Low-light test: (From left) Apple iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S4, Canon PowerShot G15. Taken just as the sun was going down, the mid-range Canon takes significantly brighter and cleaner shots. Photo: Jenneth Orantia
A couple of years ago, Olympus' digital imaging unit set up a guerilla ad campaign specifically to trash talk smartphone cameras. Among the zingers it included as slogans were, "If your camera also sends text messages, that will explain why your photos are rubbish", and "A camera phone is to photography what two-minute noodles are to cooking".
Olympus even went so far as to register the getarealcamera.com domain name, which redirected back to the company's main website.
Nikon's newest flagship compact, the Coolpix A, packs the same 16.1-megapixel APS-C sensor found in the much bulkier Nikon D7100 DSLR.
It was right to be worried.
"Things like Instagram have obviously made photography more fun," he says. "Thanks to smartphones, we're starting to see more people take photography up as a hobby because it's more accessible now - people that maybe wouldn't have gotten into it otherwise."
The latest smartphones such as the Apple iPhone 5 and the HTC One have seen vast improvements to the camera modules compared to earlier generations, with more megapixels, better low-light performance and higher-quality lenses. But it's the two-punch combo of convenience and easy sharing, rather than image quality, that has made smartphones such a popular choice for photography.
"The fact that you're only carrying one device is the one of the main advantages. You can capture the moment at any moment," says John Featherstone, managing director of Sony Mobile Communications Australia. "There's also been a big shift due to social networking, and the way we capture and share photos is changing."
Nokia's product marketing manager, Stephen Baxter, credits the explosion in smartphone photography to the ability it gives users to instantly share photos with family and friends. "It's just so much easier on a smartphone. You can't do that with a lot of compact cameras. You take the photo, and then you have to wait until you get home before you can upload it to your PC and then put it online."
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