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Smartphones are slowly but surely taking over the world, with more people getting their hands on these portable devices with multiple uses. As you’ve probably read in our smartphone review and buying guide, feature phones aren’t dead yet, and probably never will be. As long as there are smartphone haters such as Justin Why This Technology Blogger Does Not Own a Smartphone [Opinion] Why This Technology Blogger Does Not Own a Smartphone [Opinion] "Do you have a smartphone yet?" It's a question my friends ask often, and it's a reasonable one to ask. I make my entire living writing about technology, explaining how to use software and interviewing... Read More  around then there will always be a place for simple phoning and texting devices that eschew extraneous added features.

Whether you can call a decent camera extraneous or not is open to debate, but it’s certainly an extra feature inherent on smartphones that is disrupting the status quo. Owning a smartphone which boasts a decent camera means you really don’t need a dedicated point-and-shoot compact, and it also means you always have a camera to hand.

Smartphone photography forms the basis for this week’s We Ask You column, as we’re keen to hear your thoughts on how important it’s going to be in the years to come.

This Week’s Question…

We want to know, Are Smartphones The Future Of Photography? This question is posed in light of the decision by the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper to lay off all of its full-time photographers in favor of insisting its journalists know the basic skills needed to take photos with their smartphones.

This is a horrible decision that has made 28 people unemployed, but I suspect it makes sense from a purely business point of view. Newspapers are struggling to make money thanks to the Internet, and with citizen journalism 7 Citizen Journalism Websites For Crowdsourced News 7 Citizen Journalism Websites For Crowdsourced News Read More  – led by ordinary people pointing their smartphones at breaking news events – becoming the norm, it’s an inevitable change of direction.

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We want to hear your views on smartphone photography Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your Smartphone Top Tips: How To Take Great Photos With Your Smartphone Smartphone and mobile photography are becoming increasingly popular. And no wonder. Every year, mobile and smartphone cameras get better and better, until many people don’t feel the need to carry real cameras around anymore. While... Read More . Do you own a smartphone and use its camera on a regular basis? Has its presence led to you taking more photos than you previously did? Is a better camera an important feature when looking at your smartphone buying options?

Do you find yourself using your smartphone camera over a dedicated camera every time? Are smartphones a positive or negative for photography and photographers? Can you foresee a time when most photographs used in newspapers and on news websites are sourced from real people using their smartphones?

Let us know your thoughts on smartphone photography in the comments section below. As usual, please reply with more than just a Yes or a No… we need to hear the reasons you think the way you do.

Drawing Conclusions

All comments will be digested to form conclusions in a follow-up post next week where we will detail what You Told Us.One reader will even win Comment Of The Weekwhich will be included in the follow-up post! What more motivation than that do you need to respond?

We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. The questions asked are usually open-ended and likely to necessitate a discussion. Some are opinion-based, while others see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps to fellow MakeUseOf Readers. This column is nothing without you, as MakeUseOf is nothing without you.

Image Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

  1. Jaypee Cruz
    June 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    with the current trends of taking and posting pictures over the internet.. .. yes there is a possibility.. .. we all know that from time to time makers of these smartphones upgrades their camera features to the extent that matches a DSLR camera.. .. time will come.. these DSLR cameras might be compacted and integrated in a smartphone .. with all its features covered .. including the lenses.. .. micronized :)

    • Dave Parrack
      June 10, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      I like the idea of that future, and I don't think it's all that impossible. Decades away perhaps, but still :)

  2. druv vb
    June 7, 2013 at 7:05 am

    Smartphones will surely replace low-end digital cameras at some point.
    Most people will carry their phone when they need an unexpected photo. They will only carry a dedicated camera when they want to picture some event. Its just a trend that people follow.

    Camera makers will stop making those low-end shooters when the market is not profitable enough. Professional photographers will always use an SLR. Though they also use their smartphone for casual photos and videos.

    I do use a camera for some events. When I want to take a picture with my camera on a particular day, I equip myself with my waterproof Pentax WG1. Some other days its my old Konica Minolta A2, with a bulk of chargers and memory cards. But most of the time, its my Nokia N8. My N8 was purposely bought for a Tour d'Europe last year. Entire trip was shot using the phone only.
    The cameras were left at home, 'too much luggage.....'

    • Dave Parrack
      June 10, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      The portability and space-saving could be the smartphone's greatest weapon in this fight. Especially as the tech is always improving.

  3. Pete Zerria
    June 6, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    Interesting question but I think (hope) no, there will always be a place for a dedicated camera because of all the reasons mentioned above. Smartphones are easy to use and make picture taking fun for the mainstream user but DSLRs and other dedicated cameras will always have a place in the hands of the pro or advanced amateur who do business and/or want to create artistic images.

    I find this amusing. These debates come and go. I am sure we will all recall: “Will CDs replace Vinyl”, “Will MP3 players replace CDs” Will Compact Cassettes replace 8-Track” and “Will Digital Cameras replace Film Cameras.” The important thing is that technology moves on. What is great today will be second class tomorrow. What’s the next big question we’ll be debating? “Will ??? replace Smartphones.” Don’t laugh its coming.

    Pete

    • Dave Parrack
      June 10, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      I find this a more interesting question though, as while digi cameras were a direct replacement to film cameras and CDs were a direct replacement to vinyl, smartphones do a lot more besides take photos.

      • Pete Zerria
        June 12, 2013 at 12:53 am

        I understand your point Dave but singular comparisons are valid here too. Your forum is not debating the “Swiss Army Knife-Like” ability of Smartphones but specifically if the imaging capability of Smartphones makes it the future of photography. That is why I feel that there will always be a place for “stand-alone” cameras with advanced designs, such as larger sensors; better Depth of Field control; lower noise at faster ISO ratings and wider resident Dynamic Range just to name a few.

        Pete

  4. Austin H
    June 6, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    As an avid lover of mobile photography (both viewing and shooting) to the point that I would call myself an "iPhoneographer", I must admit that I do not believe that it is the future of photography. It might replace a point-and-shoot, but certainly not a DSLR. Mobile photography is certainly a present-day game-changer for camera companies, and that they should be taking it more seriously.

    I think that even if companies like Canon and Nikon were to ignore the growing trend toward mobile photography, they would still be successful. There is just too much that DSLR's can do that phones will probably never compare to, especially without tons and tons of additional expensive equipment. Like amount of control over every aspect, quality of lenses (yes, I know, the SLR mount for iPhone's exist but it's really not the same), the physical view finder, and I'm sure there's others.

    However, they really ought to consider all the things that mobile photography brings to the table that they, currently, do not. Sharing and social media immediately come to mind. Nokia has released some point and shoots that can share to social media, but they ought to implement this in DSLR's as well. The next advantage, and most important, in my opinion, that smartphones have is the ability to immediately edit. Snapseed, Photoforge2, Photoshop Touch, and the myriad of other editing apps allow for the quick and easy editing of photos. Not to mention the million and one apps that apply "filter" style edits. And they are only improving in quality and advanced features too.

    All in all, I guess I'd say that smartphones may not be the 'future' of photography in that I don't think they'll ever fully replace a DSLR, just like DSLR never fully replaced film/analog. However, DSLR's should take a cue from smartphones and find a way to make in camera editing and sharing a reality.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 10, 2013 at 8:41 pm

      Great points, very well made. I'm just disappointed you're an iPhoneographer rather than an Androidographer ;)

  5. null
    June 6, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    I think it dosen't matter how many features smartphome cameras will have. It always be a differt thing. For daily snapshots, a smartphonecamera is ok, but if you're in holidays and ou have the choice....be honest...would you prefer to take the pictures with a camera or wih your smartphone? When I don't care about the features and just think of the handling, I would choose the camera not the smartphone.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 10, 2013 at 8:40 pm

      I don't know, there have been times when my GF has captured better pictures with her smartphone than I have with my camera, so as the tech improves it's not going to be such an easy choice.

  6. Spinpod
    June 6, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I love smartphone photography. So much so that I recently launched a Kickstarter project that aims at transforming what can be done with iPhone and Android photography. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/665986460/spinpod-seamless-panoramic-and-motion-time-lapse-p

    I think this is truly the direction photography is moving.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 10, 2013 at 8:39 pm

      Cool product. I wish you well raising the necessary funds on Kickstarter.

  7. Ashwin Ramesh
    June 6, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Well, definitely! Smartphones have for sure taken over the low-end cameras. Better software, longer lenses and larger imaging sensors are what make the smartphone and its camera go hand-in-hand.

    The internals of the smartphones continue to shrink and this allows for a bigger and better imaging sensor to be put in place. Off late, we have had a Nokia 808 PureView with a 41 MP camera. Wow! Who knows... the photography enthusiasts of the present can definitely be enthralled by a smartphone's capability to shoot photographs :)

    • Dave Parrack
      June 6, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      The PureView tech looks amazing. How good do you think smartphone cameras can get?

      • Ashwin Ramesh
        June 7, 2013 at 3:51 pm

        Smartphone cameras are getting better day by day. PureView tech, as you said is brilliant stuff! And I don't see why photography enthusiasts relying on SLR/DSLR cameras these days shouldn't switch to using smartphone cameras in the near future :)

  8. dragonmouth
    June 6, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    "Are Smartphones The Future Of Photography?"
    This is as silly as asking if "Will Smartphones replace PCs and laptops." Every time a new type of picture taking device made its appearance (TLR, SLR, Brownie, Instamatic, point-and-shoot, digital, video, etc.) the same question was asked. This another example of "When you're a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail."

    For hack photography and snapshots, smartphones probably will take over. However, when it comes to photos that require composition and high definition, cameras will continue to rule. When you have a portrait taken, does the photographer whip out his/her smartphone, or do they still use a big, boxy camera on a sturdy tripod?

    • Dave Parrack
      June 6, 2013 at 5:51 pm

      I have one question for you... Will Smartphones replace PCs and laptops?

      • dragonmouth
        June 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm

        Has the power saw replaced the hand saw?

  9. Rob H
    June 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    A good starting point is what camera people would have/use if they had no camera-phone. The answer is a range depending on individual needs.
    It ranges from a cheap disposable film camera to the cameras with massive lenses costing thousands for long distance and low-light shots.

    There are several limiting factors with a camera-phone, most really come down to size. The consequences of the size limitations of a camera-phone as compared to, say, a shirt-pocket sized digital camera is basically poorer image quality (and don't confuse megapixel count with quality, its a lot more complicated than that).

    Personally I have an inexpensive waterproof digital camera (having experienced camera-phone and other digital cameras sufferring internal condensation). The photos aren't as good as I expect from 10 megapixels but better than most camera-phones, I reserve it for use in conditions where condensation may be a problem and it uses AAA cells - handy where recharging may be difficult. My preference is a Panasonic Lumix - still shirt-pocket size but lots more sophisticated control & electronics, bigger sensor and high quality lens with long zoom. My camera-phone goes everywhere but only gets used as a camera when I've not got a "proper" camera with me.

    It's this end of the market where camera-phones and digital cameras do compete, and the best camera-phones can certainly stand up against budget digital cameras. Image processing and control may improve in future camera-phones but they are always a generation or two behind cameras and once you start looking at optical zoom and quality lenses it's very doubtful a camera-phone would be able to compete.

    As regards the news story about The Chicago Sun-Times - it's clearly a cost saving issue. It's worth pointing out that there's no reference to a switch to using camera-phones in the linked article. If they're going to get photos and footage from journalists and the public instead then that may come from camera-phones or from cameras. Maybe the Sun-Times is hoping to use the same professional photographers but as freelancers rather than on the payroll. We've all seen citizen supplied photos in the media and watched shakey YouTube videos. The best camera in the world won't get good photos without a talented photographer.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 6, 2013 at 5:55 pm

      Re: The Chicago Sun-Times, they're planning on using more video and see photography as an outdated medium for news. Which I find laughable, quite frankly.

      As someone who grew up using a crappy point-and-shoot I'm amazed by the quality of photos the average smartphone is capable of producing. I guess it's a question of how much better they can get from here on.

      • Rob H
        June 6, 2013 at 8:28 pm

        Quite. Good still photos often have more impact than videos. You can absorb the content in a glance, how many "news" video clips in reality add virtually nothing except wasting another minute of your life.
        If I mention the nuclear bomb, what image pops into your mind? A still of a mushroom cloud or the destruction in Hiroshima or a movie clip?. Or think of the Challenger space shuttle disaster, I can envisage the still of that oddly shaped smoke trail in the sky more readily than the news clip of the whole launch. That photo tells the story in a millisecond.

        Yes we are getting more and better photos from digital cameras and smartphones. More photos have been taken in the last 10 years than in the entire previous history of photography. Most are rubbish but even some of those can be improved with such as Photoshop. In any case the number of photos means that statistically some will be good even without the skill of a professional photographer.

        I justify spending GBP200-300 on a new camera every year or two on the basis that a roll of film a week plus developing and printing (and should we explain single use flash-bulbs to our younger readers?) would cost me maybe GBP500 a year for maybe 1500 photos. I take vastly more photos than I ever did with film - on holiday maybe over 1000 a week but still only occasionally get a really good one! - partly because I used to take much more care selecting camera angles, exposure, etc. That's sometimes compensated for by luck! In reality when I put time and thought into composition and control of aspects like exposure and depth of field I can get better results but also whipping the camera out using an auto mode for a sudden opportunity sometimes delivers some good shots too.

  10. Paul-Kristjan Abram
    June 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I hope not, photography should be kept for professionals. If amateurs like everyday-few-shots-takers take a few shots with their phones, it's okay, but if they want maximum quality, they can't get it with a phone.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 6, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      Wouldn't you like to see everybody get better at shooting photos though? There is a world of difference between a holiday snap and a professional photo, but still.

  11. suzanne williams
    June 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I frequently use camera on my smart Phone because it provides me the option of having camera on a go..This portable device is though packed with all high resolution better zooming capacity but the issue is with the battery life because as you do lot with your phones and it drains your battery life...

  12. null
    June 6, 2013 at 9:53 am

    For their ease of use and always-in-your-pocket availability, smartphones will probably become quite dominant for most photographers or photography enthusiasts, especially considering the quality of some cameras that are now available in smartphones along with more advanced settings becoming quite commonplace. But, and it's a big "but", the sheer control (and in some cases speed) over every possible aspect of a scene that an SLR (digital included, of course), compact-system or even a decent bridge camera (and more and more plain point-and-shooters) offer can never be beaten. That is of course until a smartphone offers advanced adjustability over the behaviour of the lens, etc. I myself use a mix of an iPhone, HTC Windows Phone, a Ricoh point-and-shooter and a Hitachi bridge camera on a weekly basis for various picture taking, and I have no major preference, it's all dependent on how prepared I am for a given situation and what gadget I happen to have in my pocket, bag or hand, i.e.: I always have at least one phone with me, so it's an obvious choice, but if I am carrying a dedicated camera, its use takes precedence over a smartphone.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 6, 2013 at 5:49 pm

      That's an interesting take on it. You will obviously take a camera out with you, but I can see many people settling for their smartphone to avoid having to carry anything they don't need to carry.

  13. Amrish Jhaveri
    June 6, 2013 at 7:01 am

    With the release of Nokia 808 PureView, a 41 megapixel phone, i do believe that the future of photography are smart phones.

    • Jeff
      June 6, 2013 at 3:16 pm

      41 megapixels does not make it a better camera than a DSLR. It only allows it to take extremly enormous pictures. Camera phones have and will be a good point and shoot solution for the average person. DSLRs allow great control over your shooting environment where a cell phone can only send it to an app for processing and create eye candy photos. I recently read a camera phone article where the author made a great quote by saying "the best camera is the one you have with you".

      • Dave Parrack
        June 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm

        That's a great quote!

    • Dave Parrack
      June 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm

      The PureView technology looks amazing. Would it be enough to make you buy a particular smartphone?

      • dragonmouth
        June 6, 2013 at 6:11 pm

        Just imagine PureView technology applied to DSLRs.

    • Austin H
      June 6, 2013 at 6:53 pm

      The sensitivity of the sensors matter far more than the amount of megapixels a camera has. I recently read an article about camera phones and it specifically addressed the tendency of the smart phone industry to just cram in and promote the amount of megapixels in their phones, but the actual sensors remained unchanged from previous generations of the same or similar phones. It also recalled that pre-smart phone cell phones frequently boasted 2-8 megapixel cameras (for reference the iPhone 4s has 8) but the sensors just weren't there yet so you still got insanely tiny, grainy, noisy photos.

      Like Jeff said, more megapixels simply means larger pictures, not necessarily better ones.

  14. Alan Wade
    June 6, 2013 at 5:21 am

    They are the future and the present with me and my wife! I bought her a digital camera a few years ago, now redundant! I bought her a digital camcorder a couple of years after that, again now reduced to gathering dust in one of the drawers! Smart phones take such good pictures why bother to cart a camera around as well as your phone. Ironically the Japanese who are renoun for technology or at least used to be still carry an array of camera's and camcorders around with them when on holiday!

    • Dave Parrack
      June 6, 2013 at 5:46 pm

      I've had a similar experience. I bought my girlfriend a camera last year, and now she uses her Galaxy S3 95% of the time. It takes very good pictures too.

  15. Jorge Saborio
    June 6, 2013 at 5:10 am

    Yes and no. A phone with a high quality camera will always be used to capture moments as they occur, mostly because most of all carry a phone most of the time; so its no longer needed to rush looking for a camera when we want to capture an event. However, there are also photography aficionados and pros, who create artistic photos, and for that market the phone will never be a camera replacement. Mid-tier cameras or high-level cameras offer many features that today phones don´t have and I hardly imagine you carrying several types of lenses for your camera phone.

    As far as this newspaper decision, it does not sound right. You cannot replace a photographer and his gear by a journalist and his phone, unless you are willing to accept a significant drop in the quality of the media. For some events that may be a good call but for many others, I don´t think so.

    Anyway, just my 2 cents on the topic.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm

      In other words you think smartphone cameras will be fine for most people, but there will always be pros who need something more substantial?

      • Jorge Saborio
        June 7, 2013 at 4:56 am

        Exactly, pros and photo aficionados who´d like more than just point and shoot.

  16. Balamurugan R
    June 6, 2013 at 4:51 am

    there is a chance in the future. but i totally disagree with complete invasion of smartphones camera. you can simply imagine that how phones are evolving with the evolution we can see in today's latest DSLR's and other techs.. but anyway it atleast made a change in everyone's life by making easy memories.

  17. Junil Maharjan
    June 6, 2013 at 4:18 am

    the newer mobile devices that are being released have a much sophisticated cameras and their are so many apps to modify and enhance photographs. As more people have access to these device and the ease of use, it does seem to the future of photography, but i really believe that true photography lies not with the device but with the photographer. Many professional photographers still use professional cameras. amateur photography has changed a lot since the release of smartphones but professional photography still relies on cameras with skilled photographers.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 6, 2013 at 5:43 pm

      Of course, the camera is only part of the equation. But it could be that everyone having a camera with them at all times (by way of owning a smartphones) encourages more people to learn how to shoot better photographs.

  18. SM
    June 6, 2013 at 4:03 am

    To an extent they are the future. They are replacing a lot of point and shoot cameras because we already have our phones with us and they perform about they same. However they don't replace high-end point and shoots: those with more control, especially manual capabilities. They especially don't replace DSLRs.

    Bottom line: those who didn't pay much attention to settings before will be content with their phones, but hobbyists and professionals will always want something more.

    • Dave Parrack
      June 6, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      DSLRs are in a world of their own right now. But do you think a time will come when smartphone cameras offer similar feature sets?

      • dragonmouth
        June 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm

        "But do you think a time will come when smartphone cameras offer similar feature sets?"
        Only if smartphones become the size of digital cameras. Digital cameras by virtue of their size will always have more room for features, bells and whistles than a smartphone. Smartphones are like Swiss Army knives - good at doing many things but not great at any one of them.

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