Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Camera Phones

I glanced behind me just now, and noticed that the sun is setting, and it’s a really cool colour.

Unfortunately, this is not the type of thing that a camera phone can’t pick up very well. Take a look:

Not very good, eh? You can click that image for a bigger version, but it's no better. I don’t know if a proper camera would have done a better job, through my office window, but I knew the camera phone wouldn’t work.

And that’s the problem with camera phones, I’m finding. It’s great to have this thing with me all the time, ready to go, but in many situations—if not most—when I do want to take a picture, it turns out that a camera phone just won’t do a good enough job.

For a while, when Blogger first introduced the feature allowing photos to be uploaded, I was carrying my digital camera around with me everywhere, just in case something worthy of a picture happened. When I got a phone with a camera it was exciting, because it’s a lot handier to just use the phone than pull out the camera, take it out of the case, etc. etc. And I always have the phone with me, whereas I only had the camera if I had my bag handy.

But any time I use it, I end up with a picture that’s not worthy of posting to the blog anyway. Like, just the other day, I was out on the street, and I happened to run into Lucy Liu. What are the odds, right? And she was all asking me for my digits, and I was like, sorry Lucy, I’m married. She was disappointed, of course, but she still agreed to let me take my picture with her. But I used the crappy camera phone, so when I hooked it up to the computer, to take a look, all I saw was a bunch of blurriness.

And that happens all the time. (Not running into Lucy Liu; I mean I get into situations all the time where a camera would be handy, but a camera phone just won’t cut it.) One of the problems, of course, is that the lens for the camera is on the back of the phone, where my fingers are when I’m using it. So of course it gets smudged. But the other problem is that it’s just a crappy camera. The highest resolution I can get is 640x480, and if I want to use the digital zoom, I have to use a smaller resolution.

Then again, I also have unrealistic expectations, sometimes. A couple of weeks ago Andrea and I went out for a drive, late at night, and we went downtown, via the Gardener. Going into downtown Toronto, at night, via the Gardener, is my favourite view of the city, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere. (The picture here is not from that angle. I just did a quick search on Google for pictures of Toronto at night.) Since Andrea was driving, I thought I’d try and snap some pictures on my camera phone. The good news is that it doesn’t have a flash, so I didn’t have to worry about the glare from the flash reflecting off the windshield. But the bad news is that I was trying to take a picture of the city lights, at night, from inside a car! No camera is going to do that well. So of course I got a dozen pictures that are just black, and a couple of unrecognizable blobs of light in them. I even tried turning the brightness feature on the camera all the way up, with no effect. (Except that the next time I tried to use it, all I got was white, and had to turn it back down to take normal pictures.)

In my defense, it’s not like I was expecting this to work. But it was also extremely overly-optimistic to try in the first place.