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The perfect click

Are phone cameras at the pinnacle of their evolution?
twitter-logoNidhi Singal | Print Edition: May 2013

When the camera was first integrated in a cellphone it was more of a gimmick. Now, however, more photos are shot on phones than cameras, showing how this blend of technology and devices was a winning combination all along. From the basic VGA cameras to optics and sensors that dominate the specification sheets of smartphones, the phone camera has come a long way. In fact, they have become so good and dominant that the entry-level point-and-shoot segment has been feeling the heat for a few years now. Here is a look at where camera tech in the phones stands at the moment.

MEGAPIXELS

What started with a basic 0.3MP camera has now graduated to a 13MP camera. We get the feeling that an 8 MP sensor is becoming a standard in the smartphone segment. But the higher megapixel count need not ensure a great image as that depends on a combination of factors such as lens, sensor, image processing hardware and camera software. In simple terms, a large sensor means more light sensitivity and a better image. An 8MP sensor does not have to be large enough to give a flawless image. And this is why companies seldom speak about sensor size.

SENSOR & SOFTWARE
Nokia did really well with its 12MP N8 with the Carl Zeiss lens. But for its next flagship camera phone, the 808 PureView , the company put in a large 41MP sensor. The large sensor with Nokia's PureView technology enables oversampling, which means a combination of many pixels are used together to form a 'super' pixel. Now, the new HTC One has a 4MP camera which uses the Ultrapixel imaging technology. HTC claims its camera can shoot vivid, true-to-life images with a wide range of colours, even in low light conditions. And this has not been achieved by increasing the megapixels, but by engineering a more advanced CMOS sensor, IPS and optical lens system that captures significantly more light.

APPS

For over a decade we have been relying on the phone's native camera app for all our imaging. Now, there are numerous apps like Instagram that allow users to take images, apply filters or do basic editing and even share the results. Similarly, there are hundreds of camera apps on all platforms with specific or myriad functions. Interestingly, the new Nokia Lumia 920 has a lens feature built into the phone that collects apps installed on the phone to take images with special effects.

THE BEST SHOT

NOKIA LUMIA 920
Thanks to its PureView technology to use, the Lumia 920 is one of the best imaging smartphones available in the market. It has got an 8MP camera with Carl Zeiss optics that can capture images at 3246x2448pixel resolution.

APPLE IPHONE 5
Apple has always been good with the iPhone camera. The iPhone 5 has got an 8 megapixel camera that captures stills of 326 x2448pixel resolution. The new Panorama feature can be used by simply panning the phone.

SAMSUNG GALAXY SIV
The new Samsung flagship has a 13MP auto focus camera with features such as face detection, touch focus and image stabilisation, dual shot. etc. There will be Android apps as well.

SONY XPERIA Z
The highlight of the Xperia Z is its 13MP camera with the superior auto mode that detects the nature of the object that a user is trying to capture. The water and dust resistant body makes it a perfect camera for daily use.

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