Shooting into point and shoot territory

The iPhone might have emerged as the most popular camera on the image sharing website, Flickr, but when it comes to photography, the cellphone is considered by most photography ‘purists’ to be a tool of convenience, rather than excellence — good enough for the times when one has no time to pull out and adjust a camera or a DSLR, but not more than that. That, however, could be set to change, courtesy some innovation from cellphone manufacturers who seem to upping the imaging ante in their handsets, and coming out with devices that can take on decent point and shoot cameras, if not DSLRs. The past few weeks have seen phone photography get a major boost in qualitative terms, courtesy three very innovative devices, each of which gives you the option of leaving home without your point and shoot.

Nokia Lumia 1020: Megapixel Mania
It comes with a dual core processor, Windows Phone 8, a 4.5 inch AMOLED display, 32 GB of onboard storage and lots of connectivity options. But all that pales in front of a single statistic — the 41.0-megapixel sensor on the camera of the Lumia 1020.You literally can take pictures fit for poster size from this phone, and can actually zoom upto 3X without compromising on detail. And of course, this being a Nokia, the camera blends in perfectly with phone functions as well. Nokia has even designed a special app (Pro Camera) that allows users to make the most of the camera and make adjustments to focus, ISO, white balance and the like.There are a few quirks, though — you will have to plug the phone into a computer to see the 34 and 38 megapixel images shot by the camera (oh-so-2010!). And that price is as jaw dropping as the megapixel count on the sensor. Still, when it comes to image quality, this can go toe to toe with most point and shooters. And win more often than not.

What rocks: Fantastic image quality; lossless zoom; great Nokia Pro Camera app
What sucks: Price; inability to view 34/38 megapixel images on device
Perfect for: Those wanting a decent looking phone that can take awesome pictures, budget no bar
Price: Rs 49,999

Sony DSC-QX10: Lens-style Camera: Add-on camera

The idea of physically adding a camera lens to a phone is not a new one, but these have generally been small, dainty affairs that are placed over the phone’s main camera, that added a few shooting options and a touch of zoom to the main lens. Sony has, however, literally plonked a camera on to a phone with its Lens-style Camera range. These essentially are cameras that have everything but a viewfinder (they even have a shutter button) and can be attached to Android and iOS devices wirelessly over Wi-Fi and NFC. The QX10 is the more affordable of the two options in the market, and literally converts your phone into a viewfinder — you can even keep the lens detached from it if you wish — while adding a 18.2-megapixel camera with 10X optical zoom to it. The whole process of carrying the lens and connecting it to the phone can be a bit tedious (Sony’s app for iOS and Android could also have been better), but the results are more often than not brilliant. Could this herald an era in which phones swap lenses like DSLRs? You read it first here.

What rocks: Flexibility of use; real zoom; great image quality
What sucks: Process of connecting; another device to carry/charge
Perfect for: Those considering leaving their cameras behind and having the patience to connect the lens to the phone every time they want to take a snap
Price: Rs 12,990

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom: Ready, aim, zoom, shoot
No, we still are undecided as to whether this is a camera that can make calls or a phone that has a clearly-defined camera side to it, but rarely has a device had as distinct two sides as the Galaxy S4 Zoom. On one side is a typical Android phone complete with AMOELD display and, on the other a full-fledged 16.2-megapixel camera camera with 10X zoom, and a proper grip and Xenon flash. On paper, this should mean the benefits of a proper phone, rubbing shoulders with those of a proper camera. And when you use the S4 Zoom as a camera, it certainly works very well, with Android's appy goodness and editing options at your disposal, along with some excellent interface touches from Samsung. Unfortunately, using it as a phone can be a pain thanks to the jutting lens and grip on the back. It was also designed for function, rather than beauty. That said, the device opens the door for real optical zooms on handsets.

What rocks: Real optical zoom; good image quality; Connectivity options
What sucks: Inconvenient design for phone use; odd looks
Perfect for: Those wanting the connectivity of a ‘smart camera’ combined with Android muscle. And the option to make the
occasional call.
Price: R27,500 

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