Cameraphone closeup

Are mobile phone cameras a viable alternative to standalone snappers?

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By  Matthew Wade Published  January 28, 2008

In the last few weeks, the mobile phone cameras available here in the Middle East have finally hit the five megapixel mark - with Sony Ericsson, LG and Nokia leading the way.

This achievement marks a potential turning point, as it means these phones are now comparable to average resolution, standalone digital cameras, at least that is in terms of their quoted maximum resolutions (their other specifications still lag a little way behind).

The truth however is that we're still some time away - we estimate up to a year - from the majority of camera-phones offering five-megapixel cameras.
Instead the current average, as we see it, is cameraphones with two-megapixel models.

As this ‘average' figure is itself on the rise, we chose in this article to test key vendors' 3.2-megapixel cameraphones; our thinking being 3.2 that this will likely be the ‘new 2MP' within months, if not weeks.

The dual aims of our test were these:

To compare how 3.2-megapixel cameraphones compare, quality-wise, to a similarly specified digital camera (in our test, Canon's Digital Ixus 430, set at three-megapixels).

To evaluate how different 3.2-megapixel cameraphones compare against each other - in terms of their image quality and feature sets.

Our approach was:

We decided to take four test images with each 3.2-megapixel cameraphone and the test Canon camera, the thinking being that this group of shots roughly represents the likely usage of a normal cameraphone.

Shot 1 A ‘macro' close-up (of a flower), in daylight, using applicable camera settings.

Shot 2 A portrait person shot, in light home conditions, using default (or 'quick') settings.

Shot 3 A ‘landscape' shot (of a tower), taken in bright daylight conditions, using applicable camera settings.

Shot 4 A portrait person shot taken inside, in low-light conditions, using applicable camera settings.

We used 3.2-megapixel camera phones from three phone vendors: the Sony Ericsson Cyber-shot K770, Nokia's XpressMusic 5610 and the Samsung SGH-U700. (Motorola declined to send a cameraphone for our test, whilst LG does not currently offer a 3.2-megapixel model.)

Next we compare these cameras' respective camera functions and features...

Test image 1: macro close-up


As expected, the Canon Ixus' shot is the most well defined colour-wise and its leaf edges are ultra crisp. Of the cameraphones, the Nokia's shot is the crispest and its resolution appears easily the finest, followed by the Sony Ericsson and then the rather lackluster Samsung. The Samsung's shot also appears a little over-yellow. Best cameraphone for sunny outside close-ups then? The Nokia.

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