Technology has changed a lot during the last decade or so and it’s been fascinating to see how this has impacted the camera market. More and more people rely on mobile phones for their photography and these cameras are better than ever before.
But are smartphones going to replace professional cameras? Are we going to see more photographers leave their DSLR or mirrorless cameras behind and just rely on their mobile phones?
The megapixel war
While the megapixel is only a measurement of how big an image you can shoot, they’ve been an enormous focus amongst smartphone manufacturers. As of writing this, there are several smartphones that have an impressive 48MP camera.
To compare, the Nikon D850 and Nikon Z7 have 45.7MP and the Canon EOS 5DsR has 50.7MP, despite much larger image sensors.
Now it should be mentioned that squeezing as many megapixels as possible onto a tiny sensor doesn’t necessarily mean a higher image quality. These smartphones have a Quad Bayer filter, which explained by Smartprix means, they have been designed to shoot 12MP images but do allow for 48MP bragging rights.
The high megapixel count on smartphones might not mean you can print large quality files as indicated amongst high megapixel DSLR cameras but they result in much better HDR capabilities. In other words, smartphone cameras are designed to focus on performing well in situations with a high dynamic range rather than providing the finest details.
Manual control over settings
Up until recently, the lack of possibilities to manually control the settings has been a big limitation for smartphone cameras. This isn’t the case anymore; several phones allow full control over the camera settings. You can change the shutter speed, ISO, aperture and White Balance. It’s even possible to choose between shooting jpeg and RAW, giving you more flexibility for post-processing.
This is a game changer. Being able to manually control the settings is a requirement for anyone who’s serious about their photography.
A wide range of accessories
Another factor that’s part of the reason why many photographers are drawn towards mobile photography is the abundance of accessories available for most devices. Be it a neutral density filter, tripod or remote shutter, there are tons of options to choose between. All these possibilities can take your smartphone images to the next level.
I’ve seen incredible images taken with mobile devices by photographers who’ve used some of these accessories. It’s almost unreal to think that you can capture a 30-second razor-sharp exposure with your phone.
All-in-one to the same price
While we often complain about the smartphones being too expensive, there’s another way to look at it too: the top models cost roughly the same as a semi-professional DSLR camera. The main difference? You get a computer, telephone and camera all-in-one.
Reasons why mobile cameras are increasing in popularity
The big question is whether or not smartphone cameras are, or will be, good enough to replace DSLR and Mirrorless cameras. Let’s first look at some of the factors why this could be a likely scenario:
Mobile phones are small. Size and weight is an important topic for photographers, especially if you tend to go on longer hikes and expeditions. There’s a reason why many photographers switched to mirrorless cameras when they first arrived. Could it be that the same people move to mobile phones when the camera quality matches today’s cameras?
Everyone has a smartphone. According to BankMyCell, 66.5% of the world population owns a smartphone. More than 71.5% of the US population owns one. This percentage keeps growing. Smartphones are more accessible than ever and with the improving image quality, we’ve already seen it do a knockout on the point-and-shoot cameras.
Edit and share instantly. Being able to share the image instantly after capturing it has become an important factor for many. Apps such as Adobe Lightroom CC or Google’s Snapseed make it possible to give a professional look to your photograph in next to no time, before uploading it to one or more platforms.
Image quality is quickly improving. The image quality has come a long way in a short time and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. Today’s smartphone cameras are better than many 5-year-old professional DSLR cameras.
Why DSLR/Mirrorless cameras will still rule the professional market
While I think that smartphones are going to take over big parts of the amateur and hobbyist market, serious photographers are still going to trust professional cameras. Weight and size are going to be an important factor but the serious photographer will still value the extra flexibility a camera offers, the feeling of working with a professional tool and the extra image-quality.
This is why I believe that smartphones won’t take over professional photography:
Image quality keeps improving. Yes. The quality of smartphone cameras are quickly improving but so is the quality of DSLR and mirrorless cameras. You might be satisfied with your camera today but in 5-10 years there’s going to be something much better.
Manufacturers focus on professional markets. The smartphone industry might have killed compact cameras but this has created a shift amongst the camera manufacturers. It seems like the focus is now on the semi-professional and professional markets. Most beginning photographers start with a semi-professional camera.
A camera remains one step up. I believe many photographers will start their journey with a mobile camera but once they get more into photography and want to get better, they invest in a DSLR or mirrorless camera. A camera remains a more professional tool than a smartphone.
There are many models to choose between. When buying a smartphone you’re most likely going to buy the one that is the best all-rounder. You want one that is quick, easy to use, has all the apps you need, has a good camera and runs smoothly. The best camera phones aren’t necessarily the best mobile phones. When choosing a DSLR or mirrorless you can choose between many models and find the one that best meets your requirements. A camera is a camera, nothing more.
High-quality lenses make a difference. Any professional photographer knows the importance of high-quality glass. You’re much more flexible when using a camera and can use different lenses for different purposes.
The future of photography
Much comes down to your expectations as to image quality, flexibility with settings and lenses and, ultimately, your photographic needs and ambitions. Smartphone cameras are now more than good enough to produce beautiful images that can be shared online and perhaps even be printed in small sizes. If 10 years ago all you needed was a compact camera, then a smartphone will be all you need today.
However, DSLR and Mirrorless cameras aren’t going anywhere. At least not anytime soon. There’s still an enormous market amongst avid photographers that are looking for higher quality files and more flexibility. We can only expect the camera manufactures to keep trying to satisfy our ever-increasing demands and wishes to create even better cameras.