Put your point-and-shoot in a museum, next-gen phones have finally surpassed it

nokia lumia 1020 camera pureview

As the lights dimmed and the projector revved up, Nokia kicked off its new product launch event yesterday in New York City with a short video. We expected obnoxious music to accompany seizure-inducing montage of product shots, but what we got instead was a heartwarming, Apple-esque video talking about photography in the modern age: how we use it, how it affects us, and how we are shooting way more photos than before with our smartphones. As if all the prior leaks hadn’t made it obvious, clearly some new camera-centric smartphone  was on the way: the Lumia 1020.

With the Lumia 1020, as well as new models like Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Zoom, new smartphones are not just closing the gap, they’re sealing it.

Here’s what did surprise us: The  event was dedicated almost entirely to the device’s 41-megapixel PureView camera; in fact, we walked away from the presentation knowing nothing about the rest of the device. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop used most of his keynote time to talk about the PureView camera’s photographic capabilities. The large exhibition hall was filled with stations, manned by personnel eager to talk to you about the camera’s performance in low and bright light, action scenes, zooming, reframing, and rich audio capture in videos (you can read more about our hands-on time here). While Nokia didn’t say it outright, it obviously believes the PureView camera is the Lumia 1020’s killer feature.

But which will it kill: Other smartphones, or traditional cameras? In the photography conversation, the elephant in the room is the traditional, standalone camera – specifically budget and midrange, compact point-and-shoots. This product category has been on the rocks for a while, and next-gen smartphones like the Lumia 1020 and Samsung’s S4 Zoom may finally be the products that sink the humble point-and-shoot forever.

Experience versus quality

While Nokia didn’t hesitate to brag about the Lumia 1020’s photographic prowess over the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S4, the company avoided comparisons to traditional cameras. (Whether or not the Lumia 1020 is a good smartphone overall is another story.) Elop’s only jab at camera companies during his keynote was noting that Nokia sold more cameras than Kodak did in 2008 – not an impressive statistic with the way things are at Kodak.

Naturally, it’d be folly to claim the Lumia 1020 can go against high-end shooters like interchangeable lens cameras or even the advanced point-and-shoot models like megazooms. But judging from the Lumia’s 1020 impressive image quality, optical image stabilization, and ease of use, we can confidently say that the Lumia 1020 will rival any budget or midrange point-and-shoot – perhaps even surpassing them. Based on our time spent with the PureView camera, camera companies should be really worried if they aren’t already.

In the early days of the smartphone, manufacturers knew they couldn’t compete with traditional cameras on the performance end, with the low-resolution cameras embedded. Convenience alone was enough: Since a smartphone is always in your pocket, you never miss a shot. But as smartphones became more connected and the cameras improved, it gave rise to a new social aspect to photography: instant sharing. Continuous advances in smartphone user interfaces have also made these cameras easier to operate compared to the complex buttons and dials of point-and-shoot cameras. These three experience components – ease of use, convenience, and social – are what’s driving smartphone usage in photography.

nokia lumia 1020 pureview lens zoom

Traditional camera makers have clung to image quality as their sole selling point. “To take great photos, you still need a ‘real’ camera!” But as they continued to push out products focusing solely on quality, they failed to foster the experience that’s made smartphones so popular. Many new point-and-shoots now come with Wi-Fi connectivity built-in, but the experience is usually subpar and still requires an access point or smartphone (the irony) to connect to the Web – an attempt that’s too little, too late. While they are still dominant in high-end and interchangeable lens offerings, profits in the low-end have declined drastically.

No more sacrifice

With the Lumia 1020, as well as new models like Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Zoom, new smartphones are not just closing the gap, they’re sealing it. Consumers no longer have to choose experience over quality, and no longer have to carry two devices to take a great photo. Olympus and Fujifilm have already thrown in the towel, with both companies announcing they are exiting the budget cam sector to concentrate on more lucrative high-end shooters. Sony is rumored to be introducing a Cyber-shot/Xperia hybrid. We await the next moves from Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, etc.

By combining image quality with the easy, enjoyable experience of taking and sharing a photo, new smartphones like the Lumia 1020 – as well the many more to come before year’s end – are truly eliminating the need to own a point-and-shoot camera.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Product Review

Gate’s Smart Lock is locked and loaded but ultimately lacks important basics

In a world of video cameras and doorbells comes the Gate Smart Lock, a lock with a video camera embedded. It’s a great idea, but lacks some crucial functionality to make it a top-notch product.

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Product Review

If you don't know about Genesis yet, the G70 is going to change that

The 2019 Genesis G70 is Korea’s first attempt to take on the vaunted German trio of BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Competition doesn’t come much tougher than that.

Lexar’s latest SDXC card keeps you shooting with 1 TB of storage

Shoot large files at high capacity? Lexar's latest SDXC memory card will fit a terabyte of storage inside your camera. The Lexar SD card is part of the company's Professional 633x series. That higher capacity will come at a cost, however.

See ya, CFast: 1TB CFexpress card transfers photos at 1,400MB per second

The latest trend in professional removable storage media is fast approaching. At CES 2019, ProgradeDigital revealed its first CFexpress card, featuring a 1-terabyte capacity and bewildering 1,400 megabyte-per-second transfer rate.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

From 11K to just OK: The biggest photo gear announcements at CES 2019

From 11K cameras to 1 TB media cards, CES 2019 brought a peek at new gear for photographers and videographers. But what photography gear grabbed our attention the most? Here are the biggest photo gear announcements from CES 2019.

What to look for and what to avoid when buying a camera

Looking to buy a new camera? Our comprehensive camera guide for 2016 has answers to any camera or photography questions you might ask, whether in regards to pricing, image quality, or weatherproofing.
Social Media

No yolk! A photo of an egg has become the most-liked post on Instagram

Until this weekend, the most-liked post on Instagram was of Kylie Jenner's baby daughter, which has around 18 million likes. It's now been knocked off the top spot not by a stunning sunset or even a cute cat, but by an egg.

Going somewhere? Capture more than your phone can with the best travel cams

Hitting the road or doing some globetrotting this year? Bring along the right camera to capture those once-in-a-lifetime vacation memories. Here's a list of some of our current favorites.

From 4K powerhouses to tiny action cams, here are the best video cameras

Although not as popular as they once were, dedicated video cameras still have their benefits. From travel vlogging to home movies to recording your kid's little league game, here are the best video cameras you can buy right now.

Authentic, holistic, retro photography is in: Here are 2019’s predicted trends

What types of imagery are we most drawn to? According to recent stock photography data from Adobe, StoryBlocks, and Shutterstock, authentic, holistic, and humanitarian content will be in high demand in 2019.