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Unlocking Cameras from Phones

I’d like to rely only on my camera phone when I travel, but I don’t. So far, the quality just isn’t there for met. That may be about to change, with a new back-to-the-future clip-on option.

I travel a lot, and when I’m on the road I like to do as much as possible with my mobile. (See my post on attending the Edinburgh Festivals this summer).

I also like to take a lot of pictures, hundreds on a trip. But for my next trip, I’m planning to bring multiple cameras, because the one in my phone still doesn’t cut the mustard. Whilst it’s immeasurably better than my first camera phone (a T68 running pre-production T68i firmware and one of these attachments), it struggles in low light and I never feel really in control of the picture composition.

Sony Ericsson Camera Module

If I need zoom, easy control of focus and control of depth of field to capture, say a man’s painted head in mid-range, then I'm reaching for my Canon DSLR.

Carnival DoF

If I need something pocketable, then my FujiFilm X10 is my go-to device.

Also, phones don't offer the best ergonomics for talking pictures. (Thumb shot, anyone?) And don't start me on using tablets to take pictures:

Carnival iPad

I know camera phones are getting better. The new Nokia Lumina 1020s look to have the best yet, but the optics are still on the tiny side, even compared to a standard point-and-shoot.

Locking cameras and phones together in the same device also poses another problem: Cameras have historically been an investment. For example, my Canon 400D has long been superseded but it still takes great photos, so I'm no rush to replace it. On the other hand, most people upgrade their phones every few years, and are generally locked into contracts that limit their options.

All of this is why I was excited to see the new clip-on lens cameras from Sony, an idea similar to those first camera phones. You get the optics, zoom and sensor of a 'real' camera combined with the hi-res screen of your phone. And when you upgrade your phone, you preserve your investment in the camera.


It is also considerably more pocketable than my current go-to cameras. This is a big plus, as whilst I try to have a camera with me at all times, equally I hate looking like a 'tourist'.

Back in 2001, Steve Jobs positioned the iMac as a “digital hub’. As I edit this blog I have music streaming over Bluetooth from my phone to my BoomBox Mini, I've just checked how far I've walked this week using my Nike FuelBand+ again via my phone, and this is one more indicator that mobile phones are now moving into that role.