The Age of Camera Phones has Arrived

Not only have recent smartphones stepped up to the mark when it comes to camera resolution (48Mpx for the Umidigi S3 Pro, 40Mpx for the Lumix,  28Mpx various Chinese phones, 16Mpx and 20Mpx common on many medium range and even budget phones) and now sensitivity (large pixel size on many new models lets in more light). One of only few issues left to negotiate is zoom, digital zoom is basically a con and very few phone cameras have any sizeable zoom capability.

Rural Southern Spain by Pocophone

While phone cameras do not have large apertures due to the tiny lenses, various software “solutions” have appeared which, while not as good as the real thing, can be quite convincing. Add to that decent HDR capability, 4K video and stereo sound, some of today’s phones start to compete with mid-price SLRs while avoiding the bulk and cost associated with the latter. It could be some time before a mobile phone can tackle mid-price monsters like the Nikon Coolpix P900 or the even more impressive P1000 for moon shots, but then smartphones are a LOT easier to carry around, especially in summer heat.

Of course I don’t expect too many camera pros to accept the validity of my viewpoint.  Around 50 years ago as a kid I came up against the old-boy camera network (and won a local competition despite my age and “amateur” camera) and I’m sure little has changed. For the rest of us who simply like to take decent snaps for online use, many smartphones today are well up to the challenge, ably assisted by APPS to make up for most of the deficiencies they do have.

For myself, I’ve settled on a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ70 for the odd occasion I need a half-decent zoom capability (recent local Moors versus Christians festival in nearby Cullar as I was situated away from the action at a bar). Where distance is not an issue, the camera never leaves it’s case.

It seems that up-market, Sony are now offering a 48Mpx camera while Canon go up to 50.6Mpx, it probably won’t be long before this is commonly available on sub-£1000 phones. The Canon EOS 5DS R camera (at £3.5k+ WITHOUT the LENS) apparently offers 1920×1080 video at only 30fps which is odd because even my budget Xiaomi Pocophone offers 4K video at 30 and 60FPS. No doubt the dynamic range, quality and colour accuracy etc. on the EOS will be much higher, but the price…. I could buy an old car with that and still have enough left for a new smartphone.Talking about cameras at a similar price point to a medium range phone, my Nikon P900 had a fantastic zoom range but rubbish “manual focus” which proved very frustrating at low light levels. Depending on your needs of course, the greater dynamic range of an expensive SLR may or may not be important to you – for studio and serious work one could easily argue that a decent SLR will beat the phone hands down – but certainly for amateur photography the distinction is unlikely to be that clear.

If you are interested, I have a technical blog which covers a wide range of gadgets and a fair number of smartphones. At the time of writing this, I’ve just completed an entry on the Cubot X19 phone here… and another on the (further upmarket) Xiaomi Pocophone here

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