The WileyFox Swift 2 and Swift 2 Plus are new “budget” smartphones with premium design and features. Not true budget, as they’re not around £100 anymore, but still budget in that the Swift 2 has an RRP of £159, (and was on offer for £120 for Black Friday), and the Swift 2 Plus has an RRP of £189, (and was on offer for £149 for Black Friday).
Both smartphones feature a metal build, with fingerprint sensor, improved speaker, and improved processor over the original Swift.
Swift 2 / 2 Plus Shared Features:
– 5inch, 720p screen
– Fingerprint sensor
– 8mp selfie camera
– 2700mAh battery (non-removable)
– DualSIM (2x SIM or 1x SIM and 1 MicroSD)
– Octa-core 1.4GHz
– Fast charging
– Gorilla Glass 3
– Weight 158g
Swift 2 features:
– 13mp f/2.? camera
– 2GB ram / 16GB storage
Swift 2 Plus features:
– 16mp f/2.0 camera
– 3GB ram / 32GB storage
You can watch an unboxing video here:
Swift 2 Geekbench 4: CPU: 639 single-core, 1994 multi-core
Swift 2 Plus Geekbench 4.0.3: CPU: 634 single-core, 2002 multi-core
The performance of the phone is reasonably good, and the phone feels responsive in use, with better benchmark results than the Spark X. The Swift 2 Plus memory and storage is generous, however, if you’ve got a functioning phone like the Samsung Galaxy S5, which can be picked up for less than £100 second hand, then you already have a phone with better performance (and a better camera). I’d also seriously consider the Moto G3 (3rd Gen) if you can get it with 2GB/16GB, as it’s also waterproof.
WileyFox Swift 2 Plus Sample Photos:
Sunny Day (Swift 2 Plus)
High contrasty image (Swift 2 Plus)
HDR (Swift 2 Plus)
Images are quite bright and colourful, but show noise in the corners of the frame, and noise from the 16mp sensor on the Swift 2 Plus affects image detail. The camera app has a limited number of modes, with only “Hyperlapse” and “Panorama” available. Although if you bring up the settings you can adjust exposure compensation, white balance, and switch between a number of different “scenes” including: HDR, ChromaFlash, OptiZoom, Action, Backlight, Beach, Candlelight, Fireworks, Flowers, Landscape, Night, Night portrait, Party, Portrait, Snow, Sports, Steady photo, Sunset, Theatre, Mono, Sepia, Negative, Solarize, Aqua, Emboss, Sketch, and Neon.
WileyFox Swift 2 Sample Photos:
WileyFox Swift 2 Trees
WileyFox Swift 2 High contrast
WileyFox Swift 2 HDR
If you’re hoping that the image quality from the Swift 2, with a 13mp sensor would be better, then unfortunately, you’re likely to be disappointed. Noise is visible in all images (when viewed at 100%), even when taken at the lowest ISO speeds, and even when taken on bright sunny days. There are other image quality artefacts that degrade image quality as well.
If you want a fingerprint sensor, metal build quality, and NFC, then the Swift 2 and 2 Plus are very good. It’s just a shame that the camera performance isn’t particularly good.
WileyFox Swift 2 Pros: (Both)
Gorilla Glass 3
WileyFox Swift 2 Plus Pros:
Generous 3GB/32GB ram/storage
WileyFox Swift 2 Cons: (Both)
Low-res (720p) screen
Unconvincing camera performance
The WileyFox Swift is made by a UK company, WileyFox, who currently sell two models, the Swift is the entry level model, priced at around £130 (Cashback offer between 1st March – 25th March 2016), with the higher spec model, the Storm, priced at around £200. The Swift runs Cyanogen OS (currently 12.1.1), a user developed version of Android (currently 5.1.1).
The WileyFox Swift, as a “budget” Android smartphone is competing with a number of other models, but offers an impressive range of features and specifications, considering the price point.
WileyFox Swift Key Features:
13mp main camera, Samsung BSI CMOS sensor, Dual-flash
To get the Moto G (3rd Gen) to match the memory provided with the Swift as standard you have to go for the £159 version, and other smartphones at this price point often compromise on other features, including a lower resolution camera, or a lower amount of storage space.
The screen features a 720×1280 resolution, and the brightness can be adjusted easily. It’s quite bright on default settings, and seemed to be set so that it didn’t automatically adjust itself depending on the surrounding conditions (which was frustrating at first), and this was quickly resolved by finding the right settings.
The WileyFox Swift is reasonably quick and responsive, and the GPS and Sat-Nav features work well in real time, making it a suitable alternative to a dedicated SatNav device. Some budget smartphones, such as the Honor Holly (a £90 Android smartphone) can struggle, and seem a little slower in comparison. The Swift does not seem to have any problems playing back videos smoothly.
Battery life should last a day in theory, although it will also depend on how you use the phone, and we found that listening to music on the train with earbuds seems to drain the battery very quickly. Perhaps due to the phone regularly losing mobile phone signal going through tunnels. You could get a spare battery as the phone battery can be removed and replaced, or you could take a USB charger with you, and there are plenty of portable chargers available for not much money.
The camera – it’s quite good, with a 13mp sensor, and f/2.5 aperture, and it’s certainly reasonable, although with no optical image stabilisation, and not an especially fast aperture compared to some smartphones, low-light photography can be tricky. I’d prefer it if the camera increased the ISO speed, with additional noise, rather than having a blurry photo (and low noise). (The Honor Holly is good at increasing the ISO speed, giving you a sharp but noisy image, and features an 8mp f/2.0 camera). The camera does feature twin LEDs, which can help with close subjects in low light.
I was unimpressed by the built in camera app and have switched to using Google’s photo app. There are a good range of options and shooting modes using this app, including photo sphere, panorama, lens blur, camera and video, as well as HDR.
WileyFox Swift – Paris Vegas
WileyFox Swift – Ehang
WileyFox Swift BA
Overall – For the price it’s very difficult to find an Android smartphone with a better specification, without compromising on something. The simple fact is, that at this price, you get a highly capable Android smartphone with a decent screen, relatively stylish looks, a good enough camera, and 2GB/16GB memory, which means you can get a good number of apps and music on without the smartphone feeling slow. For the more advanced user, or for someone who uses the camera a lot, in a variety of situations, the slow-ish aperture and poor low-light performance will most likely have you looking at other smartphones pretty quickly.
Pros: Price, specification, design, 2GB/16GB built in, reasonable 13mp camera, 5inch screen, fairly quick, good GPS performance with Satnav, light and slim.
Cons: As a UK only mobile phone, the availability of spare parts, accessories, or repair by 3rd parties may be more difficult compared to a main brand that is sold Worldwide. Camera and battery life could be better, but are fairly reasonable considering the price. Generic looks on the screen side.
The HTC One Mini is the latest smartphone from HTC, with a smaller 4.3inch screen, it’s a great size phone, the screen is great, and the phone is fast, responsive and feels great. It’s got the same 4 megapixel sensor as the HTC One, and the bright f/2.0 lens, but the Mini doesn’t feature optical image stabilisation, whereas the HTC One does. It should still provide great low light images, but won’t be as good as those with optical image stabilisation, like the HTC One, Nokia Lumia 925 and Lumia 1020.
It’s got a dual core processor, 1GB memory, 4.3 inch 720p screen, 1.6mp front camera, Android 4.2.2, HTC Sense 5.0, plus stereo beats audio. Its got 16GB of built in memory, however you can’t upgrade this as there is no microSD slot, although they do give you loads of Dropbox storage for free if you set it up on the phone.
The camera takes some decent photos, although at only 4 megapixels, detail isn’t as good as you as other higher resolution camera phones. However for the most part 4 megapixels should be plenty for sharing on Facebook and other social network sites.
DigiCamReview has reviewed the 12 megapixel Nokia N8 after using it for 18 months, while ePHOTOzine has reviewed the 41 megapixel Nokia PureView 808. Both camera phones run Symbian, and feature Carl Zeiss lenses, and Xenon flash – which helps massively in low light situations. Here’s what ePHOTOzine had to say about the 41 megapixel Nokia PureView 808:
“Looking at the detail resolved in these images, it shows more detail than 24 megapixel APS-C Digital SLRs, and provides very similar levels of detail to the 36 megapixel Nikon D800, albeit with more noise visible in the image.”
The Nokia PureView 808 has a neat timelapse feature built into the camera. Some people call it interval-shooting, but it’s pretty much the same thing, you can choose how many photos you want to take from 2 to 1500, set the interval from every 5 seconds to 30 minutes, and you can even shoot at full resolution! Here’s a quick timelapse I took with the camera set to 5 megapixels and 10 second interval (I think 5sec or 8sec would make a smoother video), and I simply put the images into Windows Live Movie Maker (free download for Windows XP/7 etc), set the duration of each frame to 0.05, and saved the video. This is using around 660 images, 4:3 aspect, although next time I think I’ll try 16:9 so it fits into a video better. It shows 9.42 to 11.32, so just under 2 hours in 33 seconds. The clever thing is with the Nokia, is that it comes with a charger, so you could theoretically plug the phone into the charger, set it up on a tripod or other location, and keep shooting until you run out of memory in the phone – it has 16GB built in put you can also stick in a MicroSD card for another 32GB (a 16GB card can be bought for around £7).
ePHOTOzine has published sample photos from the new 41 megapixel Nokia PureView 808 – Nokia’s flagship cameraphone, it features a Carl Zeiss f/2.4 equivalent to 26mm when taking 16:9 photos or 28mm when shooting 4:3 aspect photos. The phone features a 4inch touch screen, 16GB of memory, HDMI out, ISO50 to ISO1600, and lossless zoom, for example you can use 3x zoom when in the 5 megapixel mode, or 4x zoom when recording full HD videos. AllAboutSymbian has published their first impressions, including comment on where it fits in with regards to Symbian and the transition from Symbian to Windows by Nokia.
The Nokia N8, aka the N8-00 – from Tesco Direct (currently the cheapest place to buy the phone without a contract) – is one of the latest smart phones from Nokia – running a new version of Symbian’s multi tasking operating system called Symbian^3, it also features one of the best cameras on any mobile phone, with a 12 megapixel sensor, and Xenon flash.
Main Features / Specifications:
12 megapixel camera, with Carl Zeiss lens and Xenon flash
HD Video recording – 720p – image stabilisation available (digital)
Previously, I’d questioned or rather suggested improvements I’d like to see implemented in the new Nokia N8 / Symbian^3 phone operating system update. Just as a very quick answer to see whether they have resolved my concerns I’ll look at each point (although you can probably see the answers from the screens shown below):
Nokia N8 Home Screens - Widgets, Shortcuts, RSS - Click to enlarge - here I've setup the first screen to show the interactive widgets, and favourite contacts (photos taken from twitter, phone, and facebook), the second screen I've filled with the search widget and shortcuts (making it look like an iphone or an android phone), and the third screen I've filled with RSS feeds - including an RSS feed from twitter.
RSS feeds on the home screen: Yes. By default you can get specific widgets such as the BBC News RSS Feed widget, and CNN News RSS Feed widget, these are built in to the phone as standard. If you subscribe to an RSS feed in the built in web browser, it will then appear as an option to put it on the home screens as an RSS widget.
Improved UI Design / Icons: Compared to Symbian S60 v3 or v5 (Touch), and the N97 / N97 Mini the interface is much nicer to use, graphically more pleasing, and much more responsive. The general look of the icons when in the main menu is still rather plain and not drastically different, but is more pleasing overall due to the blue buttons (they have tidied up the icons making them a little prettier, but they still have the same general look). There do seem to be some UI (User Interface) design quirks in that the exit button will move position when in landscape mode (such as the camera mode – this was not the case with the N97 Mini!).
Improved Web Browser: This is questionable. The browser is a slightly newer version (N8 is v220.127.116.11, N97 is v7.1.4), and deals with BBC iPlayer slightly differently, but is still very similar to the old browser. Overload it and instead of being able to view videos from iplayer or youtube, you’ll still get the “broken flash” icon. Apparently the first firmware update will include an improved browser. The new browser now supports Multi-touch and pinch zooming.
Improved sharing features: Photo send options are via message, mail or bluetooth. Where are the send to flickr, facebook, twitter, etc options? Update: – once you sign into Social (by Nokia) you then get the option to upload photos and videos to facebook and twitter straight after taking them! It’s a bit basic, but works well – yay!
Built in Twitter / Facebook client and home screen widget: Yes, twitter and facebook client / widget built in, called Nokia Social. This also integrates with the Contacts on the phone, and you can pull twitter / facebook friends profile picture into your contacts, and view their shared contact details on facebook.
Improved battery life or sleep mode: Too soon to say, but the screen saver looks low power (other screen saver options are: music player, which will display the track you’re playing even when the phones locks, slideshow, Big Clock, Animation or None). Wifi, and other internet connections *seem* to go to sleep when not in use, and the phone also copes well with having many apps running in the background, even overnight, without much battery life problems. With the N97 Mini, running programs overnight normally meant waking up to a flat battery, not so with the N8. The battery is the same 1200mah battery as used in the Nokia N97 Mini (BL-4D). So far the battery lasts longer than the N97 Mini, and in everyday use, the N8 battery lasts 15 hours (I will add more results later), although the battery life will be highly dependant on what features you use and how often you use them. Another new feature added to the phone, is that it now shows you how much the phone is charged in percentage, even when the phone is off.
PC software needs fixing – why are there separate apps for Nokia Maps loader, Nokia Ovi Suite, Nokia Software Updater, etc, why can’t these all be combined into one? This appears to be being resolved, with the majority of tools being put inside Nokia Ovi Suite, however there still appears to be development of Nokia Software Updater as a separate program. Nokia Ovi Suite is available on the phone to install, when you connect the phone in Mass Storage mode.
Nokia N8 – one of the customisable home screens nearly full of widgets – click to enlarge.
Have a screen that works outside even when battery is low: Too soon to say, however, the screen clarity and brightness looks like a significant improvement over the Nokia N97 Mini and the N8 features an AMOLED screen, although this wasn’t a good thing when the Nokia N86 8mp featured an AMOLED screen, as it was very difficult to see it in bright sunlight.
Lots of memory (RAM) for multi-tasking: Despite the N8 only having 256mb internally for the C: drive, compared to the Nokia N97 Mini’s 512mb, the N8 seems to be able to run WAY more apps simultaneously when compared to the N97 Mini – I have not yet seen any memory error messages despite running applications that cause problems on the N97 Mini. Running 11+ applications is not a problem, as Symbian^3 now has virtual memory support.
Photoshop for Symbian anyone? Already, since the release of the Nokia N8, Nokia have released a new photography app, Nokia Panoramic. There are other photo apps currently under development… see Nokia Make My App, in particular: Mobile Photoshop 🙂 and Auto HDR Photography.
High Quality Audio / MP3 Playback: The Nokia N8 is already at a disadvantage compared to the Nokia N97 and N97 Mini, as the N8 only has one speaker for playback. However, it improves over the N97 Mini by including an FM transmitter. For stereo sound you will need to plug in some earphones / headphones. The music player on the N8 is greatly improved over the player on previous Nokia phones, and provides smooth scrolling through album art.
Volume is very high – much higher than the N97 Mini, and clarity (particularly treble) is exceptional, without distortion at 100% volume. The N8 is very capable of driving large headphones, at potentially dangerous volume levels, and the volume can be changed with the side volume control even when the phone is locked (this was not possible with the N97 Mini, which is nice). Gapless playback of MP3s? Nope, it almost seems like it’s trying though, with a one or two second gap.
Flick scroll to browse the albums in your music collection
Ovi Music Unlimited service on selected markets
Nokia Ovi Player
Ovi Music store
Music codecs: .MP3, WMA, AAC, eAAC, eAAC+, AMR-NB, AMR-WB
Bit rate up tp 320 kbps
DRM support WM DRM, OMA DRM 2.0
Stereo FM radio (87.5-108 MHz/76-90 MHz)
Nokia N8 Camera – Carl Zeiss Tessar Lens, f2.8, 28mm equivalent (wide-angle), Auto focus. Xenon flash at the top. Speaker hole at the bottom.
The Nokia N8 Camera: One of the greatly anticipated (and hyped) features of the Nokia N8 is the 12 megapixel camera with Xenon flash. Nokia have put in a 12 megapixel sensor (1/1.83-inch) that is the same size as you find in your typical compact digital camera from Canon, Panasonic etc, and whilst nowhere near as good as the large sensor you would find in a Digital SLR, it is an improvement over the tiny sensors found in every other camera phone. As proof to how serious Nokia are taking the camera abilities of the N8, they posted 34 questions and answers about JUST the camera on the phone.
Golden autumn leaves, 12mp, 2.56mb, ISO105, f2.8, 1/155, Click to enlarge.
12 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics
Face recognition software
Focal length: 5.9 mm, Wide-angle 28mm equivalent
F number/Aperture: F2.8
Still images file format: JPEG/EXIF
Zoom up to 2x (digital) for still images
Zoom up to 3x (digital) for video
Some photos above: click to enlarge, click again to view full size.
More on the Camera: The camera defaults to taking 9 megapixel 16:9 wide aspect ratio photos (4000 x 2248) – switching to 12 megapixel images gives the more usual 4:3 aspect ratio (4000 x 3000), and 12mp photos average between 3.2mb and 1mb, which means they are quite highly compressed. After taking over 50 photos, the ISO (when set to AUTO) has ranged from ISO100 to ISO229. Manual settings for ISO are available and can be set to Low (ISO100), Medium (ISO400), or High (ISO800).
12 megapixel with Carl Zeiss optics
HD quality 720p resolution
Shoot 16:9 videos in HD
Video capture in 720p 25 fps with codecs H.264, MPEG-4
Settings for scene, white balance, colour tone
3x digital zoom available
The phone has a new video player, that supports DIVX, and XVID playback, including mkv files.
Plugging the phone into Windows 7 and you get some useful information, as Symbian^3 now supports Windows 7 properly:
Charge, Photos, Memory (Here it’s showing 20+gb as I’ve put an 8gb Micro SD card in), Text messages, Missed calls etc,
Other improvements: There’s a new keyboard mode (not yet supported by most apps), that lets you view your program, and your keyboard at the same time, it also implements predictive text / words, which makes using the keyboard much quicker. Simply start typing the word, and suggestions will appear making it quicker to use than the old qwerty keyboard.
USB on the go: Plug in any USB device, such as a USB keyboard or mouse, and you can use them on the phone, why not use a full size PC / Mac USB keyboard for typing instead of the touch screen? Or use a bluetooth mouse as well and use the HDMI output to connect the phone up to a large screen and then it can be used as a desktop PC replacement. Alternatively you could connect up a digital camera and start uploading photos to the internet, the possibilities are pretty amazing. Supports USB pen drives, and I suspect USB memory card readers (although I haven’t tested this personally). Or you could connect up your previous Nokia, such as the N97 Mini in Mass Storage mode, and copy everything across without having to go through a PC.
Over 250 new features in Symbian^3: From the nokia blog, we can see that some of the main features added to Symbian are: Better graphics, Multi-touch, improved multimedia (new video player, HDMI support, Dolby*, new music player), better multitasking which includes better memory management to allow more apps to run, and an “Alt-Tab” (Windows) style task switcher, nicer networking, and Qt for developers.
Some other cool new features are: (if you’re technically minded) 64-bit file server – the phone supports files larger than 2gb, and Symmetric multiprocessor (SMP) support for dual core processors such as the ARM A9. Probably the most important for Nokia users that are bored of seeing the “Out of Memory” message on the N97 or N97 Mini (etc), Symbian^3 now features Writable Data Paging (WDP) – much like the Windows Page File, once the built in physical RAM has run out, it will simply page it to the other “drives” in the phone. (see Nokia Library “What’s new in Symbian^3” for more info)
New Ovi Store: One of the listed selling points of the phone is “access to 1000s of apps in the new Ovi store” (paraphrased by me), although strangely the Ovi store isn’t actually installed on the phone, all the shortcuts are there, but when go to open it, you then need to install it. I suppose it means you are going to get the latest version of the Ovi store even if the phones been sitting on the shelf for a few months, but it seems a little strange. When the Ovi store is installed, it is a noticeable improvement over the old store, not that there was anything particularly bad about the old store, it’s just that the Ovi store on the N8 looks nicer and feels nicer to use.
Build quality: The front glass is made out of “Gorrilla Glass” – a product that is deemed by the internetas unbreakable (Video). The phone body is made out of Aluminium, and feels extremely solid and well built, and the top and bottom of the phone are plastic. The fit and finish of the phone feels and looks like a high quality product, with no flex in the plastic or screen or any other parts of the phone, and the few buttons that the phone has feel good, with an especially nice shutter release button and volume controls. The sliding lock button feels solid even though I think it’s made out of plastic. (You can also unlock the phone by pressing the menu key and pressing the screen, in case you’re not a fan of using the side unlock key)
More intuitive: The Nokia N8 / and Symbian^3 is improved over Symbian S60 v5 (used in the N97/Mini etc) in lots of little ways, making it a much more intuitive phone to use, for example: To change the clock on the home screen from analogue to digital, you press the clock, this takes you into the time / date / alarm screen, and then you simply press the clock again to switch between analogue and digital. On the N97 Mini, this wasn’t possible, instead you had to delve right into the phone settings to choose between analogue and digital clocks.
Better connectivity and networking: Apart from the phone finding wireless networks quicker than the N97 Mini, it also seems to find more networks, and seems to have better range from the router. There’s also a new “Settings” menu in the connectivity menu, it allows you to set options for switching to WLAN, Data use in home network (Auto, Always ask, WLAN only), Data use when roaming (Auto, Always ask, WLAN only) – these settings could be very useful if you have a horrible internet data tariff but excellent wireless access, and it’s also where the “Destinations” menu has moved. There also appears to be a new power saving setting in the WLAN settings. In the USB connection menu there’s a new option to “Connect PC to net” enabling you to use the phone as modem (this was possible through OVI Suite with previous phones but not built into the phones menus). Under the Data Transfer menu, there’s a new “Ovi Sync” in addition to “Sync”. Remote drives is now an option.
Better internet: Changes made in the built in browser are subtle but quite clever, increasing the ease of use of the browser, for example, the refresh button is now directly next to the options button, making it easier to refresh a page.
Even more features: (too many to go into detail, so I thought I’d start listing additional features)
– Data transfer / Phone switch tool (built into the N8 in Settings, Data Transfer, Phone Switch) – lets you transfer data from or to another Nokia onto the N8 via bluetooth, and installs the sync tool to the other phone from the N8, then lets you choose what you want to transfer over. It’s very clever, and easy to use.
– Nokia Ovi Suite comes on the phone as an installable program when connected in Mass Storage mode (copying the useful feature from the Sony Satio?)
– Pop-Up Connection Notifications – tell you when you’ve connected to the network
– Long press / hold items to bring up a pop-up menu
– The battery icon is now click-able (from the home screen), so you can view the battery status
– New Power Saving option in the Phone Management screen (Settings, Phone, Phone Management)#
– Better contact management – you can merge contacts so that you don’t have duplicates in your phone
Wish list? If I could improve or add anything to the phone, what would I like to see? Previously with the Nokia N Series, Nokia included a lens / screen cloth to keep the lens and screen clean – this should be included with such a camera centric model. The lens is very easy to get finger prints on, and it’s important to keep the lens clean in order to get the best photo quality possible. An improved web browser would be very nice – the included is a little slow, and a little buggy.
* Apparently I’m meant to remind people that Dolby is a registered trademark of Dolby Laboratories. Like you’d forget or something.
The problem with cameras on mobile phones is that they’re all crap – do you want to know why?.
In the olden days (you know when people used film cameras) no matter what camera you had, whether it was a cheap piece of plastic crap or the best SLR in the world, it all had one thing in common: 35mm film*. And the one thing 35mm film did well, was take photos no matter what the lighting conditions. Even in dark situations, without flash, you’d still be able to get some kind of photo from it. * assuming you weren’t using a 110 or APS camera. An example on flickr, and another example above with flash (I assume the flickr link is using 35mm film which measures 24x36mm).
With a digital camera – nearly all of them have flash (I’d estimate 99%) – so in dark conditions you can use the flash and get a half decent photo (generally speaking). Some of the time you can switch the flash off, setup the self-timer, put it on a wall or a tripod and take a half-decent night shot. Which is fairly impressive considering how small the sensor is in relation to 35mm film. (The average compact digital camera sensor size is 7.2mm x 5.3mm (1/1.8 sensor), this is roughly 5x smaller than 35mm film, with an average Pixel area(µm2) of 2.6 – 3.8µm2) (Using a 12mp example: Canon Powershot G9 with a 1/1.7″ sensor, the pixel area is 3.8µm2). Example above taken with the Casio Exilim Z120.
On a side note: Do you remember when Digital Cameras were still new? Like in 2002 or 2003 when digital cameras were still so new that they had to write “Digital Camera” on the front of it somewhere so that you knew it was a digital camera? Simply being a digital camera in 2001 was so exciting and new that they simply used those two words together as a marketing tool / selling point for the camera. Now you’re lucky if you even have the model number written on it, and rarely do you find the manufacturer name on the back these days. (They used to always put the manufacturers name underneath the screen – like this). Now it’s more likely the be the huge number of megapixels or optical zoom or screen size that’s plastered all over the camera.
With a camera phone – most of them don’t have a real flash (maybe 1% has a real xenon flash (the Sony Satio is the only recent one) that is equivalent to the flash you find in a Digital Camera) – and the rest – if you’re lucky (or unlucky depending how you feel about it) – has an LED or a “twin” LED flash. The problem is that even with (or without) the LED flash, the camera’s just don’t cope with low-light situations. You can put the phone on night mode (if you’re lucky), put it somewhere steady^ and switch on the self-timer, and hope it takes a successful shot. The problem is that the sensors in camera phones are even smaller than compact digital cameras. They just can’t get enough light into the sensor, and that means in low light situations they produce crap noisy images that are over-processed so much that you’re lucky there’s any image left to view. Further problems are caused due to the small sensors lacking the ability to capture dynamic range, so dark areas are underexposed, and bright areas are overexposed, further reducing detail in images (the example above taken with the Nokia N86 – where’s the detail in the steps?). The latest 12 megapixel camera phone sensors made by Sony have a 1.4µm pixel size – which is again 2.7x smaller than compact digital camera sensors. (2.6mm x 1.96mm estimation). This is roughly 13.8x smaller than 35mm film.
In a nutshell – it’s all about the light – 35mm film cameras can absorb lots of light, and therefore take photos in dark conditions and get as much colour and detail as possible. Digital Cameras, more so compact cameras, have much smaller sensors and struggle in low light, but don’t do too bad a job of it thanks to having a flash, however, they are very much on the limit of acceptable image quality (that’s why Digital SLRs get better image quality – they have larger sensors). Camera phones on the other hand have had to miniaturize to the point where image quality is badly affected, and the only way to get good photos from them is to use them in ideal light, or have a real xenon flash for times when lighting is poor.
^ Options are limited as I don’t know of any camera phones with tripod mount, and you’re generally lucky if the phone will stand on it’s side without falling over. Even on the “Photo-centric” Nokia N86 8mp you can’t stand the camera on it’s side without it falling over!
The new Olympus PEN EPL-1 has just been announced, it looks good in silver from the front, but looks better from the back in black. A new budget version of the Olympus PEN EP-1, and Olympus PEN EP-2, with built in flash, it will be available in March, priced at $599 with 14-42mm (28-84mm Equivalent) kit lens.
Other specs feature: ISO 100 to ISO 3200, HD Video recording, 12 megapixel sensor, SDHC card support (Class 6 recommended), anti-shake sensor, face detection, in camera panoramic mode, 2.7″ screen, 6 art filters, multiple exposure, dust reduction sensor, HDMI out etc.
Two new lenses have also been announced: “the new super wide-angle zoom ED 9-18mm f4.0-5.6 lens (18-36mm equivalent) or the high-power wide to telephoto zoom ED 14-150mm f4.0-5.6 lens (28-300mm equivalent).” and Olympus have also announced underwater housing for the camera.
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