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Flickr report: Smartphones dominate in quantity, but DSLRs reign in quality

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This White House photo of President Barack Obama meeting the Dalai Lama is one of the top 50 photographs selected by Flickr for 2016. The list of top images is primarily dominated by landscape shots from DSLR cameras.

Flickr’s annual trend report shows iPhones made up nearly half of all uploads in 2016, yet the platform’s list of the top images from the year didn’t include any smartphone shots. The photo sharing site’s year in review, published on Tuesday, says smartphones are behind the biggest number of uploads this year, while the DSLR follows in second and the point-and-shoot in third.

Smartphones made up 48 percent of the uploads in 2016, up from 39 percent over 2015, while DSLRs dropped by six to 25 percent. Point-and-shoot cameras continued to fall in popularity, sitting at 21 percent of uploads over 2015’s 25 percent. Few Flickr users used mirrorless cameras for their uploads in 2016 — or in 2015 for that matter. The mirrorless category remained flat at just three percent of all Flickr uploads.

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While smartphones dominated overall uploads, a DSLR was behind most of the shots from Flickr’s list of the best images from 2016, compiled using both human curation and computer traffic data. Out of the top 50 images shared, 12 of them did not show what camera they were shot with. Those remaining 38 images with EXIF data were shot with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, except for three advanced compact cameras and a DJI aerial camera.

In the overall uploads, Apple no doubt led to the smartphone category taking that number one spot. Eighty percent of the 10 most popular cameras used on Flickr in 2016 were Apple-branded, with smartphones from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 6s Plus dominating the list and the iPhone 7 likely too new to break into that top 10. Besides smartphone cameras, Canon took the remaining two slots in the top 10 list, with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III as eighth and the EOS 5D Mark II in 10th.

Outside of the top 10, Apple shots represented 46 percent of the images uploaded over the past year overall, while Canon photographers made up 24 percent and Nikon 18.

The image-sharing platform also shared a list of the most popular image tags. Nature was the most used tag for 2016, followed by the similarly themed sunset, water, sky and landscape. Colors were also a popular tag — blue and red were the sixth and seventh most used tags. Beach, portrait and night round out the top 10 tags.

While Flickr reports tend to follow photography trends overall, the data only represents images uploaded to the photo sharing platform. While the trends could indicate an overall rise in the dominance of the smartphone camera, it could also simply indicate that DSLR users are leaving Flickr for another platform like Instagram or that connectivity means smartphone photographers share more of their work than DSLR photographers. A quick click on the platform’s top images of 2016 show none of the photos (that provide camera data) were shot with a smartphone.