The camera performed a little better — it has a real zoom and more shooting modes — while the iPhone (or any smartphone) is quicker to bring into action — just wake it, swipe the screen, and shoot.
Then the Pentax died. Its auto-focus stopped focusing. Buying a new one seemed pointless. Manufacturers are ditching the pocket camera market — Nikon shut a major digital camera factory this fall:
In recent years [...] due to the rise of smartphones, the compact digital camera market has been shrinking rapidly, leading to a significant decrease in operating rate at NIC and creating a difficult business environment.But look on eBay. You can find digital pocket cameras for pocket change. A like-new Nikon Coolpix, with case and cord, probably made about 2010, cost under $30, shipping included. If I had wanted an earlier model, I could have paid much less.
Why buy it? The biggest reason is peace of mind. That little Nikon will be in my pocket on next weekend's mountain camp-out. It will go on hunting trips, hikes, etc.
Which is worse, to drop your smartphone in the river while trying to photograph that cute muskrat while you're fly-fishing, or to splash a $15 camera you got on eBay?
Smartphones do have their strengths. My fingers were almost touching mine one evening last week in Boston, when I saw the driver of an immaculate white Range Rover — she looked like an oligarch's mistress in it — deliberately ram the rear bumper of a taxi that was not clearing the intersection fast enough to suit her. Never mind that he had nowhere to go forward.
I could have put it on Facebook or Instagram, maybe made a looping GIF ("Ram! Ram! Ram!"). But I didn't.