Camera Phones Coming of Age

Industry Perspective

Camera Phones Coming of Age

by Ron Leach

Most “serious” photographers own at least one pocket-size digital camera so that they’re always prepared to capture an interesting scene—even if their trusty SLR is back home in the camera cabinet. That means many of us go about our daily lives carrying a compact camera, a mobile phone, an iPod and perhaps even a Blackberry. Well, the ongoing evolution of camera phones may, for some, lighten the load by replacing the compact camera and mobile phone with one device as several new models offer high-quality optics, 5-megapixel resolution, and a robust imaging feature set previously unavailable with basic camera phones.

We recently had an opportunity to experiment with a new device that is a collaboration between Samsung and Sprint, and we were somewhat surprised to discover that we could use it to take photos that we wanted to keep and share. In addition to a host of advanced “smart phone” capabilities, the new Samsung Instinct HD boasts a 5-megapixel camera and HD camcorder. When it comes to video, the Instinct allows high definition playback on an HD-capable auxiliary device but not directly on the handset.

Having been less than enamored of camera phone functionality in the past, I was also impressed with the Instinct HD’s large, bright screen, which in the camera mode closely resembles that of a conventional compact digital camera. Resolution settings, ISO options, metering modes, exposure compensation capability, auto focus options, color effects, a self-timer and a built-in electronic flash are all available.

So where are devices like this taking us? According to Omar Khan, senior vice president of strategy and product management for Samsung Mobile, “The Sansung Instinct  HD ups the ante with the full Opera Mobile 9.7 Web Browser, WiFi connectivity, and a 5-megapixel camera and camcorder which allow the user to take high resolution pictures and HD-quality video.”

In simpler terms, devices like this may soon mean one less piece of gear in our pockets, as multi-function smart phones boast imaging capabilities that are an integral part of their design, rather than an afterthought on a device that’s primarily intended to make phone calls.