Revisiting still and video cameras

I’ve said numerous times on this blog that digital cameras and video cameras aren’t going anywhere because of the quality they have over smart phones. It’s been over five years since the first article I wrote that addressed this topic with regard to the then-new iPhone 4:

But there’s a major downside to higher megapixel camera phones: they’re camera phones. I avoid the camera on my iPhone 3Gs for that very reason. It’s great for quick pictures here and there, but a 12 megapixel camera on a cellular phone? That’s overkill.

And with regard to video, I said this over four years ago:

The DSLR cameras that are actually worth it that also shoot good HD video have 4 digits to their price tag before the decimal, yet you can get a good quality HD camcorder for around $300 to $400, possibly less, depending on where you go. Add on top the fact that a good quality point and shoot camera can be had for less than $200. Explore your options, of which your cell phone isn’t one of them.

So what’s the verdict after all this time? Let’s first turn to Briley Kenney of Gear & Style Cheat Sheet and his list of “5 Devices in Your Home That May Become Obsolete Soon“:

8-12 megapixel cameras are now standard in most smartphones. In just a few years, those cameras will have expanded in quality even more. For the folks who carry their phones everywhere, there’s absolutely no reason to carry a compact digital camera, as well.

In fact, most families and consumers have ditched personal cameras altogether. It doesn’t hurt that those phones can even record HD quality video.

The only exception to this rule would be the professional point-and-shoot cameras that people carry for better shots. Let’s be honest, smartphone cameras are convenient but they don’t always deliver the best quality photos – neither do low-end digital cameras for that matter.

Still, you can expect to see sub-par cameras, about $300 or less, fade away.

Actually, I wouldn’t expect them to go away, and the reason is a market that few people seem to consider anymore: those who cannot afford better cameras and the smart phones with higher quality camera capability. It’s as if these people don’t exist to these tech writers.

Here’s the thing: unless you get a very, very good deal on a good smart phone from one of the major carriers, you’re going to be left with something with a sub-par camera. To cut the cost of a phone, the camera is going to be one of the bells and whistles to see cuts in quality. Point and shoot digital cameras can be had for a decent price, and good deals can be found online and in pawn shops, so the point and shoot camera will always have a place in our increasingly digital environment to those with lesser-impressive budgets.

This is especially the case given that storage options for digital cameras are continually getting better in price. Lower priced smart phones, even ones with a half-decent camera, aren’t going to have expandable storage, meaning to get the pictures off the phone, you’ll either have to send them across your phone’s data traffic (unless you connect to a hotspot) to an online storage option, or connect it to a computer.

A few weeks ago I was able to buy two 16GB SDHC cards from Micro Center for just 16 USD plus tax. That’s .50 USD per gigabyte. That can store a lot of pictures. And with better newer DSLR cameras coming onto the market at lesser and lesser price tags, the bodies for older model DSLR cameras can be had for dirt cheap. The lenses have always been the bulk of a camera’s price tag, but you can probably still find good deals on used lenses.

But that’s still photos. What about video? That depends highly on what you want to do and the quality you want to get.

I’ve seen a number of tutorials online about how to get the best quality video from a smartphone, so the possibilities are there. But it takes a lot more effort and consideration than would be needed for a DSLR or dedicated video camera, many of which you can probably find for a good price used either online or through a local retailer. Just make sure to do your research to know whether you’re getting a good deal.

Today we are more in the age of the DSLR. A good DSLR that can also shoot HD video can be had for under 500 USD. If you can’t afford that, but don’t care about shooting video, then point and shoot digital cameras can be had for a good price that will outlast your smartphone.

That’s something the “smartphones will replace digital cameras” crowd doesn’t take into account. If you sink 700 USD+ on a digital camera, you’re going to take really good care of that camera and try to get as much longevity on it as possible. In the case of my old D40, the lens that originally came with it is being problematic while the body is still perfectly fine — kind of brings to mind an analogy of a gorgeous young woman with bad eyesight…

But let’s get back to the original question: will point and shoot cameras become obsolete? Not any time soon. DSLRs are still too expensive, and smart phones with good cameras are also too expensive. Technology is continually becoming less expensive, though, as we continually see more value added to our the tech we carry around.

But one quote I encountered years ago still applies today: smart phones are about taking snapshots, while DSLRs and point and shoots are for photographs.

And on the video front, those who care about video quality, such as home movies and the like, will get a DSLR or dedicated video camera. Indeed with action cameras coming down in price continuously, and used GoPro cameras available for a steal, dedicated video cameras will always have their place as well since that means you don’t have to risk your phone to get a good video.

So I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: digital cameras aren’t going anywhere, at least not anytime soon.