It has been reported that more than 60% of American consumers have a mobile phone that includes a camera. Many professional photographers use camera phones as a convenient alternative to their normal bulky pro cameras.
Here is a quick comparison between a cell-phone camera image and a DSLR image. The camera phone is a an LG with a touch screen and a high-quality Schneider lens. The DSLR is a Canon with a relatively old/inexpensive Canon lens.
The first scene (Pig Barn) was shot under full sun with a high amount of overall contrast. With both the camera phone and the camera, the overall exposure is about right. However, the camera phone badly over-exposed the highlights. The sky is completly blown out, as well as some rooftops and some local features on people. This cannot be corrected in post-processing. The color is good, except that the white trim on the barn shows a magenta cast. In the camera-phone image, the shadow areas show less noise than the DSLR. Curiously, the sign on the barn shows good sharpness and contrast, somewhat over-sharpened, but the side of the barn lacks sharpness.
The second scene (Canadian Mounted Police) was shot inside with relatively low light. With the assitance of an LED flash, the camera phone still cannot achieve a sharp picture. And again, the camera phone over-exposes the highlights. The DSLR, set to ISO 1250, captures a very nice image without assistance from any flash at all.
(What a lovely smile, eh?)
The camera-phone, using auto white-balance, produces color that seems overly blue. On this matter, the DSLR wins handily thanks to custom color-balance. Color-balance was specifically set in advance for the light here in this arena; the result may be just a tad warm, but is generally pleasing.
One other point of comparison is that the camera phone is difficult if not impossible to see in bright sun. The LCD display screen on any camera can suffer the same problem, but the traditional viewfinder eyepiece (a characteristic of an SLR) is immune to this.
So, for me personally … having a half-decent camera always available in my phone is an enabling technology … but a camera-phone cannot replace my camera-camera. While this particular camera phone is widely reported to create “above average” image quality, there are still some issues regarding image quality and usability.
[ Click on any image above for a larger view. ]