Camera phone offers view with a zoom

The latest handsets from Siemens and Sharp show that camera phones are continuing to develop

Two mobile handsets that are hitting the streets this month show that camera phone makers are adding more functionality to their devices.

The Siemens ST55, unveiled this week, is a camera phone with a digital zoom -- the first time that Siemens has offered this feature.

Its TFT screen supports 65K colours, and has a resolution of 120x160. Weighing in at 87 grams, it measures 98.5mm by 47.2mm by 21.6mm.

The built-in VGA camera has a resolution of 640x480, giving it a total resolution of 0.3 megapixels -- more than most early camera phones but fairly standard for today's models. Its 4x zoom function, though, sets it apart.

As it is a digital zoom, users won't be able to use it to capture extra detail -- as would be possible with an optical zoom. It could be useful for creating close-up shots, which it could send directly to another phone, saving the hassle of downloading a picture onto a PC, editing it and sending it on..

Despite their limitations, digital zooms are creeping into the camera phone market, such as with the Samsung SGH-V200 and the Nokia 6600.

Siemens expects to announce within a couple of weeks which mobile operators will sell the ST55, according to a company spokeswoman. She added that it was likely to be at a "mid-range" price -- which probably means between £100 and £150, depending on operator subsidy.

Mobile users who are looking to upgrade to a multimedia gadget might also want to consider the latest handset to join the Vodafone Live stable, the Sharp GX20.

The GX20 is the successor to the GX10 handset, which has been aggressively promoted by Vodafone using top sportspeople including David Beckham. Its in-built camera has a resolution of 350,000 pixels, and its 65K colour screen has a resolution of 240x320.

Like the ST55, the GX20 will go on sale later this month. According to The Guardian, the GX20 will cost between £100 and £240 with contract.