iPhone 4S Camera: The P&S Gap Closes

Posted in Equipment by Nathan Lee Bush on October 4, 2011

At Apple’s iPhone 4S launch extravaganza, Phil Shiller proclaimed that “To many customers this will be the best still camera they’ve ever owned and the best video cameras they’ve ever owned.” Strong words, but probably not far off.

The already lauded camera on the iPhone 4, which is the leading image-making device on Flickr, boasts a lot of impressive new features, including, according to the Cupertino keynote today:

  • 8 MP, backside illuminated CMOS sensor, allowing 73% more light
  • 33% faster capture (1.1 second for initial capture and .5 seconds shot to shot afterwards)
  • five element lens
  • f/2.4 aperture speed
  • 30% more sharpness
  • hybrid IR filter
  • 1080P video capture
  • improved auto WB
  • face detection

Obviously, this will not affect the buying decisions of enthusiasts and pros, except that maybe they will skimp on that second pocketable carry-everywhere camera like the S100. But camera makers are no doubt distressed about their market share in the point-and-shoot segment, which represents the large swath of cameras sold. If the device already in your pocket takes acceptable party pictures, this will be enough for the average consumer (my cousin spent countless hours extolling the virtues of his iPhone 4 camera on a recent family vacation).

And with a seemingly endless stream of third party apps which let users add faux-filters, controls and features to the built-in camera hardware instantly, upgrading your camera is now becoming a software solution. For anyone who has ever done a firmware update using one of the traditional camera makers, which seems to require an engineering degree, the simplicity of the Apple ‘it just works’ philosophy is certainly compelling.

EOSHD opined yesterday on the consumerization (my word and I’m sticking to it) of the marketplace, with innovation coming in the form of ‘sweep panorama’ and other consumer gimmicks. With the P&S market in trouble, could the silver lining of all this be that camera makers cede ground in the consumer market and reorient their focus, investing more resources into pro and enthusiast R&D?

And so, we undoubtably sit at a decisive turning point in the camera market. Is this the beginning of the end for point and shoot cameras? Give us your thoughts in the comments.

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4 Responses

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  1. Chris Connors (@ChrisWConnorsNJ) said, on October 4, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Definitely means no p&s in my future. Canon almost had me with the S100 too. Glad I waited since I need a new phone anyway.

  2. Moe said, on October 4, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    Low-end p&s cameras are done when most popular cellphones have quality images. So far that’s not the case, but the popularity of the iPhone means that the p&s market will erode, and is eroding. Even without excellent image quality the existence of useful photo apps on phones makes the phonecam much more desirable to average people, just like music on mp3 (lower quality than CD) became popular then ubiquitous because of the other advantages of the format.

  3. […] this blog, Through The Looking Glass, I analyze the iPhone 4S camera improvements, and how they may signal the beginning of the end for the lucrative low-end point-and-shoot market; […]

  4. […] in October of last year, with newly impressive specs on its already industry leading camera, I mused that it could represent a beginning of the end moment for the endless array of compacts sold every […]

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