Well, the holidays are coming and we’re making buy and wish lists. Some of you will be upgrading your Droids or iPhones, others of you will be digging into digital cameras, either for the first time or to upgrade. Some of you will want to do both. Maybe some of you will be thinking about how to do new things with what you have.
This weekend I was at a civic event to take pictures, and a friend was there to do the same. We both had big digital single lens reflex cameras – his a Nikon and mine an Olympus – and we got to talking about lugging them around. When I said “I get great results from my cell phone” he said “What! I never thought of that.” I suspect that’s what many of you would say.
My goal here is not to suggest that you buy this or that cell phone for its camera quality. Virtually all of the top line ones produce similar results. I am saying that if you are a general snap shooter you might have all you need in a cell phone camera. I’ve discovered much on the basis of my last two, a Nokia 900 Windows phone (stolen out in California in August) and my replacement Samsung/Google Galaxy Nexus Android, given to me by my son in law who works for Google. I have also seen a lot of photos taken by the iPhone owned by my daughter.
Here are some generalizations:
(1) Most of these phones take photos about as clear and well exposed as relatively inexpensive brand name digital cameras of a few of years ago. My Nokia had a first rate Zeiss lens and it shot about about 5 megapix. My older Samsung is around 2.5 megapix. Both sizes are ample for web pics and for enlargements up to and including 5”x7”.
(2) Both my cameras have flash units that are good for a distance of six feet or so.
(3) The cameras focus very well in bright light and are best for landscapes or small group shots. Do not try to shoot belly dancers at work or sporting events. They do need some good light to focus.
(4) Nokia and some others allow you to place your finger on exactly what you want to focus on, using the lcd. Touch, give the camera a second and press. The Samsung gives me a little blue dot next to the lcd image to hit. There are dirt cheap software programs that give you shooting options
(5) There is very inexpensive software which can be downloaded for a buck or two that permits zooming (not recommended), or cropping results or changing contrast or exposure. I prefer to leave things alone until they are in a photo processing program on my computer unless I want to email or text something.
Now some tips.
- Always be sure your battery is charged (I recommend a cell phone that takes replacement batteries, which you can get on Amazon for a couple of bucks).
- Make sure you don’t have fingerprints on your tiny lens.
- Be sure you have enough memory in your camera to hold photos (most of these new cameras have many gigabyes of memory so worry not).
- Learn how to get the photos from your camera to your computer – very easy on Droid and Windows phones, a little more complicated but easy to learn on your iPhone. Your phone will have the capability for you to review pics on the phone and either email or text them to someone else. The overall megapix size is reduced for easy transmission. Just be sure you know your cell plan and general email and texting capabilities.
So, you have your camera, you’ve taken pics and got them onto your computer. What next? I recommend a very easy to use but extremely powerful free program called FastStone Image Viewer. It has the capabilities of many fine programs and I use it for 80% of my photo editing (don’t tell anybody). Its at: http://www.faststone.org/
What else? Whatever photography you are doing don’t get caught up in the megapixel race unless you absolutely need to for professional reasons. I did a lot of commercial work with a 5meg camera with which we made wall posters and photos in very fine magazines. Now I find I need no more than ten megapix. The main advantage of high megapix is the ability to crop more or meet the demands of picky editors. But the higher you go the more memory cards and disc space you need. And the more you risk digital noise if a tiny sensor in a compact camera gets too hot (hint: I turn the megapix down to 7 in my little cameras)..
I think cell phones are the future of much digital photography as hybrid devices are becoming more common and sensors improve. I am including a set of photos taken over the past few months to show what cell cameras can do.
Any cell camera users there? Share your ideas and pics.
If you have any questions drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org Happy Holidays! I’ll be sharing more pix soon.