As the iPhone turns 15, smartphones continue to impact camera sales

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

One thing that has changed is that many people are now using their phones to easily take pictures anywhere, anytime without the need for a camera. Unsurprisingly, this change has caused major business problems for camera manufacturers.

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

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

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

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

Sharp drop in camera sales

Japan’s Camera & Imaging Products Association (CIPA) is one of the major organizations that collects and reports camera sales data worldwide. Its 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, overall digital camera shipments fell 6 percent, the group said in a press release. However, this latest drop comes after years of declining sales.

CIPA said the digital camera market continued to expand from 1999, when record-keeping efforts began. It experienced its first decline in 2009 and continued to decline thereafter. The biggest change came from 2010 to 2020, when global camera shipments fell about 93 percent, CIPA reported.

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

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

Although there was a small increase in 2017, overall digital camera sales have declined every year since 2018, CIPA said. The declines were mainly caused by a drop in shipments of digital cameras with built-in lenses, according to the market research company Statista.

Camera manufacturers have had more success selling digital cameras with interchangeable lenses. This is because these cameras are generally geared towards professional photographers who demand higher quality. Such cameras can “produce high image quality differs them from smartphones,” said CIPA.

The economic research company Research and Markets predicts that global sales will continue to fall sharply. In a February report, she noted that the global market for digital cameras is estimated at 8.4 million devices in 2020. By 2026, the market is expected to shrink to 1.2 million. The largest decline is forecast for digital cameras with built-in lenses.

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

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

Smartphone cameras for professionals

The continued sales declines demonstrate the tremendous impact smartphones have had on the entire camera industry. However, this does not mean that professional photographers never use smartphones to take pictures.

Some news photographers, for example, have noted 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.

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

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

Brynn Anderson works at AP in Atlanta, Georgia. She said: “Sometimes it can be like being a photographer with a bigger camera intimidating to the person photographed. Using a telephone makes it easier for me to be reached intimate Moments that might not happen.”

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

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

Dita Alangkara reports on Jakarta, Indonesia for AP. He said taking photos with a smartphone opens up more opportunities on the streets of Jakarta. “People are so used to people taking pictures with them gimmicks that they just ignore me. This gives me a whole new perspective explore…”

Rodrigo Abd, an AP photographer in Buenos Aires, Argentina, agrees. He says using the iPhone makes it easier for him to “always be alert” to everyday events when he’s not reporting on a message.

People walk through a crowded street in Jakarta, Indonesia in this iPhone photo taken by Dita Alangkara on Saturday, February 5, 2022.  (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

People walk through a crowded street in Jakarta, Indonesia in this iPhone photo taken by Dita Alangkara on Saturday, February 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

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

Oded Ballilty is based in Tel Aviv, Israel. “It’s a different tool that has definitely changed our work,” he said of the iPhone. But he added: “It’s the photographer, not the device definitely 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

differentiatev. recognize the differences between people, ideas or things

advantage n. something good in a situation that helps you

intimidatev. intentionally scaring someone, especially so they want you to want it

intimateadj. private and personal

device n. a device that performs a specific task

perspectiven. how you think about something

determinev. to discover the truth or facts about something

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