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Megapixels & Camera Phones 323

CEmongler writes "Consumer Electronics publication 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 BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:13AM (#15112899) Homepage Journal
    Look, the number of pixels is simply not as important as the optical properties of the system. I've seen better pictures come out of a four megapixel (MP) camera with better lenses than those that come out of a seven MP camera with poorer quality optics. So, if your lenses allow clean transmission of light without chromatic aberration and little to no change to the fidelity of the image, then you will have better images than just simply bumping up the MP count through commodity CCDs.

    This of course is what the phone manufacturers are doing, buying commodity CCDs because that is what is being made. It is cheaper for them to spend an extra dollar or two on a higher MP count CCD rather than putting the development dollars on improving the user experience, interface or infrastructure.

    This of course is because people respond to higher MP counts in the same way they like "bling". "Ooooh shiny things!" Come-on people! Put some effort into purchasing quality products that demand a bit more work and are functional for longer periods of time instead of purchasing things that you throw away after only a short time. It shows you are more discriminating, pushes companies to produce better products, is easier on the environment and gives you better quality goods that help to improve your life rather than clutter it up with junk.

  • by castoridae ( 453809 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:17AM (#15112916)
    This of course is because people respond to higher MP counts in the same way they like "bling".

    Just like processor MHz when buying computer systems. It's a rough guide to speed, but there are other (often more important) factors. But it's so much easier to rate & quantize things when you can just pick a number and say bigger is better.
  • by AnswerIs42 ( 622520 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:19AM (#15112936) Homepage
    Is that camera phones are banned from most work places, fitness clubs and I have just notice at some local movie theaters.. even there (cell phone use for movie piracy I guess?).

    You have any idea how hard it is getting to find a good phone with all the features you want.. and NOT have a camera attached to it? You almost have to go to Nextel as they seem to be about the only cell company that doesn't have every phone be camera enabled.

    I ended up having to get a camera phone just so I could have some of the features I wanted (mainly bluetooth) and found a case that fits the phone that covers over the camera eye. Good enough to get past the rent-a-cop security.

  • Whatever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quokkapox ( 847798 ) <> on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:21AM (#15112945)
    any self-respecting phone would incorporate at least a megapixel camera

    Dammit, I've already got a phone (an old Nokia candybar model that has a wonderful interface and battery life and no stupid camera). Any self-respecting phone should be just a phone. If I want to take along my camera, I'll do so.

    I'm hoping my current phone doesn't break so I don't have to involuntarily "upgrade" to the next model which has countless features I don't want and an interface whose designers I want to reciprocally torture by redesigning their TV so that changing channels requires multiple button presses in even the most common case. Gah *head explodes*.

  • by berta ( 462366 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:22AM (#15112951)
    k750 from opening lid to photo can be done in 6 or 7 seconds, not 15 or 30 as this piece of well informed journalism states.
  • Metrics please (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wombatmobile ( 623057 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:23AM (#15112958)

    Camera phones are fast replacing a number of regular phones

    Are they? The "article" quotes no source and no statistics for this claim. How can anyone be sure?

    What does TFA mean by "fast"?

  • You pay for it?? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lispy ( 136512 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:24AM (#15112960) Homepage
    Not sure about it in the US, but in Germany I get a new cellphone every year at least if you make ~150 a month for the provider. I can choose from about 80 models and I pay nothing for the latest model.

    You might argue that I pay the phone via my monthly bill, but given the competition I don't think it's true anymore. Basically the phone is pretty much a giveaway for staying with the same provider.

    Cams in mobiles are pretty handy btw. I use it to record information that I would otherwise forget, stuff like the settings of my distortion pedal for my guitar and the like.
  • by Mantorp ( 142371 ) * <mantorp 'funny A'> on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:26AM (#15112972) Homepage Journal
    He says he took only 20 pictures in 3 months with his 2 mp camera phone. Why the hell is he reviewing cameraphones then?

    I probably take 20 pics per week on mine, I send them to friends and family straight from the phone, sometimes I post things on my family's website from it. I'll never get a phone without a camera.
  • They all suck (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:36AM (#15113031) Homepage
    I dont care if you can get a 30 megapixel phone, It's images will suck.

    The only way they can get lenses in these things is to either use the ceramic lenses or tiny plastic lenses at fixed focus and the image will stink no matter what.

    I have an old Fuji S1 3 megapixel digiatal camera in my closet that will kick the crap out of the highest megapixel point and shoot on the market today simply because I can plop a $1000.00 lens on it.

    90% of the image is in the optics and ALL cameraphones have crappy optics simply because there is no room for the real stuff.

    Unless people want to put a SLR up to their head to talk Cameraphones will always stink at photo's.
  • by Mantorp ( 142371 ) * <mantorp 'funny A'> on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:40AM (#15113054) Homepage Journal
    banned from most workplaces? I doubt even 1% of employers have rules against camera phones.
  • by wjcofkc ( 964165 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:41AM (#15113061)
    I just want a phone with a gigabyte of flash memory and bluetooth capability to be able to mount as a drive and store data on.
  • A Camera is a Tool (Score:4, Insightful)

    by natoochtoniket ( 763630 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:41AM (#15113065)
    We use white boards for brainstorming sessions, almost every day. Then, we use a digital camera to capture the image into our documentation. Many of our software requirements and design documents have embedded pictures, which are mostly produced with digital cameras from whiteboard drawings.

    We used to use a regular digital camera, and just keep one in each conference room. But they kept growing legs, getting misplaced, needing batteries, or just malfunctioning. Cameras that are owned by individuals have the advantage that the individual actually takes care of the thing, so it is much more likely to be available and work when it is needed.

    The key to any tool is to use it appropriately. A camera can be misused, such as to transmit confidential material to a competitor. A camera can also be very useful, to record and communicate drawings within the company.

    Banning cameras does not protect the confidential information, unless the organization also bans email, removable disks, printers, paper, and briefcases. Only two things are actually accomplished by banning any specific tool: It makes the organization less productive; And it tells the people that they are not trusted. Both effects are counter-productive.

  • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:46AM (#15113095)
    It's about EASY. I have a camera phone. It was free with my contract. It has a 2MP camera. I take it with me everywhere because it's my phone, so if I see something I want to snap, I can. Camera phones are not for people that want artistic or even "good" pictures. What they take is memories and reminders, things otherwise forgotten, not art. So get off your damn high horse. Of course it would be great if they managed to fit a DSLR quality camera system inside a phone. FOr now they can't and the products are STILL great, and within the budget of most people here in the UK.
  • Re:Problematic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stecoop ( 759508 ) * on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:47AM (#15113109) Journal
    First off, the Treo is also available in a non-camera flavor.

    As a sprint consumer, I would like to inform you that Spring Mobile Phone Corporation doesn't offer a Treo without a camera. Furthermore, Sprint will not activate your phone unless it has a Sprint stamp on it.

    Second, the talk of switching from Sprint to Nextel is going to be a lost one soon enough. Sprint has talked about how they are going to switch all voice traffic to their CDMA network and use the iDEN for PTT only. Thus, the lines will converge in due time, and one can guess the phones will also.

    Sprint bungled this merger - have they got the billing systems integrated yet, how about using the synergy of the towers - I work near a base and Nextel has a tower right next door and guess what I am on roam using Nextel's Tower! Sprint should have been talking with merging with Verizon instead of some 3rd technology. Sprint may have killed the current CDMA path since AT&T powerhouse has so much market presence with their massive GSM network. I prefer CDMA quality and price but I shake my head in shame being a Sprint Customer since the debacle.
  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @09:54AM (#15113165) Homepage Journal
    The one megapixel camera in my Motorola V635 takes pictures that are "good enough" - that is, it replaced my 3 megapixel Kodak, and while the image quality wasn't quite as good, it was barely noticable in the majority of cases. I went around New York for my honeymoon, taking pictures all over the place. My wife, who had a 3 megapixel Kodak of her own, also went around taking pictures with that. Frequently my pictures turned out better. Rarely were my pictures worse than what you'd get with a disposable. I screwed up more photos myself by including my finger at the bottom of many shots than the camera screwed up by creating a blurry, dark, or otherwise ugly image.

    By all of this, I don't mean to diss Kodak. I took some pretty amazing pictures with the Kodak when I had it. It's consumer grade, but it's nice. The fact is though that the whole "Oh, camera phones are so inferior, they're just cheap webcams really, gosh-diddly, you just can't get decent optics in such a small space" rant is, today, absurdly over-stated. Yes, you can still get cameraphones with bad cameras. Yes, even the better cameraphones cannot compete with high-end professional equipment.

    But the better cameraphones can compete with regular consumer digital cameras. The better ones do do an excellent job. The quality is superb. My V635 isn't even top of line, it's mid-range, and it does an excellent job. I have absolutely no reason whatsoever to ever buy a standalone digital camera again, save for the highly improbable situation that I end up being a professional photographer.

    My advice to anyone considering getting a camera phone who wants a good camera that'll eliminate the need to carry a seperate consumer-grade camera around is ignore the wankers who insist such things are not possible. Go to the mobile phone forums and check the picture samples. If they look good to you, then chances are it's a good camera. And that's one less box you need to carry around with you when you're somewhere that needs a camera, and a useful gadget to have anyway.

  • by Dare nMc ( 468959 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:00AM (#15113218)
    > More than half of the pictures I take are at 640x480 shots to post on the web.

    I noticed with digital cameras I have used. A photo taken by a 0.5 MP camera at 640x480 produces a lower quality, and smaller file size than the photos taken at 640x480 on a 5 MP camera. The smaller size comes from the jpeg compression on a photo with more info in it. My theory is, a 5MP (with proper software, and a CPU to do the work) has much more information to truly get a average of what every individual pixel color truly should be. Where as the less dense CCD, has a greater chance of missing what the average color should be, by what photons it misses.

    >camera phone is some level of zoom and the image quality posted by parent.
    this is where the high MP can help, if your willing to spend the time at the PC. take the picture, don't worry about framing, direction... crop and zoom at the PC before posting. Of course it's quicker to spend 3 seconds with the camera zoom at that time, than 2 minutes at the PC (assuming it's not a action shot, nude beach,upskirt,strip club, or spy type photo where 5 seconds framing the shot gets you busted.)

    as the other posters have said, nothing makes up for some image stablization and a quality lighting/flash. Camera weight/balance does help in my experience, and 2 hand holds, square sides to lean against a pole/rock do also. All contrary to the goal of a good phone, which I would want rounded (no snags in pocket) single hand, and light weight.
  • by gowen ( 141411 ) <> on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:03AM (#15113239) Homepage Journal
    Wow. Another slashdotter seemingly incapable of distinguishing between "Where I work" and "Most workplaces."

    Clue : The plural of "anecdote" is not "data"
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:05AM (#15113247)
    It is not just the optics. Granted, the optics most likely suck bigtime on these small devices, but there is another thing: pixel size.
    Silicon area costs money. So one way to crank up the amount of MP is to reduce the size of the pixels. Smaller pixels means less light flux, means crappy signal to noise ratio means crappy picture.
    The last pixel I worked on was a 1.7um pitch. Note that this is only about 2.5 times the wavelength of red light (~700nm)...
    Other things that get much worse when going to smaller pitched pixels is color shift. Ever noticed how colors tend to change to the corners of your image. That is not the lens working, that's the pixel's optical stack (on these dimension, light is not a ray anymore, it gets diffracted and sprays all over the place).

    On the CCD/CMOS issue:
      - CCDs are far better than CMOS in low light conditions (think astonomy)
      - CMOS is better from cost perspective as you can integrate amplifiers and logic on the chip.
      - Current CMOS is getting closer to the performance of CCDs, but we're not there yet...

  • Re:Problematic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:05AM (#15113249) Homepage
    WE solved that here.
    you can purchase special tamper detection stickers that can be placed over the cellphone's camera optics. if it is removed it will visibly damage the sticker. ( I tried several ways of trying to get it off, short of treating your camera lens with silicone first you cant keep it from making the tell-tale marks on the sticker)

    when you check in you get the sticker applied, when you leave your phone is inspected and the sticker removed. If you tampered with the sticker you are pretty much hosed.

    Works well, most people simply leave their phone at the securit desk, those that "MUST" have their phone, have to go through this and read the riot act twice as to what will happen if the sticker is found damaged.

    99% of people really do not need their cellphone in a secure area.
  • of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BenjyD ( 316700 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:35AM (#15113432)
    Of course megapixels don't mean much without the optics to match. Compare these two images [], both taken at 640x480. Spotting the photo taken on the Treo isn't hard...
  • Re:They all suck (Score:3, Insightful)

    by clonmult ( 586283 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @10:36AM (#15113444)
    No, they DON'T all suck.

    The SE K750, W800, Nokia N90 (with Zeiss optics), Sharp 902, are all good examples of 2mp autofocus camera phones that take decent pictures.

    The upcoming SE K790/K800, Sharp 903 are 3mp camera phones that also take decent pictures. I seem to remember that the Sharp also had an optical zoom.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @11:57AM (#15114152) Homepage
    I fill a 1Gig CF card every day. Most of the photos are for me only or my family or for screwing around trying technique out.

    But, if I am driving down the road and see 10,000 people marching to the government buildings I am a fool for not taking photos, that's history going on right in front of me.

    And if I am able to sell some of those photos, Cool my hobby is paying for it's self!

    I tend to sell about 20-30 photos a year. Mostly from events I am attending that a newspaper did not have a photographer attending. Every so often I get a nice arttistic shot for them (Right after a snowstorm showing kids playing for example) or I am lucky and end up in the middle of a historic event and am prepared. I make more cash from shooting casual portraits for friends and friends of friends because I charge only a little over my costs (typically $35.00 for a full package without touchups) instead of the insane prices a "studio" charges. ($500.00-$1000.00 for a portrait package is utterly insane, yet many pay it because they do not know any better.)

    Taking photos is fun, seeing your photo in the newspaper or in a magazine with your name next to it is a major rush. Making cash from it to buy more gear is even better.

  • by boingo82 ( 932244 ) on Wednesday April 12, 2006 @12:22PM (#15114360) Homepage
    Exactly - a few years ago, when the big thing was color screens on phones, my husband kept NEEDING a new phone with the biggest full color screen and voice-dial.

    Meanwhile, I always got "the brick" as he called it - a 5100 series Nokia.

    My Nokia phones were intuitive, easy to use, easy to hear, and WORKED - they always did exactly what one expected them to.

    His fancy schmancy phones - most of them Audiovoxes, I believe, after a few months would start dropping calls. The "mute" would get stuck on. The big fancy screen still worked, so did the voice dial, but the damn thing could not MAKE PHONE CALLS, the one thing it was actually intended to do. The flip-feature inevitably broke, too, so when you flipped the phone closed it would not hang up, and he'd go through all of his peak minutes in a 2 hour phone call that he thought only lasted 2 minutes.

    Give me a boring, heavy, rock-solid Nokia any day over these shiny pieces of crap they sell now.

When you make your mark in the world, watch out for guys with erasers. -- The Wall Street Journal