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Monday, 22 December 2008


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Given that cellphone-created novels -- i.e., entire novels "written" via text messaging devices -- are now dominating "Best Seller's" lists in Japan (see, e.g. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/20/world/asia/20japan.html) it's not much of a surprise that phones are taking over for cameras as well. (And aren't there now artsy galleries that exhibit cellphone photography? I seem to recall one recently in NYC.)

My guess is that in no time (well, less than a decade), cellphone cameras will be as good as what we currently regard as 'state of the art' in compact cameras (e.g., the Panny LX3). But in any event, surely the interest of cellphone cameras is not mere portability -- phones aren't much smaller than small compact cameras -- but in the integration of image-making capacity with the ability to transmit the made image instantaneously and wirelessly to a worldwide audience?

O brave new world, that has such devices in it!

It's the same here in Germany. I think it all boils down to the matter of convenience. The mobile phones have the added bonus that you not only have the instrument to take pictures, but also to share them right away (not just sending them, but always being ready to show them), a little journal of your life always with you. You wouldn't carry a digital camera like that, not even the compact ones.

I also use my phone when I use analog equipment and don't want to carry an additional dslr-set. On a recent trip to Israel I used a Hasselblad for my "real" pictures, but the small stuff and moments in between I just want as a memento to show to my family and friends. I'm not ready to drop a Euro on that for each push of the button (and sit there and scan them later). So I take them with my mobile, and video and audio, too (which I would be unable to do with my dslr).

And there I stood, Hasselblad around my neck, snapping pictures with my phone :)

I also use the phone to record some short interviews with the people I photographed (with the "serious" camera), and found that people who are inexperienced with being interviewed are a lot less intimidated by a phone than by a microphone and forget it is there almost right away (keep in mind, though, that I just use the audio to keep the information, not to use it for voice-overs later). Also something I would otherwise need yet more equipment for, so there's the whole convenience-factor again.

As much as I'd like to see a serious camera phone (with decent image quality and a fast lens as mentioned), I myself think that the idea is far from being reality. At least, we won't be seeing it for the next two years.

Why? The top two digital camera manufacturers, if I recall correctly, are Sony and Canon. Canon never had a stake in the cell phone biz. Sony, on the other hand, while they make good camera phones, they take great care not to trample on their own digital camera line, thus relegating their Cybershot phones to be decent, but not as good as their real Cybershots.

I have yet to experience phones from Casio (they don't market them where I live), but when it comes to camera phones, nobody touches Sony, and Sony's offerings don't touch digital cameras yet and don't offer much in the way of great photography, still. It remains to be seen if Sony will endeavor to finally eat into their own digital camera sales to have the top camera phone, but I have my doubts. The other manufacturers seem to simply put in more and more MPs and rag-tag marketing features than real upgrades.

Still, the masses are happy with camera phones, and that's good. For the rest of us with more specific photographic needs, I doubt the camera phone will be a viable replacement to, say, an LX3 in the near future.

Personally, I'd rather carry a separate digital camera. It's not much added weight, and it saves battery life for both the cellphone and the camera.

As the photograph that accompanies this post shows, technical excellence often has little or nothing to do with an image's power.

By coincidence, I posted a few camera phone photos to my blog (http://shutterfinger.typepad.com/shutterfinger/). The point of my post was that too many photographers make too many excuses about why they can't produce. Mahesh offers clear evidence that as long as you have some type of camera and the desire, you can produce real photographs--as opposed to the photos you could take "if only..."

I was and have always been majorly skeptical about phone cameras, but I have also been quite impressed with the quality of the iphone photos I have been able to take. No way it compares to my Nikon D700 or even my D90, but I just did this blog post purely on iphone camera photos: http://www.scottfillmer.com/2008/12/20/going-low-tech-with-lopi-to-heat-the-house/ (sorry for the plug).

If Nikon can add HD Video (although not the greatest) the cameras should continue to improve. I would love to see a 4-6mp with the ability to control the shutter and aperture

Wonderful Mahesh,

Glad to see a full recovery. The choice of "camera" is pretty unimportant here.

This woman has done some pretty fine work with nothing but a cell phone camera.


one special usage for (cheap) compact cameras i found is to set the camera free during a party or event and then see what happened elsewhere or what other people saw. i'd never do that with my dSLR or my phone..

Actually, next decade kodak won't be a 'phone' manufacturer. The personal digital device is changing too and it will be less and less phone in the future. (It will be connected to some kind of an network, and you may be able to make calls with it, but once again the communications paradigm will change).

And what comes to people using phone camera as their primary camera. The expectations and ability to evaluate and judge picture quality as well as photographical qualities of pictures has degraded so much that phone snaps are perfectly OK for most of the people. And thats not necessarily only a bad thing. It relates to the change in the way people value photographs or pictures. Shot with phone they tend to be more temporary artifacts than when shooting with DSLR for example.

Temporary photos are more consumed --> camera phones are widely used.

In the United States, a camera phone would probably be the only way to get that picture. I don't know what India's laws are, but I believe HIPAA (privacy law) here prevents the use of cameras in a hospital except as accompanied by the hospital's public relations people. A friend of mine works security for the university hospital here, and always is telling people to put away cameras, even though they just want to take a picture of something random in the hospital.

I've read this fun quote somewhere in any forum on the net:

"I won't take any phone camera seriously until it has a tripod thread"

Absolutely. Japan's had 5 megapixel camera phones out for 2 years or more. The new models have 8 megapixels, mechanical zooms, etc.

This is taken from my 5MP Casio set to 4MP:

More here:

Here's one being tested on Youtube

You see this in Japan too. Go to any large event with lots of people and look at what people use to photograph with. For every DSLR you have ten people with a compact digicam. But for every one of those, you have ten or twenty people snapping away with their phones, holding them up as if in supplication to some wireless deity.

And for most of those people, the phone cam is not a second choice or a miserable compromise. It's their only camera, they print from them or send them on directly to their friends and they're quite happy with the results they get. Most of them not want the burden and hassle of a separate camera and see no reason to buy one.

This is the future of mass-market photography. The DSLR and even the compact camera are sideshows, relative niche products for hobbyists. If you want to be the Kodak of the next decade you will be making phones, not cameras.

I paid $800 for an Agfa ePhoto 1280 in late 1997. That's pretty serious money, especially in 1997.

My iPhone camera is better. And my iPhone camera has captured important memories, many more than the old Agfa.

As a semi phone geek, I see lots of folks speaking very highly of the camera on the Nokia N82. I personally have an N95 (5mp, Zeiss lens). At a nokia event I saw some seriously large photos taken with the N95 that were quite good (though playing to the phone's strengths, naturally: large areas of consistent tone, limited fine detail in the subjects).


Having the camera is the first element and having an eye is the second. There are definately people out there with camera phones taking better pictures than I seem to be able to do with my K10d. Some of these people are even selling prints of their work. Note: justwhatisee.com. I think these are actually quite good. I too am hoping to get a quality cameraphone this next year, so I have one on me at all times.


I doubt that people will be holding their DSLR up to their ears to call but I would expect in the future to see convergence on P&S and Phones. Why carry two items of approx. the same size? It should be a no-brainer that eventually they'll be miniaturized into one. Does this leave Canon out in the cold or are they going to be buying up a cell phone company someday soon? Or maybe I'm out of touch and they already own one.

In the Netherlands Sony is running a TV commercial for a Cybershot camera with 8.1 Megapixels. They only talk about camera functions, but during a brief moment it slides open and it reveals a phone touchpad... So they sell it as if it is a digital camera, hence the name: Cybershot and oh yeah, you can use it as a phone as well.

(Beautiful photo of your mother, BTW.)

Well, I would certainly be disappointed if I bought a compact camera and discovered a phone attached to it!
I have no particular need for a mobile phone. It's not necessary to my job and my friends can reach me at home after 5:30 p.m. every day. Until it actually becomes cheaper to maintain a mobile phone over a land line I'll stick with my good old cordless and my trusty waterproof Pentax.
(For any BCers out there, I just got a call from Telus telling me they've lowered my basic land line charges and reduced my long distance fees!)

I mean, why not have convergence the other way around? They built a phone into an iPod, why not build a phone into (say) Canon's latest digital Elph. It's barely less pocketable than the new smart phones, and I'm rarely embarrassed by the image quality of the pictures I get out of mine.

thekevinmonster: HIPAA is not a general-purpose privacy law; it applies only to what health care providers do with the information they collect from and about patients. It has nothing to say about what a visitor does with a camera.

I, for one, would love to have something akin to an iPhone with a "quality" camera on it: phone, music player, web browser and camera in a single unit. A larger flash drive and SD slot would also be good, so it would also double as portable storage device.

Yes, I can get better photos with my dSLR, listen to better music with a home theater system, browse the web better with my laptop and store much more on my hard drives...but they get kinda heavy to carry after a while.

A camera phone that does offer an optional tripod


and 8.1 mp

That one I posted about, the Sony Ericsson 905.
Tripod socket.
IQ settings
Panarama stitching.
8.1 mp
WB controls
image stablization
etc etc

Is it to early to start complaining that it does not do RAW?

Off and on I have been Googlin around for info/reviews on a phone with a decent camera, and removable storage. Hard to find good information, at least it has been for me.
I made the mistake of posting a question on DPR about the subject, geez. The responses were, well very DPR. That i should get a real camera, stupid for wanting that, etc.
For my next phone, three requirements; good voice performance, 5 mp + camera, removable storage.

The best camera is the one you have with you.

After I read this, it got me thinking how many "in between" moments I missed because my camera was too heavy to lug around... so I up and got the SE C905 8.1 MP camera phone... after my first initial test shots, I deem it perfect for those "in-between" moments! Lovely! Though I'm hoping future camphones will have a manual mode...

I've been using my 640x480 camera phone almost exclusively the last year. My take on it is that if I can't take good photographs with my phone, using the bigger and fancier gear isn't going to make my work good. There are limitations -- it's ridiculously wide-angle, I don't think it focuses at all, and the resolution is too low for printing. On the other hand, it's fine for online, and it's been immensely helpful at improving my composition.

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