back to article Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot C905 eight-megapixel cameraphone

With Sony Ericsson’s Cyber-shot cameraphone pedigree, it’s no surprise that the firm's been swift to join the ranks of eight-megapixel mobile makers. Its new flagship, the C905, not only ups the pixel count but it's comfortably the most feature-laden Cyber-shot yet. Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot C905 Sony Ericsson's Cyber-shot C905 …

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Meaningless megapixels

In a sensor the size used in a cameraphone, this number of pixels is quite meaningless. The noise levels present mean that under anything less than bright sunlight the actual information content is vastly less than the pixel count would suggest. This incessant increase in pixel count is simply driven by marketing demands, and has no relationship to the physics of the system or the actual quality of the result.

The camera will need to use quite agressive noise reduction algorithms (i.e. smoothing) and will then apply simialrly agressive edge enhancment algorithms to make the picture look sharp again. The result is a wholly unsatisfactory image. At the end of the day there is nothing that can be done about the physics of the system; very small pixels only receive a small number of photons, and the signal to noise can never be anything better than poor. A camera that used a 2 megapixel sensor of the same physical size (and thus pixels with four times the area, and hence roughly four times better signal to noise) would probably produce visually better results. Ironically results that appeared to have more detail. But marketing tends to not like such arguments, as being far to technical for the average punter who is quite proud to boast of his 8Mp camera's statistics.

When el Reg does reviews of cameraphones, it would be really useful to actually do some comparisons that have some scientific value. There is a story worthy of The Register's iconoclastic nature here, debunking the stupid pixel stats, rather than parroting them.

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Fault earpiece

Excellent phone, but took about three weeks for the faulty earpiece problem to appear..

Don't know if it's a software or manufacturing fault, but if you search online there's seems to be loads of people with the same issue.. No mention of it on the Sony Ericsson site though..

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Consistency please...

El Reg reviews lambast HTC phones for taking a "couple of seconds" to get the camera going, yet a similar delay on the SE Cyber-shot is summarily dismissed with a wave of an "only".

If it's too long on the HTCs, it's too long on the SE.

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Paris Hilton

Waiting for days longer

I have been wanting a new SE phone to replace my aging, and sadly unsupported (no firmware update for 22 months, now, with many outstanding bugs,) K790a. I really enjoy the rich feature set offered by SE phones, as well as the style. The C905 came up on my radar after a while of drooling over the K850. But the C905 has several disadvantages in my perspective.

First and foremost is the slider. I detest flip-phones and sliders as they just seem to make the phone more awkward to use, moving features out of a single line-of-focus. I am a candy bar man and probably always will be. Aside from the obsession over aesthetics, I do not like the idea of another moving part to wear out over time.

The keypad is another issue. While multiple keys do add to the mechanical complexity of a unit, the idea of the convenience of easy dialing and text entry outweighs the potential for failure. With my K790a, I can easily enter phone numbers and text messages without looking at the keypad, and I have become a fairly accurate predictor of T9's inaccuracies for simple corrections.

The built-in GPS is a GREAT idea, and one for which I have advocated to SE for a long time. I have a Bluetooth GPS receiver I use with the K790 and Mobile GMaps. Fantastic combination. I like the idea of geo-tagging pictures and video as well. As for the GPS and navigation power consumption, I opine that if you plan to use your phone for this functionality, have a charger at the ready, possibly providing power during its usage, like in a car for instance. Sure, it would be nice to use your phone as a GPS unit for longer outdoor excursions, but frankly, it is a phone after all. Perhaps the near future will bring us such devices with lower power draw, and/or batteries with higher capacity for the form-factor.

I really do not see the issue of the 3.5mm jack inclusion as, well, an issue. A 3.5mm jack takes up valuable real estate inside the phone. One can easily purchase a SE port connector to 3.5mm adapter from myriad sources, and I believe some of the Walkman series even come with one. The buds included with my K790 are quite adequate, if flimsy feeling which betrays robustness. As well, the SE phones have great A2DP support, and with the recent proliferation of Bluetooth audio devices, I would predict, if only like to see, the age of the 3.5mm jack come to a swift demise.

But that SE connector on the side is a major issue. Major issue, indeed. It makes having the phone on the SE car charger awkward at best, as well as any number of other accessories, though it seems it would work well for the camera tripod. Having an accessory connected to the bottom certainly adds to the length of the still-slender device, but having an item connection to the side just adds bulk and the unwieldy "pregnant" form.

Ideally, I would like to see a C905-alike with a 2.2" screen, numeric keypad on the face, SE connector on the bottom, easy access to the media player like the K790 (track forward, back, volume, and play/stop without launching the media player or unlocking,) while maintaining the other features of the C905.

Additionally, there are many obscured features and "openness" allowed by the JP-series operating systems that I hope do not change: the email client is robust and usable, as well as the ability to install new secure certificates (though the email client lacks digital signatures at this time.) As well, some "new" features would be great, like copy text from the web browser, and a simple "notepad"-style text editor. Support for more paired Bluetooth devices and device types, such as Bluetooth keyboards. And for Pete's sake, current-technology LED flash is simply no replacement for Xenon.

So, there is my Christmas list for 2009. SE's putting a lot of work into their phones, and I hope they continue to evolve.

Paris, continuing to evolve, but just not making the Christmas list.

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Bulk and price

Expensive, bulky and pointless megapixel count. If you send mms it gets scaled to vga. If you show people on screen then you're using a screen with less than 1mp typically. If you show on a PC then thats still not enough for 8mp.

The only time you need 8mp and will see the benefit is cropping a section of a pic or when printing. Who prints pictures of drunken mates and then cares about the quality?

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Happy

@Meaningless megapixels

I have to disagree. Yes I follow the technical argument, however visually there is a definitive improvement between my old 2mp cameraphone and my old 3.2mp cameraphone ; and again even more so when compared to my (current) 5mp cameraphone.

I get the argument, but it's not visibly accurate.

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Super weak

I can't stand the SE cameraphones simply because Sony are unwilling to implement the full features available on other, comparable handsets. Video recording is crippled simply to avoid risking their Cybershot camera range, no 3.5mm headphone jack, and it doesn't even feature a key lock feature.

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jim
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megapixel hype

I wish tech journalists and reviewers would learn a bit about digital cameras instead of mindlessly repeating the vendors' hype. 8 MP behind a cheap pea-sized lens is of no value; in fact it's a liability it's just sucking up storage because the resulting images are larger.

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@AC - meaningless megapixels

"however visually there is a definitive improvement between my old 2mp cameraphone and my old 3.2mp cameraphone ; and again even more so when compared to my (current) 5mp cameraphone."

That is becuse the sensor also gets bigger, and they have improves the overall sensor performance - but if they had done all that and kept the number of pixels the same, the improvement would have been even better. I said "for the same sensor size", and probably should have added "for the same sensor process". The sensor will be a 1/3" - which is actually 5.3mm diagonal (the size specification of sensors being quite baroque). Older 2 Mp sensors are typically 1/5" or 1/6" - so close to one quarter the area.

A typical 8Mp camera-phone sensor uses 1.4 micron pixels. This is stupidly small. 50 million pixels per square centimeter. For a camera that will be used in a wide variety of conditions, many with less than optimal light levels this is simply the wrong thing to do. Exactly the same issue has been true with compact digital cameras, many of which are at the 35 million pixels per square centimeter level now. None of these cameras perform well out of bright light. Dropping back to about 20Mp per square centimeter actually results in a better camera.

Designing the camera around the use cases - and not going for a bland marketing number would result in a much more useful and generally satisfactory result.

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New phone / camera idea

So, phone manufacturers are increasing the feature count on their phone cams - all I want to know is when Nikon / Olympus / Fuji etc are going to take on these guys at their own game and build a phone in to their DSLRs. The 3" screens can be made touch sensetive for a number pad - I think it would look pretty cool to walk down the street holding a Nikon D90 to ones ear with the lense pointing out.

Mines the one with the HSDPA enabled Coolpix in the pocket

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Sample pictures please

It's a cameraphone review, so please could we have some actual shots taken with it?

"A few seconds" is also pretty meaningless as a start up time; if it takes "a few minutes" then we have a problem. How many seconds?

@ AndyPoulton: LOL; great post!

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@Steve Kay

The C905 most certainly does have a keylock, it just isn't turned on by default (it's in the settings, oddly enough).

This phone is broadly pretty good - I've had it over a month now. However Vodafone has made a dogs-breakfast of their version of the firmware, with a number of shocking issues (the Youtube app can't get beyond buffering, the Geotagging is f**ked, amongst other things), and also mine has taken to an annoying habit of resetting itself a lot when the slider is shut (suggesting it isn't catching properly and key-locking, instead locking itself up).

So other than these issues, a great phone. And yes, the camera is very, very good indeed - for a phone. I use a Canon 40D as my main camera nowadays, meaning that it isn't always appropriate - and my C905 proved to be more than up to the task taking the odd shot at a gig recently.

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I still love my k800i

All SE's new phones are crap :-( I bought my SE K800i brand new.. and now years later they still haven't come out with a better model.

Mine still has good 3.2mp camera, xeon flash, email, internet, google maps, messenger, *JOY STICK*,

a headphone/charger connector on the bottom where it should be, good mp3/movie player

hrmm.. why would you "upgrade"?

Get a new k800i, and you'll be much happier and richer too! If you want a 8mp camera then get a proper one, over 3.2mp pixles are meaningless unless your printing A4 sized pictures

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Way too expensive....

...for a non-smartphone.

Interesting comments. Except for the tl;dr one.

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Poor review of the most superior phone on the market.

I'm sorry this review, whilst highlighting some of the features of the SE C905 does fail to show just how good it is. SE's sensors and camera pedegree has been well established now for some time and SE will always have the better Camera capabilities, that's not in doubt at all. I have a Nikon DSLR and a Panasonic FZ-8 as a backup and let me just say that side by side the C905 not only equal's the FZ-8 but rival's my (admittedly old) Nikon in basic shooting modes. (If you want to see pictures taken with it I'd be glad to post a link to some if asked)

As for the GPS, there are 3rd party mapping softwares that mean you don't pay a penny for usage of the GPS (Trekbuddy for one). Using this software side by side with a standard GPS unit it is obvious that the phone is not as sensitive but this is because it never seems to pick up all the available satellite signals...not sure why. Either way the SE is good enough for hikers as a backup.

As for touch screen....anyone who owned, as I did the K850 will have seen that the touch area was not brilliant. Personally I think SE did the right thing by pulling out of the idiotic touch screen market with this phone. I was one of those who complained because I don't want touch screen on my phone. Quite frankly after toying with the iPhone I can't see why anyone would want it either.

My only real problem with the C905 is the slider. I HATE slidy phones and would have preferred a K900 candybar style myself. The other thing I worry about is that on other SE phones I've got (I've had K 700, 750, 800, 850 and have used for a good portion of time Z530) where they have tried something new there it does take a couple of batches to get everything prefect. My advice with ALL new SE phones is to ensure you wait about 3 months and get a later batch...you'll save yourself the repair later down the line. In the above case it has been the K700 (mouse/nav button), K850 (Touch area), and Z530 (Microphone failure).

In any case SE's tend to be the better phones by a mile. K700, K750, K800 and K850's all lasted about a year as the best camera phones on the market. I have no doubt it'll be that long before the C905 is superceeded, and my prediction is it'll SE who superceed it.

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Great phone, annoying butons

I've had a C905 for a few months and am quite happy with it. It takes great pictures in all sorts of conditions and the connectivity options are great (even if they do suck battery life!). Only issue I have so far is a couple of the buttons have lost their 'click' so need to be pressed quite hard to function - annoying when texting.

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Re: Meaningless megapixels

I wholeheartedly agree, I had a conversation with someone at an airport who said that their 8mp cameraphone produces "almost identical" pictures to my 10mp Canon 400d (and I had my 70-200 F2.8L hanging off it at the time, cheeky get), but he really was convinced.

How about a proper review? take the same photo with several cameraphones over a range of lighting conditions (with/without built in lights) then add these pictures to the article, with some zoomed areas, both native digital zoom and "post production", would take a couple of days to do but it would be worth it.

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Paris Hilton

got one for the missus.

... all piks come out a bit yellow unless you turn on the auto levelly wossit thingamibob.

Paris. Cos she's yellow too.

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Return to form after the K850i excuse for a camera phone

I've had this phone for a couple of months and it's excellent. Infinitely better than the K850i as a camera phone.

Good points:-

- Fast and slick user interface.

- Brilliant call sound quality and from external speaker.

- Did I mention the excellent camera?

Bad points:-

- Eats battery with wi-fi enabled. Even in power saving mode. Even when not actively used.

- No manual lock. You have to open and close slider again, or wait for auto lock timeout.

- Texting is very tricky. The T9 software is very good, but I still haven't got used to the spongey feel of the number keys.

I recommend it, unless you're one of those people that sends tens of texts a day then I'd look at something else.

Also as another point, Orange seem to let me send MMS's with 2MP pictures included. What's the maximum now, or do they scale it down on their MMS server for the recipient?

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