Author(s): Peter Bryer
The best camera is the one you have with you.
One long-term vision of smartphone makers has been to replicate the quality and imaging flexibility of digital single-lens reflex cameras in a flat, low-cost, pocketable phone. The idea that complex and precise camera functions could be stuffed into a converged device seemed far-fetched a decade ago, but new hardware and software components are allowing for some DSLR features to be implemented in handsets.
Certain Qualcomm Snapdragon processors support imaging features such as Phase Detection Autofocus and Laser Autofocus (which uses a combination of sensors to quickly determine a subject). These advanced imaging capabilities are now coming to some mid-tier handsets.
The LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy S5 were among the first smartphones to include some of this new technology, but its use is becoming more common. Certain devices from Lenovo, LeTV and Oppo now employ similar methods.
Smartphone makers and component suppliers can throw around DSLR terms in their spec lists, though real-world physical limitations like sensor sizes and light will continue to temper product overlaps. But the point-and-shoot camera market will be under greater duress, and some younger generations might never know another camera other than the one found in their mobiles.
Phone cameras have only been widely available for 10 years, and were originally designed for spontaneity rather than quality. But there was never a doubt that camera phones would work their way up the market. While it's difficult to beat the imaging results of system cameras, smartphones are well-connected and practically extensions of ourselves.
Five years ago, former Nokia executive Anssi Vanjoki predicted that handsets would make dedicated cameras "obsolete". At the time, the comment appeared completely senseless to imaging buffs. Now it's slightly less so. The high-end camera market is still a different animal; Mr Vanjoki was a visionary who spoke in generalisations. But, in general, things are heading toward ultimate convergence.