What was probably considered a novelty and luxury a decade or so ago has grown up to challenge even one of the most established consumer electronics businesses today. The exponential growth of smartphones and the inclusion of high-quality photography components are, to some people, slowly causing the death not only of cheaper digital cameras but even interchangeable-lens digital single-lens reflex or DSLR models as well.

Canon and Nikon, two of the most popular and successful manufacturers of digital cameras, have lowered their forecasts for the fiscal year that ends in March 2014. Lens maker Tamron Co., also reports a dreary outlook, having sold 22% less interchangeable lenses since January this year. These companies attribute this situation to a weak global economy and buildup in stock, but many are seeing this as the writing on the wall made by the proliferation of smartphones.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that, at least for the moment, smartphones cannot compete with higher end, and also more expensive, DSLR cameras in terms of picture quality. But what these mobile devices lack in photography sophistication they make up in all other areas such as portability, convenience, connectivity, and price. In some devices, the components have reached a level that is just good enough even for some people whose livelihoods depend on taking digital photos. Snap a picture, apply some fancy filters or even some more complicated edit, upload to the cloud, and you’re done. More serious photographers might still prefer dedicated, standalone cameras, but these might slowly be a dying breed, at least as far as the target audience of these types of devices are concerned. Professionals, of course, will go with better equipment, no questions asked.

Not everyone is buying into this doom and gloom analysis, however. Some analysts believe that smartphone users who become more enthralled with mobile photography will eventually upgrade to better cameras. No one, however, seems to deny that smartphones are eating into the entry-level lines of digital camera makers. The question now is how long it will take before smartphone technology catches up even with the most sophisticated DSLR.

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal