Chipping Campden village in the Cotswolds.
Samsung Galaxy Camera 2
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The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 may not be the best camera I have in terms of image quality, but that 483mm (35mm 'equivalent') telephoto end is very useful. Particularly as the small sensor gives me the ability to 'pull things in' from some distance away and still create images with a lot of depth of field. It's a camera that takes up about the same room as my Nokia 1020 and I usually take it out with another camera.
It's really a 'work in progress' idea though and eventually we will get camera phones that include an improved version of this zoom and screen. Though hopefully if Samsung do that, they will make the whole operation somewhat simpler and more user friendly.
SHOOTING STOCK WITH A SMALL SENSOR POINT AND SHOOT COMPACT CAMERA
Since these days most picture libraries happily accept and indeed embrace, camera phone images, there is obviously no problem using a camera like the samsung Galaxy 2. While it's true that 16MP is pushing it on this camera, with care I can create images that will reproduce to a decent size on print media.
I do, however, like to make sure that my compositions are nice and tight, simple and graphically strong. As ever it's the case that what's in the image is more important than what creates the image. It's also important to realise that images that look a bit soft and lacking in detail because of applied noise reduction (as in the case of the Samsung) will often look quite acceptable printed on a magazine page.
The Samsung has another great advantage apart from the huge focal range and that's the fact that it's a non-threatening and non attention grabbing camera. It does look pretty much like a phone and even when the zoom is extended and holding it up to shoot with, it just looks like any other small compact camera.
And there are many situations where that is useful. Though it has to be said that these days, almost everybody seems to be snapping away on some device. It's actually quite surprising to me how many people shoot on iPad's and other tablets. (Incidentally I will be getting the new iPad with the improved 8MP camera, since I use my iPad a lot for various photographic tasks.) So these days, with the right 'camera' in your hands it's maybe not as important to look inconspicuous, since in many places I visit these days, its the person without the camera that's the odd one out.
THE SMARTPHONE REVOLUTION
Yesterday, for example, I observed a young(ish) couple who were out for a photographic afternoon using their phones. They were taking just as much care with their shots as I was. They were also stopping to compare images and talking about what they were shooting. I inadvertently eavesdropped on their conversation and it was so reminiscent of what people on camera club excursions or out for a 'photo walk' talk about. (Not that I've ever been on either but I have encountered quite a few on my travels.)
And it is true that photography is enjoying a boom currently. Whatever you think about Smartphone Photography, it is certainly encouraging lots more people to go out and attempt to create images. It's also not just for social media either. Many of the people I observe currently are taking great care with their photography. I obviously can't see the results, but this is not just grabbing a quick snapshot and that's great to see.
I have to say that these days I do actually get quite excited when I decide that its 'phone time' The pictures above are my latest instagram posts. And I do actually like those retro rendered little squares, but more importantly I love the freedom and the simplicity of the whole process. See it, snap it, move on. It is great fun and while it does a lot of the time make my photography seem more 'disposable' than I like, it is refreshingly free of pretension and a lot more experimental.
And though I was initially skeptical about the whole smartphone, cameraphone idea and was in fact very rude about it, I have come to see it as a predominantly good thing. I'm not impressed by how some people use their phones as a 'weapon' to bully, embarrass and humiliate people, but overall seeing lots of people shooting images all the time is great to see.
Up until recently, I was usually a rarity in that I was walking around taking pictures. And from time to time I attracted some unwelcome attention. But that is very much a thing of the past these days. Because of this it does seem strange that the major camera manufacturers seem unable to be able to cash in on this. Sure lot's of people use their phones, but why aren't camera companies talking to phone companies? Here's our great new phone and it's got (wait for it) a NIKON LENS!!! Doesn't that make sense?
Or are the non-phone making companies just going to hand the entire marketplace to companies like Sony and of course Samsung. Panasonic have seen the light, but the others just seem to be hoping it will all blow over. For example, why don't we have 'smart cameras? By this I mean cameras with sim cards that enable instant uploading of images to social media? You could even include a texting option. This would be a no phone option of course, since putting a camera to your ear would look a bit odd. But then I guess it could use speakerphone.
From what I'm seeing on a regular basis, people are interested in photography both as a way of documenting their lives and more and more as an activity in it's own right. The Samsung Galaxy camera 2 goes some way to providing an option for me to shoot pictures and use smartphone technology and options. But for that I need wi-fi. Not always easy because of where I go.
What we need are more sophisticated and better hybrid devices and options from the phone companies that let us have an account whereby we have multiple sim cards that we can use in a variety of devices, all having the same number. I have two phones, one of which I've only ever made one phone call on. But I use it all the time for the internet. Why do I have to have a separate phone number?
So what's needed is a more creative approach from camera manufacturers and service providers to take account of what's actually going on. There are going to be lot's of people who want the convenience and usefulness of their phones, but who want to take better quality images. This means either more phones like the new Panasonic CM1 or a different kind of device. A 'communicative camera' for want of a better description.
I'm sure eventually that's what we will get. Some all-in-one technological marvel that does pretty much everything. (Though it has to be said, what happens if you loose it, damage it or have it stolen?) I think there are interesting times ahead and though the smartphone revolution is certainly upon us, it's still really early days in terms of the technology. We will see what we will see but I strongly suspect that what I'm using now will have the same novelty value as some of those early computers like the Macintosh 2 in years to come.
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There is an interesting article on the BBC website HERE, which deals with many of the issues above.