As the ancient Chinese sages would say, “Hardware is hardware, options are options, but in the end, the quality is what matters”. The first two elements basically show you what is that you are able to do with the camera and not how good the pictures will be. To find out the real value of the results, you’ll have to inspect them on a computer and look for the following things:
Colors – they should be real. Take a look at a picture where the sky is present. Everybody knows that on our planet the heavens are blue and if they appear purple or too saturated like in a cartoon, then something is wrong.
Fine detail – the best way to see it is when looking at a picture in real size. The blurred outlines of the objects or if they are merging with the background mean low quality.
Indoor/night pictures – usually you cannot get good results with cameraphones in such conditions (too much noise) unless they are equipped with a flash. If the flash is on, you want it to illuminate the object just enough without burning them.
Here are some sample photos from our 5-megapixel cameraphones comparison for Q4 2007.
Macros – the macro photography is very impressive, and is a test for the close up focusing abilities of the camera. Good quality means very good detail of the object, including fine details not visible with the human eye.
Lately, the video recording has become a trend in cameraphones, giving you the opportunity to become the next Martin Scorsese or George Lucas. This element achieves results closer to the ones you’d get with a digital camera but is considerably behind the camcorders. The key factors here are:
Resolution – VGA (640x480) is the preferred one and DVD (720х480) is the future. So far, the only phone recording at such rate is LG KC550. Nevertheless, resolutions such as QVGA and VGA are good enough to use on sites as YouTube, for example.
Frames per second – they determine the smoothness of the video. You want to have at least 20, and more can be useful for effects such as slow motion (LG Viewty supports up to 120 fps).
Sound – for a quality video you need sound. If you are recording a speaking person at about 3 feet from you and you can understand his words in the video, then that’s a satisfactory result.
Effects – effects for the videos can rarely be found. At most, you’ll be able to change the white balance, shoot in black & white, sepia or negative. There are exceptions like Samsung OMNIA, which let you modify or accent on certain colors, achieving interesting results.
Sample videos shot with Samsung OMNIA: normal | color swap | accent
* Note that due to codecs support, you may not be able to play the files.
We advise you to look at videos made with different cameraphones instead of just checking out their specifications. It happens very often that despite the 30 fps with which the manufacturer claims the camera will record, it actually shoots videos in 22-25 and yet, don’t expect excellent quality.
After deciding to go for a phone based on its design and characteristics, you must look at the pictures and videos it makes on a computer. If you still cannot make up your mind, compare pictures from different devices made in the same conditions. This will give you the best idea about the abilities of the cameraphones.