back to article Is your cameraphone an oxymoron?

All cell-phone cameras are not created equal - even the three-megapixel cameras in the recently released iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre. And I've got the photos to prove it. Our recent review of the iPhone 3GS went into some detail about the quality of the camera in Apple's new smartphone. But I also wanted to see how it stacked up …

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WTF?

Camera phones will blow for a long time to come but for most they're fine

I use my camera phone for one thing, eBay item photos and that's it.

Using a camera phone with the desire for serious photos is foolhardy. Sure capture a fleeting moment if you have nothing else on you.

For everything else, my M2 is always with me. That said whilst you can argue camera phones (and by extension digital) has 'democratised' photography by bringing it to the masses, and made it more affordable for those whom 36 frames on a roll 135 lasted a year. And that's a good thing really even though inside my snobbery is thinking "Egh, the noise, the harsh nasty thing called a flash which is just some LEDs and the focus, well there is none!" -- but the person who took it seems to be happy with the drunken stupor they have captured or holiday moment and there's no harm in that.

If you want to take decent photos you need to buy decent equipment, film or digital. There's little point trying to become a landscape photographer with a Olympus Camedia 1.3MP digicam from 1999 or a fallit to pieces Chinon loaded with Boots consumer grade ISO 200 35mm. If you want to be serious about it you will be investing in a camera, not a phone with a camera.

If you want snaps, a camera phone probably does suffice for the average joe whether us photography snobs like it or not. it's not like the mainstream is up late at night selenium toning a fibre based print from a recently souped roll of FP4 (which is something I sometimes do to make myself happy with a photo, i.e. it's work, others may spend hours processing in Lightroom) -- the majority of camera phone users have already whacked them up on Facebook or in an email, maybe taken them to Jessops for some 6x4s and the rest have been looked at on that 2" x 1.5" screen on the phone itself down the pub and they're happy.

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Dead Vulture

Cameraphone?

Yet not a single Cameraphone in the article?!?!

Phones with cameras ARE NOT Camera Phones...

Cameraphones are branded products designed as usable cameras eg the cybershot series.

Not all Phones with MP3 Players are Walkman Phones...same applies to cameras..

sorry for the over use of sony they are a good example as they have both camera and music brand names as well as a phone business.

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WTF?

Coming to you live..

...from the "no shit, Sherlock" department.

Cameraphones are the 21st century version of Polaroid instant cameras. 0% quality, 100% convenience (you generally have your phone with you at all times).

Throwing megapixels at the problem is a misnomer, that mccp picks up on, but "Curious" AC clings to for dear life. "Current Sony, LG and Samsung models have 8 mp!". Whoopy-doo. Stick a gigapixel sensor in there and it still won't compensate for the microlens that lives inside,

Show me a 3MP DSLR (Canon EOS D30 circa 2000) and I'll show you something that can out-shoot any cameraphone on the market. Would I rather drag the Canon to a pub/club than my phone? Not a chance. Will I compromise on quality for convenience? In the right situation, yes.

To all intents and purposes, the camera add-on/gimmick is "free" with the phone. Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth, use it if you want, accept the lower quality and let's all move on with our lives.

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Boffin

@mccp

Mine's the one with a roll of Kodachrome in the pocket

The last roll?

http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2009/06/23/kodak_dumps_kodachrome/

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funny

my trusty SE k800i takes better pictures than all of those phones, yet it must be 3 years old now.

As camera phones go SE make the best. Still noting compared with a real camera though

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Pint

Seems to me...

...That the 3GS could do with two 'tap boxes' - single tap to set focus point, double tap to set exposure point. Not perfect, but would likely improve the situation in some of the images presented...

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Stop

Garbage

"Surely the whole point of the camera on mobiles is for those 'snapshots' you would miss by the time you got your DSLR out, chose what lens you need etc"

What so you walk around with your mobile in hand and switched to camera mode?

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FAIL

Comparison

I would have added something from the Sony Ericsson range into the comparison. I used to have a k800i and sure it only had a tiny sensor, and tiny lens. However it was a pretty nifty camera - sure it wasn't in any way comparable to a dSLR - however it was much better than many early compact digitals and much better than compact automatic 35 mm cameras which were common (say) 15 years ago. Having features like BestShot, spot metering, macro mode, pre-focus and xenon flash, made it about 10 more useful than the camera on my iPhone 3G.

Okay camera phones don't compare to a dSLR, or even a mid-range digital compact (which again would have been a better comparison); however how does a swiss army knife compare to dedicated tin openers, corkscrews, cordless driver/drill or a set of kitchen knives? It really doesn't take a five page article.

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@Alan Eastham

No, but it is in my pocket 99% of the time and it can be in shooting mode in 3-4 seconds or so.

I only have to look at the amount of candid pictures I have from when my daughter was a baby to see just how used my cameraphone is. My DSLR with at last count 15 lenses is usually safely stored in the sideboard in the back room unless we are 'going out' with a view that I will be taking piccys.

Adding in that it does decent video recording as well makes it a no brainer for everyday use.

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Terminator

Funny colour on Pre - likely reason..

...as if you all didn't know already, the camerra software changes the colour temperaturre to make up for the fact that LED flashes are very, very blue; when you hit a subject with an LED flash, it has to compensate for this by adjusting the colour tempeture quite severely.

'Normal' cameras do the same, but as thei xenon flashes are closer to white light, the adjustment is generally more subtle.

HTH :-)

Terminator - because the Machines think they know better than us....

Steven R

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Boffin

Re: Crap photos, but precious moments

"Phone cameras are good enough, getting better, and very often the only devices that would be around to capture the ad-hoc moments in life that may otherwise go unrecorded. Folk that bemoan a few minor image aberrations produced by essentially disposable gadgets when you consider that 25 years ago we were happy with fuzzy 6x4 snaps that took 4 days to get processed seems a bit odd."

I don't think the "wavy pavement" is a minor image aberration: it looks like some kind of "in software" image distortion correction gone wrong. And I take issue with the "disposable" label - it's precisely this kind of "shiny! landfill!" attitude that has the developing world working 20 hour days, poisoning their environment, so that a bunch of spoiled kids in the developed world can parade around with these gadgets in some kind of peacock display ritual.

And as for the 6x4 snaps, there are plenty of things that still make film superior to the sensors on these cameraphones and even on fairly high-end camera equipment, notably the dynamic range: even the DSLR has to compromise on this, as is visible on the Shaking Man shot, although I'm sure a bunch of people will now bore us about "shooting RAW" and postprocessing as a retort.

Sure, phone cameras are good for capturing images when you have nothing better - that goes without saying, but I suppose it has to be repeated so that people don't have to claim that this isn't acknowledged - and I'll even repeat the old wisdom that the artist is more important than his/her tools. The message this article sends is that people who think a phone camera is generally good enough will find through later experience that it really isn't the case - they may wish they had something a bit better.

However, in order to dispute the inevitable claims from the fanboys that Apple have given them a camera and that "there isn't any need for a separate camera any more", the article should have compared the phones with some reasonably priced compact cameras. I'm convinced that even compact cameras at around the £100 mark could easily surpass the output of even the best cameraphone: Nokia, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, Palm or Apple - whichever one people really think it is.

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Silver badge

@A/C 25th 14:27

Agreed. If anyone tries to bore you by claiming a DSLR in RAW has the dynamic range of film he's an idiot. Even in 14bit RAW on a Nikon D3 you have be careful not to blow the highlights, and compensate to sacrifice shadow detail instead.

One day someone will invent a sensor that can handle a range of 12EV or more, until then, we'll have to use a bit of skill to get the shots :-)

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Black Helicopters

Next Story

Why its faster to get to Glasgow in a car rather than a bicycle.

Also in this article we compare a Honda 50 to a BMW M5. The Honda doesnt seem to be able to keep up with the BMW, although it is cheaper to run. Even though the BMW is 5 years OLDER !!!!!

Make sure you read it.. you'll be amazed at the results !!

Holy God Miley !

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Pre not just color shift

When fully blown up, the Pre pics appeared to be oversharpened by quite a lot.

All of the phone cams seemed to show sharpening artifacts, but the ones from the Pre bug me the most as they're strongest. They all suffer from crap lenses.

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Did I miss

the price comparison? And if you are photgraphing something a little less static than a skyscraper, the time from your brain hatching the idea, 'I gotta get a snap of that' to pushing the button?

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Anonymous Coward

@Ian Entwistle

"Surely the whole point of the camera on mobiles is for those 'snapshots' you would miss by the time you got your DSLR out, chose what lens you need etc."

I think you'll find that most people interested in photography will carry around, and although I hate this terminology it's aplicable, 24/7, a reasonable compact camera for this purpose. The main disadvantage of these being the time to first shot which can be as long as 2 seconds, I'm not sure how long it takes to get a cameraphone ready. For those who do carry about a DSLR a general purpose lens will be sufficient for "snapshots" and a mid-top end Nikon will be ready and focused before you get the viewfinder to your eye.

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Anonymous Coward

@Steve Evans

> Agreed. If anyone tries to bore you by claiming a DSLR in RAW has the dynamic range of film he's an idiot. Even in 14bit RAW on a Nikon D3 you have be careful not to blow the highlights, and compensate to sacrifice shadow detail instead.

> One day someone will invent a sensor that can handle a range of 12EV or more, until then, we'll have to use a bit of skill to get the shots :-)

Doesn't the Fuji S5 Pro manage 11.8EV? Okay not quite 12, but a damn sight better (on the dynamic range front) than a D3.

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Interesting, but..

"comparing a phone to an SLR is a little silly"

Quite a lot silly, IMO. As had already been said, a comparison with a pocketable compact of similar pixellage would have been interesting, especially with a wider range of phones (Sony, Nokia, Samsung, etc.)

In any case, even a prat-phone camera will take a better picture than the Nikon you left at home...

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Gold badge

SLR

Try fitting your SLR in your trouser pocket.

What this proves is the difference between the sensors and the default adjustments.

What you should try is adjusting and sharpening the images with some photo manip software and see how close you can get them.

The Palm pre image looked better than the iPhone, however this is largely due to contrast being increased. The iPhone images would look similar with some processing.

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WTF?

No, Really?

I, for one, am shocked, SHOCKED, I say, to hear that a cell phone can't take as good photographs as a digital camera. And after I paid good money for a phone with a camera.

Giant waste of time and bandwidth. Hope the guy didn't get paid for this.

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FAIL

Flash in broad daylight for a landscape show?

The auto mode uses flash for a landscape shot in broad daylight? No wonder you get a colour caste.

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Headmaster

Other uses for a camera you know...

I use the camera on my smart phone quite a lot but not what you might normally consider. I take whiteboard diagrams, documents and business-cards as this gives me useful records of events, meetings and people without a fistful of notes. I then plonk these in outlook and one note later. If the manufacturers want to do us a favour I'd vote for better low-light imaging (without flash) and a better lens - enough of the pixel count debate, please.

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Fine article

and great images, but i can't help wishing that you compared it to the finest cameraphone still available, the 2-year old N82.

Now THATS a real camera. Still not as good as a DLSR, but lightyears beyond these toy cameras.

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iPhone 2g & 3g camera scans oddly

re the geometric distortions. The old iPhone cameras effectively scan a picture, not nap it. I suspect the person taking those photos had a hand that wobbled while the photo was scanned.

See the photos in this post for wilder examples:

http://ianfogg.com/2009/04/04/iphone-camera-scans-not-snaps/

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Happy

@Steve Evans

"One day someone will invent a sensor that can handle a range of 12EV or more, until then, we'll have to use a bit of skill to get the shots :-)"

Or to look at it another way: "If you're a really bad photographer, this extended dynamic range is helpful for recovering lost highlights" (Ken Rockwell, reviewing the Fuji S5). :-)

I like film (and vinyl records) but that doesn't stop me from shooting digitally virtually all the time, or listening to MP3's. At least we've got the choice, even if that doesn't include Kodachrome any more.

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Unhappy

And in other news

Component Hi Fi gives better music reproduction than mobile phone media player. Can this be true? gasps phone owner. Wii and Playstation 3 give better gaming experience than mobile phone. Noooooooo! Screams same phone owner. It couldn't be true.

Radio reception and stereo separation on mobile phone 'poor' compared to 2 grand receiver.

But ....the games you can play on the component hi fi are limited. My phone takes better pictures than my radio does....straw men, man

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W
Dead Vulture

Jimi Hendrix on a 5 stringed wooden spoon > most folk on a £1000 guitar

The person taking the photo is the main variable.

Better cameras don't make it possible for everyone to take better photos.

Better cameras make it easier for some people to take better photos some of the time.

Some of the more stuck up among you probably wake up in a cold sweat after having nightmares about lomography, eh?

Call me daft, but when I'm on my hols, in the pub, or wherever, I want to enjoy the moment, and maybe grab a few quick reminders of it all. That means not having to lug around and nurse a muli-hundred pound piece of kit. Whatever. I use my E71 for all my snaps. Used to have a K770i for all snaps. Sue me. Before that I had a period where I took very few snaps. Because I just couldn't be doing with the hassle of carrying around extra tech.

Notice I used the term snaps? Does that make you feel any better? Knowing that I don't call them photographs?

If you're doing pro or enthusiast photography (where the expectation is completely apart from the accepted capabilities of a cameraphone), then yeah, have a good lurk around at dpreview and enjoy your "proper" camera.

I'll check gsmarena in the meantime, until El Reg can come up with a more meaningful cameraphone comparison than this dead end of an article.

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FAIL

Reviewer is an iDiot

Typical Bay Area iTard. Why the hell are you comparing phones that are nowhere near top-of-the-range in terms of camera quality to a DSLR at the opposite end of the scale?

You should be comparing a phone with top-of-the range camera quality to an average point-and-shoot DSC. If, for example, you compared the latest Samsung M8910 Pixon12 or Sony Ericsson Saito, you would see that the quality is near indistinguishable from an average point-and-shoot.

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review failure

8mp camera vs 3mp phone...

I never have my camera when i wanted to take a pic....i always have my phone

Im alway humping around my camera to snap pics that my phone does a perfectly good job at, I have maybe 5 photos that my camera was needed for.

The thing was I only knoticed this when my frien pointed it out the other day.

now I never bother with my camera.

PS why didnt you review the magic...oh you merkins dont get it yet.

oh the speed thing quite pertitant.

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