The Point-n-Shoot Camera is Dead

I’d like to introduce you to a little friend of mine. The little guy you see here is Timone, or “Monie” as his owners like to call him. A couple weeks ago we were up in Brainerd visiting Monie’s family, and being the little rascal that he is (he’s still in the kitten stage of life, being under a year old and all), they got him little bit of cat accoutrement in the form of a shirt that says “Naughty But Nice”. He definitely has the naughty bit in spades, that’s for sure.

So as cute as the little guy is, I ran over and snapped a few shots with my iPhone 4S. I was in relatively well lit kitchen, at night, with predominantly incandescent lighting, and that was the shot I got, straight out of the iPhone 4S camera. And trust me that when you blow it up to 100%, it still looks just as good.

As a life-long pixel peeper, ever since switching to digital for my photography business back in 2002, I’ve always been frustrated by how stupid cameras are. There’s really no other way to say it, but cameras are stupid. Why do you think that when I shoot a wedding, 99% of the shots I take are on full manual exposure? Yep, you got it: stupid camera. Cameras don’t know how to properly expose, focus, balance the color of light, or just about anything. That’s why most pro shooters use RAW: it’s so much easier to correct the decisions of the stupid camera.

And now Apple comes along with the iPhone 4S’ 8 megapixel pocket shooter and I’m telling you that it is just blowing me away. Shot after shot is not only sharp and in focus, but also very well exposed and remarkably accurate white balance. And that’s not even touching on the natural color balance as well (most p&s cameras and camera-phones have a nasty habit of over-saturating photos so that they look hyper-realistic and not at all natural). This little photo of Timone above is just one perfect example of many.

Apple is doing it right. I can’t stress that enough, and as a dyed-in-the-wool pixel peeper, I want to stand up and applaud them for doing that. They’ve learned much from their mistakes: the poor over-saturation from the iPhone 4’s camera, poor white balance, and slow shutter response times. This camera is amazing and produces so many “winners” right out of the gate, that it almost makes me not care that I can’t shoot in RAW. 😉 Almost….

One great example is white balance. Nailing accurate, neutral white balance has long been a great bugaboo of the camera industry, just ask any engineer from Canon or Nikon or Panasonic and they’ve really come a long way and have been at it for years. Incandescent shots come out way too orange, fluorescent light shots come out too green, sunny shots too blue, on and on and on. In the end, we just want it to look like how our eyes are seeing it, but that is so much easier said than done. But this simple shot of Timone, bathed in only incandescent light, simply has a nice warm glow to it, very close to neutral, yet ever-so-slighly warm. Just look at the white of the shirt and you’ll see that it’s very close to pure white, but a little on the warm side. But that’s just how I like it. Portraits look good when they’re a little on the warm side (despite what the Instagram hipsters will tell you…)

I’m telling you, the only thing holding back the true death of point-n-shoot cameras everywhere is the true lack of a zoom lens on camera-phones. That’s the only appreciable advantage they still have. When a company like Apple now has finally nailed it on the optics, the sensor (sony-made), the processing and the software, how on earth can Canon and Nikon compete with that?

We live in a truly amazing time.