Curious history of consumer digital cameras

Digital cameras in the period 2000-2020 have a curious rise-and-fall history. The period 2000-2001 was a period of gadgets, Palmtops were doing brisk business, Camcorders and digital cameras were also selling well. Consumer and prosumer digital cameras were being released, having around 5MP. Previous to this timeframe there existed some Sony Mavica cameras but the quality of these 5MP ones was quite improved. Several cameras with large sensors (1/1.8″) were available then. Large sensor mostly means improved photo quality. Since DSLRs are out of scope for this post, we will consider 1/1.8″ sensor as large. Large sensor is a big advantage in consumer cameras.

As we move to the period 2008-2009 and beyond, the megapixels were on the rise. Now, 12-15MPs were easily available. Still companies were using large sensors to provide quality pictures. Higher zooms were available now, image stabilization had become the norm.

In the 2010-2012 period though, the sensor sizes became smaller and zooms became higher. This reduced photo quality. Why would companies want to do this? I can only guess that higher zooms would give the cameras a USP and allow them to be sold for a higher margin. At the same time, smaller sensor sizes would allow even more margins. Hoping the customer would not notice.

In the 2016-2017 period, smartphones started taking the lead in consumer photography and camera sales started declining. One important factor that added to this was the lack of innovation in digicams. Sales of consumer DSLRs such as the Nikon D5100 also started declining. As early as 2010 Nokia was talked about as the world’s largest seller of digital cameras, but the quality of photos from mobile phone cameras was poor. In 2010 – Nokia sold over 435 million camera phones worldwide, giving them over a 30% market share of all digital cameras sold globally that year. However the picture had changed by 2015. Nokia’s phone business had been sold off to Microsoft, and its worldwide phone sales for the full year were less than 30 million units. From leading the digital camera market in 2010 with over 30% share, Nokia had vanished from the top vendor rankings within just half a decade. iPhone 6 had been launched with a not-too-bad camera (though with a small sensor again). Most cellphones still had a small sensor to save cost (and because of space constraints in a phone), so the quality was still questionable in spite of technological improvements. No one was thinking about quality, only margins.

The above graph shows 2010 as year 1 and so on.

Around 2009-2013 several markets, esp in Delhi NCR were dedicated to cameras, lenses, repairs etc. By 2023 most of these had either closed or started catering only to professional gear.

In 2018, most mobile phones started shipping with two cameras on the back, which soon increased to 3 or 4 cameras. This, along with AI improvements allowed ‘background blur’ without using expensive lenses, in a never-before way. It dealt a serious blow to the digicam market. Overall, 2018 saw a significant improvement in mobile phone camera quality, both because of use of AI and multiple cameras. A battle was on among mobile companies to improve photo quality without increasing sensor size. Some of the more expensive phones did start getting larger sensors though of late.

As of 2023, only 1 – 2 models for new consumer digital cameras or consumer DSLRs were available in India, that too with difficulty. The consumers are at a loss: those who cannot afford a professional DSLR have to make do with low quality smartphone photos (even iPhone photo quality at best can be rated ‘poor’ compared to what a decent camera of today could do, if manufactured**). We are buying mobile phones that are being sold at prices several times the manufacturing cost. Yet, giving us low quality because the customer is not smart.

My suggestion to the smart buyer: rather than buying an expensive iPhone, buy a normal phone (costing around USD 300) and use the rest of the money to buy a mirrorless DSLR. You have nothing to loose but your mobility!

** some of the latest iPhone models do have larger sensors to improve quality.

Crux of the story: market for digital cameras got killed because of the greed of camera companies.

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Digital Camera Capability Index

DCCI – a technical score based on simple parameters that indicate the quality of photos that can be expected. Here is my formula:

DCCI = (Sensor Diagonal Length in mm)^1.2 * (Max Zoom factor available) * ln(2^((Year Manufactured-1975)/1.5))/ln(10) / Const
Const is fixed at 559.7566738, calculated using a specific camera as “standard”.

formula

For example, for the Canon Powershot A650 IS that I used to have:

DCCI = (9.3^1.2 x 6) x ln(2^((2007-1975)/1.5) / (ln(10)*const) = 1

Similarly for Panasonic Lumix LZ20 that I also have:

DCCI = 3.1762

For a modern cellphone camera, like the iPhone 14 Max Pro:

DCCI = (9.5^1.2 x 3) x ln(2^((2022-1975)/1.5) / (ln(10)*const) = 0.76534 (since it features 3X optical Zoom)

For Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 24-105mm kit lens:

DCCI = (43.27^1.2 x 4.375) x ln(2^((2008-1975)/1.5) / (ln(10)*const) = 4.7581

Though I do believe that DSLR technology has not seen the same level of improvement over the last decade as the mobile camera tech. This is version 2 of the index. Version 1 was:
DCCI = ((Mega Pixels ^ 0.8) * (Optical Zoom) * (Sensor Size ^ 1.2)) ^ 2.3

For detachable lens camera use the total zoom of all lenses you own.

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Basant Panchami

Today is Basant Panchami, an Indian festival of spring. The flowers are in full bloom – an image below, shot and edited completely on my Sony Xperia Z2. There are lots of colours all around.

Spring Flower
Spring Flower, India

Sikhism believes only in worship of One God, Who is Unborn and all pervading. He is the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer. The following is a translation of Basant Ki Vaar (Ode of Basant) by the Fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev ji. While spring is one of the four seasons, here Guru ji speaks of everlasting spring within our heart and mind which is the culmination of worship and surrender to God.

ਬਸੰਤ ਕੀ ਵਾਰ ਮਹਲੁ ੫
बसंत की वार महलु ५
Basanṯ kī vār mahal 5
Basant Kee Vaar, Fifth Mehl:
ੴ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥
ੴ सतिगुर प्रसादि ॥
Ik▫oaʼnkār saṯgur parsāḏ.
One Universal Creator God. By The Grace Of The True Guru:
ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਇ ਕੈ ਹੋਹੁ ਹਰਿਆ ਭਾਈ ॥
हरि का नामु धिआइ कै होहु हरिआ भाई ॥
Har kā nām ḏẖi▫ā▫e kai hohu hari▫ā bẖā▫ī.
Meditate on the Lord’s Name, and blossom forth in green abundance.
ਕਰਮਿ ਲਿਖੰਤੈ ਪਾਈਐ ਇਹ ਰੁਤਿ ਸੁਹਾਈ ॥
करमि लिखंतै पाईऐ इह रुति सुहाई ॥
Karam likẖanṯai pā▫ī▫ai ih ruṯ suhā▫ī.
By your high destiny, you have been blessed with this wondrous spring of the soul.
ਵਣੁ ਤ੍ਰਿਣੁ ਤ੍ਰਿਭਵਣੁ ਮਉਲਿਆ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਫਲੁ ਪਾਈ ॥
वणु त्रिणु त्रिभवणु मउलिआ अम्रित फलु पाई ॥
vaṇ ṯariṇ ṯaribẖavaṇ ma▫oli▫ā amriṯ fal pā▫ī.
The whole universe has blossomed forth, obtaining the Fruit of Ambrosial Nectar.
ਮਿਲਿ ਸਾਧੂ ਸੁਖੁ ਊਪਜੈ ਲਥੀ ਸਭ ਛਾਈ ॥
मिलि साधू सुखु ऊपजै लथी सभ छाई ॥
Mil sāḏẖū sukẖ ūpjai lathī sabẖ cẖẖā▫ī.
Meeting with the Holy Saints, peace wells up, and all sins are erased.
ਨਾਨਕੁ ਸਿਮਰੈ ਏਕੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਫਿਰਿ ਬਹੁੜਿ ਨ ਧਾਈ ॥੧॥
नानकु सिमरै एकु नामु फिरि बहुड़ि न धाई ॥१॥
Nānak simrai ek nām fir bahuṛ na ḏẖā▫ī. ||1||
O Nanak, remember in meditation the One Name, and you shall never again be consigned to the womb of reincarnation.. ||1||
ਪੰਜੇ ਬਧੇ ਮਹਾਬਲੀ ਕਰਿ ਸਚਾ ਢੋਆ ॥
पंजे बधे महाबली करि सचा ढोआ ॥
Panje baḏẖe mahābalī kar sacẖā dẖo▫ā.
The five powerful desires are bound down, when you lean on the True Lord.
ਆਪਣੇ ਚਰਣ ਜਪਾਇਅਨੁ ਵਿਚਿ ਦਯੁ ਖੜੋਆ ॥
आपणे चरण जपाइअनु विचि दयु खड़ोआ ॥
Āpṇe cẖaraṇ japā▫i▫an vicẖ ḏa▫yu kẖaṛo▫ā.
The Lord Himself leads us to dwell at His Feet. He stands right in our midst.
ਰੋਗ ਸੋਗ ਸਭਿ ਮਿਟਿ ਗਏ ਨਿਤ ਨਵਾ ਨਿਰੋਆ ॥
रोग सोग सभि मिटि गए नित नवा निरोआ ॥
Rog sog sabẖ mit ga▫e niṯ navā niro▫ā.
All sorrows and sicknesses are eradicated, and you become ever-fresh and rejuvenated.
ਦਿਨੁ ਰੈਣਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਇਦਾ ਫਿਰਿ ਪਾਇ ਨ ਮੋਆ ॥
दिनु रैणि नामु धिआइदा फिरि पाइ न मोआ ॥
Ḏin raiṇ nām ḏẖi▫ā▫iḏā fir pā▫e na mo▫ā.
Night and day, meditate on the Naam, the Name of the Lord. You shall never again die.
ਜਿਸ ਤੇ ਉਪਜਿਆ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਸੋਈ ਫਿਰਿ ਹੋਆ ॥੨॥
जिस ते उपजिआ नानका सोई फिरि होआ ॥२॥
Jis ṯe upji▫ā nānkā so▫ī fir ho▫ā. ||2||
And the One, from whom we came, O Nanak, into Him we merge once again. ||2||
ਕਿਥਹੁ ਉਪਜੈ ਕਹ ਰਹੈ ਕਹ ਮਾਹਿ ਸਮਾਵੈ ॥
किथहु उपजै कह रहै कह माहि समावै ॥
Kithhu upjai kah rahai kah māhi samāvai.
Where do we come from? Where do we live? Where do we go in the end?
ਜੀਅ ਜੰਤ ਸਭਿ ਖਸਮ ਕੇ ਕਉਣੁ ਕੀਮਤਿ ਪਾਵੈ ॥
जीअ जंत सभि खसम के कउणु कीमति पावै ॥
Jī▫a janṯ sabẖ kẖasam ke ka▫uṇ kīmaṯ pāvai.
All creatures belong to God, our Lord and Master. Who can place a value on Him?
ਕਹਨਿ ਧਿਆਇਨਿ ਸੁਣਨਿ ਨਿਤ ਸੇ ਭਗਤ ਸੁਹਾਵੈ ॥
कहनि धिआइनि सुणनि नित से भगत सुहावै ॥
Kahan ḏẖi▫ā▫in suṇan niṯ se bẖagaṯ suhāvai.
Those who meditate, listen and chant, those devotees are blessed and beautified.
ਅਗਮੁ ਅਗੋਚਰੁ ਸਾਹਿਬੋ ਦੂਸਰੁ ਲਵੈ ਨ ਲਾਵੈ ॥
अगमु अगोचरु साहिबो दूसरु लवै न लावै ॥
Agam agocẖar sāhibo ḏūsar lavai na lāvai.
The Lord God is Inaccessible and Unfathomable; there is no other equal to Him.
ਸਚੁ ਪੂਰੈ ਗੁਰਿ ਉਪਦੇਸਿਆ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਸੁਣਾਵੈ ॥੩॥੧॥
सचु पूरै गुरि उपदेसिआ नानकु सुणावै ॥३॥१॥
Sacẖ pūrai gur upḏesi▫ā Nānak suṇāvai. ||3||1||
The Perfect Guru has taught this Truth. Nanak proclaims it to the world. ||3||1||

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Guru Nanak gurpurab greetings

November 17th is being celebrated this year as the day Guru Nanak came to this earth. The foremost of His teachings was to stay detached from Maya (worldly pleasures) and always thank the Creator for his bounties. Simple living and serving to other beings were advocated.

Sharing below a greeting card which can be used to spread His Divine Message. (Click on the image to see bigger, two versions)

Message of Guru Nanak

Gurpurab Guru Nanak Dev ji

This first quote about Guru Nanak’s coming to this earth is from a ballad by Bhai Gurdas (Vaar 1, Pauri 24). The second quote, Guru Nanak’s message about devotion and humility is from Guru Nanak’s primary writing “Asa ki vaar“, and appears within Sri Guru Granth Sahib at Ang 470. Recital of God’s name under Guru’s guidance is important towards separating oneself from Maya (worldly pleasures) which then leads you to God.

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Flimager released

Flimager
Flimager

Finally, I was able to release Flimager today. Its a tool to setup your own Flash slideshow, with your own images. If your images are hosted on your own server, rather than on Picassa or Flickr, this is the tool to go for.

More details on the Flimager page: http://blog.2cent.me/flimager/

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Orange flowers

I don’t know the name of this flower, but it has been my favourite since childhood. As a kid, I used to ask my father to get me these flowers. He would leave some behind, before leaving for office. After coming home from school, the first thing I would do is to find the flowers he left for me, and make a garland.

So here the flower, if you know the name, please let me know:

Orange torange
Orange torange

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