With the increase in pixel size and improvements in sharpness, stabilisation and dynamic range, the answer to the above questions, in the long term, may be yes and no. All of the above images were shot shot with my Microsoft Lumia 950X and the files are very good indeed. VERY good. Smartphone cameras are getting better and better very quickly and since this is a huge market, this is where the R & D is. And I'm wondering when they will actually overtake DSLR's and Mirrorless. Preposterous? A fantasy? Well if the dramatic rise in the quality of top of the range camera smartphones over the past couple of years is anything to go by, I wouldn't bet against it.
The question is, can the technical wizards who design this stuff come up with a viable zoom and / or choice of lenses option? My Samsung K zoom could certainly be better and it remains to be seen if additional lenses can be added to a smartphone body without being rejected by consumers. Also is there a place for a specialist, high quality smartphone that 'fauxtographers' and leisure photographers would find acceptable? Even though in terms of a fixed lens and low ISO settings they pretty much have that covered.
So can we expect larger sensors, better high ISO performance and more versatility in the same, relatively small package? Well, I think we can and it really is a question of when rather than if. But then using smartphones as I do and liking doing that, I'm also a lover of 'proper' cameras. I've written recently about my 'concerns' about Sony FE cameras, but having a look at some of the samples from the A7r II and new 24-70mm f/2.8 lens I was just blown away with just how good that sensor, the processing and the lens quality is. So much so that I'm currently investigating ways to get more power to one. If I can I may well buy that combination, because the results are simply breathtaking. But not every mirrorless camera (or DSLR for that matter) is THAT good. In fact, a direct comparison with some of the best smartphone cameras is not doing the 'proper' market products any favours. And now, I think we do require Sony, Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic to 'step up.'
By stepping up I mean that they really have take account of what people who are still interested in stand alone cameras seriously want. None of this protecting the rest of their product line, no more insinuating that the next upgrade will have what we want, because we are wise to this now and know it won't. What we need are some mind blowing mirrorless cameras, full of top of the range DSLR type specs. and handling. Large pixel count sensors with low noise, high sharpness, excellent dynamic range and high quality 4K video. Because if the smartphone manufacturers can squeeze the quality they do out of micro sensors then why can't their mirrorless competitors get an equivalent quality jump from much larger units? Leica have tried with the SL (Typ 601) but that's far too expensive for the average photo enthusiast (and most professionals too). But for me this is what is needed. Sony have got to stop messing about with their nasty little bridge camera design and 'micky mouse' batteries, m4/3 and Fuji have to get serious too, with cameras that aren't 'self compromised' and make too many excuses. Maybe Nikon and Canon will give us that, though their past mirrorless record hardly inspires confidence.
Because if mirrorless is really going to impact on DSLR and smartphone sales, then there has to be a significant rethink on the part of all those suits in their ivory towers. Already smartphones are on the verge of passing the mirrorless and DSLR 'also rans' and surely that isn't where these companies should be concentrating anyway. They need to make their products better, more high end and yet cheaper and better value, because if they are not people will just go with their phones. And I can't understand why they are breaking almost every rule of manufacturing economics. If your market is diminishing, you don't jack up the prices, unless that is, you really want to go out of business. But then they probably all think they are Apple, which of course they aren't.
So, mirrorless has to get better. Because DSLR's already have and while I don't think they will go away for a long time yet, the market for them will certainly diminish, though how quickly that is going to happen is anybody's guess and there will always be a professional / serious enthusiast market for those cameras. Unless mirrorless takes it's opportunity. Because mirrorless is newer and it probably has more potential for development. So will anybody realise that potential or will all the people who make and sell mirrorless cameras just keep going as they are and slowly but surely disappear? Well, I live in hope, but I sometimes wonder whether that hope has any possibility of being fulfilled. My pessimistic view is mirrorless is just going to remain the 'show pony' that it currently resembles and remain the great missed opportunity, which I and many many others don't want. So, it's time to get serious with mirrorless, stop messing about and aiming these cameras too low, because if their manufacturers don't, the less part of mirrorless is what we'll all remember several years down the line.