With iPhone turning 15, smartphones continue to hurt camera sales

The first model of Apple’s iPhone was launched 15 years ago. Since then, many different smartphones have been introduced. The devices now influence our daily lives in many ways.

One thing that has changed is that many people now use their phones to easily take pictures anywhere, anytime, without the need for a camera. Not surprisingly, this change has caused major business problems for camera manufacturers.

Of course, the camera is built into the first iPhone in June 2007 did not include a high-quality camera that could compete with individual camera models. But over the years, smartphone makers have invested heavily in research and development to change that.

Today, many smartphones have high-quality cameras designed to produce better photos than the cameras most people used for personal photos in the past. And most phones also offer powerful tools to improve the quality of the photos we take.

FILE - Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau (C), Mayor of Montreal Denis Coderre (L) and Prime Minister Philippe Couillard of Quebec (R) take a selfie with a group of young tourists during the celebration of Montreal's 375th anniversary in Montreal, Canada, May 17, 2017. (REUTERS/Dario Ayala)

FILE – Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau (C), Mayor of Montreal Denis Coderre (L) and Prime Minister Philippe Couillard of Quebec (R) take a selfie with a group of young tourists during the celebration of Montreal’s 375th anniversary in Montreal, Canada, May 17, 2017. (REUTERS/Dario Ayala)

Huge drop in camera sales

The Japan Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA) is one of the major organizations that collects and reports data on global camera sales. Members include major manufacturers such as Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Fujifilm and Sony.

In a report released in February, CIPA documented the continued decline in digital camera sales. In 2021, total digital camera shipments fell 6 percent, the group said in a press release. However, this latest decline came after years of declining sales.

CIPA said the digital camera market has been growing steadily since 1999, when record keeping began. It had its first decline in 2009 and then continued to decline. The biggest change occurred from 2010 to 2020, when global camera shipments fell about 93 percent, CIPA reported.

A photo of a wooden bench in the Basaksehir Forest in Istanbul, Turkey, in this Thursday, June 16, 2022 iPhone photo taken by Khalil Hamra.  (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

A photo of a wooden bench in the Basaksehir Forest in Istanbul, Turkey, in this Thursday, June 16, 2022 iPhone photo taken by Khalil Hamra. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Although there was a small increase in 2017, total digital camera sales have declined every year since 2018, according to CIPA. The decreases were mainly caused by declining deliveries of digital cameras with built-in lenses, notes market research agency Statista.

Camera manufacturers have had more success selling interchangeable-lens digital cameras. This is because these cameras are generally aimed at professional photographers who demand higher quality. Such cameras can “produce high image quality that” distinguishes them from smartphones,” CIPA said.

Research firm Research and Markets predicts that global sales are expected to continue to fall sharply. It noted in a report in February that the global digital camera market was estimated to reach 8.4 million devices by 2020. It says the market is expected to shrink to 1.2 million by 2026. The biggest drop is forecast for digital cameras with built-in lenses.

Members of the Mapuche indigenous community get together cooking a barbecue during Wetripantu or Mapuche New Year celebrations, in the village of Corrayen, Puyehue District, Chile, in this iPhone photo from Tuesday, June 21, 2022, taken by Rodrigo Abd .  (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Members of the Mapuche indigenous community get together cooking a barbecue during Wetripantu or Mapuche New Year celebrations, in the village of Corrayen, Puyehue District, Chile, in this iPhone photo from Tuesday, June 21, 2022, taken by Rodrigo Abd . (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Smartphone cameras for professionals

The continued drop in sales demonstrates the huge influence smartphones have had in the camera industry. But this does not mean that professional photographers never use smartphones to take pictures.

For example, some news photographers have found advantages to use them in their work. The Associated Press recently asked some of its photographers who use iPhones to describe how they use the devices.

A child splashes in a puddle to beat the summer heat in Doraville, Georgia in this Wednesday, June 15, 2022 iPhone photo taken by Brynn Anderson.  (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

A child splashes in a puddle to beat the summer heat in Doraville, Georgia in this Wednesday, June 15, 2022 iPhone photo taken by Brynn Anderson. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Brynn Anderson is based at the AP in Atlanta, Georgia. She said: “Sometimes it can be like being a photographer with a bigger camera intimidating for the person being photographed. Using a phone makes it easier for me to reach intimate moments that may not happen.”

A zebra stands on a farm near Lake Maggiore, Italy, in this Wednesday, May 11, 2022 iPhone photo by Oded Balilty.  (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

A zebra stands on a farm near Lake Maggiore, Italy, in this Wednesday, May 11, 2022 iPhone photo by Oded Balilty. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Dita Alangkara covers Jakarta, Indonesia for the AP. He said that shooting with a smartphone opens up more possibilities in the streets of Jakarta. “People are so used to seeing others take pictures with their gadgets that they just ignore me. This gives me a whole new one perspective to discover…”

Rodrigo Abd, an AP photographer in Buenos Aires, Argentina, agrees. He says using the iPhone makes it easier for him to “always pay attention” to everyday events when he’s not covering a news story.

People make their way through a busy street in Jakarta, Indonesia, in this Saturday, February 5, 2022 iPhone photo taken by Dita Alangkara.  (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

People make their way through a busy street in Jakarta, Indonesia, in this Saturday, February 5, 2022 iPhone photo taken by Dita Alangkara. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Khalil Hamra is an AP photographer based in Istanbul, Turkey. He said: “Honestly, every time I take a nice picture with my phone, I feel like something is missing and that it could have been better if I had taken it with my professional camera.”

Oded Balilty is based in Tel Aviv, Israel. “It’s another tool that has absolutely changed what we do,” he said of the iPhone. But he added: “It’s the photographer, not the device, that determines the quality of a photo.”

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from The Associated Press, Reuters and the Camera & Imaging Products Association.

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Words in this story

distinguishv. to recognize the differences between people, ideas or things

benefit n. something good in a situation that helps you

intimidatev. to scare someone on purpose, especially so that they want you to want them to do it

intimateadj. private and personal

gadget n. a device that does a particular job

perspectiven. the way you think about something

determinev. to discover the truth or facts about something

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