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!