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Facebook Inc (FB), Canon Inc. (ADR) (CAJ): Will “Super Camera” Smartphones Be the Next Big Thing?

That’s where Nokia and Samsung come in. Nokia’s upcoming EOS Pureview 41-megapixel smartphone, which features a traditional mechanical shutter and optical image stabilization, is aimed directly at the dedicated digital market which generally purchases cameras from Canon Inc. (ADR) (NYSE:CAJ), Nikon or Pentax. The EOS uses a xenon flash, which is generally considered more potent than a traditional LED flash, and uses the same Carl Zeiss lenses which bless Nokia’s phones with a noticeable advantage in digital photography.

Samsung, on the other hand, is releasing the Galaxy S4 Zoom, a variant of its full-featured Galaxy S4 smartphone. The Zoom has a 16-megapixel digital camera, also equipped with an optical image stabilizer, xenon flash and a 10X optical zoom lens. The Zoom goes a step further than Nokia, using its zoom ring as a method to instantly take a share a photo in the middle of a phone call.

Both the EOS Pureview and the Zoom will be considerably bulkier than traditional smartphones, due to their protruding optical lenses. Nokia and Samsung are notably the only two smartphone makers dabbling in this concept of a full-featured camera smartphone. Both companies have released similar products in the past – Samsung released the Galaxy Camera, which was a full-featured camera with Internet connectivity, and Nokia created the 808 Pureview, which ran on Symbian. Neither product has been particularly successful in carving out the desired niche.

Can these Two Products be Successfully Merged?

Just as MP3 players were successfully merged with smartphones, it is logical to assume that higher-end digital cameras and smartphones will eventually be joined as well. However, there are a few hurdles that Nokia and Samsung must clear if their products are to achieve any degree of mainstream acceptance.

First and foremost, most people might simply think that regular smartphones already take acceptable photos. Therefore, they will value portability more than image quality. Although 41 and 16 megapixels sound technically impressive, it’s difficult to notice such high resolution when the photos are primarily shared online in compressed formats.

The three most popular cameras on Flickr are currently Apple’s iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and iPhone 5, which indicates that most people are not using higher-end cameras from Canon Inc. (ADR) (NYSE:CAJ) or Nikon to take photos to share online. Instead, the one-click ability of smartphone apps to share photos is the most important feature. Therefore, packing a bulky optical lens onto a smartphone might not make it all that more popular than a slimmer one with a regular camera.

Lastly, a look at Canon Inc. (ADR) (NYSE:CAJ)’s top and bottom line growth shows that the market for both lower-end digital cameras and higher-end DSLRs is shrinking at a rapid pace. Last quarter, Canon Inc. (ADR) (NYSE:CAJ) reported a 34% year-on-year plunge in profit on a 1.5% decline in revenue. To make matters worse, Canon Inc. (ADR) (NYSE:CAJ) slashed its full-year sales target for compact cameras by 15% to 14.5 million units, citing an increasing number of its users switching to smartphones. Global shipments of all digital cameras in the industry dropped by nearly half from the prior year quarter. Although Canon isn’t about to become the next Eastman Kodak, its bleak numbers indicate that everyday users simply don’t care that much about professional image quality.

The Foolish Bottom Line

Considering Canon’s decline, and the continuing popularity of the iPhone and Android devices for everyday snapshots, I believe that Nokia’s EOS Pureview and Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Zoom will be poorly received. There’s simply not a market for these “super camera” smartphones yet, and there might never be, since everyday users will stick with smartphones, while true photographers, hobbyists and purists will buy high-end DSLRs.

However, investors should still pay attention to this revolution in digital photography, and the next time you see a guy pointing his iPhone at a sushi dinner, smile and think of how much Facebook has changed how we view the world around us.

The article Will “Super Camera” Smartphones Be the Next Big Thing? originally appeared on

Leo Sun owns shares of Nokia and Facebook. The Motley Fool recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook. Leo is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network — entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

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