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Q&A

Should near future smartphones replace professional cameras?

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I never cleaned any lens from any smartphone camera and I hope that future smartphones won't require me to do that.

I don't know almost anything about camera technology; I am not familiar with the professional terminology so in great plea if you post an answer, make it as simple and as accessible for people with my level of knowledge on the subject as you can.

Contemplating the current technologies and possible improvements in the near future (around year 2027.½) is it plausible to assume that smartphones could, by far, replace professional cameras with lenses that require constant replacement and care (especially cleaning, I would guess) so that people could get pretty much the same photography quality but just without constant lens care?

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If (which I doubt) professional cameras actually need lens replacement (except for actual breakage, of course) every 'n' years, that would actually be no worse than "replace your smartphone every 'n' years to get new features/more memory/etc.", which is extremely common. manassehkatz‭ about 1 month ago

2 answers

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I'll focus (pun intended, of course) on the title:

Should near future smartphones replace professional cameras?

No. The reason is that a digital camera really has three components:

  • Sensor

The sensors of the best professional cameras will likely always be a few steps beyond the best smartphones. That is because smartphones (and any multifunction device in general) are a compromise based on cost, weight, size and other factors. The camera function of a smartphone is only one of many things it is expected to do, along with email, web browsing, maps, texting and even (really!) voice calls. If everything were at the highest level, the cost would be prohibitive and/or the device would be huge. So the sensor in a smartphone will typically be a generation behind the best sensors available (to save money). That being said, the sensor in a current model smartphone is likely better (at least in raw number of pixels) than the sensor in a professional camera from just a few years ago.

  • Processing

Processing is not fundamentally different between a smartphone and a professional camera. However, the typical smartphone will, by default, produce a JPG image of relatively moderate resolution & quality. That limits some of the possible image manipulations that can be done on a computer if you are able to start with RAW data. It may be possible (likely is, I haven't tried) to get RAW images from a smartphone, but that is a standard function of a professional camera.

  • Lens

This is by far the biggest difference. A typical smartphone has one tiny lens. A typical professional camera (digital or film) can accept a variety of lenses of different sizes optimized for different uses and can be adjusted as needed to get just the right shot. A smartphone typically has a "digital zoom" capability, but that is (mostly) image manipulation and not an actual lens adjustment. High-quality lenses make a huge difference in image quality, especially when going beyond simple portraits or other nearby objects.

The end result is that for the foreseeable future there will be a market for professional cameras for professionals and serious amateurs. At the same time, as smartphones continue to improve, they are able to capture more and more images at higher and higher quality and, particularly due to convenience (always available) and effectively unlimited memory (able to take multiple pictures where in the past you would try to get just one and hope for the best), allow ordinary people to take some pretty amazing pictures.

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On the subject of the sensor, an important point which you omit to mention is size. A 35mm sensor in a camera can capture a lot more light than a 10mm-or-so sensor in a phone, allowing either larger sensels (which is good for low light performance and reduced leakage) or higher resolutions (although that tends not to be the priority with professional photographers). Peter Taylor‭ about 1 month ago

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No.

Dirt happens. Phones don't magically get dirty less than lenses of high end cameras. In fact, the opposite is true. Even a semi-serious camera lens has a cap or hood. This is a simple mechanical barrier that minimizes dirt accumulation when the lens is not in use.

Your question is also based on a false premise:

professional cameras with lenses that require constant replacement and care

Camera lenses for professional use don't require "constant replacement", and no more care than any other lens, if you want good optical quality. They generally attract less dirt due to being capped when not in use than smart phone lenses. The reason it may appear that smart phone lenses don't need any care is because the users aren't expecting the same photographic quality, and largely don't care nor want to be bothered with the maintenance.

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