Smartphones May Be Eating Into The DSLR Camera's Market Share

It’s an old story in tech that one evolving area of a market cannibalizes another, and it’s possible that’s what’s happening with smartphones and high-end digital camera sales. Citing IDC’s research, the WSJ notes that shipments of DSLR cameras with interchangeable lenses will drop 9.1% to 17.4 million units, down from 19.1 million last year.

One IDC analyst, Christopher Chute, told the WSJ that he’s found that some consumers are eschewing a high-quality camera such as a DSLR and instead spending their dollars on smartphones and tablets.

There’s no doubt that cameras on mobile devices have blasted sales of compact point-and-shoot cameras, but the idea that smartphones (and to a lesser extent, tablets) are killing sales of DSLRs seems odd; the only thing that smartphone cameras and DSLRs have in common is that they both capture images. They’re completely different tools for different occasions and use cases, and although smartphone cameras on higher-end handsets have progressed dramatically in quality over the past few years, they don’t hold a candle to what a DSLR can do in terms of image quality, manual options, and the options afforded by various types of lenses.

Perhaps it’s the fact that for snapshots, smartphone cameras are so convenient, or the fact that you can fiddle with your images on-device using any number of photo editing apps, or just the delightfully convenient ability to upload everything you shoot with your phone directly to photo sharing sites such as Instagram.

Canon store
Credit: Bloomberg News

Canon spokesman Takafumi Hongo put it artfully: "Taking photos with smartphones and editing them with apps is like cooking with cheap ingredients and a lot of artificial flavoring. Using interchangeable cameras is like slow food cooked with natural, genuine ingredients.''

I’d agree with Hongo completely, but he’s overlooking something important: A lot of people are perfectly happy with cheap food, even though the alternative offers better flavor and greater health benefits. The same mindset appears to apply to cameras.

We’re curious: Have any of you held off on buying a DSLR because your smartphone camera suffices for your photography needs?