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Megapixels & Camera Phones 323

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-to-think-about dept.
CEmongler writes "Consumer Electronics publication CoolTechZone.com tackles the integrated camera attachments in today's cell phones. According to the author, "The camera integration has in fact reached such a stage that any self-respecting phone would incorporate at least a megapixel camera. The cutting-edge feature to have though is the 2-megapixel variety. The question is: is it really worth the extra money you pay for it? Without getting into model-by-model comparisons, I am questioning the entire range of 2-megapixel camera phones. Are they really worth it? For the most part, no."
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Megapixels & Camera Phones

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  • by Disavian (611780) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:13AM (#15112904) Homepage
    Who really takes their digicam with them everywhere they go? I know I don't.
  • by Dysfnctnl85 (690109) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:17AM (#15112921)
    I did not own a digital camera up until this xmas, and it was a gift. I purchased my w800i because it's sort of a MacGyver-esk tool used for pictures, music, and communication.

    Since I prefer film vs digital, I thought it would be nice to consolidate tools into one device that I have on me all the time. It has proved to be a good investment, despite the $400 investment. The premium price I paid has a lot to do with markets and such, but those aside, the phone fits its niche in my life and it's always convenient to have a camera on you at all times.

    Most phones available in the US have really crappy cameras, but the w800i is an exception.
  • Problematic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Erwos (553607) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:18AM (#15112931)
    The whole "cameras in cell phones" craze is starting to cause some problems for me. Many DoD installations do not let you take camera phones onsite. This has the effect of severely limiting my cell phone choices, so that I'm stuck with "crackberry" or "super cheap", neither of which is terribly appealing. What happened to a nice, mid-range phone with no camera? It's not even that I don't like a camera integrated into it - it's just not an option for me. This insanity is even starting to creep into PDA phones - witness the Treo 650's digital camera, for instance.

    It's gotten to the point where I'm thinking of switching from Sprint to Nextel, just because Nextel's phones actually seem more reasonable for my (and my wife's) usage. Interestingly, the Sprint rep I spoke with said I could do this, and they even had a group for going from Sprint -> Nextel!

    -Erwos
  • by raist_online (522240) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:28AM (#15112983) Homepage
    Couple of things - first off I have a 4MP compact digital camera and a 2MP (Sony K750i) camera phone.

    The camera comes with me to 'occasions' - places where I know I'm going to take photos (outings, birthdays, family stuff, etc) - it has a real optical zoom, 1Gb Sd card and flash.

    My phone is with me all the time and so I can take photos of things that catch my eye - landscapes, unexpected events, something fun that happens in the pub - it has only a digital zoom, .5 Gb Memory Stick Pro Duo, no flash (but you can buy one)

    And, you know, for outdoor, non-zoomed stuff, the results a re about the same. I'm not a camera buff, nor a pro and I think that is the point - to those of us that just want a memory recording device that will adequately capture an event most phones are up to the task.

    And so back to the point of my title - that is certainly my experience IN THE UK and EUROPE - having spent sopme time in the US they are WAY behind when it comes to phone tech - seems to be the result of a bad market and provder model. Anyway - phones in the UK and Europe are certainly up to being useful, usually free with a contract and do the job. I wish more article writers would remember or explicitly state US != World
  • by ianscot (591483) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:37AM (#15113041)
    My parents called while I was in the locker room last week, and somehow the act of flipping the phone open looked suspicious to the gentleman shaving quite naked at the mirror nearby.

    One of the black-clad trainers arrived to investigate my suspicious phone answering shortly thereafter. Had to scroll him through my few snaps to show him nothing was amiss. Still, he kept my phone safely behind the counter until I was ready to go. Reclaiming the phone later was plenty embarrassing.

    (Personally I would prefer a ban on hanging out naked to shave out of some exhibitionistic impulse, but that's harder to define than "cell phone camera.")

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:41AM (#15113062) Homepage
    Who really takes their digicam with them everywhere they go?

    I do.. I go farther. I carry a Fuji S3 and a couple of lenses EVERYWHERE.

    Why? because you never know when something will happen and you can bethe only guy with a photo of it. I sold 4 photos to a local news outlet of the Immigration Demonstrations from 2 days ago I made enough to pay for more camera gear.

    My hobby pays for it's self because I have the camera with me at all times. Some people with pocket point ans shoots were the ONLY people to get a photo of the Plane crashing into the WTC and other historic events that can only be captured by having a camera on hand.

    Take photos all the time and you will end up with some that are easily saleable to news outlets.
  • by JanneM (7445) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:42AM (#15113071) Homepage
    Yes, it's partly the optics. Mainly it is the size of the imaging sensor, though - or to be more precise, the size of the individual sensor sites. Smaller sensor and higher resolution both mean smaller sites, and smaller sites mean more noise.

    In the end, you will not be able to ever get the same quality out from a tiny unit like on a camera phone as you get from an APS-sized fixed-lens or SLR-type one.

    That said, I have both a DSLR and a 1.2Mp cameraphone and they both have their uses. The DSLR is more important of course, but I would not want to be without the cameraphone either. Even though I drag the big camera around most of the time, I still now and then find myself in situations where I didn't have it, or taking it out would have taken too long and drawn too much attention, or I just wanted to send a picture of something to my SO, and going via DSLR, computer and email was at least two steps too many and half a day too slow.
  • by clifyt (11768) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (rettamkinos)> on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:58AM (#15113207) Homepage
    "Especially with employers that have to be HIPAA compliant."

    Wierd --

    I am the HIPAA compliance officer with my office, and I have not seen any rules to this extent.

    At the same time, we train our employees and don't expect them to be idiots...but thats just my office. The rest of my organization might have other rules and employees they hire that for some reason they allow access to this data but don't really trust (i.e., there is no way for any of my people to download bulk data -- nor should there ever be for someone that can't be trusted -- and our software is designed so that certain activities like looking up the records of family members or even your own personal records is frowned upon...I actually got a call from the 'boys upstairs' because I was looking up a record of my own -- and that was just to correct erronious data from some tests I had accidently automated with my ID# back when the system was still in the test phase and none of the data was supposed to go forward).

    But yeah, we take HIPAA seriously here -- but we do it in a way that makes sense and not just restricts anyone that might actually have to use technology.
  • by Pikoro (844299) <init @ i n i t.sh> on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:04AM (#15113241) Homepage Journal
    Not going to happen.

    Almost every cellular phone company that is not based in Japan competes with the ones who are.

    I have seen 2 models of cellular phone here in Japan without a camera built in. Both of those models are meant for "old people". It's simply a keypad with an lcd display so you can double czech the number you are calling. Keys are big for people who have a hard time pushing these tiny buttons. Even the latest phones designed for elementary school children have cameras and gps built into them.

    On the other hand, some of the latest models here in Japan come with 4 megapixel cameras built in.

    I am of the mind, however, that a phone should be exactly that. Something to call others with. A way to take calls when I am not in the office. Don't get me wrong. I like my current phone (W21S) but I never use any of the features of it. I call people. People call me. What use have I for the GPS, TV tuner, Radio, Java, QR Code reader, and camera that are built in? The camera does come in handy sometimes, for those spontaneous shots or situations, but other than that, I don't need the other features. Hell, I'm thinking of re-activating my "old" lcd only phone mostly because of it's "lack" of features.

    Here in Japan, we simply cannot buy phones without most of these features. They don't exist.

    I DO like the GPS features though. For example. I go to the cell phone shop and pick myself up a phone with a GPS. Then, I pick up some phones for the kids (and wife). Those phones will transmit their GPS coordinates to my phone when I request to know the other phone's locations. If the "child" phones are not within GPS range (due to the kids being in school or on the bus or whatnot), then I will get approximations on where they are based on triangulation of the standby signal they generate when in contact with 3 or more cellular towers. All in all, a good way to keep track of those teenagers' whereabouts ;) It also lets me add the GPS coordinates to any picture that is taken with the built in camera, and will plot it on a map for me online if I wish.

    Get used to the idea that cell phones will have cameras built into them. If you don't like that, use land lines.

    Sorry.
  • Size does matter (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:05AM (#15113248)
    The reason the quality of cellphone cameras is so poor is due to the small size of the lense. Same is true for ultra compact digital camera's. For example, take an old Canon Ixus v2 and a brand new Ixus 50. The Ixus 50 is very slim, about two times smaller than the v2, has got 5MP, the newest DIGIC II processor, bla blah. But it has trouble focusing and shooting in low light, and despite the wide angle lens, Canon decided to include a heavy flash to increase focal depth, contributing to many over exposed shots. The good old 2MP Ixus v2 might be a little irresponsive at times and doesn't have the full fancy framerate auto-gamma übercool LCD display, but it beats the Ixus 50 easily on the lighting, colours and image quality departement.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:20AM (#15113332)
    Ah, the photographic equivalent of ambulance chasing. There is something kind of creepy about that. There is also a fine line between doing what you do, and camping outside the house of a person of note, hoping to catch a picture of them without makeup, or scratching their ass or picking their nose and selling that to a tabloid.

    About 20 years ago I was down on the Mall in D.C. for the 4th of July fireworks. We were sitting in an area where some of the fireworks fallout would fall (the organizers fence off large areas where they expect the debris to fall, but if the wind shifts by the evening they might not have cleared the entire area). I struck up a conversation with a guy next to me who had his camera bag; I figured he liked to get photos of the fireworks. Turns out that he goes into the fallout area every year with his camera hoping to have a situation where not just the fireworks debris makes it to the ground, but some of the still burning tendrils. Every year he hopes that someone on the ground gets burned so that he could get some pictures, walk a few blocks up the street to the Washington Post office, and sell the picutures to make it in the next day paper. That is creepy. And uncomfortable. What do you say after that? "Good luck guy, I hope it works out for you and someone gets horribly maimed."

  • by p0ppe (246551) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:25AM (#15113374) Homepage
    I've had tons of fun playing around with my 2MP camera phone. The image quality is bad and any light source in the field of vision will lead to overexponated images. Does that mean I can't take artistic images? Not at all. By knowing the weaknesses of the camera I can use them to my advantage.

    Using crappy equipment is loads of fun.
  • by Bueller_007 (535588) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:26AM (#15113376)
    2-megapixel is "cutting edge"? Last time I made a post about Japanese cell phones being better than the ones in the West, I got a bunch of replies telling me that "I was wrong", "if they're better, why haven't they taken over the market" and so on.

    But, I haven't lived in North America for a while, so I honestly don't know. Is 2-megapixel "cutting edge"? Is that how pathetic cameras are in the West? My current 3G Japanese cell phone is by no means top of the line (it cost less than one American cent, and came with no commitment--I was already a subscriber when I bought it) and it still has a 2-megapixel camera (including video, digital zoom, barcode reader), flashlight (that doubles as the camera's flash), schedule, calculator, currency converter, alarm clock, MP3 player, Bluetooth interface, I can surf the web, use it as a television remote control, check train schedules, play video games, interface with my television, sing karaoke on it, and on and on and on. I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot of stuff. And NO, the battery life for modern Japanese phones isn't as crappy as people say it is.

    I've actually moved away from Japan, so I'm not sure, but I imagine that all self-respecting Japanese phone companies have moved away from 1-megapixel phones completely, and are just selling their existing stocks to bargain hunters and the elderly. After all, a cell phone is an absolute necessity in Japan. Even octogenarians have them. I've heard that in Japan there are 3 cell phones for every 2 people.

    The only phones that DON'T have a camera are made for niche markets. For example, one of my friends works at a Japanese bank, and she's not allowed to bring a camera of any kind to work, even if it's just a cell phone camera. So she had to buy one without a camera in it. I imagine she had a hard time finding it; that's the only phone I've ever seen in Japan without a decent camera in it.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @12:26PM (#15114391) Homepage
    I'd rather share the info to the collective here. :-)

    First go to events where staff photographers for the paper are at and talk to them. Staff photogs are not threatened by the freelancers and gladly will give up some information after getting to know you. Also you can do the formal approach by talking to the editor and asking about freelance photo submissions (Think spiderman's day job) and even article submission. There are many events for the "metro" page that just do not get covered and they usually are stuck putting filler in there. if you can take photos and write a 300-500 word article about an event that happens locally that was not covered you dramatically increase your chances. Althouggh writing is not easy, I have not tried it but I know of a couple that is sucessful with it.

    Your first few photos will get you peanuts or will be free to the paper. You are unknown and unless you have a photo of Bin-Laden serving burgers at Wendys or a major news event that you have the only existing photos of they can simply say "no thanks".

    I get near top dollar because I have worked with them for a couple of years and have had regular publication... I.E. I am one of their freelance pros in their eyes. I know what they would like and deliver it.

    Finally, take a crapload of pictures at an event. If you can fill 2 gigs of photos from an event then you are sure to have at least 1 or 2 sellable photos.

    A good event photographer needs to be a good social engineer as well.
  • by otis wildflower (4889) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @12:40PM (#15114485) Homepage
    ... For me personally I'm pretty happy with the 640x480 fixed lens no-flash cam on my P800. I have a 5mp Minolta Dimage A1 that gets _amazing_ results, but it's also big and bringing it along means that I'm on a photography 'mission'.

    The phone cam is good for the spontaneous shot. Mine is pretty fast to load the camera program (and has a dedicated cam button) and I can whip out the phone and shoot a pic within 3 secs. The resolution is low when compared to a computer monitor, but when viewed on a standard TV the resolution is great. There's definitely noise but no more so than a DV pause on S-Video. Also, the quality of the 'print' is not the point, it's the quality of the moment captured.

    The cam is no substitute for a real cam of course, but for camblogging, spontaneity, and even real-life stuff like car accidents or 'citizen reporting' it's fine.

    Oh, and real-life camphone save.. my old 2mp Elph died after I landed in Belgium for a 2-week vacation, I ended up using my camphone to document my trip to Normandy, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Waterloo. As long as I had adequate daylight it worked pretty darned well IMHO. A side benefit was that I could get away with taking snaps in the Van Gogh museum without attracting unwanted attention (they prohibit cameras there) as well as at other museums on that trip (Louvre, Pompidou Ctr, Rijksmuseum, etc). And with the 128MB memory stick duo I get at least 250 snaps...
  • by LS (57954) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @01:11PM (#15114730) Homepage
    * It's not about the number of pixels, it's about the lense and camera design
    * I just want a PHONE that is a PHONE goddammit
    * blah blah blah

    For those who believe humans have free will, slashdot provides plenty of evidence to the contrary. I think I've seen these same posts modded up in a dozen different stories about camera phones. It reminds of the dilbert cartoon where the most overused phrase is how "swimming is the best form of exercise".

    LS
  • by nguyenht (188392) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @01:31PM (#15114885)
    My buddy told me about this company in Japan called ColorZip. In their own words...

    "We started Colorzip because we believe that ColorCodeTM technology is the most exciting mobile content delivery and management system ever imagined. It is the only technology in the world that allows any device with a CCD/CMOS camera and an Internet connection to read color-coded images and instantly download music, video and data from a server."

    See http://www.colorzip.co.jp/ [colorzip.co.jp]

    They apparently already have a beta working on many mobile phone's Java App.
  • by koekepeer (197127) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @06:40PM (#15117287)
    "Camera phones are not for people that want artistic or even "good" pictures."

    wouldn't be so sure about that. what if crappy cams like the one on your phone are the lomo of the future? [flickr.com]

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