Dumb Cameras Died

You remember point-n-shoot cameras? Maybe you’ve got an old one tucked away in a closet or drawer. It still works just fine, but so does your camera-phone that’s always tucked in your pocket or purse. You’ve probably seen a news headline in the last few years declaring that the point-n-shoot camera is dead. But in case you missed it, yeah, dedicated consumer digital cameras died a while back. Yet digital photography thrives now more than ever, so maybe those old cams could make a comeback.

Photographic Evidence

Two years ago, I accepted the demise of the dedicated point-n-shoot. I had read the articles explaining how and why they were declared dead before then. But while my mind understood, my heart denied it. That is until I was at Grandma’s 90th Birthday Party.

A momentous occasion, celebrating a life only one decade shy of a century, the party served also as a family reunion. Old and young attended on a beautiful sunny Spring day in April. The scene was a rented indoor pavilion/dining hall at a city park in the woods of East Texas. Everything about this event was photogenic.

To help make lasting memories, a professional photographer was hired to take family and group pictures. Of course, I noted she used a mid-range or high-end Nikon DSLR, which is what I would expect. These are dedicated cameras with interchangeable lenses, of which some are even dedicated to one set focal length.

I also paid attention to all the casual photo-takers. There were 130 family members and friends in attendance. And, like the pro-photog, I knew specifically at least three people who owned entry-level DSLRs. But I alone had the only point-n-shoot camera among all! I was the weirdo who dragged out his old-school cam instead of just using a smartphone. In fact, not only did everyone else use a smartphone, at least one used a tablet to shoot pictures!

After I saw with my own eyes how nobody used a point-n-shoot camera or their DSLRs at an event where there couldn’t be a better reason to do so, I was convinced. My heart accepted the fact that the camera was dead.

Back Focus

Why lament the march of progress though? Dumb old cameras gave way to more convenient and more feature-rich smart devices that fit in your pocket. Digital cameras of the past only took pictures. But smartphone cams can immediately edit them and share them with the world! It’s no wonder bulky old single-purpose image shooters are tucked away in closets.

But the technological shift in photography represents the passing of a short era, a time when digital cameras exploded in popularity and everyone, I mean everybody including your Uncle Bob, was suddenly a “photographer.” Every other person with a camera was starting a photography business. Photo-sharing and organizing sites like Flickr, SmugMug, Zenfolio, Picasa, and too many more to mention drew normal people online who otherwise would have ignored the web. At the same time, Facebook photo uploading was quickly surging in users. Then came Instagram and the rest is history.

A Long Focal Length

In technology, trends move so fast. “Dead” is a visceral word to declare old-tech what it really is: obsolete. But believe it or not, you can still buy a new point-n-shoot camera today; they’re still being made and sold. There is still a place for them, it’s just more niche. Dedicated cameras, despite lacking “smart” features, also still possess distinct advantages over your camera-phone.

For Easter this year, I busted out my 13 year old Canon S5 IS “Bridge type” point-n-shoot. It. Still. Works. I chose it for portraits of my sons because my iPhone 7 with a single lens does not have “portrait mode”; it lacks the second lens needed to do depth perception and blur the background in “Fokeh” (that’s faux-Bokeh). On my Canon, I used the long focal length of my 12x optical zoom lens to shoot from a far distance, getting sharp people-shots with a nice soft blurred backdrop.

Our beloved low-tech cameras of old retain their place in the world for their specialities. But even that may soon be history. This week, I’m expecting the delivery of my new phone, which is my new camera because it has not one lens but three! Wide, ultra-wide, and macro (no tele-photo)! These multi-lens smart-cams gain what was once exclusive to their obsolete counterparts, like portrait abilities.

Instead of mourning the loss of “pure” shooting and “real” cameras, we can encourage the growth of today’s camera kings. More smartphones stand to gain optical zoom lenses and larger sensors among other advancements. They’re great, but they could be even greater.

What do you think?