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back to article WHY do phone cams turn me into a clumsy twat with dexterity of an elephant?

I was a little dismissive last week about the technical improvements Apple says it is introducing to the photographic capabilities of its blinged-up iChav smartphones. Just because mimicking street fashion smacks of corporate desperation at – is it cuz I iz gold, innit? – this should not mask the details of the much-improved …

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"The best camera is the one you have with you."

That said, I feel truly with you, Alistair, regarding consumer cameras. It took me a while to find a digital camera that does what I want, just like my good 'ol SR-T 101 did. Costs half a fortune though :-(

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I'm a firm believer that celluloid and silver is the wave of the future

But then, I build my own 4*5 cameras from time to time. Can't be doing with this digital stuff.

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Shutter-lag is a killer; but also an even slightly offset lens will bugger you right up if you're used to through-the-lens metering. Does for me, anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

That position chip..

OK, I may be repeating myself, but what if the separate motion processor is trying to do precisely that: instead of trying to convince technical gadget to compensate for shake, start shooting and identify the best one (at the low point of your shakes) later? Ya cannat change tha law of phasics, so there is only so much you can gyroscope out of the picture, but finding the lowest distortion out of a pack of images is always doable. It's maybe not such a bad idea.

Digressing slightly, this does sod all for video, but here I must admit I don't do much of that. I too succumbed to the 90s fashion of video making, and I soon discovered that the combination of being an ungifted and very clearly amateur plus my not exciting life merely resulted in something that would have value as a cure for insomnia so I never contributed much to the sale of mini tapes. Although my life has upgraded in the excitement department, my talent hasn't, so I've not used on the phone either :).

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Oh Dabbsy, I can call you Dabbsy can't I? Actually I don't care.

You are putting your head into the apple tree again aren't you. But lets remember, it's not just Apple that sucks at pictures, it's android too.

Just, it doesn't seem to be win-okia, they take lovely pictures. OK OK I'm trolling - I guess a phone with a camera is still a phone, and a camera with a phone is a camera. If you want to take pictures, then maybe get a camera.

Incidentally I like your photo's, but only because they are slightly worse that mine.

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Facepalm

"it's not just Apple that sucks at pictures, it's android too."

Yes, you're right, the manufacturer known as "Android" doesn't know how to make a decent camera. Fool.

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>> Oh Dabbsy, I can call you Dabbsy can't I? Actually I don't care.

And you thought *I* had nothing to say.

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Anonymous Coward

>"it's supposed to be a bird"

Tell me, what exactly about Black and Gass' smutty sense of humour and obscene lyrics convinced you that they weren't trolling?

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Re: >"it's supposed to be a bird"

Actually, I didn't write that aside. It's a giant inflatable cock masquerading as a Phoenix, or as The D write it, a Fenix. At the end of their last number, it shoots out a huge stream of white confetti from its 'beak' over the audience... then deflates. When they come back for the encore, it has transformed into a giant inflatable fanny, through which they leave the stage at the end.

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Re: >"it's supposed to be a bird"

To my fellow Yanks: For "fanny" read "pussy".

"Fanny" means "ass" over here in the South half of North America. On the bright side, if we were all the same, the world would be an incredibly boring place. Whatever happened to the cross-pond translator that Sarah Bee proposed several years ago?

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Happy

Re: >"it's supposed to be a bird"

And away from the South half of North America, "ass" means "arse". :-)

In any case, am opposed to a cross-pondian translator on the basis that removing the somewhat disgusted looks from the older ladies (and men, for that matter) when they hear tourists speaking of "fanny packs" would be sad.

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Flame

Re: >"it's supposed to be a bird"

Actually, in the south half of North America, fanny doesn't mean anything - since they speak Spanish in the 30+ North American countries in the south half. The USA is in the central part of North America - look at a map and learn some geography.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_North_American_countries_by_population

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@Gavin King (was: Re: >"it's supposed to be a bird")

"arse" is a colloquialism. There is a reason that The Bard Of Avon's ass was called "Bottom", you know. (Yes, I know, the Avon is more properly called "Afon" ...but nobody does that anymore. Language mutates. Deal with it.)

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@Alan Thompson (was: Re: >"it's supposed to be a bird")

Mexico is Latin America, by default and description.

Yes, physically/geologically, some of (not all!) Mexican Soil is part of North America, but nobody who lives around these here parts refers to it that way.

HTH, HAND.

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Pint

Re: >Really

You need to learn to count, or perhaps learn some geography. That big blobby spot south of the big northern blobby spot is another continent called "South America", because it is in fact south of North America. Even counting the Isthmus of Panama as part of North America, which might start an argument down there, there are only seven countries in North America that are south of the US. And in all of So. America there are - I believe - only 12 countries. There are only 21 countries in both continents combined. So, where does this "30+" come from?

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Possible solution...

might be for cameras to allow 'bracketing' of more parameters. A lot of dedicated digital cameras allow this for exposure, but it would be handy if it could be extended to ISO and focus as well, as examples. Obviously this would result in several images being stored for every press of the shutter button, but it would allow the photographer to select the best image at their leisure after the fact, instead of fumbling with the controls at the time.

The downside would be that you might not capture a specific moment (but then phone cameras are useless at that anyway), and also your storage would be used up more quickly (but then that isn't so much of a worry these days).

There are other tricks that are used in some digital cameras, such as the pre-buffering in some Nikons - photos are captured from several seconds before the shutter button is pressed. One assumes that this comes at the cost of draining the battery more quickly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: captured from several seconds before the shutter button is pressed.

This puzzles me: how does it know you are going to press the shutter in several seconds time? Is it constantly recording, just in case?

Been thinking about a new camera, noticed this ability being touted and wondered how it works.

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Re: captured from several seconds before the shutter button is pressed.

You're right - it is constantly recording, hence the battery drain.

The same principle has appeared in some music systems over the years: audio-in is constantly buffered, so recording can begin several seconds before your press the 'Record' button... handy for recording songs from the radio!

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Pint

Re: it is constantly recording

Thank you.

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Re: Possible solution...

"might be for cameras to allow 'bracketing' of more parameters. A lot of dedicated digital cameras allow this for exposure, but it would be handy if it could be extended to ISO and focus as well, as examples. Obviously this would result in several images being stored for every press of the shutter button, but it would allow the photographer to select the best image at their leisure after the fact, instead of fumbling with the controls at the time."

Slap a DSP and a single image on the end, and you have basically described how in-camera HDR works, to a greater or lesser degree - they've started adding it to SLRs, too.

Here's an example from my Nexus 4. I'll be honest, it does a pretty decent job, for simple web snaps, but viewed in detail, it's a bit rough. For FaceyB and Twatter, however, it's pretty fecking bob on.

http://i.imgur.com/3eqs633.jpg

And yes, that is the oft referenced yellow shed....on the non HDR shot, the car and sky are correctly exposed, but the ground and background fields and trees are too dark. I have another couple of shots of the car from the rear, but I'm too damned lazy to upload them TBH. Also, IMGURs app sucks balls on android - no thumnails? What twattery, how you supposed to make sure you've uploaded the right pictures? I roll my eyes at thee.

If I'm particularly off on that description (of HDR - I know my car is a shed, albeit a fun one, and that IMGUR is being a bit pish on mobile is subjective), feel free to correct me, but I'm fairly sure I've grasped that all reasonably accurately...

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Happy

It's in da nose, stoopid!

I'm convinced the key to good photography is the nose.

Give me an SLR, I put the eyepiece to my eye, I take nice photo. My first digital camera had one of those digital viewfinders, which I used instead of the screen. My first film compact cameras had those crappy glass viewfinders on top, but rarely were my pictures blurry.

With my cheapy modern compact or my phone though, it's blurr-o-vision. I think it's my nose-tripod (nose-pod?) which is providing camera-shake compensation.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's in da nose.

It may well be.

A few years of using a compact with an LCD screen has taught me that I can't. Use a compact with an LCD screen, that is. The Image Stabilisation that can cope with me hand-holding with arms stretched out in front of my face is yet to be invented.

Also, although it ought to be easier, somehow my sense of composition goes to pieces using that screen. It is good when one has to hold a camera way up or way down, but otherwise, give me a viewfinder, and a camera firmly held against my face. As I am not in DSLR land, either budget-wise or enthusiasm-wise, it will have to be electronic, but a viewfinder I must have.

There's also the fact that people look stupid holding a camera in front of them, but that is a minor disadvantage. I probably look stupid anyway.

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Re: It's in da nose.

"Also, although it ought to be easier, somehow my sense of composition goes to pieces using that screen"

Possibly because the screens aren't actually all that hot on some cameras and give a false impression of what the actual picture is likely to be? I've noticed some are dire for subtle contrast changes or colour gradients.

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Re: It's in da nose, stoopid!

"With my cheapy modern compact or my phone though, it's blurr-o-vision. I think it's my nose-tripod (nose-pod?) which is providing camera-shake compensation."

Pressing it against your nose might be reducing movement slightly, but also the simple act of bringing the camera back to your face means you tuck your elbows in against your torso which both braces the camera against your body as well as transferring some of the weight to bone structure rather than muscle action. With a digital screen you're moving the camera and your hands away which mean your elbows are in free space and able to move.

Imagine holding a bag of sugar under your chin. Both parts of your arm are near vertical. You could probably hold that position for a while because the weight is being mostly borne by your bone structure. Now hold it with your arms outstretched in front of you. Was that 5 or 10 seconds? The weight is 100% on muscle, and muscles tend to twitch, and eventually fatigue.

Read the "Standing" section of "Ways of the Rifle" for more information on standing really really still!

Basically, muscles twitch, bones don't. If you're using muscles then they're going to tire. Bones don't tire as such, so make the most of their mechanical strength to bear the weight, and brace your arms against your body - it's one less direction they can move in.

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Re: It's in da nose, stoopid!

Some useful tips there rh587, thanks!

Alas, if the subject itself is moving then you'll probably need a faster shutter speed anyway (requiring a compromise on ISO (noise) or aperture). That said, it can be fun to 'track' a moving subject with camera at a lower shutter speed, so the background shows motion blur; an technique that perhaps reading 'Ways of the Rifle' can help me improve on.

For those with nothing to do this weekend, Instructables.com has a guide to making a gyroscopic camera stabilisation rig from two desktop hard-disks...

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Re: It's in da nose, stoopid!

Forcing everyone into dork-mode is way less expensive for manufacturing. Short of a DSLR a coupled, optical rangefinder is ok and can be made very tiny but purchase options for those have gone into the stratospheric, boutique price range, another mode of dork.

Lugging a DSLR is ok in some circumstances but for something to put in a shirt pocket we have few reasonable choices. Even though in some ways it was pretty mediocre I still miss the nice rangefinder of my Fuji E510, the lamented victim of salt water. New camera is compact, waterproof, shockproof, dust proof and Doug-proof but waaaaah-- no rangefinder.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's in da nose, stoopid!

And, the more one's eyesight ages, the further in front of the face the camera has to be held. Even then, I need to put on reading glasses to see it properly.

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Never has the old saying "you get what you pay for" been more true.

The cost to produce adequate results is dropping, and quality is rising, but if you really want to capture the best quality of image you need to invest in good quality imaging equipment.

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Phone cams hard to use

There is a natural way to hold a conventional camera. Smartphones on the other hand are frictionless slabs with nowhere to put your fingers, without touching the screen and thus firing-off some function.

My Samsung S3 takes good photos with no lag. But accidental operation is a drawback of touchscreens. It needs a little fold out handle or something.

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Re: Phone cams hard to use

"Smartphones on the other hand are frictionless slabs with nowhere to put your fingers, without touching the screen and thus firing-off some function."

Another reason why I like my BB 9105 (which works amazingly well as a camera despite the specs not looking too promising); the "shutter" release is the touchpad click, which is a physical switch. Impossible to press by accident and couldn't be easier to find by feel.

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Camera Phones getting Progressively worse

The early SonyEricsson K-series were nice to use.

Ever since then it's been down hill.

I blame the lack of an optical viewfinder or EVF on the quality of phone snaps.

(And even compact camera photos.)

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Anonymous Coward

If camera phones were great then SLR cameras would be obsolete.

While the controls on them confuse many people, they are hands on and with some knowledge you can take a better picture than any phone. You can also shoot in RAW and salvage a reasonable shot out of a less than perfect one (although you can't do so if you choose the wrong shutter speed).

The two SLR modes for variable shutter speed (fixed aperture) or variable aperture (fixed shutter speed) are incredibly useful. Most cameras on phones don't have a variable aperture, so you can never get that sort of control. They have to use variable ISO (signal amplification) instead.

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Maybe you could get a phone with a decent camera?

Sorry, but complaining about the clumsiness of mobile photography based on owning an iPhone is like eating at McDonalds and then complaining that beef has no flavour.

On both Android (finally! thanks to Sony) and Windows Phone (Nokia), not only can you get superior imaging hardware, but also better ergonomics: Windows Phones let you go from lock-screen to camera app just by pressing the physical shutter button, and while I haven't seen reviews that mention it, I suspect the Sony Z1 can do the same trick.

This is a small thing, but it dramatically cuts the time between "Oh, I want to get a picture of this" and being able to take a photo. You can press the button while the phone is still in your pocket, and by the time you've brought it to your eye level, the camera is running and ready to capture. Also, using a physical shutter button reduces camera-shake, which is the major cause of "out of focus" pictures from hand-held cameras.

Also, something like the Nokia 925 or HTC One, both of which use optical stabilisation, would also have made a far better fist of those concert pictures than the iPhone did. The 925 would also offer a larger image sensor and brighter lens (1/3" diagonal, f/2.0 versus 1/3.2", f/2.2) to further improve light-gathering.

Mediocre low-light imaging is the price you pay for having a thin enclosure. The laws of physics won't let you have it any other way.

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Re: Maybe you could get a phone with a decent camera?

Sure enough, I find that Android tablets take better photos and videos than my iPad but I'm not sure why this is.

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Re: Maybe you could get a phone with a decent camera?

I guess one might use the camera on a tablet if they can't find their phone (or dedicated camera), but taking pictures isn't the only application for them... Barcode and QR reading apps, for example, make use of tablet cameras, as does the OCR part of Google Translate.

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Re: Maybe you could get a phone with a decent camera?

I know Alistair's a diehard Apple Lover, but

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/09/20/nokia_lumia_1020_review/

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Re: Maybe you could get a phone with a decent camera?

I use one mobile phone number and one mobile phone. My choice of handset doesn't make me a "diehard lover" of its manufacturer. If I bought a Nokia, it would simply mean that I bought a Nokia. It wouldn't necessarily follow that I'm a passionate follower of everything Finnish or that I enjoy giving head to Microsoft CEOs.

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Re: Maybe you could get a phone with a decent camera?

Sorry, didn't mean you were a fanboi or anything... Just from following your articles, there seems to be a bit of a love/hate relationship with iProducts

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JDX
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what appears to be a giant inflatable cock

Considering the band, I think it probably is supposed to be a cock disguised as a bird

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Devil

Re: what appears to be a giant inflatable cock

If the bird is male, then it's a cock anyway.

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Coat

Completely Arse-faced

I don't care what the phone manufacturer calls it, IT'S NOT A CAMERA; anymore than a roll of cling-film is a contraceptive ... although now I come to think of it, a length of Saran Wrap actually does a better job at contraception than any camera phone could ever do when compared to a real camera.

I'm not denying that the little toys can be fun, can be handy to have with you for those YouTube moments but they are not cameras. Sure you can take pictures with them, sometimes even occasionally entertaining images but my argument, nay statement of fact, above still applies.

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Re: Completely Arse-faced

Er okay... True, most digital cameras lack a 'chamber' [camera], much less a dark one (many having an electronic 'shutter') so in those terms then yes, you have made a statement of fact.

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Re: Completely Arse-faced

No he hasn't.

The "Camera" is the chamber between the innermost lens element and the imaging surface. Without this free space for the refracted light to travel through and spread out, you cannot form an image using a lens.

Even the smallest mobile phone imaging unit has such a chamber - it's just small: but then so is the lens and sensor.

(the Lumia 1020 has a mechanical shutter, btw)

I don't get how DSLR enthusiasts moan about phone cameras: these process and technology improvements go on to make the next generations of SLR sensors better, sharper and more sensitive at a lower price. If it were only the DSLR business paying for this R&D, an entry-level digital camera would still cost an arm and a leg.

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Personally i think...

The pictures were blurred because mr. crankypants was trying to take them while simultaneously sticking his fingers in his ears to drown out the noise.

He is old, as he has mentioned before, and live concerts seem just a little too hip for the likes of people his age...

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Re: Personally i think...

Have you been to many music festivals lately? A lot of the people there are way older than him, and that includes the performers too.

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Well, if you're taking photos at a concert...

...you DESERVE to get rubbish pictures.

I'm getting sick to death of people at public events, be it concerts, sports events, or even at the bloody cinema, who feel that the event didn't actually happen unless they took a photo of it - or preferably, a long video of it.

If you're watching it through a phone, you're NOT actually watching it. If you then play it back, all you're doing is playing back a reminder of you watching the event through the phone.

Oh, yes, of course, once you've taken the photo you've got to tweet the damn thing to everyone.

You're at a concert, or a sports event - a once-off event which will never happen again exactly like that. EXPERIENCE IT! Don't record it. There are TV cameras and official videos which will record it a fuck of a sight better than your stupid little phone.

</rant>

Oh, and contempt multplied by ten for anyone taking photos at these events with an iPad. (It's always an iPad - never any other sort of tablet...)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Well, if you're taking photos at a concert...

That's because some people think Apple stuff is automatically cool.

Everyone else seems to be just about self-aware enough to realise using a tablet to take pictures makes you look like a cock.

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Re: Well, if you're taking photos at a concert...

For someone my height, holding up a phone at arm's length is the only way I will ever get to see the band.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Well, if you're taking photos at a concert...

>For someone my height, holding up a phone at arm's length is the only way I will ever get to see the band.

There are also the following...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Periscope

http://www.screwfix.com/c/storage-ladders/step-ladders/cat831476

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pogo_stick

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platform_shoe

http://www.ultimateshoulderrides.com/

... but since this is a tech site, it can only really be:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quadcopter

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Re: Well, if you're taking photos at a concert...

You're not alone there mate. I'm right there with ya.

Last year I went with my brother to some "Symphony Under The Stars" event, with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra performing in Elder Park.

And all I could see was a sea of arms waving smartphones high in the fucking air. I don't know why 20,000 people all wanted 20,000 identical videos of a mass of 20,000 wavering smartphone screens, because that's all any of them would have gotten. The only way you'd have been able to see (or film) the orchestra would be to have been pressed up against the stage.

Because of this sort of thing, I've come to detest the fucking things. In cinemas, in restaurants, at concerts, fireworks shows, sporting events, everywhere, everybody constantly waving these fucking smartphones around every bloody moment of every bloody day. An EMP cannon! an EMP cannon! my kingdom for an EMP cannon!

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