Are smart phones killing point-and-shoot cameras?

I think it's fair to say that, for the most part, the smart phone has killed the MP3 player. Unless you need a device that can hold your entire music collection, sticking songs on your phone is infinitely more convenient. Are smart phones slowly killing point-and-shoot digital cameras, too? CNet blogger Harry McCracken thinks so, and his argument seems compelling.

As he points out, Apple's upcoming iPhone 4S is supposed to have a vastly improved camera. The resolution has gone up from five to eight megapixels for stills and from 720p to 1080p for video. Apple has also implemented "all-new optics . . . an improved backside illumination sensor, excellent auto white balance, advanced color accuracy, face detection, and reduced motion blur." Sample photos look surprisingly good:

I think we can reasonably expect other smart phone makers to follow suit. Sure, phones will always be handicapped by small sensors, a lack of zoom lenses, and ineffective flashes. However, they're coming awfully close to the quality of cheaper point-and-shoot cameras—and as McCracken points out, consumers aren't going to bother with a separate camera unless it's a lot better than their phone. On top of that, phones make mobile photography awfully convenient: they let you edit photos right away and e-mail them to friends, put them up on Facebook, or even upload them to Flickr.

I personally haven't bothered with a point-and-shoot in quite a while. I have a chunky Canon Digital Rebel XSi DSLR for serious photography, and I use my iPhone 4 for everything else, from vacation photos to random pictures of things I come across in everyday life. I'm not thrilled with the quality, especially under poor lighting conditions, but the sheer convenience factor has already pulled me away from the world of consumer cameras. I imagine I'm not the only one, either. If picture quality improves substantially with the next generation of phones, then I might even have to consider leaving my DSLR at home more often.

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