My article outlining the rise of the computational photography for The New Yorker prompted many reader to write and point out the camera phones were essentially a pre-iPhone phenomenon. I don’t disagree, except for the fact that iPhone made it possible to do higher quality photography easier and simpler. And it is not just the iPhone – other smartphones have dramatically enhanced their photographic capabilities.
The rise of the iPhone camera was inversely proportionate to sales of standalone cameras, as I outlined in a piece, Standalone Camera: Shot dead by (i)Phone, eighteen months ago. Things have gotten progressively worse for the camera industry. When a massive earthquake hit Japan’s Kumamoto region in April 2016, it seemed as if divine forces were conspiring against the camera business. Kumamoto is the heartland of Japan’s camera industry. Earthquake might have added to the miseries but overall troubles are pretty deep rooted.
The camera makers have yet to develop modern software and have not been able to embrace the connected world we live in. Things have been particularly bad for the point-and-shoot/ fixed lens digital cameras — 6.96 million (from January 2016 to July 2016) versus 12.74 million such cameras sold from January to July 2015 – down almost 45 percent.
Many of us who were previously casual camera buyers, now find our smartphones doing a good enough job. They are always in our pocket and are getting better way faster than the standalone cameras. The computational photography is going to give our smartphones even more oomph. I won’t be surprised that by next year, compact digital cameras will drastically diminish and soon vanish as a category.
It won’t be anytime soon when I will give up my Lecia or even my Fuji XPro2 – but I am really excited to get my hands on the iPhone 7 Plus. I had never taken a photo till the iPhone came along and I never took photography seriously till before Instagram showed up. Those two were my training wheels — and even today, I find immense enjoyment in making photos with iPhone for Instagram.