8MP Cell Phone Camera

Absurd headline: 8MP Camphone Spells Doom For Stand-Alone Digicams. Yes, it is incredible that Samsung is about to release the 8-megapixel SCH-V8200 camera phone. And yes, it is true that it’s all about convergence – I’d love to have really fine images come out of my phone. But there’s a long row to hoe between this and a true replacement for the standalone camera, both in terms of features / flexibility and in terms of lens quality, depth of field, etc.

One of the most difficult limiting factors in cell phone image quality is that there just isn’t enough physical depth in tiny plastic lenses to allow for decent focus or depth of field. One interesting approach to this problem is in hydraulically controlled liquid lenses, which closely resemble the way the human eyeball works.

8MP is a huge stride, but far from spelling doom for standalone cameras. But it’s not inconceivable that we’ll get there one day.

Music: Lou Reed :: Busload of Faith

8 Replies to “8MP Cell Phone Camera”

  1. I think in time we will see the end of the fixed-lens snapshot digital camera. The low end will be eaten by cell phones and the high end will be eaten by DSLRs. I don’t think DSLRs are going anywhere, though, except higher and higher resolution for less and less money.

    -Jim

  2. You’re right Scot, a high-resolution camphone is certainly not doom for stand-alones, although Jim may be close to the mark in that camphones will replace the low-end of the market, people who just want snapshots don’t care too much what they take them on (although personally I treat my phones so badly that even my current one, with a lens cover, ends up so fluffy & scratched that it’s virtually useless for taking pictures).

    This whole fuss over image resolution, which has obviously arisen because both manufacturers, media and consumers find it easiest to focus on a single, easily measurable gauge of “quality”, is just so much hokum. My old camera was a 3MP and I took some great pictures on it, many of which I’ve managed to blow up to pretty reasonable size, and I hardly ever even used the maximum 3MP resolution of that camera (most of the time I was closer to 1MP). My new camera, and EOS-20D, is infinitely better, but hardly any of the improvement is down to the fact that it is 8MP (of course its nice to have bigger images… except that it means I’m now eating through about 2Gb a week disk space to store my new photos).

    But I don’t think DSLRs can be said to be “going nowhere except higher and higher resolution…”, having compared my Canon to slightly earlier models I can say that improvements in read/write time, low-light performance/noise levels, interface/configurability, energy consumption and flash effectiveness also count. But it’s true that the DSLR curve is levelling out. Personally I think the most interesting growth area will be in very high-end digital rangefinder-type cameras, a market which has barely been scratched to date.

  3. I certainly agree that it doesn’t spell doom for the separate camera.

    My current phone, a Sony Ericsson K750i has a 2MP camera, and the quality of the pictures it can produce is superb (have a browse through the K750i group on Flickr for some examples) – it certainly has had me debating whether to take along a ‘real’ camera to events, or just use the camera on the phone.

    Having said that, whilst the camera on the phone certainly is certainly fine for taking a quick snapshot, it just doesn’t have the flexibility of a ‘real’ camera, the lack of a decent flash is a big problem at times (although the low light performance is not bad).

    Of course the real way in which it wins is that whilst I don’t carry a camera everywhere with me, I do always have my phone, so the K750i has allowed me to take some pictures I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to.

  4. Richard – Thanks much for the tip on that. The Flickr images look too good to have come from a phone. Like you, I don’t need a phone to take the place of a good camera, but I’d still *love* to have a phone that could take images good enough to not be embarassed by. Will definitely look into it.

  5. Dan looks like some of the newer phonecams have lens caps of one sort or another, which could alleviate your scratched lens issue.

    What means “rangefinder?”

  6. Hi Scot (delay, sorry… just thought to look back here).

    My phone (a Sony Ericsson S700i) does have a lens cover: actually a two-part shutter which meets in the middle. I guess small particles can get through that gap in the middle, and anyway my pockets are a very hazardous environment for cameras (for anything really). Oh, plus occasionally I forgot to close the cover and stick it back in my pocket anyway.

    What is a “rangefinder”? Good question, I’m still figuring that out myself. In film photography, it’s a compact but high-quality non-SLR camera. So it has a separate viewing lens (“rangefinder”) from the shooting lens, it also has the type of exposure controls you’d expect on an SLR, plus because of its construction the camera and lenses are considerably smaller than an SLR, and also they tend to have a cloth shutter so are a lot quieter. The size and the silence makes them a favourite for photojournalists, street photographers, and others who want to photograph unobtrusively.

    The typical (archetypal?) rangefinder camera is the Leica.

    In digital terms, I guess there is nothing to distinguish a rangefinder from a high quality compact (non-SLR) camera with easily accessible (i.e. not through a host of menus) exposure controls and swappable lenses. There are a few models made explicitly to target a market moving from film rangefinders, e.g. Leica have a few digital bodies and Epson have the R-D1.

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