Cameras in mobile phones are well past being a low-grade gimmick. The quality of camera phone images has increased significantly, and the sheer convenience makes cameras an indispensable feature in mobile phones today.
2. Image sensors and the megapixel myth
3. Features to look for
|4. Issues and pitfalls
6. 5-megapixel camera phone showdown
Issues and pitfalls
Until technology improves significantly, we have to accept that the convenience of a camera merged with our phones means trade-offs including dull colour and crumby image artefacts.
Purple fringing bleeds out from the left side of the pink flower.
The biggest issue to wrestle with is making sure your camera gets enough light during an exposure. Taking photos outdoors, such as at picnics on sunny days, should be fine and cameras that don't perform under these conditions are most certainly duds. Cameras without flashes will be unusable at night-time, but even those with flashes often struggle and only light subjects within a very short distance, leaving unlit backgrounds in darkness.
Soft focus particularly at the bottom of the photo.
The next biggest problem is the slow shutter speeds. Simply put, this is the time between when you press the button and the shutter opens, to the time when it goes "click" and the shutter closes. Even with standalone cameras, handheld photos and slow shutter speeds result in blurry images. Some camera phones we have tested have tremendously slow shutter speeds, requiring the photographer to hold the camera still for several seconds or risk ruining the photo.
In terms of image quality, watch out for dull or washed out colours, also look for overexposures -- glowing areas in the whitest parts of the image. Also, quite a few cameras produce a purple coloured "fringing" that bleeds out of certain areas of a photo.
If the quality of your camera phone ranks high in your purchasing criteria make sure you test out this feature in the stores. Weak performing cameras will show themselves during simple testing. Be sure to set the camera to its highest image setting, auto white balance, no zoom (unless you are testing an optical zoom feature), and check the results for colour and sharpness. If an photo looks bad on the LCD screen it's bound to look terrible when printed.