If I may be so bold in barking out a declaration as an answer to the question “Do point-and-shoots have a place in the smartphone photography age?” it would be: “Yes, if point-and-shoot cameras can eventually make calls, do SMS, edit and process photos internally, and go online.”
I consider it an honor and a privilege to write this column for 2.O, as I have a deep respect for the magazine and especially towards its Editor-in-Chief, and I would’ve started it in a more proper and traditional manner, but the question kind of grabbed me by the ankles. I mean, I can’t believe I hadn’t asked myself that before. How digital photography has literally exploded in terms of its technological advancements and vastly changed how everyone takes photos and how the mobile phone has evolved so much that its original purpose for being has literally become its least utilized feature. It has become too smart, you hardly use it to call anyone anymore! And how the correlation between the two indispensable gadgets have prompted me to answer the question in that very manner.
My very first digital point-and-shoot camera was a Kodak DC210 Plus, which I acquired for under P18,000 in the late ’90s. It had a 1-megapixel CCD sensor, a 2x optical zoom or 29-58mm (equivalent) lens, and was capable of producing vibrant 1,152 x 864 pixel images that were ideal for up to 5 x 7” prints! It used CompactFlash memory cards for storage, and was powered by two AA Alkaline batteries.
Back then, I felt I was the bomb (and I’d have you know that I grinned and cringed immediately after I typed that) with that “state-of-the-art” Kodak camera that weaned me away from using 35mm film. I mean, using that roughly brick-sized digital point-and-shoot camera has eliminated a sizable part of the process of which I produced corporate videos and print ads for my advertising clients back then, for the images from it were immediately editable and usable as required. I just had to recount all that in detail, for looking back at the amount and quality of work output I was able to squeeze from its 1-megapixel “engine,” it’s mind boggling how it’s now just literally a small fraction of the average 8- to 12-megapixel rear cameras of your typical smartphone in comparison.
Of course, I’ve always reminded people not to gauge or judge a camera by its megapixel count, as ultimately good lens optics are a lot more important. But wow, today’s smartphones check out well on both counts. With the kind of work I do as a photographer/videographer, I wouldn’t be surprised if my daily usage of my smartphone taking photos and shooting video were summed up and compared with my total shoot time using my DSLRs and other cameras, and the smartphone wins out overwhelmingly. I’ve heard it many times, and I’ve probably mentioned it more often—the best camera for you is the one you have in your person most of the time, if not all the time.
So between a smartphone and a compact digital camera, especially for those who don’t shoot for a living, it just won’t make sense having two bulky things in their pockets. Guess which one will be ditched: the one that does everything, or the one that does just one thing and only at a fairly acceptable level at that? At this point, I would only reach for a dedicated camera (feels funny saying that) if it performs considerably better than the one on my current phone or if the situation happens to zero in on my phone cam’s major and only limitation: reach. You know, if I can’t walk on over to the stage in an event and block everyone’s view just to take a close-enough photo of the speaker at the podium with my phone. Then again, if I were still close enough to shoot that very scenario, crop the photo just enough to bring the subject closer, tweak it to retain or even improve image sharpness, lighting, and minimize low-light noise and pixelation, I still would pick my phone. Just because I could do all that, and post it on social media before I even finish walking back to my seat.
The smartphone is the new point-and-shoot. In fact, it’s even upgraded the term to point-shoot-tweak-and-post. The more advanced cameras, like all those new awesome mirrorless models currently seducing weight-weary DSLR users like me; and the actual semi-pro to pro DSLRs out there can all be to a certain degree, point-and-shoots too, as their P and Auto modes allow them to be. But again, people would only really reach for them when they require a certain quality from their photos or video that the typical mid to high-end smartphone can’t deliver… for now. In that regard, the compact digital camera—or the “point-and-shoot of old”—is endangered and nearly extinct. Hence, forgive me for saying, it belongs in the museum of digital history.
I hope I don’t sound like a smartphone evangelist, but I can’t help gushing over mine that’s well over a year old, especially now that it does an excellent job at being a remote controller and data receptacle for my DJI Drone, Canon DSLR, GoPro, and Theta 360-degree cameras; takes great photos and video, processes them, and allows me to spread them over almost instantly on the web, and even provide me with an incredible bonus… it lets me call and text people.