Smartphones killed the compact and now they're coming for entry-level ILCs
When friends ask me to recommend a camera, more often than not they say they're looking to take better pictures than what they get from their phone. But what does "better than my phone" actually mean?
One of those key differentiating factors has been the "pretty blurry background" effect that an interchangeable lens camera is capable of producing. Whether you know the word 'bokeh' or not, you know what a nice portrait looks like: sharp focus on the subject, a soft blurry background. And you know that your phone can't do it (until now – more on that in a second). In my experience, that's often part of what people mean when they say "better than my phone." But those days are quickly coming to an end, and it's the iPhone 7 Plus leading the way.
The iPhone 7 Plus offers Portrait Mode, which uses depth information from the device's two rear-facing cameras to mimic shallow depth of field. Apple sure didn't invent it, and it's far from perfect, but that doesn't matter: they've made the effect very convincing and put it in the hands of millions of users.
The entry-level ILC is dead, long live the entry-level ILC
It's not even a question of if the $500 ILC becomes obsolete, it's a matter of when. And when may actually be right now. Ex-Google SVP Vic Gundotra spelled it out in a recent Facebook post.
He pretty much hits the nail on the head right there. As it functions now the effect isn't perfect, but it's likely already good enough for most people, and it's only going to keep getting better. And that phrase, "good enough for most people" is exactly how we talked about smartphone cameras just as the compact camera was dealt its final blow.
Computational photography killed the $500 DSLR
I know what you're thinking. "But zoom! Pixel-level resolution! Low light image quality!" I'm here to tell you that smartphones are already well on their way to solving those problems, if they haven't already. And here's the key: they don't have to get it perfect, it just has to be convincing enough to most people. Also, there are approximately zero people outside of the photography community who care how their photos look at 100% magnification.
Smartphone cameras can't get any bigger than they already are, but they can get smarter. With more cameras, sophisticated algorithms and computational techniques, that's exactly what they're doing. It won't be long before your smartphone camera's auto mode will be able to retouch images in real-time. Or change apparent focal length after-the-fact.
Autofocus may be the piece of the puzzle that's hardest to solve. Smartphones are slow to focus in low light, but $500 ILCs don't do a whole lot better. And neither smartphone nor entry-level DSLR is particularly good at tracking a moving toddler, for example. It's always been necessary to go farther up the product chain to get appreciably better autofocus.
Then there's just plain old inertia: lots of people who do want the image quality benefits traditionally associated with a DSLR actually want nothing to do with a DSLR. They're big, confusing and come with a significant learning curve. Camera manufacturers have been able to sell cameras to somewhat unwilling customers because they alone held the keys to better images. So once the device that's already in your pocket does just about everything a Canon T6 does, why on earth would you be bothered to buy a Rebel?
More than just image capture
Also consider that phones aren't just capture devices – they're an interface for your image storage and management. Sure, most entry-level ILCs will connect to your phone via Wi-Fi, but even when it works well, it's never as easy as just capturing the images on your smartphone in the first place.
There are many 'set it and forget it' image management services that will automatically back up your photos, and they don't stop there – they'll automatically identify subjects, allow you to search by keyword and date, and organize them into a reasonably-priced photo book for you. Sure beats the pants off spending hours importing and cataloging photos on your hard drive.
There will always be lower-cost, accessible ILCs for people who want to venture outside of 'green square mode.' But once smartphones can do a reasonably good imitation of things like bokeh and optical zoom, those who never wanted to pick up a dedicated camera won't have to.
You're reading an article on a photography website, so I feel safe saying that you and I care about photography. We want to make pictures, and we take joy in the process. But many people don't, and they are happy to turn the job over to their smartphone. The day when that segment of the photo-taking population can do that and see results that are good enough in their eyes is right around the corner – if it isn't already here.
|Well Hello There by evancj|
from My Best Photo of the Week
|Normally Amsterdam by Rudolph Arnstein|
from Your City - Biking
|laboratory glass by bombelpl|
|57 BelAir Chevorlet by TexasGal|
from Car Shows 2018
Nikon has posted another teaser video for its upcoming full-frame mirrorless system featuring some classic Nikkor lenses. Perhaps the most notable thing about the video is the lens that's shown first...
Following the CES 2017 announcement of its revival, Kodak Alaris has started shipping test rolls of its new Ektachrome to photographers for beta testing.
Take an inside look at the work that goes into testing Nikon cameras from drops, dust, water and debris. There were definitely cameras harmed in the making of this video.
In a press release issued this morning, Sony announced it has sold more full-frame cameras than any other brand in the US over the past six months, measured both by units sold and by value.
Yuneec has introduced the Mantis Q, a consumer drone with an integrated 4K camera, electronic image stabilization and voice control.
The new 3 Legged Thing Patti is a compact tripod that doesn't break the bank.
Alex and Kathryn are photographers, friends and Tokyo residents who love exploring Japan's hidden cultural treasures. They each brought a Canon EOS M50 on a recent trip starting in bustling Tokyo and ending in the peaceful riverside town of Gujo Hachiman.
The triple-camera in Samsung's 2019 Galaxy S10 smartphone is expected to use three sensors with varying pixel counts.
Net SE, the parent company behind the likes of Oprema Jena, Meyer Optik Görlitz, Emil Busch, C.P. Goerz, Ihagee and A. Schacht products has filed for bankruptcy and removed itself from the German stock exchange.
Canon's latest 70-200mm F4L comes with a five stops of image stabilization, a new coat of paint and impressive sharpness. We've been shooting with our copy for several weeks now - see how it stacks up in our sample gallery.
Special 4K and 6K Photo modes may be one of the most under-appreciated features on recent cameras. In this week's episode, Chris and Jordan take a closer look at these modes and explain why – and when – you'll be glad to have them on your camera.
Ten years ago this month Panasonic and Olympus announced a new concept called Micro Four Thirds. We're now on the brink of full-frame mirrorless from at least one major player, so perhaps it's a good time to take a look back at where it all started – and how far we've come.
Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography breaks down five 'hacks' for organizing your camera equipment.
The City of Redding has published a series of aerial images showing the devastation caused by the ongoing Carr Fire in Shasta County, California.
Sigma full-frame Art lenses are finally available in Sony E-mount. Here's how the 85mm F1.4 Art looks on an a7R III and a7 III.
Sigma is now shipping the FE versions of its 14mm F1.8 DG HSM, 70mm F2.8 DG MACRO, and 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lenses that were announced in February.
We got some quick hands-on time with Samsung's newest, biggest Galaxy smartphone at the company's launch event. Here are the most noteworthy camera features we uncovered.
Leica has released the Elpro 52, a close-up lens adapter that works 3with more than 20 Leica M and TL lenses.
Nikon has released yet another teaser video for its full-frame mirrorless camera set to be announced August 23rd.
At a high-profile launch event in New York, Samsung took the wraps off its next Note device. The Galaxy Note 9 borrows the S9+'s 12MP dual-aperture dual-cam, with OIS in both cameras and an emphasis on AI-enhanced shooting modes.
One of the most keenly-awaited lenses for a while, the new Pentax D FA* 50mm F1.4 is finally here, and we've been using it for a few days. In this article, we're updating our initial impressions on the basis of our recent shooting with the K-1 II.
AirSelfie2 boasts longer flight times, a higher resolution camera and more built-in memory than its predecessor.
In 2016, Samsung launched a prohibitively expensive 4TB SSD. This week it revealed that it has started mass producing a less expensive variant.
At max speed, the Epson FastFoto FF-680W can scan a photo every second at 300dpi.
Lighting manufacturer Cactus has officially launched its RQ250 bare bulb wireless TTL flash unit on the Kickstarter crowd funding website, and says it will be ready for delivery in October.
Lensbaby's Sol 45 fixed-aperture selective focus lens is aimed squarely at photographers new to the manual, in-camera creative effects possible with Lensbaby's lineup. We took it out for a spin.
Android 9, also known as 'Pie,' will add support for the HEIF image format and will allow third-party app developers to access multiple camera streams simultaneously.
DJI has partnered with messaging app Line to launch a special-edition version of its Spark drone that's made to look like an adorable little character affectionately referred to as Brown the bear.
We all know what ISO means, or do we? The truth is that ISO probably doesn’t mean what you think it does, and it might be holding you back from getting the most out of your camera.