4K Smartphones are coming! (How Dead Are P&S Cameras?)
I think it is only a matter of a year or two , maybe three, before we switch from “camera phone” to “phone camera”. Point-and-Shoot (aka P&S) cameras will drop in sales until the only people buying them are those who don’t have a smartphone. (I hear there are ~1 billion smart phones in the world now, too!)
According to Engadget, the sensor company Aptina has debuted a 4K, 30 FPS sensor at the Mobile World Congress. Due to be available for camera makers to start using later this year, the Aptina 12 megapixel and 13 megapixel sensors also boast 1080p video at 96 FPS. Yikes!
When Will 4K Actually Be Available?
What I don’t understand is, how does this fit into the real world? 4K UHD video files are not going to be small. And the transfer speed is no small feat, either. Cinematographers are already gobbling up their hard drive space and Thunderbolt connections just recording 1080p video on their DSLR’s. So the question is, when can storage and bandwidth catch up with this crazy sensor technology? Aptina has also debuted a 720p 60 FPS front-facing camera for tablets.
I suppose one aspect of this is going to be live streaming, such as for front-facing cameras and online seminars etc. But that still raises the question, when will common internet speeds be able to stream 4K video?
To answer all of these questions, I’d say that these things are coming much sooner than we expect, and for some it is already happening! Sensor technology breakthroughs are happening left and right; storage and bandwidth technology breakthroughs must certainly be following close behind. I hope! Then all we’ll need is, well, faster computers to process it all.
What my own industry wants to know is, …when will 4K video be common on DSLR’s? Soon, as well!
The End (And A Beginning) Is Definitely Near
Anyways, people just don’t have a reason to carry two digital devices in their pocket anymore. It’s silly! For a few months before I got a smartphone, I used to carry my cheap flip-phone and an iPod Touch in my pocket together, and it was annoying as heck!
Check out my collection of cell phones and cameras and other pocket devices from over the years. Already, the latest cameras in the latest phones are vastly superior to the P&S’s from just a few years ago. We’re also seeing android-based cameras, which are basically a camera phone with no phone and a lot more camera. (A physical zoom lens usually)
Soon, when the previous concept of the P&S camera has officially died, I predict that there will be three main types of devices out there that are touted as “pocket sized” devices:
- The Smart Phone
Basically, phones like the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 5. Great phone, decent camera, slim design with variants including phones like the extra-large Samsung Note etc… A few photographic controls will be added, but the in-body lens design will be the key of these devices compactness.
- The Smart Camera Phone
The same device, but with a much larger emphasis on photography. A larger, moving-parts lens, full manual controls, and some will even have RAW capture and a half-decent sensor with good ISO performance. These devices will be marginally bigger than the traditional Camera Phone, but not much.
- The Smart Camera
The same device as above, but without cellular signal options, just like the wifi-only iPads and other tablets out there. These may be popular for those who don’t care for an advanced phone and the ball-and-chain of a data plan, especially as wifi becomes more common everywhere you go.
So basically, all our devices are going to look the same, and run on 2-3 different operating systems with access to apps and all sorts of other things.
Of course this doesn’t include the advanced compact cameras such as the Canon G-lineup and the awesome cameras from Panasonic and Fuji that excel in low-light and have f/2 lenses etc. Nor does it include the super-zoom compact cameras, with 20x or whatever crazy zoom factors they’re getting up to these days. I do predict that these markets will still see a decline due to the entry of such standardized Android / iOS P&S cameras and the mirrorless “EVIL” cameras.
Either way, a huge industry shift is clearly at our doorstep. I can’t wait to see what happens!