Compact cameras haven't been sitting ducks, either. While smartphones have made steady improvements in image quality and functionality, compact cameras at the top end of the range now rival digital SLRs. 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, along with the same image processor from the older D7000.
Craig Gillespie, head of digital imaging at Samsung Australia, suggests smartphones are complementary to compact cameras rather than replacements. "It not an either or situation. Phones will deliver a very good image, but cameras are the next step up, with the functionality of the zoom, the functionality of optical image stabilisation, and that better low-light imaging," he says.
"People use cameras because they're taking photos at an event that they don't want to be disposable. They're looking for that permanency of a high quality memory."
There's no question that compact cameras produce higher quality snaps than a smartphone, but does it really matter? It comes down to your personal shooting style. If you're more of a social photographer and the vast majority of your photos only ever end up on Facebook or Instagram, a second compact camera may be superfluous - especially if you have a high-end smartphone such as the Apple iPhone 5 or Nokia Lumia 920. But if you want to reliably capture high-quality stills across different lighting conditions - particularly low light - as a means of preserving special memories, a smartphone makes for a poor substitute for a good compact camera.
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