Image: Sony

It’s no secret that smartphones have decimated the sales of DSLRs, but standalone camera hardware could be taking another major step toward obsolescence relatively soon. That’s according to Terushi Shimizu, President and CEO of Sony Semiconductor Solutions (SSS), who spoke during a business briefing and said that the company expects still images from smartphones to “exceed the image quality of single-lens reflex cameras within the next few years.” Slides shared during the briefing include additional forecasts from Sony, such as still images being able to exceed ILC (interchangeable lens camera) image quality as early as 2024. “Quantum saturation,” improvements to AI processing, and increased sensor sizes are just a few of the factors that Sony has attributed to the improvements that are expected in smartphone camera technology in the years ahead.

“We expect that still images will exceed the image quality of single-lens reflex cameras within the next few years.” Terushi Shimizu, President and CEO of Sony Semiconductor Solutions (SSS), gives this outlook for smartphone-equipped cameras. It is said that this will be achieved by combining the trend of accelerating larger apertures for smartphones with the high saturation signal amount technology. According to the material presented at the same time as this remark, “Still images exceed the image quality of single-lens reflex cameras” in 2012, so the standard for exceeding single-lens reflex cameras is considered to be 24 years.

Source: Sony (via Nikkei)

Go to thread

Don’t Miss Out on More FPS Review Content!

Our weekly newsletter includes a recap of our reviews and a run down of the most popular tech news that we published.

31 comments

  1. Honestly if you had an older DSLR and were not keeping up with upgrades over the past few years. Other than better telephoto performance and lens options... Smartphones have outpaced DSLR for casual users a LONG time ago.
  2. If you don't expect the photo you took to actually resemble scene you're taking it of, you can use a smartphone.

    And don't take that in a negative way - professional photographers also use smartphones. Right tool for the job (or moment), and all.

    Should also note that Sony stopped selling 'DSLRs' over a decade ago now too. They abandoned their in-house transition SLTs a few years back as well. It's all mirrorless now, for which Sony competes with Canon for market domination.

    In no way, shape, or form are smartphones within striking distance of current mirrorless cameras. The difference doesn't matter to most consumers, as sales volume indicates clearly, but that doesn't erase the disparity either.
  3. Honestly if you had an older DSLR and were not keeping up with upgrades over the past few years. Other than better telephoto performance and lens options... Smartphones have outpaced DSLR for casual users a LONG time ago.
    Exactly. But, the naysayers (scared photographers and DSLR/Mirrorless manufactures) fearmongering claimed for years that it wasn't "physical" possible. Well...
  4. Ha ha ha. I'm pretty sure I've heard this rhetoric before.

    You can't extract the same amount of light with a tiny lens and a tiny sensor. Never will.

    In good sunlight smartphones are good enough for most people. But any other scenario and they fall apart.

    I'd also be weary at the mention of AI in photography. It makes me think "if you can't make it fake it"
    Even though I happily use AI enabled software in post production I want the pictures coming from the camera to reflect reality as close as possible, if the AI shenanigans already start in the camera that's not a real image, that's an imitation.
  5. My in-laws still use a Sony digital camera from, like... 25 years ago? It eats AA batteries like there's no tomorrow, you can't get the memory cards for it anymore. But they swear by it. It might be 4MP? Not sure.

    Their phones or iPads would take significantly better pictures, but it's what they know. Not like they are professional photographers anyway, so whatever makes them happy.

    I do agree - for most people, who aren't "into" photography as a hobby or profession, phones have been "good enough" for a long time now. It's actually kind of amazing how many devices the smart phone has killed off -- stand alone GPS, stand-alone music players, digital cameras, etc.
  6. Honestly if you had an older DSLR and were not keeping up with upgrades over the past few years. Other than better telephoto performance and lens options... Smartphones have outpaced DSLR for casual users a LONG time ago.
    What do you mean outpaced? Even a 10+ year old entry level DSLR outperforms smartphones in anything but the megapixel value, which is about the least important metric when it comes to digital photography.
  7. What do you mean outpaced? Even a 10+ year old entry level DSLR outperforms smartphones in anything but the megapixel value, which is about the least important metric when it comes to digital photography.
    You mean there's more to photography than megapixels?

    /s
  8. My in-laws still use a Sony digital camera from, like... 25 years ago? It eats AA batteries like there's no tomorrow, you can't get the memory cards for it anymore. But they swear by it. It might be 4MP? Not sure.
    Compact cameras are in no way comparable to DSLR quality. Even bridge cameras were a world away from actual DSLRs in the 2000s, and compact cameras are two steps bellow that even. I know, I went through the entire ladder.

    I even sold my DSLR in 2019 becuase I bought into the bullshit that smartphones are enough for casual use, so I learned the hard way that they are still utter turds for taking photographs in anything but direct sunlight. And even there the quality is just barely acceptable.
  9. What do you mean outpaced? Even a 10+ year old entry level DSLR outperforms smartphones in anything but the megapixel value, which is about the least important metric when it comes to digital photography.

    My old Nikon D90 is still a way better camera than anything in any phone on the market.

    That said, smartphones have improved and overtaken it in some small areas.

    For instance, when the D90 launched, it was one of, if not the, first DSLR's that could capture video. It did so very well in 2008, but 2008 was a very long time ago now, and nowhere was that more evident than when I recently compared video quality between my D90 and my Pixel 5a. The phone simply produced MUCH better quality here. Even with multiple strong light sources, I just couldn't get enough light for the camera to capture good quality video.

    That said, DSLR's have an inherent advantage, and that is their size.

    A CMOS sensor is a CMOS sensor. They improve over time, and get higher resolution, better low light performance, better dynamic range, etc. etc. The thing is, if you want better low light performance or higher resolution with the same generation silicon you can always go bigger.

    1654119599200.png

    A full frame DSLR has a 35mm film equivalent CMOS sensor in it which measures 36x24mm. A crop size DSLR sensor (Nikon DX, or APS-C) usually measures be 22,2x14.8mm and 23.7x15.6mm.

    A typical smartphone has a sensor that ranges from 1/3" to 1/2.5" as in the chart above.

    Simply by being so much larger, a larger sensor can have more light fall on it, so it performs better in low light conditions. it also has so much more space for pixels, so the resolution can go up (if you really need it to, most camera resolutions are nuts these days)

    So the deal is, smartphone sensors are always going to need to be small. So, if you make a REALLY good smartphone sensor that outperforms the low light performance or resolution of a current gen DSLR, you could always take that same tech, and just make a larger version, and it would still be many times more light sensitive than the cellphone version.

    At some point we are going to reach saturation though. Where light sensitivity is "good enough" for all practical uses. Maybe that is what they are talking about?


    Also, size has another benefit, and that is that it allows you to have bigger and better lenses that have a more appropriate focal length for capturing images that look like humans expect them to.

    On a full frame DSLR, a 50mm lens is usually considered to be "normal" in that it looks "similarly zoomed" as the human eye. On a crop factor DSLR this number is 35mm. (keep in mind, we are talking lens focal length now, not frame size, same units, completely different concept)

    1654120173700.png

    The thing is, while we call 50mm "normal" on full frame cameras, this isn't quite the case. Sure, the level of "zoom" for lack of a better term, or the perceived "closeness" may be the same as the human eye, but the angles of the light beams entering the lens and hitting the sensor are still going to be a bit off compared to natural vision.

    The longer focal length you use, the straighter the light beams become. This is why most professional photographers use lenses in the 90-110mm range in order to take portraits, because peoples faces look the most natural this way. You could go longer, but there are limiting returns, and you'd have to stand at increasingly impractical distances away from the subjects.

    The thing is this. With the tiny sensor in a smartphone this means you are going to have to use a wider and wider (lower and lower focal length) lens in order to capture a "normal" distance image on that tiny sensor. Your incident light beams then wind up coming in at more and more of an angle and starts resulting in visual distortion effects.

    Have you ever noticed how when taking a selfie with a smart phone, whatever feature is closest to the phone looks disproportionately bigger, and things that are further away from the phone look disproportional smaller? You might have people saying things like "why does my nose always look so big in selfies or on zoom calls. This is why. The wide angle lens smartphones are forced to use because they have tiny sensors and very flat lenses directly cause this to happen.

    Some smartphones (notably Googles Pixel devices) try to minimize these effects using AI processing on images. They make it look a little bit more natural by dynamically stretching or shrinking areas of the image based on distance to the lens, but there is only so much they can do. This is unlikely something that will change with technology, because in order to truly do so, you'd need to alter perspective in order to see what is BEHIND an object.

    Though I suspect this is why some phones are starting to add so many lenses. Part of this is - of course - to get different levels of optical "zoom", but part of it is also probably to try to get different perspectives of the same shot, behaving like a phased array that an AI based algorithm can stitch back together again so that it looks more natural, despite being super wide angled. Still, the effects of this are likely to remain on the limited side.

    These concepts are not something that can easily be "engineered around" as they are dealing with the laws of physics of how light waves behave.

    Bigger cameras with bigger sensors and bigger lenses are always going to be better. There is a reason many high end professionals use medium format cameras like Hasselblads. Technological advancement will come over time, no doubt, but even when it does, that same technological advancement will come to the bigger cameras as well, continuing to give them a lead over smartphones.

    All of that said, there is such a thing as "good enough", and for most purposes, smartphones are already there. I used to be a huge photo buff, but I've barely used by DSLR in years, It's why I still have such an old one. The best camera for the job is the one you have with you, and in that regard, nothing beats the one that is constantly in your pocket.
  10. What do you mean outpaced? Even a 10+ year old entry level DSLR outperforms smartphones in anything but the megapixel value, which is about the least important metric when it comes to digital photography.
    Ease of use, zoom functionality with no additional purchase, portability, quality for the average consumer.

    Unless you want timeless photos done at an event, or are into photography in general then really all of the hassle around buying a DSLR camera, lenses, additional batteries, stands, and everything else is just not worth it.

    I invested a few grand (so CLEARLY not high end.) into my wife's DSLR interest some 8+ years ago. Now she doesn't even care about that because the newest phones take photos better than her skill could eek out of a a DSLR without needing to 'train up'. That and when you have the phone to play with the modern phones have many ways to emulate the abilities of a DSLR. Hell you can even take pictures in .RAW and do extended exposures and all of that fun stuff. + all of the stuff having it built into your phone includes.

    So yea... my few years ago is 8 ish years ago. And my Note 20 Ultra with it's 100 bla blah blah and built in 5x telephoto lens and umpteen other features makes her old DSLR with several lenses, tripod, extra batteries and memory cards, and so and and so on... seem old and and antiquated.

    I have ZERO doubt someone with skill using the camera could take amazing pictures. But when we want pictures these days on the fly it's to preserve memories. Not to get the most accurate light/color soaked images that have perfect reality captured.

    So I'll say again. A DSLR from a few years ago. (NOT cutting edge even then.) is outpaced by modern phones. Add in additional functionality and modern phones leave many DSLR and newer cameras in the dust.
  11. Ease of use, zoom functionality with no additional purchase, portability, quality for the average consumer.

    Unless you want timeless photos done at an event, or are into photography in general then really all of the hassle around buying a DSLR camera, lenses, additional batteries, stands, and everything else is just not worth it.

    I invested a few grand (so CLEARLY not high end.) into my wife's DSLR interest some 8+ years ago. Now she doesn't even care about that because the newest phones take photos better than her skill could eek out of a a DSLR without needing to 'train up'. That and when you have the phone to play with the modern phones have many ways to emulate the abilities of a DSLR. Hell you can even take pictures in .RAW and do extended exposures and all of that fun stuff. + all of the stuff having it built into your phone includes.

    So yea... my few years ago is 8 ish years ago. And my Note 20 Ultra with it's 100 bla blah blah and built in 5x telephoto lens and umpteen other features makes her old DSLR with several lenses, tripod, extra batteries and memory cards, and so and and so on... seem old and and antiquated.

    I have ZERO doubt someone with skill using the camera could take amazing pictures. But when we want pictures these days on the fly it's to preserve memories. Not to get the most accurate light/color soaked images that have perfect reality captured.

    So I'll say again. A DSLR from a few years ago. (NOT cutting edge even then.) is outpaced by modern phones. Add in additional functionality and modern phones leave many DSLR and newer cameras in the dust.

    It's not that hard to find cases where even the best modern smartphone performs terribly, but to your point, for average day to day use, in broad daylight, we are already at the "good enough" level with smartphones, to the extent where the extra quality you get from a DSLR doesn't warrant the inconvenience of lugging it around.
  12. Also, why are we talking about DSLR's?

    I mean, Canon has already announced that they are phasing out their top of the line DSLR's, and down market will likely follow. Nikon has not made any such proclamations, but they are probably making similar plans.

    The future of high end photography is now mirrorless cameras.

    Slightly less satisfying, but times change. I'm sure film fans felt this way when digital SLR's overtook them as well.

    I'd already have bought a mirrorless body if Nikon only made a good adapter that could take all of my F-Mount lenses. I know they made an adapter, but it lacks support for older AF and AF-D lenses that used a focus motor in the body. This means that my lens collection I painstakingly built up over the years would be unusable, at least with autofocus.
  13. Thing is DSLR cameras still are not perfect. If you really want to take a picture that looks better than a smartphone, get ready to not just buy a DSLR, but also lamps, reflective screens, stands, lenses, and much more.

    Newer phones can "fake" exposure, lighting, color balance, white balance, contrast, etc via AI filters.
  14. Thing is DSLR cameras still are not perfect. If you really want to take a picture that looks better than a smartphone, get ready to not just buy a DSLR, but also lamps, reflective screens, stands, lenses, and much more.

    Newer phones can "fake" exposure, lighting, color balance, white balance, contrast, etc via AI filters.

    Yeah, but nothing beats the real thing. Those AI effects always look kind of chintzy.
  15. Yeah, but nothing beats the real thing. Those AI effects always look kind of chintzy.
    Besides what's a perfect DSLR picture when you fill it with snapchat filters :LOL: :p :D
  16. Also, why are we talking about DSLR's?
    It's what people know, even though the only company still producing new models is... Pentax. Who never could figure out things like 'autofocus on a moving subject'. Bulletproof cameras though, and at more accessible prices than those of competitors!

    I think people are simply unaware of how far mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILCs) have advanced. Sony, the premiere phone sensor manufacturer, is also the premiere MILC sensor manufacturer, for literally everyone except like Leica and Canon. And Canon still uses Sony sensors in their compacts. Nikon? Sony sensor. Fuji? Sony sensor. Olympus, Panasonic? Sony. No one else can afford to make their own sensors, and everyone who did save for Samsung, Sony bought in the last ten years.

    And that's not a bad thing - Nikon, for example, has been using Sony sensors since the D3 - same generation as your D90 - and has been competing with Canon quite well in terms of sensor technology while also maintaining their own 'look' (color science in terms of color filter array on the sensor and analog to digital conversion of the resulting voltages into 'raw' photo data).

    There have also been leaps and bounds in what post-processing can do with the raw files coming off of larger-sensor MILCs. Cell phones do a lot of trickery, most of which has to do with combining fast exposures selectively with long exposures, to pull out enough detail from a shot to satisfy web requirements in terms of resolution and noise. Much of this is just plain guessing, and since they're pretty good at it, few would even notice.

    Thing is, even that ancient D3 would stand up to the best cell-phone cameras today, assuming a competent photographer, and the most modern equivalent from Nikon, the Z9, demands much, much less expertise.

    Without invitations to shoot the messenger, and without using a camera with a Sony-sourced sensor as an example, I'll hold up Canon's recently unveiled EOS R7 as an indication where "DSLRs" are headed. One could also look at their R5 and R3 cameras, as examples of high-resolution and sports cameras, respectively, and for a Sony example, check out the A1.

    While an inexperienced photographer might struggle to exceed the output of a cell phone camera using any of the above MILCs, it really doesn't take much knowledge to embarrass those stuck within the limitations of tiny cameras.

    Thing is DSLR cameras still are not perfect. If you really want to take a picture that looks better than a smartphone, get ready to not just buy a DSLR, but also lamps, reflective screens, stands, lenses, and much more.
    These things help cell phone cameras too - to the point that you can get strobe triggers for phones.
  17. Remember just a few years ago, there was a DSLR boom as many people realized DSLR quality was much better than any phone at the time.

    Nowadays the line has blurred. I have a few friends that jumped into DSLR back then and sweared by their cameras. Only one of them still uses it, but he also uses his phone and even a gopro.
  18. I know nothing of DLSRs but what used to be a 400 to 700 camera have been rendered utter garbage vs smarphones years ago. Unless somebody did DLSRs with AI for idiots like me, I doubt I would ever take a better picture with a camera vs a smartphone in my untrained hands. In a very practical sense, yeah, cameras are back to being a professional tool, and will have prices to match, and low production numbers.
  19. I can see a future in smartphones in which lenses may be of any shape, or multiple lenses, which are all specifically mathematically corrected for, overcoming all kinds of issues vs a big camera.

Leave a comment

Please log in to your forum account to comment