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iBall's mSLR Cobalt 4 phone comes with 4 interchangeable cameras
 
Pic me up! Phone-photography takes off

Cameras are becoming more versatile than the phones that  feature  them!
By Anand Parthasarathy
July 13 2015: It is now a case of the tail wagging the dog: What was once  just another  accessory  on a mobile phone,  has  overshadowed  the phone's primary  function of making and taking calls:  Cameras on phones have become so mature, their output now rivals the best that  mirror-less digital   Single Lens Reflex  cameras,  costing twenty  times as much,  produce.  Most journalists I work with, now capture  the pictures they need with their phones  -- and rarely bother to requisition the services of a professional photographer.  Their output is  just  about adequate for newspaper reproduction.  I am still   a diehard -- photography-wise --  and carry a compact digital camera .  But  a phone that I have been trying out for a week now,  may finally convert me into  a phone-camera freak. 
The iBall mSLR Cobalt 4  is a dual SIM  Android 4.4  KitKat  smart phone, powered by an octa-core processor with  1 GB RAM and 8 GB storage, expandable up to 32 GB.  It features as 8 megapixel rear camera with autofocus and  dual LED Flash --  and a 3.2 megapixel  front camera with  soft LED flash.  So far  nothing unusual  --  a good budget smartphone,  reasonable  at the asking price of  Rs 8999. 
The extraordinary add-on is  the free set of four lenses, which include an 8x telephoto lens,  a fisheye lens with a 175 to 180 degree viewing angle, a  macro lens  with 10x magnification for  tight close-ups  up to 10 mm and a 130-degree  wide Angle lens  for scenic shots. There is a  clip for fixing the lenses to the rear of the handset. I found this  clip to be a little  shaky. Maybe that’s why iBall has also provided back up,   a plastic casing for the handset, which can firmly hold the lenses without the clip.
Each of these lenses if bought separately will cost around Rs 700 -- Rs 1000, so you can see how iBall has disrupted the entire phone-camera business.
I  tried capturing images  at around  75 feet with the telephoto lens, and the pictures came out pretty sharp and clear.  Ditto for extreme closeups with the macro. You also get a pouch and cleaning cloth for the lenses -- which completes this compelling package. The 5-inch screen  is larger than what most digicams provide and makes for easy shot composing.  True,  you have to switch lenses  for different functions but I think that is a small price to pay for letting me leave my  compact digital camera at home the next time  go on holiday or photo shoot.
iBall is an Indian company   -- and is already making waves abroad with its compellingly priced  combo of phone and camera.  But it is not alone in the new trend of  heavy- duty shooters on phones.  

Remember, Nokia  broke the mould 4 years ago by putting an unheard of 41 megapixel  Carl Zeiss  optics camera on its 808 PureView phone and then on the Lumia 1020.  Earlier this month,  another  desi player, Micromax  provided  a clip on wide angle lens,  with its  Canvas Selfie Lens  phone  to enable users to   squeeze as many people as possible into their selfies.
Most  cameras on phones -- even the top-of-the-heap types, level off at around 20 megapixels;  If you want to achieve  SLR quality while    clicking on phones,  some pricey options are available
-        Coming later this year from French  photo software company DxO   is a pocket sized Digital SLR- quality camera  called DxO One which  connects to the Lightning connecting on iPhones and iPads.  It  will cost $ 600 ( around Rs 40,000)   but for this price,  audaciously  pits itself against  full sized mirrorless SLR digicams.  It is built around a 20.2 Megapixel sensor and an  f/1.8  32 mm -equivalent lens...  which  provides an aperture range of 1.8 to 8000.  You can shoot in uncompressed RAW format and edit on the phone itself  on the software provided.
-          Olympus  has launched  a similar clip  DSLR in Japan  for a larger range of phones  with a  a 1/16000 second shutter. Called Olympus Air   it costs $299 for the body alone and another $ 200 for a 14-42 mm  lens. 
-          Sony has been a pioneer in such lens-style clip-on cameras  and its DSC-QX 10 to QX100  range of     lens-cams  cost between Rs 12,000 to Rs 24,000 on Indian online shopping sites.
Would I buy a phone -camera attachment  at such prices? I doubt it. But when people like iBall throw in a basic lens-kit  virtually free,  I won't say no!




    


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