Time To Upgrade Your Camera Phone

Keeping up to date with improved camera phone technology to make the most of smartphone photography. The key aspects to consider and what to ignore.

Making the most of advances in photography tech on smartphones

In the early days of cameras included with phones they weren’t considered suitable for much more than a quick snapshot for novelty value – and woe betide if you tried to take a picture in anything other than a bright, naturally lit outdoor location. As with all things mobile phone related, technology has moved on apace since the early Nokia camera phones with their tiny 0.3 megapixel sensors; now a mobile can offer a viable ‘always available’ photography device capable of decent results.

The best camera?

It’s an old adage that the best camera is ‘the one you have with you’ in that very often good photo opportunities can emerge when you’re least expecting them. These days having a decent quality camera on your smartphone adds a very useful dimension to its usefulness.

While a modern camera phone can take the place of some digital cameras, there are limitations and it will be some while yet – if ever – that they could take the place of a good DSLR type. That said, with continuous advances in technology you may feel an upgrade is due and it’s time to sell your old phone.

Photo habits

With the rise of social media, there’s more inclination to take photos – and many taken at the scene of breaking news stories have proven invaluable in recording an unfolding event. There’s also the rise of video; faster broadband speeds, social media and You Tube mean more of us might take at least the odd clip or two of video, and the quality of modern camera phones means we can potentially take footage worth watching.

Rather than take a separate camera for that day trip or weekend away, many rely on their smartphone to capture the images rather than bring along another device (their digital camera), batteries and maybe a charger.

Judging camera phone tech

Before upgrading your phone to get an improved camera, ask yourself what you want out of it and what your current limitations are. Is your present camera phone poor in low light or indoors? Do you want higher quality video? Do you want in-camera editing facilities (perhaps you take a lot of photos for use on sites such as Facebook so need to edit photos quickly before sharing them on the fly?)

Perhaps you’d like a bit more flexibility? Some phones such as Apple’s iPhone can be enhanced by third party lens attachments giving options such as wide angle and telephoto.

Don’t get seduced by spec

Consider what aspects of a camera phone’s specifications will benefit you and ignore those that are hyped up; do some research through reading comparison tests.

For example, a key ‘hook’ when talking up a camera’s specification is the number of megapixels (MP). Generally speaking, successive smartphone upgrades including an improved camera often trumpet a higher megapixel count than the model before. Upgrading purely for higher megapixels is pointless; once megapixels reached a certain level on smartphones – around 5, according to some photography experts – much above that is not easily discerned by the human eye, and wouldn’t be of value unless the final image is going to be blown up to gigantic proportions.

Given that many photos may not even make it onto printed paper, then higher megapixel counts aren’t crucial. Often a DSLR with a smaller number of megapixels than a camera phone would outperform it anyway because it has a larger light sensor to capture the image.

Low light performance

Older camera phones were poor to unusable in lower light conditions but modern offerings are much improved. That said, some are better than others so check reviews and user reports; a combination of a decent lens, good flash and effective image processing make for a camera phone capable of capturing some decent shots when the light dims or you’re indoors.

Lens and sensor

A poor lens will make decent photos hard to achieve – even the ability of digital cameras to massage the image electronically won’t be enough – so see what reviewers say about the lenses in your shortlist of camera phones.

The sensor, as mentioned above, is where the light through the lens hits and initially forms the image so a good quality one is paramount. The bigger the better as more light can be captured, but see what reviewers and users say about its quality.

Image processing

The way the camera processes the image and deals with colour balance and rendition to create a life-like photo is key, and much will depend on how good and how fully-featured the onboard software is.

Image processing covers other aspects such as facilities including ‘burst mode’ where the camera takes several pictures in quick succession, and the speed it composes the shot and takes it after you press the shutter button.

You can only tell this by reading reviews of different camera phones and seeing the results they provide (many reviews will show images taken with the camera phones they’re testing and perhaps video footage taken will have been posted to sites such as You Tube).

Quick and easy

Finally, don’t forget ease of access when taking photos. A key benefit of a smartphone for photography is the speed at which you can take a photo compared to digging out your digicam or setting up the DSLR. Look for a cameraphone that can soon be ready for snapping action through a smooth and easy to use interface.