The death knell for DSLRs has been ringing on an almost daily basis for the past few years, and now Qualcomm has joined the fray to explain the specific reasons why it believes phone cameras will soon do away with the aging camera format. .

In an in-depth interview with Android Authority (opens in a new tab), Qualcomm's vice president of product management for cameras, Judd Heape, explained why smartphones will soon relegate DSLRs to the mainstream. history. Y the vision lightly segada del manufacturer of chips is quite convincing, especially dada the reciente caída in the options of slow DSLR of terceros.

As you'd expect from one of the world's largest chipmakers, Qualcomm's predictions center around image processing. "The processing on Snapdragon is 10 times better than what you can find on the biggest and worst Nikon and Canon cameras," said Judd Heape. “And that's why we can really push the boundaries of image quality. Because even though we have a small lens and a small image sensor, we're doing much, much more processing than is capable of even on a DSLR," he said. additional.

(Image credit: Nikon)

This is certainly true, and has been for some time. The question for many photographers is how much processing is acceptable on their photos; after all, we're getting to a point where interpolation and AI edits start to make up the bulk of a smartphone photo. And for many traditionalists, even those who happily tweak their shots in digital post-processing, that's crossing the line.

But that's a separate discussion on the death of DSLRs. There's no question that DSLRs, which are differentiated from mirrorless cameras by their optical viewfinders, have seen a dramatic decline.

Yes, DSLR sales did see a small pick-up in a positive direction earlier this year, with shipments up 131,8% year-over-year in May (according to CIPA statistics (opens in a new tab)), but this was due to a shortage of components for mirrorless cameras. The big picture is that DSLRs are on the decline as a terminal, and that process has been accelerated by both camera manufacturers and smartphones.

Trust the process

High-end mirrorless cameras are not under imminent threat from smartphones. No amount of AI processing can replicate the quality and range of, say, a Canon EOS R5 and a super telephoto lens. This is also true of DSLRs, but their continued survival (at least on the production line) seems unlikely for a variety of reasons, including the main one outlined by Qualcomm.

The unofficial abandonment of DSLRs by Canon and Nikon - we haven't seen a new one since early 2020 - has left them in a dark age of processing. It's kept them in touch when it comes to modern features like video and AI subject recognition, and it's in this area that Qualcomm rightly believes the schism between phones and digital SLRs will grow.

A laptop showing Photoshop's Sky Replacement tool

Phones and software like Photoshop (above) can already recognize larger subjects like the sky. (Image credit: Future)

“We will have announcements very soon that we will have dedicated hardware to handle different parts of the scene,” Judd Heape told Android Authority. “The hardware on what to do with the pixels that are the skin, the hair, the cloth, the sky, the grass, the background. These are the domains, and again, they all apply to video, where we really see the need to add specific material." he added he.

It is not a completely new concept. Today's phones and mirrorless cameras can do extensive subject recognition, such as recognizing animals and the sky. But as Qualcomm explains, this will soon be taken to the next level and, crucially, it will take place in real time.

As Judd Heape explained, "Imagine a future world where you say, 'I want the image to look like this scene from National Geographic,' and the AI ​​engine says, 'Okay, I'll adjust the colors, texture, and white balance.' . and all to look and feel like that picture you just showed me.'"

It's a compelling prospect, though it certainly won't appeal to every photographer.

In the cold

None of this instantly makes DSLRs bad cameras. For a cleaner, traditional shooting experience with minimal processing, the best DSLRs are still some of the best photography tools around, especially when paired with high-quality lenses.

But when it comes to the point-and-shoot experience, the computational photography revolution is still underway. Phones will still be front and center. but mirrorless cameras will increasingly adopt similar tricks for different purposes. For example, Sony's next-generation flagships will likely include even more powerful subject recognition, which will be used for autofocus tracking rather than instant photo processing.

The Nikon Z9 electronic shutter in action

(Image credit: Nikon)

While the camera industry has absorbed declining sales in recent years, with DSLRs accounting for just 18% of its profits (compared to 69% for mirrorless cameras, according to recent CIPA figures opens in a new window), it has something to give – and that will probably be the production of DSLRs and their lenses.

As Petapixel (opens in a new tab) points out, the number of third-party lenses for Nikon and Canon DSLRs has dropped dramatically, with key players Tamron and Sigma behind many of the chops. And while smartphones undoubtedly played a role in that decline, especially in the entry-level space, the death of the DSLR has as much to do with the camera industry's shift to mirrorless technology as it does with processing. of AI. And this is where standalone cameras will far outperform the best cameras in phones.

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