Earlier this month, we at Creative Strategies, conducted a study across 1000 US consumers to understand how smartphone owners use the camera on their smartphones. We also wanted to know how much of a driver the quality of the camera is when it comes to buying a new smartphone as well as what else users might want to see added to their camera capabilities.
Long gone are the days when we talked about cameraphones as a sub-segment of the mobile phone market. Today, while the quality might differ, it is almost impossible to find a mobile phone without a camera. And so, as users, we have come to embrace this feature on our phones wholeheartedly. Forty-three percent of our panel said they take pictures with their phones daily and another 32% said they do so weekly.
Apple’s marketing line that the iPhone has become the most used camera in the world rings true in our data showing that 54% of iPhone owners take pictures daily with 77% saying that they take up to 30 pictures a week.
Our Reliance on Cameras is growing
Not only we take pictures often, but we also have a wide range of things we love to take pictures of. Outside of Gen Z, selfies are not a priority for most of us, with only 19% of our panel saying their lovely self is the most likely subject of their picture and another 23% saying they most take pictures of themselves with someone else. Fifty-six percent of the consumers we interviewed said they most often take pictures of sceneries, making it the most popular kind of photograph. Forty-three percent of the panel said they take pictures of their pets the most, with another 37% mentioning their kids as their most popular subjects. If you follow me on Twitter, you already know I do fall into these last categories. Surprisingly, especially if you are on Instagram and pay attention to all those #cameraeatsfirst posts, only 22% of the panel said that food is their most photographed subject.
Interestingly, the second most popular subject for our pictures has very little to do with making memories and a lot to do with just our memory! A whopping 50% of the consumers we interviewed said they most often take pictures of information they need to remember. As camera quality improved, we have been able to take pictures of slides at a presentation, or ingredients on a food packaging, or a receipt in case we lose it, or scan documents that can be saved as PDFs for us to sign or edit. All things that we would not have done with a regular camera, as photography was more of an art form than a practicality.
The Feel-Good Factor of a “Real Camera”
Although the reliance on our smartphone’s camera is growing, not everybody is ready to give up the safety blanket of a real camera. Seventeen percent of the consumers we interviewed said they actively use a DSLR and another 9% actively use a compact point and shoot kind of camera. DSLRs are even more popular with early tech adopters among whom, active usage grows to 30%.
For active users of standalone cameras, the reason to have a dedicated camera stands equally on the ability to have more control over the pictures they take and the belief that a dedicated camera still takes better pictures that a camera on a phone. For DSLR owners, control over their shots is the main driver – 82% calling this reason out.
The Love of Photography does not depend on the Camera You Use
As I was dissecting the data, it became clear that current DSLR users do not feel much different about their smartphone camera as users who solely rely on their phones to take their pictures. This might come as a surprise, as DSLR users are often seen as photography purists and therefore expected not be more critical of technologies that try and replicate the results but not the experience of taking a picture.
First, DSLR users are actually more impressed (42%) than regular smartphone camera users (38%) by the quality of the pictures that we can now snap with our phones. Second, they are appreciative of the fact that smartphone cameras allow them to capture moments in their life in a way that a dedicated camera never did (42%).
Where DSLR users differ from “regular” smartphone users is on their wishlist for which features they would like to see in their next smartphone camera. Both groups want better low-light and better zoom capabilities, but after that, the love for being in charge of your own shot vs. capturing the perfect shot splits the groups. Among panelists who only rely on their phone to take pictures, 46% want to see smarter camera software to help them take the best possible picture, while for DSLR users better image stabilization is a priority at 45%.
DSLR users seem to also be much more engaged with their smartphone camera doing more and on a wider range of activities than consumers who solely rely on their phone.
The most fascinating data point, in my view, when it comes to DSLR users and their love for photography is represented by the fact that for 24% of them the camera is the most important factor driving their smartphone purchase decision. This compares to only 14% across consumers who only rely on their phone for their pictures.
The moral of the story: smartphone cameras might have killed the sales of dedicated cameras but not the love for photographs!