as well, and has created a telephoto lens specifically designed for the iPhone 4. Where will it end?
Who knows. As this article was being prepared for publication Apple announced the long-anticipated iPhone 4S, which, even if it wasn't the apocryphal iPhone 5 that a lot of people had hoped for, offers significant improvements to the iPhone 4 in terms of its photographic specification. Leading up to the launch, mobile advertising company InMobi commissioned a report which discovered that 41% of smartphone users in the US were planning to buy the rumored iPhone 5, 50% of whom intended to make that purchase within 6 months of its launch.
Asked whether they would be interested in a hypothetical upgrade model to the 4, only 15% suggested that they might buy a new handset. Whether or not you regard the iPhone 4S as a 'warmed over' iPhone 4 depends of course on your priorities as a smartphone user. If those consumers who said they would buy an iPhone 5 decide to invest in the new iPhone 4S, Apple’s current share of the US smartphone market will be propelled from 27% to an estimated 41%.
Whichever smartphone you choose (and even if you don't), experts are predicting that in the coming years, desktop computers are in danger of being made obsolete by smartphones and tablet computers. Will traditional digital cameras find themselves in the same position? No-one knows exactly what the future of photography will look like but one thing is for sure - things are about to get interesting...
Joanne Carter is the founder and editorial director of TheAppWhisperer.com, a professional photographer and Associate of the British Industry of Professional Photographers, BIPP, as well as a professional journalist, specializing in technology.
Oct 2, 2014
Oct 2, 2014
Oct 2, 2014
Sep 30, 2014
|Dirt Hose by poppyjk|
|European bee-eaters by drvanger|
from A Big Year - birds
|Fat Is Beautiful Guinea 2008 DP by MarioSS|
from - Fat is Beautiful - (Woman's Portrait n Black and White+ A Border)
As summer really gets going over here in the Northern hemisphere, the team at Imaging Resource has put together a list of the best cameras for backpacking.
The Ukrainian Parliament banned statues of Lenin in 2015. Two years later, the monuments no longer adorn public buildings or stand watch over town squares, but they're still there.
If you had to choose one camera to bring along for the ultimate West coast road trip, what would it be? DPR's Sam Spencer choose the X100F. Read more
The a9 boasts impressive capability. As more examples of it in practice pour in, Sony's claims hold up. Watch the a9 track and maintain focus on a rapidly approaching basketball.
Last week, more than a million tonnes of Californian coastline slid into the ocean, taking part of Highway 1 with it. Check out the remodeling in photos taken before and after the landslide.
Even after eighteen months of reviewing the latest, greatest, shiniest and must-buy-me-est new gear, DPReview staffer Carey Rose has continued to use older DSLR cameras for his freelance work. But now, that might be changing. Read more
Sony is the world's leading mirrorless camera brand but remains third for ILCs overall, it's said in a presentation to investors. A focus on high value cameras and lenses should boost operating income, it says. Read more
It's nicknamed the 'Cycloptic Mustard Monster,' and is a 3D printed medium format camera. Read more
The new NanGuang LED lights are battery powered and come with accessories including filters and diffusers.
Have you been telling yourself, "Hey, I really need one of those 8K displays?" A video about Dell's new 8K monitor shows you what to expect. Is it really that much better?
Tamara Lackey, a Nikon ambassador USA and pro shooter, discusses embracing self-consciousness as a means of connecting with subjects.
There's a new Spiderman movie coming out and the poster been generating a lot of online chatter. Mostly about how it looks like the creation of a fevered teenager that just discovered Photoshop.
An honest defense of the system's merits, with photos as proof.
Copyright disputes are no fun at all. 'Binded' is a new startup that aims to simplify the process of registering - and enforcing - copyright for photographers. Read more
Not everyone wants to pay a premium for a long zoom camera. Thankfully, there are many reasonably priced cameras available, though they won't offer the same image quality as enthusiast models. In this updated roundup we look at big zoom cameras with more consumer-friendly price tags. Read more
Think Tank Photo has updated two of its popular bag lines with improvements to functionality. Read more
We’ve all seen Bob Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo, but there's another.
The sample footage looks good.
It will automatically pick the best camera settings depending on shooting conditions. It even promises enhanced functionality for your camera, like exposure and focus stacking. It already supports many cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. Read more
As if $13,950 wasn’t enough to pay for a special edition lens, the Leica Store in San Francisco is offering a prototype of said lens for $24,995. Read more
Make those old photos disappear without deleting them forever.
Firmware updates enable 10 fps shooting with adapted A-mount lenses, and faster startup times and better compatibility for 20 fps shooting when using native lenses on the a9.
Fujifilm has released firmware updates for its camera models X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX 50s, X-T20, X100F and X-T1 and updates to three of its software products.
A 22 year-old Romanian photographer uses his DJI Phantom 4 drone to capture unique perspectives of the city where he now lives.
What's it like to ride the waves with champion surfer Kelly Slater? This VR video from Teton Gravity Research gives you a taste.
When Nikon released the full-frame D3 in 2007, it changed the professional photography industry. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers a legend. Read more
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more