Charting the Smartphone Effect on the Camera Market
The smartphone camera has come a long way since the early 2000s, and its impact on the overall camera market cannot be understated.
In fact, modern smartphones have become so sophisticated that the CEO of Sony’s semiconductor manufacturing company predicts that smartphone cameras will soon produce better quality images than DSLR cameras.
Whether smartphones will be able to completely replace standalone cameras is still a contentious debate topic, but one thing is clear—while smartphone sales have skyrocketed over the last decade, digital camera sales have plummeted.
This animation by James Eagle compares annual sales data for film cameras, digital cameras, and smartphones over the years to show just how much smartphones have impacted the camera market.
A (Brief) History of Standalone Cameras
Below, we’ve broken down the history of cameras into three overarching periods: early cameras, film cameras, and digital cameras.
Cameras have been around for thousands of years, with descriptions of camera-like devices found in historical writings dating back as far as the 4th century:
- 330 AD: Ancient Chinese texts describe a device known as a camera obscura. Similar to pinhole cameras, these didn’t produce actual photographs, but rather reflected light onto screens which could then be traced to produce a lasting image.
- Early 1800s: It’s generally accepted that Joseph Nicéphore Niépce invented the first photographic camera in 1816. Using silver chloride, Niépce managed to develop an image that’s still around today.
- 1840s: Early cameras produced negative images which had to be color corrected, until mirrored cameras were invented. Alexander S. Wolcott was the first person to patent a mirrored camera in 1840.
- 1871: Richard Leach Maddox came up with an invention that led to instantaneous exposure, meaning cameras only needed to be exposed to light for a few seconds before producing an image.
These early inventions were critical milestones in the development of the modern-day camera. However, cameras and film weren’t available to the masses until Kodak’s Brownie camera made photography relatively cheap.
The Emergence of Film Cameras
Released in 1900, the Kodak Brownie was a handheld, inexpensive roll film camera invented by George Eastman.
When it first launched, the camera sold for $1.00, equivalent to about $35.48 in 2022 dollars. With more than 100,000 cameras sold within the first year, Eastman is often credited for making photography accessible to the masses.
Fast forward a few decades, and technological advancements led to features in cameras like viewfinders, different shutter speeds, and detachable lenses. These features were possible on what’s known as twin lens reflex cameras, or TLR for short, but they were soon replaced by single lens reflex cameras (SLR).
Digital Cameras Enter the Scene
By the late 1990s, digital cameras were invented and began quickly outselling film cameras.
Unlike their film counterparts, digital cameras feature a digital sensor, and store images on a memory card which could store thousands of pictures.
Digital camera sales grew throughout the early 2000s—in 2005 the Photo Marketing Association International even estimated that 52% of households would own a digital camera by the end of the year.
The Smartphone Camera Changes the Game
In the early 2000s, camera phones were far less powerful than their standalone counterparts.
For instance, one of the first camera phones to hit the market, Samsung’s SCH-V200, could take 20 pictures at 0.35-megapixel resolution. In contrast, Canon’s EOS D30 digital camera released the same year had a resolution of 3 megapixels.
But the advent of the iPhone, and the rollout and accessibility of modern smartphones with powerful cameras, quickly saw many non-enthusiasts switch to smartphone cameras only. In 2022, Google’s Pixel 7 has multiple built-in cameras, with both a 50 megapixel wide rear camera and a 12 megapixel ultrawide rear camera. In comparison, Canon’s enthusiast EOS 850 has a 24.1 megapixel sensor.
The animated chart above highlights the direct impact on the digital camera market after its 2009/2010 peak:
|Year||Digital Camera Sales|
So does that make a modern smartphone camera better? Not at all, as there are other a multitude of factors to consider when assessing a camera’s quality besides resolution. But in an article in Wired Magazine, tech journalist Sam Kieldsen explains how the market has shifted:
[Smartphones have] effectively killed off the cheap pocket point-and-shoot camera already, but there’s still so much they can’t do in comparison to a true purpose-built mirrorless or DSLR camera. Low light image quality, convincing bokeh effects and extreme close-up macro photography are all still significantly better on a real camera.
Smartphones may not be fully replacing DSLR cameras anytime soon, but they’ve certainly changed the industry and game in which it plays.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Infographic: 11 Tech Trends to Watch in 2023
This infographic highlights eleven exciting areas within the world of technology worth keeping an eye on in 2023.
Infographic: 11 Tech Trends to Watch in 2023
It can be tough to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation.
Each new year delivers the full spectrum of progress from game-changing breakthroughs to incremental advancements in a wide variety of fields.
In a noisy media landscape fueled by hype and speculation, it can be tough to know where true value is being created. The infographic above, which draws from CB Insights’ recent report on 11 Tech Trends To Watch Closely in 2023, helps narrow down some areas of focus:
- The secret invasion of super apps
- Fintech’s rapid regeneration
- Bots in the house
- Virtual power plants
- Healthcare’s invisibility trick
- Smell goes digital
- Femtech turns to menopause
- The bio-based materials boom
- India’s tech ascent
- Regenerative agtech takes root
The report draws information from earnings transcripts, media mentions, investment activity, patents, and more to arrive at the trends listed.
We’ll examine three of these trends below in a bit more detail.
Setting the Stage: Clash of the Super Apps
The concept of a super app—an all-in-one smartphone application that integrates a wide range of services—is far from new. In fact, for years now, WeChat has been the go-to app for many Chinese citizens to chat, order services, pay bills, and more.
A natural question comes to mind: why doesn’t an app like that exist in Western countries yet? Well, there are a couple of key reasons:
- Consumers and regulators alike are wary of providers holding so much personal information and power. In China, WeChat actually had government support, integrating public services into the app. As well, expectations of personal privacy are completely different in China than in Western countries
- Unlike China, which rapidly adopted digital payments, North America and Europe had preexisting near-ubiquitous financial networks in place. Super apps were a game changer for millions of unbanked consumers in China and beyond.
The situation is changing rapidly though, and 2023 could be the year that the foundations are laid for a clash of various Big Tech incarnations of the super app.
In late 2022, Microsoft was rumored to be building a super app using Bing as the foundation, and recent investment into ChatGPT adds fuel to that fire. Even Elon Musk hinted at his ambitions to turn Twitter into a one-stop-shop for just about everything.
There are still significant barriers to bundling a plethora of services into a single app, but that isn’t stopping companies from racing to be the one to do it. To the victor go the spoils.
The Resiliency of Life Extension
The concepts of immortality and age reversal have been a preoccupation of mankind since the dawn of time, so it stands to reason that technology that promises extra lifespan and quality of life continues to be compelling for individuals and investors alike.
Players in this space can approach life extension and anti-aging from a number of different angles, from supplements to tinkering at the cellular level.
Two high-profile examples in this space are Calico, which is a subsidiary of Alphabet, and the Jeff Bezos-backed Altos Labs. Other billionaires have expressed an interest in life extension as well, including Peter Thiel, who has definitive views on mortality.
I believe if we could enable people to live forever, we should do that. […] I think it is against human nature not to fight death. – Peter Thiel
In 2023, look for more investment and news from startups focused on gene therapy, genome analysis, regenerative medicine, or “longevity in a pill”.
Beyond Plastic: The Bio-Based Materials Boom
Public pressure is mounting for producers of consumer goods to change the way they manufacture their products.
The good news is that many of the largest producers of consumer packaged goods and apparel have some kind of plan in place to use more post-consumer recycled plastic in their products. The bad news is that not enough plastic is recycled globally for companies to source enough material to produce their products more sustainably. As a result, many companies are exploring the option of ditching plastic entirely.
For example, materials derived from seaweed are an active area of innovation right now. Mushrooms and algae are also commonly-used materials from nature that are being used to create biodegradable products. In one particularly interesting example, a company called MycoWorks recently began working with GM Ventures to explore the use of mycelium-based leather alternatives in GM’s vehicles.
While researchers and companies are just scratching the surface of what’s possible, consumers are likely to see more tangible examples of bio-based materials popping up in stores. After all, brands will be very eager to talk about their increasingly plastic-free product lines.
Misc4 days ago
Visualizing the Odds of Dying from Various Accidents
Energy2 weeks ago
The Periodic Table of Commodity Returns (2013-2022)
Technology2 days ago
Infographic: 11 Tech Trends to Watch in 2023
Misc4 weeks ago
Infographic: The Longest Lasting Cars, in Miles
Politics2 weeks ago
Which Countries are the Most Polarized?
Energy13 hours ago
Visualizing the Scale of Global Fossil Fuel Production
Markets4 weeks ago
The U.S. Stock Market: Best and Worst Performing Sectors in 2022
Energy2 weeks ago
Visualizing China’s Dominance in Battery Manufacturing (2022-2027P)