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Cameraphone buying guide for dummies

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Cameraphone buying guide for dummies
Introduction:

In the last two years, the phones without a camera have become a rare “phenomenon”, but the very fact that almost all the handsets currently on the market have one, doesn’t necessarily guarantee the picture quality. This article is intended to guide you while choosing a cameraphone - mobile device, which is trying to replace the regular camera. We’ll also explain briefly, the importance of each element for the good picture quality.


Hardware:

Megapixels  – one of the main misconceptions is that a greater megapixel number will result in better pictures. Actually, the megapixels are important for the dimensions (resolution), and from there, the larger/smaller picture you’ll be able to print out.

Sensor – In reality, it is the one that transforms the light coming through the lens into information and the bigger it is (physically) the better quality it produces. Unfortunately, the manufacturers do not provide information on what exactly are the lenses used in cell phones. Therefore, only the final result should be inspected and it should be done on a computer, because the small phone display can often lure you into thinking that the quality is great.

Nokia N95 8GB
LG Viewty

Nokia N95 8GB

LG Viewty

Optics
– a frequently seen tactic in the cameraphones is to employ lenses by famous manufacturers, such as Carl Zeiss (in Nokia) or Schneider-Kreuznach (in LG). The benefit of having them is contestable, so it shouldn’t be a key element when choosing a cameraphone.
 
Optical zoom – unfortunately, this is a rare feature, due to the fact that it has direct influence on the size of the phone. If you have it however, you’ll be able to zoom in on an object without loosing the quality of the image, in contrast to the digital method. The last one is basically pointless and is better to make a few steps towards the object instead of using it.

Flash – there are three more popular types: LED, xenon and photo flash. The last one can be seen in the latest Sony Ericsson models (C902, C702, W902) and is a reinforced LED light, which in contrast to the regular one can illuminate an object very brightly for a very short period of time. The xenon is identical to the one used in the regular cameras. Once again, the final result is what matters and not the type of the element.

LED (Samsung SGH-G600) - Flash Types
Xenon (Nokia N82) - Flash Types
Photo flash (Sony Ericsson C902 ) - Flash Types

LED (Samsung SGH-G600)

Xenon (Nokia N82)

Photo flash (Sony Ericsson C902 )

Flash Types


Optics protection and user-friendly buttons
– although they come last in the hardware list, these factors are important as well. Getting dust on the lens should be avoided, because it influences the quality of the pictures, and the lid not only protects but activates the camera also. If the phone you are intend to buy has one, see if it’s going to be convenient to use. Do the same with the camera shortcut, because a „struggle” with it can result in shaking and therefore, ruining the quality of the pictures. It’s nice to have shortcuts to the most frequently used options such as flash, self-portrait, shooting mode, and preloaded scenes. In the latest cameraphones, those are often assigned to the numeric keys or the D-pad. In some models, there’s a convenient option to switch between camera, camcorder mode and gallery, which reminds us of the regular photographic devices.

LG KC550
Samsung INNOV8

LG KC550

Samsung INNOV8


Sony Ericsson K850
LG KC550
Samsung Soul

Sony Ericsson K850

LG KC550

Samsung Soul


K850
Samsung INNOV8

K850

Samsung INNOV8



Software:

Speed – there are three important indicators: camera interface startup, focusing and taking a picture (storing the photo and getting ready for the next one). The speed is quite important, and if there are a lot of interesting things happening around you, which you want to record through many pictures, here’s a comparison table of a few 5-megapixel cameraphones and their times:


Phone

Starting
Focusing
Saving

Nokia N82

3 sec

2 sec

4 sec


Samsung Soul

2 sec

2 sec

3 sec


LG KC550

3 sec

2 sec

5 sec


Samsung G810

5 sec

1 sec

4 sec.


Autofocus – absolutely important for any cameraphone. More and more phones now include the interesting face or smile detection modes. They are very handy, especially if you are trying to make a picture of a restless kid.

Interface – it’s a matter of personal taste and preference. However, it’s good to have indicators on the screen of the functions currently active.

Samsung SGH-G600
Nokia N95 8GB

Samsung SGH-G600

Nokia N95 8GB


Options – here, the manufacturers try to include as many different functions seen in the pocket cameras as possible, but unfortunately, quantity doesn’t mean quality. A typical such example is the ability to manually set the ISO, which reflects the light sensitivity of the lens; the greater the number, the less light is needed to make a picture, but the sensor heats up more and respectively is noisier. Such options are used mainly in darker environments and have a rather negative effect on the image quality (usually, the cameraphones are quite “noisy” in a weaker light conditions) and this makes the setting useless.

Scenes in Sony Ericsson K850
Scenes in Sony Ericsson K850

Scenes in Sony Ericsson K850

The shooting modes and the scenes are much more useful. The first ones usually let you take a series of photos, panoramic and macro pictures. The preloaded scenes are an excellent extra for a cameraphone, because by using them, you can achieve good results in complicated situations, which require professional knowledge of the photographic art. For example, you’ll be able to record an image of a candle even if you don’t know that the color saturation should be decreased so it comes out all right. The most frequently seen shooting modes are landscape, portrait, sports event and sunset.



White Balance - Samsung SGH-G810
Effects - Samsung SGH-G810

White Balance

Effects

Samsung SGH-G810

The white balance (for now, always preset and marked according to the type of lighting: daylight, fluorescent, etc.) is used to keep the real colors in various conditions. There are other extras such as different color effects (negative, sepia, black and white), adding ears and frames, which are a way of adding your personal touch to the pictures. Most people rarely turn to these options but if you are in a fun or artistic mood, you should check out what is offered by the various phones.

Some cameraphones let you take multiple pictures for a short period of time and then you can choose the best ones to store. That’s what the BestPic function does. It can be found in some Sony Ericsson models and together with the night mode are not important factors when choosing a phone.

2 Comments
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posted on 20 Oct 2010, 01:42

1. asg84 (unregistered)


good review, think should put more weight on shooting in dark conditions,(with no blurred pics ) because thats the point many phones fails, and all phones give acceptable quality pics in good lighting

posted on 27 Sep 2008, 06:47

2. TMG (unregistered)


I agree with you mostly, my N95 shoots very nice pictures in good lighting but IMHO falls down badly on pictures taken at night / low light and this seems to be common with all cameraphones. I would have to say though that 2 megapixal (or above) cameraphones should be some sort of standard, with anybody looking to do more with your pictures than looking at them on a small screen. Shrinking down & printing a big picture means no loss of quality this is not the same in reverse, and VGA 640*480 for pictures looks bad even when on a phone screen.

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