back to article Is your cameraphone an oxymoron?

All cell-phone cameras are not created equal - even the three-megapixel cameras in the recently released iPhone 3GS and Palm Pre. And I've got the photos to prove it. Our recent review of the iPhone 3GS went into some detail about the quality of the camera in Apple's new smartphone. But I also wanted to see how it stacked up …

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  1. Mark 65

    Correction

    "Third, using a flash is lunacy on a bright sunny day"

    Unless your subject is backlit and you want to use fill-in flash of course. Whether or not a shitbox phone camera can do this effectively is a different matter.

  2. jake Silver badge

    Duh!

    "If you want to take real photos, get a real camera."

    Likewise, if you want real voice connectivity, get a real phone.

    I use a Nokia 5185 to make & receive calls, and a Hasselblad with a CF-39-MS back when I'm taking serious pictures.

  3. Sarah Baucom

    Pre is too sharp

    There were several comments in the article about the Pre being sharper than the iPhone 3G and 3Gs. Sharper is not always better. In the Pre pictures, it looks like someone took a decent picture, then ran unsharp mask at 200% with a 2 pixel radius in Photoshop. I'm not saying the images were shopped - just that it looks like the camera software is applying a sharpening filter to it, which makes it look undesirable in my opinion.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Curious...

    Why do you choose to test a couple of iPhones and a Pre? None of them are well designed as a camera. Even an old Nokia N95/96 has a better lens and 5 mega pixels.

    Current Sony, LG and Samsung models have 8 mp!

    The fact the iPhone doesn't even have a flash (not even a pathetic LED one) shows that they're not really even vaguely serious, it's just a tick box for the feature list.

    However it's nice to know the iPhone fanboiz can't yet claim to make my Nikon D300 redundant... I'm sure that'll come next week.

  5. SeguraTBlack
    Boffin

    Same photograph

    Hi Rik,

    The sample files you provide as full resolution images, photo_iphone_3gs_overall_large.jpg and photos_3g3_overall_large.jpg seem to be the same file.

    They are identical to the pixel level. Can you dig up the correct file for which ever is incorrectly named?

  6. Darkwolf

    sunny vs cloudy

    "There, I took over 200 shots to discover how each performs under ideal conditions: a bright, sunny day."

    Most photographers I know would consider "ideal conditions" to be a cloudy day, as then you don't get the harsh shadows that a bright sunny day would give.

    How bout a comparision between bright and sunny and slightly cloudy?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crap photos, but precious moments

    Phone cameras are good enough, getting better, and very often the only devices that would be around to capture the ad-hoc moments in life that may otherwise go unrecorded. Folk that bemoan a few minor image aberrations produced by essentially disposable gadgets when you consider that 25 years ago we were happy with fuzzy 6x4 snaps that took 4 days to get processed seems a bit odd.

    p.s. The camera doesn't matter: http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/notcamera.htm

  8. Simon Williams 2
    Jobs Halo

    TItle

    Steves Reality Distortion Field included in the iPhone., it's a key selling point.

  9. LuMan
    Stop

    Interesting

    I find it odd that, up to now, we seem to have mobile phones with all manner of bolted-on 'accessories'; MP3 player, camera, etc. Surely it can't be that difficult to add a mobile phone to something more useful.

    Personally, I'd like a *really* nice pocket camera (8-10Mp, proper camera features...) with a usable mobile phone built in that's not the size of an A6 sheet of paper.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Is that some Reality Distortion Field?

    I always thought it was something that wouldn't show up in photos, like gravity and phlogiston

  11. Pabs

    Phone camera = FAIL!

    Never really understood the point, other than taken drunken photos of your mates on a night out. I would never use a Phone Camera for holiday snaps or real photography. I dont care how many MP they put in, the sensor and lens is far more important!.

    People who complain about their quality of Phone camera pic's are just idiots! Its for fun, not for serious pics!

  12. SuperTim

    Jack-of-all-trades.....

    As with anything, if you try to do too much, you may have to do it less well than if you specialise.

    I have a trusty old canon DSLR, which still out performs any camera phone. This is due to the large lump of glass it uses to focus images, meaning more light and the option of depth-of-field effects. If it could make calls and surf t'internet while allowing me to GPS my way around Snowdon, then it would still be worse than the iPhone and Palm Pre, because it is massive and weighs a ton.

    The iPhone should have got a flash, mainly because it would be used indoors a lot. The tap-to-focus is only as handy as the half-pressed shutter button on a DSLR so doesn't suddenly add functionality to the camera world, but does allow better composing on a phone. No zoom, but no need as it would only be digital, which i can do better in photoshop, and a frustrating lack of shutter/iso control mean it will never be that good.

    I am curious as to the point of the article as i am pretty sure the Palm and iPhone would not be sold on the quality of their camera alone. I love that journo's seem to think they can point a finger at a manufacturer and tell them they are crap. I dont see you tinkering in your shed and bringing out a sleek and small multifunction device. Still, it is nice to see the comparisons, so thanks!

  13. Fred 27

    But do people care ?

    So phones take poor pictures. But then users don't care.

    Users take poor pictures too. They don't really care about taking great pictures as long as their friends are in them and they can recognise them.

    The ones that care a bit get a camera, the few that really care get a SLR and proper glass.

  14. Ian Entwistle
    Thumb Down

    and agaiand against camera phones reknown for their quality?

    So wheres the comparison against whats available in Symbian world of cameraphones? N95, newer 8Meg samsungs, Xenon equipped N82?

    and what was the point of using a (older)DSLR to compare to? how many 'ordinary' people use them? not many, put it up against say a 100 quid panasonic compact and see what the difference is there. Surely the whole point of the camera on mobiles is for those 'snapshots' you would miss by the time you got your DSLR out, chose what lens you need etc.

    I bought a Sanyo 750 when it was one of the first 1.3M pixel phones. The reason? We'd just had a baby. I have so many shots that I simply wouldn't have if i'd only used my proper cameras. it was rubbish compared to whats available now but they are still useable pictures that our daughter now 4 loves looking at.

  15. N2 Silver badge

    @ Jake

    Couldnt agree more,

    for a compact camera, I find the images from my phone perfectly acceptable & whereas I have my Nikon for more serious use.

  16. Martin Marv

    A fairer test...

    ... would have been to compare the camera-phones with a digital compact, which is more the market that they're trying to compete with. We're a long way off anything the size of a mobile phone competing with a DSLR!

  17. davejef

    Other cameraphones

    How about comparing it with some of the higher megapixel cameraphones out there like the Samsung Pixon or one of the 8 megapixel cybershots?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    More info

    I'm with Sarah--the Pre photos have obviously been digitally sharpened in-camera (phone). I'd prefer to do the sharpening myself later, thanks.

    I would be interested in other characteristics, specifically the angle the camera can capture and the low-light performance. My 2G iPhone has a very narrow angle... probably around 40mm equiv. It makes composing shots difficult. But the low light performance is quite good, for such a small lens and sensor.

  19. Tim Spence

    @ jake

    Thanks for repeating the moral of the story, which the author kindly pointed out themselves in plain English.

  20. stu 4
    Pint

    motion blur

    yer first shot on the 3g shown motion blur at the top. As far as I can see this is the only real difference between 3g and 3g3... and causes by motion, not the software.

    I agree with Sarah, the pre looks terrible - massively over sharpened and far to high contrast - its just stripped the detail right out. However, for most folk viewing the pics on the phone + resizing for web, etc they will probably look better for it to the average joe.

    Jake mate: you remind me of hifi shop salesman from the 80s - anything other than a 10k system 'is shit'.. I'm a firm believer that you should buy only what you need and can tell the difference with personally, etc (e.g. for me 192Kb mp3 sounds like 256kb mp3).... I spend more on things I care about more (my macbook pro, my M roadster) and less about things I care about less (my 2nd hand lumix FZ30, my washing machine)... however my washing machine washes clothes just fine, and my lumix takes as good enough pictures to make my limited skill the limiting factor rather than the camera...

  21. Parax

    Its a shame...

    that this is just an iphone review...its a good article! but it would have been nice to have seen a phone that claims to be a good camera something like a sony cybershot phone (k850?) and a real camera of phone size.. your generic point and shoot say a canon ixus..

    comparing a phone to an SLR is a little silly, as everyone knows that a $1000 camera is better than a $300 one... but is a $300 one better than a specific camera phone? That remains unanswered. as does 'is there a difference between a camera phone and a phone with a camerra'???

  22. Breadmaster
    WTF?

    DSLR

    What on earth were you using Shutter-priority for?

  23. m hutchinson

    Backlight

    The backlighting issue is nothing to do with the camera. No camera can balance a very dark foreground and very light background - it's one or the other. This has to be done in post-processing by adjusting the levels. The cameraphones cannot expose for a small foreground properly unless they have spot metering.

  24. Stacy

    I'm with Sarah

    Plus of course... A sharp background when taking portrait type pictures is not what you want, and really takes away from the shot.

    I use the iPhone for quick snaps (have to say it's one of the best cameras in a phone that I've used) and my DSLR for taking photos... You can't expect a camera phone to deliver a real picture with the built in limitations on lense construction / size and sensor surface area - really the size of the pixels on the high mega pixel machines is actually something that you have to work against for making decent quality photos.

  25. Andrew Baines Silver badge
    WTF?

    Not what a camera phone is for

    Camera phones are for two things:

    1) Taking pictures of your car after an accident

    2) Taking pictures of your arse to save wear and tear on a photocopier

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The wavy gravy effect ...

    ... occurs because the camera was moving when performing the exposure. You'll see this effect with pretty much any mobile phone camera if you move your phone enough while taking the shot (and it can also be used to great effect for some trippy scenes if you want to).

    Hold it stock still and you won't have this problem.

  27. The Original Ash
    Paris Hilton

    @Sarah Baucom

    I agree; Soft focus covers a multitude of sins.

    Just which dark-haired colleague was photographed in the store cupboard in an "unhygenic" position with the boss, for example!

    Paris? You can figure it out...

  28. Mattew Gaunt
    Alert

    Non-story

    Shock investigative revelation! Cameraphone doesn't take pictures which are as good as an SLR!

    No shit.

    The great thing about cameraphones is that suddenly the whole world has a camera with them, all the time. Not just for when they go out to take photographs.

  29. Secretgeek
    Happy

    Fluidity.

    I quite like the thought of random wobbliness to my photos it would add a surrealist touch to my world.

  30. foo_bar_baz
    Dead Vulture

    Greetings to Detroit

    Why is it that so many phone related articles on this European site seem to always be about two US phones, one of which is not even available here? It seems that US phone makers have lost the big battle to European and Asian competitors so Merkin journos are desperately trying to focus on the remaining - let's be frank - fringe products with any excuse for an article. It's almost painful to watch. Next an authoritative comparison of car and home audio systems featuring an SUV and a people carrier?

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Use a proper camera

    On p.2, the photos of the Marriot on the 3G v.3 and the 3GS link to the same file.

    I use a bakelite rotary-dial telephone to take *all* my photos, and a Wista 10x8" field camera for calls. You wouldn't believe how inconvenient that can be, but at least I get to laugh at iPhone fanbois.

    Paris, because she probably likes a large format.

  32. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Up

    Speed of photo taking?

    It would be useful to have a speed comparison. Not shutter speed, but the delay between pressing the 'shutter' and the photo being taken.

    I find this a continual annoyance of the iPhone (both original and 3GS). The whole point of a mobile phone camera is to grab quick shots when you don't have a proper camera to hand - for example, like you say, random celebrity sightings and drunken friends.

    Quality isn't vital, but speed is. When it takes half a second after pushing the button to actually take the picture, more often than not the opportunity is lost.

    Oh and I agree with Sarah Baucom - it looks to me like the Palm Pre is applying a software based sharpening filter. This makes casual photos look better, but it would be nice to be able to turn it off for more accurate photos. Applying a similar filter to the iPhone's photos in Photoshop would probably give the same result.

    (Speaking of filters... whoever drew these new icons needs to take a look at the clipping of the 'thumbs up' and 'unhappy face' and make them as smooth as their counterparts)

  33. Alexis Vallance
    Thumb Down

    The Palm is AWFUL

    Never mind the colour balance issues, isn't the main problem with the Palm the fact the photos look like they've had the Photoshop watercolour filter applies to them?

    They look terrible.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Forget the pixelage

    Apart from the resolution of the CCD and the image processing software the real reason digital cameras are often shockingly bad, especially on phones, is down to some basic physics. Light is focussed onto the CCD using a lens and the lenses on camera phones are normally static affairs which do not vary their focal length depending on the distance of the subject, all this stuff is normally done in software (badly). Even an autofocus digital compact camera has very little distance between the lens and the ccd (and normally a tiny ccd - to the order of a couple of millimetres) so the lens has to refract the hell out of the light in order to focus it on the chip.

    Compare this to a good quality SLR and you will notice right away that the whole thing is bigger so the light does not have to be bent quite as far. The 35mm film means that the light does not have to be refracted so much in order to focus it on the film, good quality digital cameras (the sort the paps use) have larger CCDs, not just to give them a higher resolution but also to ensure that they do not have to bend the light so much.

    Refraction works because of the different density of the lens and the surrounding air so there is a hard physical limit to how much the light can be refracted, this means that no matter how many megapixels you have in a phone or a compact camera it will never take a shot that is as good as large format slr type camera with a large ccd.

    Then there is lens quality into the mix as well. It's a precision thing and lens quality makes a massive difference, much more than the number of megapixels.

  35. graham 33

    Mistake

    The images on page 2 are not uploaded correctly - the iPhone 3GS shot is identical to the iPhone 3G v3 shot when you click for the hi-res image. Thus - can't compare...

    You also fail to mention anything about the sensor, its all about image processing and megapixels. The sensor is more important than megapix count...

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not enough time spent tweaking the settings...

    All the problems described are probably down to a lack of time spent tweaking the endless set of settings inside the camera ISP. Given the pipeline involved in even the simplest camera phone (lens shading, auto focus, denoise, sharpening, white balance, colour balance, gain control to name but a few), there are a huge number of parameters to test for and set. Most of which change when lighting conditions change, or the flash is used...It can take months to get all these optimised, and when time to market is so important.....

    The flash problem on the pre appears to be down to bad software - it's not selecting the correct AWB curve in certain circumstances - again - a lack of testing and tweaking.

    But look on the bright side, next gen phone cameras are getting pretty good, even with the sh**y sensors/lenses they have, the software can improve the picture quite dramatically. Even to the level of your old DSLR.....

  37. Jack Harrer
    FAIL

    Brought to you....

    ... by the Department of Bloody Obvious.

    Almost all cameras embedded in phones suck. Some suck less, some more. There are few fine exceptions (Sony Ericsson Cybershot range), but those are rare exceptions. What can you get from crappy plastic lenses with terribly undersized sensor and no proper software to drive all this crap-o-rama?

  38. Phil Arundell
    WTF?

    Stating the Bleedin' Obvious

    "If you want to take real photos, get a real camera" - real insight from El Reg there!

    Having said that, I thought the review was pretty good and does show that phones can take half decent pictures in an emergency. Would have liked to see some low-light shots though to see how the Pre's flash performs

  39. teebie
    Stop

    @AC 20:53

    You took several camera phones and took a number of photos of big, blow-up-able buildings in San Francisco? That's brave journalism.

  40. Number6
    Troll

    Wavy Path

    Are you sure you didn't capture an earthquake passing through?

  41. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    Pixels and Lenses

    Firstly in the world of digital cameras far too much emphasis is placed on the pixel count. As at least one poster here has proved many people believe that more megapixels mean a better camera. Before we even get to the most important part of any camera it's worth pointing out that not all CCDs are created equal in exactly the same way that not all photographic emulsions were created equal, back in the day I knew people who maintained that bargain basement Orwochrom was as good as Kodachrome. Trust me, it wasn't. The same applies to CCDs, and like old photographic emulsions in general the more expensive the CCD the better it is.

    But the most important component in any camera is the lens. Cheap cameras and camera phones often boast an increased pixel count from one model to the next while retaining the same lens. A lens that often wasn't capable of resolving at the original lower pixel count, so you won't see any real improvement in the images they'll just take up more memory. Even worse are the cameras that insist on storing their images in jpg format at a relatively high compression.

    Of course the firmware plays a part, but when it comes down to it, if you have a crap lens or CCD then no amount of software will produce a good image.

    To many words have been written in consumer magazines on the subject of camera phones being as good as real cameras. It reminds me of the days when they used to tell us that cheap 35mm compacts were as good as SLRs.

    Oh and anybody who uses "digital zoom" doesn't actually care about the final image.

  42. Jerome 0
    FAIL

    Two iPhones?

    Interesting choice of devices to compare... two almost identical phones from the same manufacturer, one other phone, and an antique DSLR. Where's all the camera phones from the other seven or eight manufacturers? Perhaps one of the ones that actually claims to have a decent camera in it?

    It might also be interesting to compare these against a compact camera or two - the things that phone cameras are actually competing against. Everyone knows you need a DSLR if you want to take "professional" photos. We want to know whether it's worth carrying around a separate compact camera and mobile phone for those everyday shots, or whether phone cameras are "good enough".

  43. teebie
    Pint

    "Never really understood the point, other than taken drunken photos of your mates on a night out"

    I thought that was the point?

    If was going to do proper photography I'd use some sort of camera. If I'm going to do proper drunkeness I don't want to take a loseable breakable camera with me.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    @SuperTim

    "I dont see you tinkering in your shed and bringing out a sleek and small multifunction device."

    That is one of the dummest arguments around. By that reconing you wouldent be upset if the dentist drilled trough your tooth and into the gum. Cause Hi can you do better? The car maker that forgot to put in a functional rengien? Oh np guys I can´t build an engine so its ok that you dident.

    silly...

  45. mccp
    Coat

    Megapixels, smegapixels...

    We live in a world where marketeers like to reduce comparisons between devices to a list of tick boxes and numbers. Megapixels are a great example of a statistic that means pretty much nothing to picture quality, but is used by everyone as a measure of potential quality.

    First, megapixels are used to denote an area. If you had a line of megapixels then it is true that 3MP would be 50% better than 2MP. However the megapixels are in a rectangle about 1200 x 1800 for 2MP or 1400 x 2100 for 3MP, this is a 17% linear increase. This doesn't look so good, which will be why the marketeers avoid telling you this. Resolution is usually very small print somewhere technical - BTW megapixels aren't a measure of resolution.

    Second, the megapixel number tells you nothing about the actual size of the sensor - just how many pixels it has on it. It shouldn't take many brain cells to figure out that as each pixel gets smaller it will receive less light, so more amplification will be needed to get a good signal. This makes the signal noisier so it is cleaned up by software. This loses information and makes for softer images which are often then sharpened mercilessly.

    I won't even start on the lenses.

    Don't worry about the quality of the phone in your camera. They are all rubbish.

    Oh, and AC 06:16 - funny that you slag off film and recommend Ken Rockwell in the same post when KR is a recent convert back to film from digital. http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/free-digital-camera.htm

    Mine's the one with a roll of Kodachrome in the pocket.

  46. Robert Hill
    Grenade

    Loss of standards?

    Digital media have conspired to make more media more accessable to more people - sharing and communication is now commonplace between social groups spread worldwide, in a way that old media could never have supported. This is a good thing, but also a bad thing...

    The quality of commonly-accessible digital media (jpgs, MP3s, pdfs, etc.) is often worse than the media they have replaced (notice I am not including FLAC, RAW shot in a 39 Mpix digital camera, etc.). As such, we as a generation are getting used to reproduction standards that are in some ways worse than what we had a generation ago - your common compressed MP3 played through iPod headphones sounds worse than a good quality turntable hooked up to a vintage 1970s hifi with good speakers. But as it is "digital", we think that it must contain all the data that should be there, and we learn to relish it's ubiquity.

    The upshot of this is that we are getting more media shared wider, but our appreciation of the nuances is dissapearing. When you look at a friend's holiday cameraphone snaps on Facebook, it will never have the granduer or impact of vacation pictures taken as 35mm slides and projected on a screen in the living room while you all sit down and drink wine and discuss them. You will never see the fine details on Facebook, notice the background of the pictures, the expression of the faces of those in the back, the whitecaps on the water behind them, etc. You WILL get a top-line impression of what was going on - the central thought, as it were, but not the complete context, or the mood, or the complete emotion.

    As a result, we are more and more drowing in media saturation, with ever lower expectations of what it should or at least could be. Photography especially is more and more about conveying a very simplistic thought, rather than an appreciation of the photograph itself - after all, it's silly to worry about the "rule of thirds" when the entire photograph is only a 2" square of pixels on a monitor.

    The only good news is that digital photography is also making DSLRs and processing more readily accessable to those that would persue it as a hobby, and as a result the "serious amatuer" ranks are swelling slowly but surely. The only question is whether people will still care to view that type of studied photography for long...or appreciate it.

  47. Pabs

    can't compare phones to DSLR's..

    .. but compact still better!

    My 4 year old 5MP Compact still outshines any phone camera I have used, including Sony's

    I don't take my DSLR on holiday abroad, but do take Compact, I wouldn't think of using my Phone camera......it was phone years ago as a novelty but now I'd rather use a device designed for taking photos

  48. Pabs

    @teebie

    Yes that is the point, how many times have I actually used the camera on my phone on a night out....em...once! I have owned a phone with camera for ...oh...6 years or more, and I have never used my camera other than that one occassion.

    Its a fad, and we are brain washed into thinking we need one!

  49. Richard Cartledge
    Megaphone

    Pre Wee

    The Pre photos look better than the 3GS, but that's because it looks as though they have been over 'enhanced' whereas the 3GS photos look more like they have left that for you to do in iPhoto/Photoshop etc..

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    @Pabs

    I have taken over 3000 pictures on my phone its no fad. YOU dont need one. I however do and it is my primary consideration when purchasing a phone.

    Now who needs a friggen mp3 player on a phone? never used it, to paraphrase: Its a fad, and we are brain washed into thinking we need one!

  51. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Camera phones will blow for a long time to come but for most they're fine

    I use my camera phone for one thing, eBay item photos and that's it.

    Using a camera phone with the desire for serious photos is foolhardy. Sure capture a fleeting moment if you have nothing else on you.

    For everything else, my M2 is always with me. That said whilst you can argue camera phones (and by extension digital) has 'democratised' photography by bringing it to the masses, and made it more affordable for those whom 36 frames on a roll 135 lasted a year. And that's a good thing really even though inside my snobbery is thinking "Egh, the noise, the harsh nasty thing called a flash which is just some LEDs and the focus, well there is none!" -- but the person who took it seems to be happy with the drunken stupor they have captured or holiday moment and there's no harm in that.

    If you want to take decent photos you need to buy decent equipment, film or digital. There's little point trying to become a landscape photographer with a Olympus Camedia 1.3MP digicam from 1999 or a fallit to pieces Chinon loaded with Boots consumer grade ISO 200 35mm. If you want to be serious about it you will be investing in a camera, not a phone with a camera.

    If you want snaps, a camera phone probably does suffice for the average joe whether us photography snobs like it or not. it's not like the mainstream is up late at night selenium toning a fibre based print from a recently souped roll of FP4 (which is something I sometimes do to make myself happy with a photo, i.e. it's work, others may spend hours processing in Lightroom) -- the majority of camera phone users have already whacked them up on Facebook or in an email, maybe taken them to Jessops for some 6x4s and the rest have been looked at on that 2" x 1.5" screen on the phone itself down the pub and they're happy.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    Cameraphone?

    Yet not a single Cameraphone in the article?!?!

    Phones with cameras ARE NOT Camera Phones...

    Cameraphones are branded products designed as usable cameras eg the cybershot series.

    Not all Phones with MP3 Players are Walkman Phones...same applies to cameras..

    sorry for the over use of sony they are a good example as they have both camera and music brand names as well as a phone business.

  53. Annihilator Silver badge
    WTF?

    Coming to you live..

    ...from the "no shit, Sherlock" department.

    Cameraphones are the 21st century version of Polaroid instant cameras. 0% quality, 100% convenience (you generally have your phone with you at all times).

    Throwing megapixels at the problem is a misnomer, that mccp picks up on, but "Curious" AC clings to for dear life. "Current Sony, LG and Samsung models have 8 mp!". Whoopy-doo. Stick a gigapixel sensor in there and it still won't compensate for the microlens that lives inside,

    Show me a 3MP DSLR (Canon EOS D30 circa 2000) and I'll show you something that can out-shoot any cameraphone on the market. Would I rather drag the Canon to a pub/club than my phone? Not a chance. Will I compromise on quality for convenience? In the right situation, yes.

    To all intents and purposes, the camera add-on/gimmick is "free" with the phone. Don't look a gift-horse in the mouth, use it if you want, accept the lower quality and let's all move on with our lives.

  54. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    @mccp

    Mine's the one with a roll of Kodachrome in the pocket

    The last roll?

    http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2009/06/23/kodak_dumps_kodachrome/

  55. Matthew 4
    Thumb Down

    funny

    my trusty SE k800i takes better pictures than all of those phones, yet it must be 3 years old now.

    As camera phones go SE make the best. Still noting compared with a real camera though

  56. MikeDI
    Pint

    Seems to me...

    ...That the 3GS could do with two 'tap boxes' - single tap to set focus point, double tap to set exposure point. Not perfect, but would likely improve the situation in some of the images presented...

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Garbage

    "Surely the whole point of the camera on mobiles is for those 'snapshots' you would miss by the time you got your DSLR out, chose what lens you need etc"

    What so you walk around with your mobile in hand and switched to camera mode?

  58. steogede
    FAIL

    Comparison

    I would have added something from the Sony Ericsson range into the comparison. I used to have a k800i and sure it only had a tiny sensor, and tiny lens. However it was a pretty nifty camera - sure it wasn't in any way comparable to a dSLR - however it was much better than many early compact digitals and much better than compact automatic 35 mm cameras which were common (say) 15 years ago. Having features like BestShot, spot metering, macro mode, pre-focus and xenon flash, made it about 10 more useful than the camera on my iPhone 3G.

    Okay camera phones don't compare to a dSLR, or even a mid-range digital compact (which again would have been a better comparison); however how does a swiss army knife compare to dedicated tin openers, corkscrews, cordless driver/drill or a set of kitchen knives? It really doesn't take a five page article.

  59. Ian Entwistle

    @Alan Eastham

    No, but it is in my pocket 99% of the time and it can be in shooting mode in 3-4 seconds or so.

    I only have to look at the amount of candid pictures I have from when my daughter was a baby to see just how used my cameraphone is. My DSLR with at last count 15 lenses is usually safely stored in the sideboard in the back room unless we are 'going out' with a view that I will be taking piccys.

    Adding in that it does decent video recording as well makes it a no brainer for everyday use.

  60. Steven Raith
    Terminator

    Funny colour on Pre - likely reason..

    ...as if you all didn't know already, the camerra software changes the colour temperaturre to make up for the fact that LED flashes are very, very blue; when you hit a subject with an LED flash, it has to compensate for this by adjusting the colour tempeture quite severely.

    'Normal' cameras do the same, but as thei xenon flashes are closer to white light, the adjustment is generally more subtle.

    HTH :-)

    Terminator - because the Machines think they know better than us....

    Steven R

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Re: Crap photos, but precious moments

    "Phone cameras are good enough, getting better, and very often the only devices that would be around to capture the ad-hoc moments in life that may otherwise go unrecorded. Folk that bemoan a few minor image aberrations produced by essentially disposable gadgets when you consider that 25 years ago we were happy with fuzzy 6x4 snaps that took 4 days to get processed seems a bit odd."

    I don't think the "wavy pavement" is a minor image aberration: it looks like some kind of "in software" image distortion correction gone wrong. And I take issue with the "disposable" label - it's precisely this kind of "shiny! landfill!" attitude that has the developing world working 20 hour days, poisoning their environment, so that a bunch of spoiled kids in the developed world can parade around with these gadgets in some kind of peacock display ritual.

    And as for the 6x4 snaps, there are plenty of things that still make film superior to the sensors on these cameraphones and even on fairly high-end camera equipment, notably the dynamic range: even the DSLR has to compromise on this, as is visible on the Shaking Man shot, although I'm sure a bunch of people will now bore us about "shooting RAW" and postprocessing as a retort.

    Sure, phone cameras are good for capturing images when you have nothing better - that goes without saying, but I suppose it has to be repeated so that people don't have to claim that this isn't acknowledged - and I'll even repeat the old wisdom that the artist is more important than his/her tools. The message this article sends is that people who think a phone camera is generally good enough will find through later experience that it really isn't the case - they may wish they had something a bit better.

    However, in order to dispute the inevitable claims from the fanboys that Apple have given them a camera and that "there isn't any need for a separate camera any more", the article should have compared the phones with some reasonably priced compact cameras. I'm convinced that even compact cameras at around the £100 mark could easily surpass the output of even the best cameraphone: Nokia, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, Palm or Apple - whichever one people really think it is.

  62. Steve Evans

    @A/C 25th 14:27

    Agreed. If anyone tries to bore you by claiming a DSLR in RAW has the dynamic range of film he's an idiot. Even in 14bit RAW on a Nikon D3 you have be careful not to blow the highlights, and compensate to sacrifice shadow detail instead.

    One day someone will invent a sensor that can handle a range of 12EV or more, until then, we'll have to use a bit of skill to get the shots :-)

  63. Seanie Ryan
    Black Helicopters

    Next Story

    Why its faster to get to Glasgow in a car rather than a bicycle.

    Also in this article we compare a Honda 50 to a BMW M5. The Honda doesnt seem to be able to keep up with the BMW, although it is cheaper to run. Even though the BMW is 5 years OLDER !!!!!

    Make sure you read it.. you'll be amazed at the results !!

    Holy God Miley !

  64. Matthew Barker
    Thumb Down

    Pre not just color shift

    When fully blown up, the Pre pics appeared to be oversharpened by quite a lot.

    All of the phone cams seemed to show sharpening artifacts, but the ones from the Pre bug me the most as they're strongest. They all suffer from crap lenses.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Did I miss

    the price comparison? And if you are photgraphing something a little less static than a skyscraper, the time from your brain hatching the idea, 'I gotta get a snap of that' to pushing the button?

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Ian Entwistle

    "Surely the whole point of the camera on mobiles is for those 'snapshots' you would miss by the time you got your DSLR out, chose what lens you need etc."

    I think you'll find that most people interested in photography will carry around, and although I hate this terminology it's aplicable, 24/7, a reasonable compact camera for this purpose. The main disadvantage of these being the time to first shot which can be as long as 2 seconds, I'm not sure how long it takes to get a cameraphone ready. For those who do carry about a DSLR a general purpose lens will be sufficient for "snapshots" and a mid-top end Nikon will be ready and focused before you get the viewfinder to your eye.

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Steve Evans

    > Agreed. If anyone tries to bore you by claiming a DSLR in RAW has the dynamic range of film he's an idiot. Even in 14bit RAW on a Nikon D3 you have be careful not to blow the highlights, and compensate to sacrifice shadow detail instead.

    > One day someone will invent a sensor that can handle a range of 12EV or more, until then, we'll have to use a bit of skill to get the shots :-)

    Doesn't the Fuji S5 Pro manage 11.8EV? Okay not quite 12, but a damn sight better (on the dynamic range front) than a D3.

  68. James Pickett

    Interesting, but..

    "comparing a phone to an SLR is a little silly"

    Quite a lot silly, IMO. As had already been said, a comparison with a pocketable compact of similar pixellage would have been interesting, especially with a wider range of phones (Sony, Nokia, Samsung, etc.)

    In any case, even a prat-phone camera will take a better picture than the Nikon you left at home...

  69. Giles Jones Gold badge

    SLR

    Try fitting your SLR in your trouser pocket.

    What this proves is the difference between the sensors and the default adjustments.

    What you should try is adjusting and sharpening the images with some photo manip software and see how close you can get them.

    The Palm pre image looked better than the iPhone, however this is largely due to contrast being increased. The iPhone images would look similar with some processing.

  70. dr_forrester
    WTF?

    No, Really?

    I, for one, am shocked, SHOCKED, I say, to hear that a cell phone can't take as good photographs as a digital camera. And after I paid good money for a phone with a camera.

    Giant waste of time and bandwidth. Hope the guy didn't get paid for this.

  71. Matt Bridge-Wilkinson
    FAIL

    Flash in broad daylight for a landscape show?

    The auto mode uses flash for a landscape shot in broad daylight? No wonder you get a colour caste.

  72. Alex Bath
    Headmaster

    Other uses for a camera you know...

    I use the camera on my smart phone quite a lot but not what you might normally consider. I take whiteboard diagrams, documents and business-cards as this gives me useful records of events, meetings and people without a fistful of notes. I then plonk these in outlook and one note later. If the manufacturers want to do us a favour I'd vote for better low-light imaging (without flash) and a better lens - enough of the pixel count debate, please.

  73. Joe K

    Fine article

    and great images, but i can't help wishing that you compared it to the finest cameraphone still available, the 2-year old N82.

    Now THATS a real camera. Still not as good as a DLSR, but lightyears beyond these toy cameras.

  74. Ian Fogg

    iPhone 2g & 3g camera scans oddly

    re the geometric distortions. The old iPhone cameras effectively scan a picture, not nap it. I suspect the person taking those photos had a hand that wobbled while the photo was scanned.

    See the photos in this post for wilder examples:

    http://ianfogg.com/2009/04/04/iphone-camera-scans-not-snaps/

  75. James Pickett
    Happy

    @Steve Evans

    "One day someone will invent a sensor that can handle a range of 12EV or more, until then, we'll have to use a bit of skill to get the shots :-)"

    Or to look at it another way: "If you're a really bad photographer, this extended dynamic range is helpful for recovering lost highlights" (Ken Rockwell, reviewing the Fuji S5). :-)

    I like film (and vinyl records) but that doesn't stop me from shooting digitally virtually all the time, or listening to MP3's. At least we've got the choice, even if that doesn't include Kodachrome any more.

  76. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    And in other news

    Component Hi Fi gives better music reproduction than mobile phone media player. Can this be true? gasps phone owner. Wii and Playstation 3 give better gaming experience than mobile phone. Noooooooo! Screams same phone owner. It couldn't be true.

    Radio reception and stereo separation on mobile phone 'poor' compared to 2 grand receiver.

    But ....the games you can play on the component hi fi are limited. My phone takes better pictures than my radio does....straw men, man

  77. W
    Dead Vulture

    Jimi Hendrix on a 5 stringed wooden spoon > most folk on a £1000 guitar

    The person taking the photo is the main variable.

    Better cameras don't make it possible for everyone to take better photos.

    Better cameras make it easier for some people to take better photos some of the time.

    Some of the more stuck up among you probably wake up in a cold sweat after having nightmares about lomography, eh?

    Call me daft, but when I'm on my hols, in the pub, or wherever, I want to enjoy the moment, and maybe grab a few quick reminders of it all. That means not having to lug around and nurse a muli-hundred pound piece of kit. Whatever. I use my E71 for all my snaps. Used to have a K770i for all snaps. Sue me. Before that I had a period where I took very few snaps. Because I just couldn't be doing with the hassle of carrying around extra tech.

    Notice I used the term snaps? Does that make you feel any better? Knowing that I don't call them photographs?

    If you're doing pro or enthusiast photography (where the expectation is completely apart from the accepted capabilities of a cameraphone), then yeah, have a good lurk around at dpreview and enjoy your "proper" camera.

    I'll check gsmarena in the meantime, until El Reg can come up with a more meaningful cameraphone comparison than this dead end of an article.

  78. Paul 135
    FAIL

    Reviewer is an iDiot

    Typical Bay Area iTard. Why the hell are you comparing phones that are nowhere near top-of-the-range in terms of camera quality to a DSLR at the opposite end of the scale?

    You should be comparing a phone with top-of-the range camera quality to an average point-and-shoot DSC. If, for example, you compared the latest Samsung M8910 Pixon12 or Sony Ericsson Saito, you would see that the quality is near indistinguishable from an average point-and-shoot.

  79. M man
    Thumb Down

    review failure

    8mp camera vs 3mp phone...

    I never have my camera when i wanted to take a pic....i always have my phone

    Im alway humping around my camera to snap pics that my phone does a perfectly good job at, I have maybe 5 photos that my camera was needed for.

    The thing was I only knoticed this when my frien pointed it out the other day.

    now I never bother with my camera.

    PS why didnt you review the magic...oh you merkins dont get it yet.

    oh the speed thing quite pertitant.

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