Why smartphones can't kill point-and-shoots

Many smartphone owners might be leaving their point-and-shoots at home, but the category is far from dead.

The Canon PowerShot SD1400 IS is small, light, and beats the hell out of your smartphone's camera for snapshots. Sarah Tew/CNET

It's a popular exercise with tech writers to declare product categories dead because of the iPhone or smartphones in general. Everything from GPS devices to alarm clocks to my editorial category at CNET Reviews, point-and-shoot digital cameras and camcorders.

It would be silly for me to try and argue that smartphones haven't played a part in slowing the purchase rate of compact cameras; I'm fairly certain they have. It would also be silly to say smartphones aren't legitimate photo tools or great for that shoot-and-share experience. However, saying that it'll be the death of the entire category is ridiculous as is suggesting that only high-end compacts and dSLRs will remain.

People with smartphones tend to forget that the whole world doesn't have or want a smartphone or their accompanying data plans. This is especially true of tech writers who are generally surrounded by people with the latest and greatest gadgets (I'm certainly guilty of it). Just because everyone around you has abandoned a point-and-shoot in favor of their mobile device's camera, doesn't mean no one's buying them or using them or wanting them.

The point-and-shoots that are mostly losing to smartphones are the entry-level compacts and ultracompacts. That makes sense since a cheap camera has a lot in common with what you get in a smartphone: slow performance, limited shooting controls, and photos that look good at small sizes, such as when viewed on a 3.5-inch LCD. The starting price for value-added cameras, where you start to get better features, image quality, and performance, is about $180 right now. The thing is, as time and technology move forward, the high-end features trickle down to the entry-level cameras and will eventually give you more of a reason to keep one handy.

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