Background:Since we often take the phone with us on outings, do we need to bring along the camera? Certainly for SMS and Email almost anything is enough (like 1600x1200 pixels will be more than enough), but with the though in mind of a print one needs more pixels. Even a 5x7 inch print needs a good 2100 pixels width to print neatly. Its been my experience for a long time that a good 5Megapixels was a good basis for a print up to 8 x 10 inch and most of my digital cameras have been a good 5MP for a while (like since I started using a Nikon Coolpix 5000 in mid 2003). Even my Canon10D (which is 6MP isn't really much more pixels than 5MP) didn't really outdo my CP5000 in good conditions.
So with that in mind I thought I'd compare it to my (wifes) Panasonic DMC-F3 (details here) ... a compact zoom digicam which we paid about $130 for. Its not a startling camera, but has been quite a handy little thing to augment our other cameras (and our much loved Canon A520 bit the dust).
Now the Pana is natively a 12MP camera (4000x3000 pixels) but to be honest it sort of sucks at 12 so we often leave it on 8MP (which allows the camera to scale it down to 3264 x 2448 cleaning it up a bit too) . Even there its not really as good as my Nikon 5000 is, but hey
- it cost less
- fits in a pocket easily
- was cheap
The Nokia has no zoom (well, only digital zoom which simply crops from the capture and upscales), while the Panasonic has a x4 optical zoom. Clearly it will have the advantage when zooming in! Since that was a foregone conclusion I thought I'd compare these two cameras at their widest setting.
I took the shots in the back yard standing at the same position and holding the both the phone and the camera in my hand as steady as I can (and I reckon that I'm pretty good at that compared to many). I kept that tree with the 'air fern' on it in mid picture.
I thought I'd start with some overview shots, first the Nokia E72
Then the Panasonic F3
I guess that the first thing you can observe is that the Panasonic (with its advertised 28mm wide) lens is a bit wider than the phone is. Probably about 28mm vs 35mm effective focal lengths (that'd be compared "full frame" cameras of course).
This is useful as it essentially equalizes the comparison of the cameras a little bit. Sure the Panasonic will capture a wider area, but when viewing at 100% you will see scene features occuping nearly the same number of pixels. This is helpful to determine how well the rest of the imaging systems cope with their tasks. Lets get back to that in a minute...
The next thing you'll spot is that the colour balance on the Nokia was pretty darn good. Better than the Panasonic by a heap if you ask me. This is something I've come to expect (from both cameras actually ... the Nokia is always sweet and the Panasonic always blue) as even my Panasonic GH1 and G1 cameras were a little 'off' in their choice of colour balance.
Zooming into the images at 100% (which this isn't, its further reduced by Blogger, so you'll need to click the image if you want to see that) one can see that the Panasonic has about the same sort of pixel to feature ratio as the Nokia (as mentioned above).
but bugger me its neither sharp or has as much detail. The colour is washed out so the the flowers have no detail either.
Next looking at the top left hand corner have a careful look in the left side image and you can see the neighbors brick wall through the foilage ... and see the bricks!
Moving over to the top right hand corner the Nokia again shows its better clarity and colour rendition.
Frankly apart from the fact that the Panasonic gives you a wider view and has a zoom to allow better telephoto the Nokia does quite well (and no my lens isn't filthy either!)
Being careful in examining this in terms of colour I'd call the Nokia image a bit blue and 'vibrant', with the Panasonic perhaps a bit more natural (particularly with respect to blue, the bin is perhaps a bit blue as is the fence).
But bloody hell its good for a phone cam. For example the Nokia has an outstanding macro. For example this shot below was taken with the Nokia of some paper dasies going to seed.
Impressive if you ask me
ConclusionIf this was the only camera you had with you it would be equal in many ways to top digital Pro-sumer cameras of just a few years ago. In some ways it even manages to hold its own against smaller compacts, so apart from missing telephoto images its makes a good run of competing with a compact digicam.
So would I take the phone in preference to a dedicated camera? Well certainly not my GH1 and probably not even the Panasonic F3, simply because of the flexibility of the zoom. But compared with other digital cameras I've seen in the $200 range yes I would take it in preference.
Heck, even though it lacks all the integrated apps, its a better camera than the iPhone 4 (sorry Charles)
None the less, I'm not at that point where I could use this to replace my Panasonic GH1 in my photography. I need better lens versatility for one thing (and access to RAW for another).
I'd feel a bit like this magpie if I didn't have my 'real camera'
when I wanted to or needed to get a shot like that.