With Apple having unveiled its Retina laptop displays last month, some pundits figure it's only a matter of time before higher resolution displays begin to march across the market. While exciting for the computer industry, a big question is starting to emerge in the area of everyday photography: Could those better, sharper, clearer displays send users running back to "real" cameras?
Buzzfeed posited the question recently, and it's worth mulling over — especially if you're a camera goof (like me). Obviously pro photogs, or even amateurs with some photo skillz, are more likely to have better cameras on them more of the time anyway, and they're able to immediately see the difference between a cell phone pic and a DSLR shot. I've seen our resident camera expert, Mike Perlman, running around with one, two, even three high-end cameras, depending on the situation, and he can spot a bad image a mile away. No, this question isn't so much for him and his brethren; it's for us, the average snapshot-taking masses.
We upload and share so much on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr and other places that it has become second nature to many of us, thanks to our increasingly powerful smartphone cameras. And in the moment of preview, the images look just fine to our uneducated eye. Even when we view them on our computers, some images look — dare I say it? — fairly decent. Then we zoom in. Or we go to print. Or we open them on a Retina display that uncovers every flawed, blurry, under-saturated, stripey fail on our irreplaceable photos, and our hearts sink.
I'll just say it: We have been duped by smartphone camera marketing. But, and this is important, we are willing accomplices in our own con. Too many of us ignore the experts and stubbornly cling to the idea (whether stated or implied) that megapixels somehow correlate to quality — and they just flat-out don't. Things like light, sensors and aperture are crucial, but we turn a blind eye to them and get greedy for the MP count instead, expecting far too much from these slim little phones. And while that has always been the case, it's getting harder to bury our heads in the sand. Over time, there will only be more Retina laptop displays to reveal all those heartbreaking flaws in our would-be masterpieces and irreplaceable memories.
This revelation really might be enough to drive people back to dedicated cameras, if it wasn't for one thing: Inconvenience. The bulk factor will continue to cause some people to leave their DSLRs (and even their point-and-shooters) at home. So once people are out and about, the choices change. It's not so much between a phone vs. a dedicated camera. It actually comes down to something else — an imperfect cell phone shot or no shot at all.
What's your take on this? Faced with photographic flaws evident on a super-crisp screen, do you think people will flock back to their dedicated cameras? Or will smartphone cameras continue to dominate?