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Old May 28, 2004, 8:54 AM   #1
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My apologies if I've missed it, but I haven't found any discussion here of camera phones. (And their cousins, PDA cameras.)

Yes, I know they're crude and bad at this point. But, they're the future for thecamera-as-a-social-toy and must-carry-a-camera-at-all-times market segments.

It seems likely that eventually all phones and PDAs will have cameras.

It seems likely that eventually camera phones will be comparable in camera-functionality to the Pentax Optio S on my belt right now, or any other miniature "real-camera" of today.

I think a site like this should discuss them, seriously review them as cameras by camera standards, and generally position itself to be helpful to those who want to choose one that offers the best camera-performance for a given photographic job.

By doing so, perhaps this site might become somewhat influential in the forward evolution of their camera-quality, and diversification and specialization of their capabilities.

As one who is considering that my next always-carry camera might be a phone, I'd much rather have thecamera-phone category's camera features and performance influenced by sites like this one, and determined by camera-knowledgable engineers and marketers, than any of the alternatives.
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Old May 29, 2004, 1:42 AM   #2
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I don't think we're ever going to see the quality that we do in a proper digital camera. The reason being is the limits of the internal storage, as well as the bandwidth of the phone signal and the size of the device. I've been using PDAs and handheld computers since the early 80's, and the last thing I want in it is a digital camera (then again, I don't want to combine the PDA I use with a phone).

I love large optics, and those little pinhole things are toys.
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Old May 29, 2004, 5:31 AM   #3
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If I've learned one thing from the past years, it's that clever-device evolution will progress. The best camera phone in the US market right now is a 1 meg, I think. My expectation is that within the year, there'll be 3 meg units, storing images on MM or SD cards or some other card format. Transmission via phone call is irrelevant...most users understand that only low-res versions of high-res shots are phone-transmittable. It'll be straightforward for camera firmware to include a compression function to provide a phone-transmittable version of a given shot on the fly. Full res shots are likely to be transferrable by means of card removal, a cradleand/or Bluetooth.

As I mentioned, I don't see any reason why all of the functionality of my current always-carry 3 mp Pentax Optio S can't be integrated into a phone only a bit larger than the Optio S.

Certainly the Optio S isn't a large-optics camera, but that's not why I carry it. As wags and marketers have been only too happy to point out to us, sometimes the best camera is the one you have with you, instead of the one you don't have with you. And, the economics of the potential phone/always-carry market are huge compared to anything the traditional camera makers have ever seen.

My guess is that within 2-3 years, the high-performance snapshot camera-only field will begin to disappear, with all of the phone manufacturers offering models with 5 to 8 mp camera performance and a seriously useful level of imaging quality for snapshot-type shooting.

The only problem is, I'd like to find something with at least 2 mp performance *right now*, for my Dad.
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Old May 29, 2004, 2:21 PM   #4
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The problem is not the megapixels, but the optics. Those tiny cameras might reach 3 MP in a short time but they won't be able to match the quality of my 3 MP camera just because mine has a big lens when compared to the tiny lenses the phone-cameras have.

Also none of them even have a built-in flash, as far as I know.
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Old May 29, 2004, 9:35 PM   #5
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As an engineer with fairly substantial familiarity with the Pentax Optio S--as I've mentioned above--I can't see any reason why the design features of the current version of the Optio S couldn't be integrated into a phone. All that it would take would be a design team that included camera-oriented engineers. One sees no evidence of that being the case with present camera phones, but I can't think of any reason why it couldn't be the case for future designs.

Now, youquite reasonably could argue that the Pentax Optio S is too low in photographic capability for *your* tastes. It certainly has smallish optics. I wouldn't agree with you,though. I find it quite useful. It's not my only camera, of course, but it's the one I have with me *all* the time, and that has been a revolution in my ability to get the shots I see and want, when I see them.

I'm a must-carry-a-camera-at-all-times type. Idon't happen to fit into the other target market, camera-feature-as-social-toy. That second market, though, is *huge* compared to the sales of cameras to professionals and sophisticated amateurs. And, like most markets, it does care about quality. So I expect camera phones to improve progressively. And the serious camera companies that have found they need to sell mass-market cameras to stay afloat, will find soon that a lot of the mass market will be getting their camera from their phone company...either with the participation of a serious camera company in design and co-branding, or not.

My pitch here is that this site should have something to say about camera-phone features and quality. They're going to be a major part of the future of photography, like it or not. We should try to influence them in a positive direction.
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Old May 30, 2004, 10:32 AM   #6
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I agree that the S4i could have a phone added with just a little extra size and weight. You could move the speaker and mike to opposite corners and add an antenna. They could probably integrate the processor and phone electronics. The size and weight increase would mostly be because it would need somewhere around 1800mAh for the battery.

[align=justify]I would be first in line to buy one. But I doubt it would be a big commercial success. I think JWilly and I are probably rare in never leaving home without our cameras. To me, carrying a camera just when you think you might want to take pictures is like wearing your seatbelt only when you think you might get into an accident. Most people want their cellphones as tiny and light as possible, and that doesn't allow for competent optics and controls regardless of Mp.[/align]

[align=justify]I also try to carry my PDA as much as possible. When I bought my latest PDA I tried to get one integrated with a phone, but I would have to give up too much in the PDA with what was available. Maybe someone has made a competent cellphone/PDA since I bought mine early this year, but there wasn't one available then or I would have bought it.[/align]
[align=justify]I currently carry only my cellphone and camera all the time. My PDA stays in my briefcase, so I often need it and don't have it. If they could competently integrate two of the devices I could probably carry all of them.[/align]
[align=justify]I don't really care about cellphone camera ratings and discussion until they improve a lot. I don't think they are likely to have the overall competence of my S4 in a cellphone camera and that is about as limited as I want to go. I'm pleased with the pictures, but 4Mp limits my print size and the 3 X optical is really only a mild wide angle and about 2X tele.[/align]
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Old May 30, 2004, 11:02 AM   #7
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I hope not all phones eventually have cameras in them.

I have two concerns.

I don't like every possible moment I'm outside to be potentially photographed without me knowing it (atleast without accountability). I wouldn't mind someone taking my picture with a camera, so I know they are doing it. If they do it excessively or invasively, it is obvious what is happening. I mean there are 'spy' cameras, but being caught with a 'spy' camera says something. With a phone camera, you essentially have a 'spy' camera but with a legitimate excuse to carry it. I mean who would like an embarrassing moment (like tripping in cement) to become the next internet-wide pic of the day. How about being at a mall and having your girlfriends friend take a pic of you looking like your checking out a another girl (whether true or optical illusion). Or taken to the dark extreme, some kind of stalker photographing your every move.

My second concern is that phone cameras (or personal cameras in general) are prohibited where I work. I would like to take my cell phone into work with me sometimes. If I can't find a model without one, that would be a pain. Even if I could, it may not be part of a plan which means I have to pay extra to have it.
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