Cell phones with real cameras coming soon

Cheap, ubiquitous, high-quality cameras will be more than a bargain. They will also represent a distinct social change.

I brought my iPhone with me to cover the HIMSS show early this month.

It may have been a mistake. The pictures I got were grainy. The short focal length made even close faces appear distant. Even when reduced in size to just a few hundred pixels across, they looked like what they were, snapshots.

A start-up called InVisage says they can change that.

Stephen Shankland at C|Net has all the technical details, but basically the company has perfected a thin film of quantum dots that gather light more efficiently than conventional camera chips.

The result is that the 3 megapixel sensor in today's camera phone becomes a 12 megapixel sensor. Or you can improve its sensitivity, allowing it to work better in low light.

The best news here may be that InVisage is not alone in the market. Omnivision and Aptina Imaging both claim breakthroughs. InVisage told Shankland its system can be produced using less-pricey chip-making gear than that of its rivals.

This is going to move into the mass market thing very quickly. While many breakthroughs appear first only at the high end, this will be everywhere.

Cheap, ubiquitous, high-quality cameras, however, will be more than a bargain. They will also represent a distinct social change.

We are accustomed to seeing a camera as a specialized, discrete device. Despite the rise of cameraphones throughout this decade, we still think of discrete cameras as representing "real" photography. That's no longer going to be the case.

More important, it means everyone has a good camera with them wherever they go. I got a taste of this future on the HIMSS show floor. After I snapped a booth that looked like a baseball park, a show official called out to me to stop what I was doing, that "photography on the show floor is forbidden."

I wanted to laugh. Everyone on the show floor was carrying an iPhone. But, as I discovered later when I looked at my show pictures, they weren't taking pictures, but snapshots.

In a few years they will be taking pictures. And the only way people will have of stopping them is to take away their phones.

Big change. What change will having a high-quality camera with you at all times mean in your life?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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