Cell Phone Image Quality

Mobile phone photos with cameras are everywhere and you always have one. But are they able to take decent quality photos?

Yes...under the right conditions. This is obvious in the photos shown below, taken with a Blackberry Torch. But beware, these are a select few taken under perfect lighting conditions. THE biggest issue cell cameras have is their sensors aren't very sensitive to light. Sounds odd, although unfortunately true. This lack of sensitivity to light causes images to be very grainy in low-light conditions. Forget the megapixel count of any camera, it's the sensor's sensitivity to light which really matters. Digital SLRs have very good sensors, but such high quality sensors can be included since these cameras are upwards of $1000 or even much more, and all they have to do is take photographs. A cell phone has to do all kinds of things, like being a phone, internet browser, media player, etcetera. Hence the camera aspect in this mix is secondary at best. Given that the sensor is the most important aspect of the camera (right up there with the lens), and that good cameras are expensive, there's little wonder cell phone sensors aren't very good in all conditions. Compounding the problem is that the majority of people still think the number of megapixels is the most important aspect of a camera's quality. Hence manufacturers pack in the megapixels at the cost of better quality sensors.

The solution for now: know that your cell phone is going to take a good shot only in bright light conditions. Much of the time there is pretty good light. Just don't expect the highest quality photos on really cloudy days, during twilight, or indoors if the lights aren't turn well up.

But aren't the pictures good enough?

The answer in many cases is likely to be...(drum roll)...yes. Does a photo's quality need to be so very great? Is it going to be sold or framed? Judged for its quality for any formal reason? Most likely that wasn't the reason the shot was taken. It was taken likely because you needed to capture a memory. Or the photo was intended as a log, where it was simply a general recording of a place and time. Many cell cameras do this just fine.

Also of note here is that digital pocket cameras aren't all that good under low light conditions either. Better in most cases, but still not good enough to be called a quality photo. They can't be printed much larger than 8 x 10 unless the light was quite right, for example. If good quality is required, go right to a digial SLR. They shoot exceptional quality photos and worth every penny.

Conclusion: What's important about a mobile phone camera is that you always have it handy when needed. And now you know not to expect too much when the light isn't good. When the light is reasonable, shots can look like those below. If consistent quality under a variety of conditions is required, go right to a digial SLR. They are worth every penny. The is a good chance though that your handy cell phone will do just fine.

Glenn Rogers, PMP
DBGallery Product Manager

Each of these images were taken with a fairly average cell phone camera these days: a 5 megapixel BlackBerry Torch. The light had to be just perfect. Click them for the full-size untouched original.

Sunshine Village, Banff, Canada

Sunshine Village, Banff, Canada

Oil Rig Supply Yard, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada /></a><br />
Oil Rig Supply Yard, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
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A typical grocery store.

A typical grocery store.

Lake Louise, Banff, Canada (with a window reflection)

Lake Louise, Banff, Canada (with a window reflection)

Oil Rig Supply Boats, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

Oil Rig Supply Boats, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

Memorial University and Long Pond, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

Memorial University and Long Pond, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

Cat Photo

Jack (this photo is especially clear)

All photos were taken and their copyright owned by Glenn Rogers

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I would never assumed a HQ

I would never assumed a HQ image coming from a camera, though some are equipped with full hd camera like iphones and samsung, but im still going to rely on a professional cam if I want to get some real quality photos.

Another Plus: GPS Data

Another plus for using cell phones is that the majority will automatically include a GPS stamp. This is useful data and comes with no effort on the photographers part. DBGallery loves to have this GPS data because it makes browsers/searching a collection within DBGallery all that much better.

Mobile Phones are Fine

Agreed, cell phones do fine in most cases. When I'm planning a site trip I will arrange for a decent camera. But just as often it's an impromptu mobile phone photo. Quality isn't always great but is good enough. An added bonus is they include a GPS location stamp.