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HindustanTimes Sat,22 Nov 2014
Is the camera in your phone all that you need?
Rajiv Makhni, Hindustan Times
May 18, 2013
First Published: 13:43 IST(18/5/2013)
Last Updated: 18:34 IST(18/5/2013)
Techilicious columnist Rajiv Makhni

The DEATH knell for the standalone camera was sounded almost five years ago. After all, when you have a great camera with you at all times inside your phone, why waste time buying another one?

It’s easy to take a picture, it’s there with you by default, it’s really simple to share the picture with friends or family or post it on Facebook or Twitter, you don’t need to fiddle with cables or storage cards to transfer pictures to a computer and there are now some awesome photo apps that can do real wizardry with your images. Why waste time, effort and money on another camera?

Standalone Funeral: Add to this, the fact that cameras on smartphones have truly evolved and improved in leaps and bounds. Never have images from cameraphones looked better. Sensors are bigger, optics are state of the art, feature sets are bursting at the seams, scene modes actually work and the in-phone editing of the shots you’ve taken is quite good. On the other hand, sales of point-and-shoot cameras are down, and most people don’t seem to have a new standalone camera on their list of things to buy. Thus it seems that the funeral of the camera is imminent, right? Wrong, very wrong!

Blurred Memories: We live in a world of optical compromise and mediocrity – we just don’t know it. Just because a camera is built into the phone and you’re happy that you were able to reel off a series of shots at every happening and event doesn’t mean that you’ve got fantastic images.

Stable shot: Optical Stabilisation – you’re not going to see this button on a cameraphone

Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words but a soft, blurry, poorly lit one is worth just one word: Embarrassing. In this world of Facebook and Twitter, where every out-of-focus and badly pixelated picture gets a barrage of oohs and aahs, all you’re doing is populating your timeline with shoddy images to remember the major events of your life. If a picture is all about bringing back memories and emotions, then unfortunately the milestones of your life will now be seen as a series of dingy, dilapidated and tacky photographs.

The Proof: Think I’m exaggerating? Do this quick experiment. Take your state-of-the-art cameraphone and shoot three pictures (a person blowing out a birthday candle in a dark room, a child running fast across a room and a bright red flower against green grass). Take the same shots with any standalone camera that is about one year old. Now open the pictures on a notebook with a 15-inch screen or more. Shocked?

Yes, those pictures that looked awesome on your smartphone’s small little screen look horrendous now, don’t they? Where did those jagged edges come from, how is it so out of focus and what happened to those colours? It’s almost impossible for a cameraphone to spit out images that rival a standalone camera. There’s just way too much going on inside the phone, including multiple antennae firing away, plus very little space to get all the optics in. Here are the main reasons why standalone cameras aren’t going away in a hurry.

Optical Zoom: The Achilles heel of all cameraphones and the most common feature in all standalones. This is itself the single biggest reason to get an extra camera. While there will be cameraphones that will finally get in a 3X optical zoom soon, it’ll be a serious compromise and won’t be able to rival the real thing.

Image Stabilisation: As phones keep getting thinner, lighter and smaller – they shake even more every time you take a picture. Even a little movement will end up as a big blurry picture. While some cameraphones tout image stabilisation – it’s all digital and mostly a gimmick that leads to image deterioration. You need optical image stabilisation like in standalone cameras, and that is just a pipe dream right now.

Swim thing: New camera models are waterproof and shockproof – unlike your pricey, delicate cameraphone

Other Features: Burst shot mode (or continuous high speed) in cameraphones can only happen at a lower resolution.

Real auto focus and pre focus is impossible as phones don’t have a real lock-down shutter button, macro shoots totally suck and shooting text or a document comes out unreadable. Also,  in-camera editing and adjustments are still light years behind; plus it’s impossible to get real filters and add-on lenses for phones.

Other Issues: No stand-alone camera will interrupt that perfect picture with an incoming call and no standalone camera will leave you gasping for battery life just because you took an extra 30 pictures with the flash on. Plus standalone cameras represent great value today. You can get a Rs. 6,000 point-and-shoot that will blow the socks of your Rs. 43,000 cameraphone.

The Fight Back: Traditional camera manufacturers aren’t just standing still and letting this war polish them off. They are hitting back hard with great innovations and fantastic features, such as cameras that can shoot deep underwater with no additional cover, cameras that can give you DSLR quality in a slim point-and-shoot body, full- body DSLRs at price points that were impossible a year ago, super optical zooms that can shoot a close-up of a bird in mid-flight and connected cameras that can let you share and upload just like your phone.

Do yourself a favour. Carry a well-priced, well made, thin and slim, full-feature set camera the next time you leave your home.

You’ll be shocked with the photographic treasures you’ll come back with. 

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

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