Apple After Jobs: Focus on the iPhone and Digital Cameras

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Steve Jobs’ departure was a blow felt around the technology world. The all-powerful iPhone has impacted many sectors of consumer tech, cameras included. As we say goodbye to Jobs, we are left in the midst of a camera industry in a state of flux.

The iPhone 4S is equipped with an image-maker more powerful than any before it. With an 8 megapixel sensor and an f/2.4 aperture lens, it’s likely to be the only camera that many iPhone users will carry. Is “good enough” tech getting to be just plain good?

It’s changing the photograph landscape, for sure, but for our taste the iPhone isn’t quite ready to kill the point-and-shoot. Here are four reasons why the point-and-shoot isn’t out of the picture (yet).

  • Burst Shooting: Smartphones may have point-and-shoots beat for portability and wireless integration, but they aren’t nearly as speedy. Sony’s entry-level Cyber-shots boast impressive high speed capabilities, making possible features like sweep panorama.
  • Zoom: This may be the camera-in-a-phone’s greatest challenge. It’s hard to imagine zoom lenses appearing anytime soon on smartphones, so for the present, shooters are limited to digital zoom. The increased sensor resolution of the iPhone 4S makes it possible to crop images with less degradation of detail. Still, compact ultrazooms that are not much larger than a typical point-and-shoot now offer past 12x. It’s unlikely that a smartphone will ever be able to match that range.
  • Battery Power: When your phone is your only camera, it dies when your smartphone battery dies. If you spend your entire day browsing the web, it’s likely that your battery will be drained before the sun is down. Buy a set of batteries and keep them charged and your point-and-shoot will never be without power. On the other hand, a smartphone is down for the count while the battery charges.
  • Stabilization: Point-and-shoots still beat the camera phone in stabilization. Many mid-to-high end point-and-shoots offer mechanical or optical image stabilization and are generally successful in reducing image blur. Adding stabilization to a smartphone would mean adding unwanted bulk and cost. For the majority of smartphone users, high quality stabilization is not likely to be a priority anytime soon.

For everything we wish that the iPhone would do, there’s no denying what a powerful image-making tool it has become. Wirelessly uploading photos to the web directly from a camera is clunky at best and impossible with most currently available point-and-shoots. The iPhone, and after it other smartphones, shares images and video easily. Point-and-shoots will have to evolve to keep up with this level of connectivity. Consider the game officially changed.

For some additional reading, check out our coverage of the 6sight Imaging Summit where we ponder what’s next for the camera industry.?

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