Full-featured camera smartphones (eg. Lumia 1020, Sony Honami)

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Jul 16, 2013 10:35:01 AM via Website

With the Nokia Lumia 1020 coming out last week with a 41 MP camera, and the Sony i1 Honami packing a 20 MP Exmor sensor and G lens, Bionz image processor etc etc, I want to know what you think about the new high-end camera/smartphones we're beginning to see. Do you think it's overkill or convenience? A natural progression where smartphones will gradually take over the pocket digital market or a silly competitive gimmick that won't last?

Aug 1, 2013 9:46:54 AM via Website

Once upon a time, PDAs and mobile phones were different devices. Once upon a time, low-end point-and-shoot cameras and mobile phones were different devices. Once upon a time, music players and mobile phones were different devices. Once upon a time, GPS units and mobile phones were different devices. And to get a bit more esoteric, once upon a time barcode scanners and calculators and carpenters’ spirit levels and compasses and mobile phones were different devices. I only have so many pockets, and I have a lot of other things to carry too, so I had to decide which one or two of those I wanted to carry with me at any time (or at least, which one or two I wanted available in a second or two without having to get into my backpack); when I started carrying an MP3 player regularly, I stopped carrying and using a PDA. I still only have so many pockets and so many hands, so the pressure for convergence is still there. (In fact, there are tantalizing hints that smartphones and/or tablets may, with added accessories, start taking over the functions of desktop computers and/or laptops.)

There are still people who carry around a separate MP3 player or calculator or point-and-shoot digital camera or even PDA in addition to their phone, so I’m sure there will continue to be people who carry around a separate “prosumer” digital camera in addition to their phone for a good long time. (I’m one of them, at least for now; I’ve got a Samsung Galaxy Camera. But I still have only so many pockets, so it lives in my backpack, and I often find myself taking photos with my phone when I’d really rather have the zoom or low-light sensitivity of the Galaxy Camera.) But I absolutely understand the appeal of devices like the Galaxy Zoom, and if I had a DSLR that could also function as a phone, well, I might not want to hold it to my ear, but if I used a Bluetooth headset and voice dialling, and I were the kind of person who took more pictures than I made phone calls or sent text messages,I can imagine the temptation to use it as my phone and stop having to carry around the extra device.

I think the tipping point is when the general-purpose device (in this case the smartphone) does as good as or a better job than the special-purpose device (GPS, graphing calculator, barcode or document scanner, ebook reader, music player, camcorder, audio recorder, light-meter, heartrate monitor, prosumer or professional camera, wallet full of cash, keyring full of keys, flashlight, TV remote, etc.) that you’d otherwise choose to carry around with you in addition to the general-purpose device. The mix is going to be different for different people because they have different needs, but there are always the competing pressures of wanting a device that is really good at the particular things I care about, and wanting as few devices as possible.

And as far as tablets go, that’s the third Android device I have with me almost all the time. (Like the Galaxy Camera, it lives in my backpack, so it’s not instant-access the way my phone is.) And I find that while I have a lot of the same apps installed on both my phone and my tablet, there are some that I almost always use on my phone (because they’re only useful to me if I can get to them in a hurry, or if I can use them in a small space without inconveniencing people around me), and there are some that I almost always use on my tablet (because they benefit so much from the larger screen or the more powerful battery that they’re not worth using on my phone). But if something in the form factor of the Galaxy S 4 came with a god slide-out keyboard (like my current phone) and a really high-capacity battery, I’d probably want that instead, and I’d go ahead and do my ebook reading on my phone too.

Aug 19, 2013 5:01:52 PM via Website

I want the Honami mini you had details for today. A small phone with good camera and battery with lots of power. It will be cheaper than the big one and still have lots of power and last a long time. The Sony lens attachment is also very cool but maybe very expensive. But you could buy that for any phone and not need the big camera phones like Lumia 1020 or big Honami if it is cheaper. Will the Sony lens work on any phone or only Sony?

Aug 19, 2013 5:14:15 PM via Website

Hey Marcel, no official word on pricing for the Sony Lens G but it might be around $500 so it won't be cheap! But it can be used on any Android or iOS device, so there's definitely a market for it and of course you can use it on subsequent phones you own too. The Honami mini is looking pretty great in my opinion too, but considering it has a 20 MP camera you wouldn't really need the Lens G attachment anyway if you bough that!

And Jay, we did a camera test with Samsung devices recently and the S4 Zoom came out a pretty clear winner for us. Despite the slightly clunky look and feel of the device, it really is a great in-between if you're not looking for the sexiest new skinny phone or the best digital camera out there but still want great results from something that can do both. It is still an S4 after all! It'll be interesting to see how the Sony lens attachments go in the market against the built-in S4 Zoom.

Aug 23, 2013 4:48:15 AM via App

I am a keen photographer as well as a mobile phone/gadget junkie, I loved the camera on my Sensation XE and as I was without a camera at the time it got some pretty solid use. Now I have a camera again the camera on my s3 mini gets very little use, in that respect I would much rather use a proper camera if the option is there but if all I have is the phone I'll use it. I've actually recently purchased a Samsung Galaxy player to use for playing games and listening to music when I'm out because I was ending up with my phone being out of juice by around 6pm due to it being used for texts/whatsapp/music/games/tweeting/facebooking/email. Really hope my next device has a better battery cos I now need to be able to use my phone as a wifi hotspot for my tablet

Sep 2, 2013 2:44:52 PM via Website

Just thought I'd add a comment about the upcoming Acer Liquid S2 which will be one of the first phablets available with 4K video recording capabilities (the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 should also have it) - is this overkill? Do we really need that standard of video recording on a phablet/smartphone? Why are smartphones trying to take over the domain of camcorders?

On another note, the Liquid S2 will also have user-customizable camera modes that allow you to set your preferred settings for various situations and access them like preset modes. And so the smartphones continue to march into battle with digital cameras...

Sep 3, 2013 10:22:54 PM via Website

I love the camera on my galaxy note 10.1. I even bought professional photographer apps for it. Still, I always find myself taking pictures with my rinky dink lg phone. It's way more convenient at a moments notice. Is the new high end approach to the camera and video aspects of the phone slowly becoming overkill, yes. Would I still buy one with those features, Im seriously considering it. I get a kick out of taking pictures!

"You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here & So Am I" - FZ

Sep 6, 2013 4:16:42 AM via Website

I don't think smartphones will take over the pocket digital market! Smartphones are becoming more and more function! But it cannot really take the place of digital camera!

Sep 6, 2013 2:47:29 PM via Website

Hey guys, we now have a Sony Xperia Z1 and LG G2 in the office, as well as the Cyber-shot QX10. We did a camera test of the three side by side, you can read the review here, and of course there was an obvious winner. The Sony Cyber-shot strap on lens is brilliant, it performs as you'd expect a digital camera would, but it's tiny and you can attach it to any smartphone (or none at all). It's expensive thoough, like $600 but it's pretty incredible. The Xperia Z1 is pretty awful to hold onto, so large and boxy but it takes pretty nifty photos. And there's an AR Mode which lets you put animated dinosaurs onto your viewfinder - silly but pretty fun. The G2, which is also meant to be a great camera smartphone, over-processes a bit much and gets artifacts and other weird stuff going on, but the device feels amazing in the hand and the display is pretty out of this world.

Sep 6, 2013 10:30:34 PM via Website

Hey Kris, cool demo! The results are not surprising. I agree with what fuji kay said. You can't beat the performance of a digital camera. it is quite apparent in the test results. The Sony Cyber-shot did a beautiful job and it is really neat how it can be attached to a smartphone. You gave me a lot to think about. Now I will have to start saving up my pennies :)

— modified on Sep 7, 2013 2:54:48 AM

"You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here & So Am I" - FZ

Sep 9, 2013 10:26:25 AM via Website

Thanks Amy. We've also posted full reviews of the LG G2 and the Sony Xperia Z1 so you can have a read of those too. But the more I think about it then more I lean to the Sony Cyber-shot lens attachment because once you've got it, you've got it regardless of what phone you buy. So you can buy a phone with the hardware specs you like and not worry too much about the on-board camera because you've already got the super strap-on lens in your bag!

Sep 10, 2013 2:59:07 AM via Website

Hmm.........Having a high quality camera that can attach to almost any phone I want. Now that's awesome! Kris, you have to watch out before you send me on a tech junkie shopping spree! :P

"You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here & So Am I" - FZ

Sep 10, 2013 10:15:48 AM via Website

Ha, sorry about that Amy! But I'm pretty fascinated by this right now. Everything has been moving towards smartphone cameras getting better and better and moving into the digital camera realm (at least point and shoot digital). So this Sony attachment is a real game-changer - it means you can essentially ignore camera quality on a smartphone. At least concerning high-quality photography - the basic point and shoot qualities of smartphones will remain important and of course you wouldn't always want to have to pull the Cyber-shot lens out of your bag. But to have that small, light-weight option in your bag whenever you want a proper photo is pretty temptiing to me. But I expect cameras in phones to get better as time goes on anyway so this may all be irrelevant in a year's time!

Sep 10, 2013 9:36:07 PM via Website

Yes Kris, it's true. As time goes on, the additional features phone will be much higher in quality. In my case though, I like to buy low tech phones and keep it simple with basic functionality (call, text, basic camera). I leave the fancy stuff to my tablet.

**What the Sony Cyber-shot means is the following: I can still use a simple phone on a prepaid call and text plan and have the option to attach a high quality lense on it to boot.

Even in the fast pace of professional phone features, the basic phone will still be sticking around for a while.

"You're Probably Wondering Why I'm Here & So Am I" - FZ