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  • Smartphone in the megapixel war

    ONE AFTER the other camera manufacturers have realised that pointand- shoot cameras are a lost cause, having pretty much been trounced by the phone camera. The last big differentiators for the point and shoots, their superior megapixels and optical zooms, are also not beyond phone cameras anymore.

    The race for higher megapixels in phones started when Sony lent its ‘ Cybershot’ branding to its mobile handset division, to create handsets that would be as good, if not better, than point and shoot cameras. So in 2007 the Sony K850i was the first 5MP camera phone to be available here. It was the best camera phone when it came to megapixels till Samsung launched the 8 MP Innov8 a year later.The 8 MP became a sort of standard for high- end smartphones for a long time. But Sony Ericsson and Nokia continued to push the envelope.

    Within a year or so, both had 12MP cameras in the Sony Ericsson Satio and the Nokia N8. By 2012, Nokia had left the rest of the pack far behind and introduced its PureView 808 with a mammoth 41MP sensor, touted to be good enough to replace a DSLR. With megapixel race pretty much in Nokia’s kitty’s others like Samsung are thinking a bit out of the box. The new Samsung S4 Zoom boasts a 16MP camera and a bigger sensor 1/ 2.33'' sensor along with an optical zoom, so far unseen in cameras. Sony, on the other hand, is selling a detachable zoom lens for its 20.7 MP Xperia Z1. California- based Ollo Clip, meanwhile, brings similar lenses for the iPhone.

    The iPhone’s contribution to phone photography cannot be ignored and Apple has been able to stand apart by promising quality pictures despite not having two- digit megapixel sensors.iPhones have always had the standard megapixel count, but with bigger sensors. Apple clearly believes megapixels are overrated and hence even its latest iPhone 5S has just 8MP. But the company claims its combination of great software with larger sensor and individual pixels can still give a better picture thanks to greater light sensitivity.

    For the average users, all this means there not much left to differentiate between the picture quality of a phone and a mid- level point and shoot. But that still does not make the millions of people using the phone cameras good photographers.

    Phone companies have found a way around this too. Now, apps like Camera+ for iOS, Camera Zoom FX on Android and ProCam on Windows Phones bring to the phone the kind of creativity and control you could till now find only on DSLRs. The kind of ease- of- use these app give to user promise much better pictures even from the phones of novices.

    Moreover, processing and editing has become an art on the phone with great apps like Snapseed, Pixlr and Photoshop Express that do everything from red eye removal to HDR ( high dynamic range) effects. Most of these also come with easy share options, which is why most of these photos are shot on the phone in the first place.

    Yes, the balance of power is now firmly in favour of the phone. If 300 million photos are shared on Facebook every day, everyone knows that a majority of these are shot on a phone and not a camera. With close to 3 billion units, the camera phone is clearly the imaging device the world turns to now.

    With super megapixels, bigger sensors and easy to use processing & editing apps, smartphones continue to replace point- andshoot cameras