Samsung has reached new heights in the camera phone market with its latest S4 spin-off model, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom.

Officially unveiled on 12 June, the photo-focused handset sees the Korean company merge two of its leading sections as the smartphone and camera teams combine.

At the heart of the new device which runs Android Jelly Bean OS, is a 16 megapixel camera with 10x optical zoom and image stabilisation, making it more of a compact camera than a traditional smartphone.

Although its release date is yet to be confirmed, the S4 Zoom is evidence that cutting-edge mobile technology is starting to close the gap between smartphones and professional photography, so that even novice photographers are able to produce quality images.

Currently led by Sony and Nokia, the niche camera-centric smartphone market is full of mobile phone deals which offer advanced imaging technology within high-end, spec-heavy smartphones.

The Sony Xperia Z touts a 13 megapixel camera with 16x digital zoom, along with the company’s exclusive Exmor RS lens technology, which enhances image quality in all types of settings.

Unlike professional cameras, smartphones like the Xperia Z mean users don’t have to worry about elements such as shutter speeds as the handset automatically adjust these settings, with the added ability to manipulate images and share them online all via the device.

Nokia Lumia 925 Back CameraNokia’s flagship Lumia 920 and 925 are renowned for producing stunning pictures even in low-light conditions. Both smartphones house 8.7 megapixel PureView cameras, enhanced by the exclusive Carl Zeiss lens, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) and 4x digital zoom.

A study conducted by The NPD Group in 2011, reported that 27% of all photos and videos are taken using smartphones, while the prevalence of DSLR camera use decreased from 52% to 44% from 2010.

With high-end handsets like the Xperia Z and the Lumia 925 making an impact on the camera market these figures are on the rise, as more people turn to their smartphones as their preferred method for capturing photos.

Photo journalists are also embracing smartphone technology by integrating the use of mobile phone cameras and apps into their work, with TIME magazine opting to use photo app Instagram to cover the Hurricane Sandy story.

Sung Park, University of Oregon photojournalism instructor, said: “Smartphones are able to capture and transmit in breaking news situations now more than ever. A smartphone allows you to respond quicker and distribute images immediately.”

Being able to instantly connect and upload photos online and to social networking sites is another advantage smartphones have over digital cameras, along with the vast array of photography apps available for manipulating images.

Apps such as Instagram, Echograph and Lumify allow users to apply filters to photos, create animated GIFs and become filmmakers, with manufacturers monitoring which apps users install that increase image sharing.

Also emerging are the various camera phone accessories that can turn handsets into light meters, or help increase macro and zoom capability, such as the quick-connect iPhone lens, Olloclip and the Pocket Spotlight for illuminating the subject of your shot.

As smartphones look to become the single most intelligent device people carry with them, handsets with enhanced cameras and an impressive range of modes could mark the end of the standalone point and shoot camera.

This guest post was written by Stefanie Keeling of Dialaphone – home of the best mobile phone contracts.