We were in Penang over the weekend for a bit of R&R, a little bit of work, and a lot of eating. We stayed on the beach and on our last afternoon, Sara saw that you could take the horse for a ride on the beach. Guided, of course. I told her to go for it, and she protested, saying we had no cameras on us at the moment.
To which I decided, that we do. In my pocket I carry a HTC Google Nexus One and a BlackBerry Bold 9700. She had on her an iPhone 3G. So between us, we had three rather capable cameras, that do video to boot.
My strategy was to do still images with the Bold 9700, and take video using the Nexus One. I have to say the results were quite pleasing. They’re not of the calibre of my Canon PowerShot G10 (which I always seem to have in my backpack these days), or of any of my SLRs (which I’m carrying much less nowadays as I don’t have time to focus on making pictures), but they seem to get the job done of capturing the moments.
I have heard praises of the iPhone 4 and the Nokia N8 (from a camera perspective). I’ve been going to events these days, taking photographs with my Nokia N900, and they seem to be passable, suitable for on-screen viewing. You’re probably wondering what about print, and to that I have a retort: when was the last time you made a print of a photo? I’ve got about four years worth of holiday photos to print for my mother, and we’ve still not gone on to this batch operation.
Today, we are capturing our moments with our most personal devices, the mobile phone. There seems to be a megapixel race in the mobile phone space, like there was in the camera space, but all this gets reversed eventually (see Canon G10 vs G11 for an example). Its about sensor size. It is about the optics. Its about the value-add of having built-in geo-location. It is about the apps.
What makes the iPhone 4 a great phone camera? Not only it’s amazing quality, its HDR capabilities, but also the apps you can use to make better pictures, in-phone. While I was in Istanbul, a colleague was stitching panoramas with his Nokia N900. I’m sure Nokia knows this, with regards to apps on the N8 in the Ovi Store.
Where does this leave pocket camera manufacturers? The low end of what Canon/Nikon make will become less and less useful, as more consumers ditch the second device, and go for the integrated solution. Is the iPhone 4 or the Nokia N8 there? I’ve not played with either for a significant period of time, so I cannot judge.
But the Nexus One, the BlackBerry Bold and the Nokia N900 already perform better than the first digital camera I owned (a Kodak, from about ten years ago). Heck, they even perform better than the standalone cameras from about five years ago. The image of The 12 Apostles, which has been printed for a gallery show, was from my second digital camera, a Kodak DX3500, and taken in 2002. It was a mere 2.2MP camera!
A very smart photographer Stuart Murdoch once told me “the best camera is the one that you have on you” (someone’s decided to trademark this age old wisdom, unfortunately). His colleague Nigel even discouraged putting on lens caps on lenses, because you never know what you’re going to miss with the lens cap on. Stuart is also the man famous for the “mophone” tag on Flickr – he loved shooting abandoned shopping carts using phonecam’s of yesteryear.
So, when will I look back at this post and say I’ve stopped carrying my Canon G10 equivalent and just rely on whatever is in my pocket? I don’t doubt that SLRs will go out of fashion (they have their uses), but I do think that pocket cameras will eventually disappear and have SIM cards in them. I’m all for device convergence.
Here’s to the age of the phone cameras!