It’s hard to believe that 2004 was the year when the first phone to feature a one megapixel camera was launched in the UK, especially as we are now preparing for the onslaught of 12 megapixel models, all with as many features onboard as a normal compact camera. Discussion about whether the camera phone will ever take pictures of high enough quality to replace a separate camera will rage forever, but whatever anyone says, with the right hardware, a camera phone can take some amazing pictures! Here’s ten stunning camera phones, including currently available models, some classics and one future hero, which really standout from the crowd.
1. Sony Ericsson CyberShot C905
It looks like a camera, it feels like a camera and it takes pictures like a proper camera too. The C905 is currently Sony Ericsson’s range topping CyberShot phone and for good reason, as not only do the specs impress, but the picture quality does too. Slide back that beautiful brushed effect cover to reveal the lens to the 8 megapixel camera, complete with autofocus, both a xenon and an LED flash, image stabilisation, face detection, geo-tagging and the BestPic mode. Handling the C905 is a joy and it produces some of the very best pictures in terms of detail, contrast, colour and balance of any camera phone available today.
2. Samsung Pixon12 M8910i
The Pixon12 is Samsung’s flagship camera phone and as with the C905, feels fantastic when using it as a camera. The difference here is using it as a phone, since the M8910 has an AMOLED touchscreen displaying the excellent TouchWiz user interface. As its name suggests, the Pixon12 has a 12 megapixel camera with autofocus and a xenon flash, backed up by an LED item, but the headline feature is the 28mm variable aperture lens, which although there is no control over it, should offer some gain in low-light situations. We are particular fans of the Pixon12′s ability to reproduce bright colours.
3. Samsung INNOV8
If the feature phone OS of the Pixon12 puts you off, and you can handle a drop to 8 megapixels, then the Symbian S60 powered INNOV8 may be for you. Picture quality is again excellent, with the INNOV8′s camera replicating the vivid colours produced by the Pixon12 with, perhaps surprisingly, very little loss in terms of detail. Until that is, you take a picture where the flash is needed. The use of an LED flash rather than a xenon unit means you’ll be using the i8510 primarily in well-lit situations. Overall though, the xenon is about the only feature the INNOV8 is missing – it’s that well specified!
4. LG Renoir KC910
An evolution of LG’s first Renoir, the KC910i amps up the megapixels and adds some essential features to make this sequel suitably superior to the original. The 8 megapixel camera has autofocus and the all-important xenon flash, plus the very useful touch focus feature, where a simple touch of the screen sees the camera focus in on that point. The software side includes handy enhancements such as smile, blink and face detection, image stabilisation and geo-tagging. The Renoir’s camera is branded as having Schneider-Kreuznach optics, and the results are impressive and easily on a par with the Samsung INNOV8.
5. LG Viewty Smart GC900
Where the Renoir is let down by its conservative design, the Viewty Smart – another evolution of a previous LG camera phone – stands out with a very cool metallic-look frame, curves in the right places and on screen, LG’s beautiful and very usable S-Class interface. The camera is similar to the Renoir’s in that it’s Schneider-Kreuznach branded, has 8 megapixels to its name, plus manual focus, face and smile detection, image stabilisation and geo-tagging. However, it’s let down in the same way as the INNOV8 is against the Pixon12; it lacks a xenon flash and makes do with an LED item. Daytime imagery is perhaps not quite as good as the INNOV8 either, but the S-Class style when using the camera makes the experience a good one.
6. Nokia N86 8MP
Winner of the 2009 Technical Image Press Association (TIPA) award for Best Mobile Imaging Device 2009, the N86 has been lavished with praise since its release at the beginning of the year. It’s a Symbian S60 smartphone that packs plenty of power inside for the business user, and then combines them with an 8 megapixel, wide angle, Carl Zeiss lensed camera with variable aperture, a panoramic mode, macro shots and a dual-LED flash. The Nokia N86′s camera returns astonishing image quality, no matter the lighting conditions, and although many may pass it by thanks to its ‘old’ style dual slider form factor, it may just be the best camera phone on this list.
7. Nokia 6220 Classic
Are you on a strict budget but still want a camera phone which will end the need to carry around a camera too? If so, you may want to seek out the Nokia 6220 Classic. Over a year old now, this simple candybar phone packs Symbian S60 inside the 90 gram case, plus on the rear, a 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and a xenon flash! Try to tell that spec apart from our next model…
8. Nokia N95
The Nokia N95 is a milestone not just in mobile phone terms, but in camera phones too. Carl Zeiss may have first partnered Nokia in 2005, but it was the Zeiss-equipped N95 which gave them the most success. The 5 megapixel autofocus camera was a class leader for many years – and still stands up today – which when combined with excellent video performance has seen the N95 become the benchmark against which all are tested. It has even been used to shoot music videos! A giant among camera phones.
9. Sony Ericsson K800i
The impact of the Sony Ericsson K800i has had on the market shouldn’t be overlooked. Released a year before the N95, the K800i was the first Sony Ericsson phone to feature the CyberShot branding, bringing with it a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus, digital zoom and a xenon flash. The software wasn’t neglected either, as BestPic was introduced along with image stabilisation, manual exposure and for the first time, the opportunity to publish your pictures directly from your phone to your Blogger account. What’s more, the pictures it took were fantastic, easily matching many of today’s higher megapixel phones for quality and detail. A true innovator.
10. Sony Ericsson Satio
Due to be released in the next few months, the Satio, or Idou as it was first known, is Sony Ericsson’s first 12 megapixel camera phone and it has already built up considerable anticipation. Oddly, the Satio doesn’t come with CyberShot branding, however the camera specs live up to the name with autofocus, a xenon and LED flash plus a massive amount of software tweaks including touch capture, smile detection, panorama and macro modes and geo-tagging. The powerful processor and Symbian S60 OS provide the backbone of this beautiful touchscreen phone, and early word on its picture performance is good. This is the phone which has the potential to embarrass the competition, and we can hardly wait to test it out!