If you define the ultimate point 'n' shoot camera as a camera so simple to use it's 'Idiot proof' then you could argue that as many camera phones are just a simple press of the O.K. button, and 'Bingo!' your snap is taken, then the mobile phone is the ultimate point 'n' shoot camera. However, as with most things in life, it's not that simple. Just as there's no one 'Panacea' cure all pill that cures all ilnesses, there's no one camera that will do everything you want perfectly. As cameras on phones are often there as an aferthought, and most don't even have a flash, there's a percieved lack of quality that puts many people off using them, and they are sometimes thought of as 'Toy Cameras.' But millions of people around the world do. Two years ago, at a well known local holiday camp, I was in the queue with my daughter to meet the pop duo 'Same Difference.' Now don't get me started on Simon Cowell, but what surprised me was just how many people were using mobile phones to take the pictures of their charming little offspring with the pop duo instead of using a proper camera. If you look at the easy social networking uploads offered by many of the more expensive models on the market, it's easy to see why mobiles are replacing cameras in the point 'n' shoot market.

The photo on the left was taken using my Blackberry phone at a resolution of 2Mp. It's a classic Jaguar from the 1970's (Patrick MacNee drove a wide wheelbase version in 'The New Avengers') and was taken on a slightly overcast day. As a picture it compares to those taken on an entry level point 'n' shoot. It's reasonably well exposed, sharp, and has good colour. For outdoor shots like this one, most cameraphones with a resolution of 2Mp or above will produce pictures of this quality. With my Blackberry, however, the only settings I can change are the image size and the scene mode (Auto or Night/Indoors). Depending upon your phone, different settings are availble according to the model and manufacturer. The Blackberry hasn't got the settings needed for every situation, especially indoor photography under artificial light. Many camera phones suffer from this. My last phone, a T-Mobile Vairy had a terrible camera even under good conditions.

The best camera phone I had was my Sony Ericsson phone (sadly the phone died), with 5 Mp resolution, built in flash, white balance settings and a feature set foundon an entry level 5 Mp camera, with an optical zoom being the only noticeable feature missing. Apple's latest I-phones and I-pod Touches are reknowned for having good cameras. In fact, there's even a mount you can buy to use dSLR lenses with it, (view it here) and if you've seen the TV ad, iPhoto looks really cool too.
As I stated earlier, the only camera feature not commonly found on a phone is the Optical zoom, and even Samsung introduced a phone with an 8 Mp camera and 3 x zoom lense with flash (looking similar to a Canon powershot if you looked at the lens, and a smart phone lokking at the screen) in Asia.
With easy uploads to Facebook and other sites,  phones are responsible for a growing number of photos on these sites. How many of your friends post pictures via 'Mobile Uploads?'

So why do so many people use mobiles as their cameras? My internet buddy Jesi had these words to say about her Sony Ericsson W995.... "I think the easy answer (as regards ANY camera phone) would be that it has Bluetooth (easier to 'just print' directly), you always have it with you, the pictures are large enough (or even too large) to upload to illustrate reviews, and it was 'free as upgrade' to my contract phone ... the battery life on my Sony Ericsson W995 is better than many digital cameras I've seen, and it is excellent in taking photos where the light might be awkward, as well as the 8.1 megapixels; I can edit and save edits on the phone as well, and with 8GB memory card I am not likely to run out of memory very soon either. I didn't like it as a phone, so I put the PAYG SIM in the new phone, and kept using my old Motorola RAZR with my contract ....        ♥ ~ Jesi ~ ♥ " .

Other people have commented in internet forums about the ease of uploading pictures to social networking sites (most smartphones have an app for uploading photo's to the web), and also the fact you're never without you're phone and are never without a camera for those unexpected moments. I never expected to be visiting the National Media Museum on a recent trip to Bradford, I had to take the train at short notice and didn't want to lug my camera in its big puch along with my bag on the train. Obviously, if I'd known I would have been going, I would have. The Blackberry's camera certainly came in handy. And, you can easily slip your phone into a pocket or handbag. 

The poor Dalek in the photo above illustrates a major weakness with camera phones. Whilst the exposure is reasonably decent for an indoor shot taken without a flash, the focus is very soft with a slight blur to it .Part of the reason for this is due to limited space for the camera sensor and lens in a small but crowded case. Some of the best smartphones have processors inside, a bit like a computer or laptop. The lenses in them have to be small, and are usually plastic (some Sony phones have Carl Zeiss lenses like their Cybershot cameras), many originating from a company called Asia Optical. And if you're at a party or in a pub then the lack of flash means blurry, red tinted photo's. It seems that cameras were tagged on as an afterthought or gimmick for many, if not most, of today's current crop of mobile phones. If you're happy with a snapshot like this it's fine, but if you want something that's properly focused then you need a dedicated camera.

Above all, I'd like to hear your views on camera phones: why you use them, or avoid them like the plague, What camera phone do you use? And don't forget to post your favourite camera phone pictures on our Facebook page. I look forward to seeing your photo's.

blog comments powered by Disqus