Simon Joinson, Editor-in-chief
Let me start by extending you a warm welcome to Connect, a new website dedicated to the technology, community and culture of 'mobile photography', including smart phones, tablets, apps, connected cameras and the creativity and community, brought to you by the team behind Digital Photography Review.
With billions of images being shared by millions of smart phone photographers around the globe, the world of photography is experiencing an explosion of creativity and engagement that hasn't been seen since the first consumer digital cameras arrived almost two decades ago. This time it's different though. It's about the power of the snapshot to tell a story, to build a community, to record the mundane as well as the remarkable. It's about people who don't even think of themselves as photographers never stepping out of the door without a camera. It's about photography's power to connect. And that's why we're here.
Erin Lodi - Editor: DPReview Connect
There’s never been a better time to introduce Connect. As always, things are changing. But today, perhaps faster than ever before.
Cameras on phones are nothing new, but it took the birth of the modern smartphone, with its full-time web connectivity and image processing apps, to really kickstart mobile photography. Most people agree that the smartphone era truly dawned with the release of the original Apple iPhone, in 2007. In the five years since, mobile photography has skyrocketed in popularity. In 2011, the iPhone 4 became the most used camera on Flickr, and its successor the iPhone 4S currently holds that title. The social networking platform Instagram has fed (and fed off) this fascination with mobile photography and more than 100 million registered users now share billions of images on Instagram, a mere two years after the service was launched.
The growth in smartphones has put a lot of pressure on the sales of conventional compact cameras, and as sales slip, camera manufacturers are running to catch up.
They are adding wi-fi connectivity, in-camera effects filters, and recently even mobile operating systems, which allow users to expand a camera's usefulness exponentially by installing third-party apps. As well as wi-fi, there's the promise of 3G and 4G LTE technology in the very near future, and already, Samsung is exploring that space with the recently announced Galaxy Camera.
New slogans from major players like Canon ('The Power to Connect') and Samsung ('Shoot now, share wow') indicate only too clearly how much the traditional manufacturers want connected consumers to look beyond their phones, to a 'proper' camera.
Simultaneously, smartphone manufacturers are responding to the demand for better and better photographic features by improving their own offerings with every new model and software update. With larger sensors, better lenses and improved digital camera technology, camera phones are performing and behaving more and more like cameras, and as you'll see from the cellphone camera reviews here on Connect, the image quality gap is closing with incredible speed.
Some may even argue that we’re nearing a tipping point as the line between camera and phone blurs further and further until the devices must converge.
Yet as camera and photo sharing technology becomes more powerful and more capable than ever before, many of us are feeling a stronger sense of disconnection with others. Our Facebook 'friends' number in the hundreds. We’re LinkedIn to work colleagues past, present and potentially future. When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone, he described it as holding "your life in your hand" and he's been proven right. These days we've got the whole world in our hands thanks to a new generation of smartphones that let us surf the web, research and write reviews of places we've been, and places we want to go, shop for most anything we need, and entertain ourselves in any number of ways, including by taking photographs. And yet, there’s a sense of separation for many of us, a sense of community that’s missing.
Maybe that’s why we love social image-sharing platforms so much. The simplicity of the medium seems to be tying us together again. As we share our images we have access to the images of millions of other people around the world. But it's not just about looking. Suddenly, we can interact with others in a way that transcends geographical boundaries and even language – a smiley face is a smiley face in any dialect. And while we may share our most intimate moments or emotions through an image, there’s an anonymity in the process that ironically makes it easier, by creating a sense of safety. Many users share under a creative handle — not their real name. You don’t even need to subscribe or “friend” someone’s feed to like or comment on an image. In this way, we can reach out without giving too much of ourselves away. Or at least no more than we want to.
As we prepared for the launch of Connect, we did a lot of research and a lot of reaching out. We encountered reoccurring themes when talking to influencers and experts in the field. Again and again they marveled at how the small, unimposing stature of the device tends to break down barriers between photographer and subject, inviting conversation and fostering our ability to relate to one another. Over and over we heard stories of true and lasting relationships (even marriages!) that were created through Instagram, and services like it. We repeatedly heard about people who found their voice, even their calling, through a newfound love of mobile photography and the support from the communities created through social photo sharing platforms.
The rise of mobile photography has created a new way for us to express ourselves, to share our lives, to connect with one another.
We intend to continue in this spirit by delivering information and of course photographs through Connect in an engaging and accessible format that delights and inspires our readers and encourages discovery. Connect will foster community among socially-connected photographers as we enable sharing, learning and feedback related to mobile photography news, opinion, and culture. The site will serve as an authoritative source of information about smart phones, connected cameras, tablets, apps, accessories, social platforms and related services.
We look forward to connecting with you.
Barnaby Britton - Reviews Editor: DPReview.com
Today's crop of smartphones are incredible machines. I've got one, it's nuts. In one hand, I'm holding more computer power than the machines that took Neil Armstrong to the moon (although Apollo 11's on-board Hasselblad cameras were higher-resolution).
Significant improvements in sensor technology and miniaturization, coupled with changing expectations amongst social media-savvy consumers mean that if you buy a smartphone now, the chances are you're getting a pretty capable digital camera, too. As mobile devices are becoming better at taking pictures, major manufacturers in the photo industry are beginning to include smartphone-like connectivity options in their cameras. How should we react?
We could put our heads in the sand and ignore this new development, but we prefer to see it as an opportunity. Not to radically change dpreview, but to speak to a broader audience.
So rather than adding a new category of content to dpreview, we decided to launch a new site - and you're looking at it. Connect is the only site on the web devoted specifically to mobile photography, and as you poke around you'll find technique articles, detailed feature stories on photographers using mobile devices, and the most in-depth reviews of phone cameras on the Internet. Inevitably, creating, commissioning and editing all of this content for launch has been a team effort, but in the long run, Connect will be a separately resourced, editorially independent site, operating under the dpreview 'umbrella.' This means that while we'll continue to share the wider team's expertise, the two sites will complement one another, rather than compete.
Is dpreview.com going to fundamentally change? No. Absolutely not. You might see some Connect content featured on dpreview, and vis-versa, especially as the new site settles into its groove, but the dpreview team will keep on doing what we've always done best - reviewing cameras and being first with industry news and product analysis.
So whoever you are, and wherever you've come from, we want to welcome you to Connect.