smartphone camera

MWC review, with a photographic bent

All the big announcements have been made, now it's a case of rounding up and winding down from the Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona this year. There have been a few new smartphone announcements and some interesting apps have come to the fore that might interest photographers. Here's a swift review. S5

Samsung Galaxy S5

The big news is that this one is waterproof. No more worrying about whipping it out to take a photo in the rain. The S4 had a decent 13 megapixel rear-facing camera, which has been bumped up to 16 megapixels in the S5. The front-facing camera still sits at 2 megapixels. It can shoot 4K video at 30 frames-per-second and comes equipped with HDR and selective focus functionality.

Post-shot focusing means that the camera takes two photos every time you release the shutter and you can choose from a background that's in or out of focus. Samsung reckons that the S5's auto-focusing speed is super-fast, at 0.3 seconds.

It also comes equipped with a reflector-integrated flash LED. What's that mean exactly? Supposedly it will ensure a wider field of view better, allow for better photos, whether day or night, and should mean that everyone in a photo, not just those in the centre of the frame, are illuminated by the flash.

The S5 is due to go on sale in April this year and will cost in the region of £550.


Sony Xperia Z2

This one is also waterproof. It also has a higher resolution count than the Samsung Galaxy S5, with a 20.7 megapixel, 1/2.3-type Exmor RS for mobile CMOS image sensor, and is capable of recording 4K video and enjoys SteadyShot image stabilisation, too.

The Z2 comes pre-loaded with a bundle of camera apps, including timeshift video (a slow-motion effect); creative effect; background defocus; AR effect (augmented reality effects); and Vine4. There's also a dedicated camera button to help when you're shooting underwater.

The Xperia Z2 should be available in March 2014.


The Nokia X-series

Nokia announced its X-series of phones, which run Android rather than Windows. The X, X+, and XL are budget phones and they appear to have cameras to match. There's nothing as exciting as the Lumia or PureView technology going on in these.

Lenovo's DOit apps

As well as a new tablet, Lenovo unvelied five new apps that aim to make your digital life easier by simplifying data management. Called the DOit apps, they break down to: SHAREit, SECUREit, SYNCit, SNAPit and SEEit. SHAREit, SNAPit, and SEEit (the proliferation of caps is getting tiresome now) are those of interest to photographers, with SHAREit there to transfer data, including images between devices easily.

SHAREit comes preloaded on all new Lenovo Android tablets and smartphones and can be downloaded for free from Google Play. Come February, it will also be available for download from the Apple App Store for iPhone/iPad, as well as for Windows PCs.

SNAPit and SEEit are intended to work in tandem: SNAPit being a camera app and SEEit the gallery app. The camera app gives you a selection of functions including panorama and burst mode; the gallery app lets you categorise photos with the help of facial recognition software and has the now-to-be-expected gamut of filters and effects. These, however, are Lenovo-only.


Most Innovative Mobile App: CamMe by PointGrab

CamMe is a gesture-controlled remote shutter release app for use with iOS devices. From a distance of upto 16 feet from the phone, you can raise you hand, make a fist, and trigger a three-second timer. You can also use CamMe to take photo booth-style selfies, with three shots arranged in a film-strip.

It's free to download from the App Store.

Screen Shot 2014-02-26 at 13.44.24

UK's most innovative mobile technology company: Seene

Seene allows you to capture, view, and share 3D images from your iPhone. Why might you want to do that, you ask? Well the Seene team see it as great tool to help with 3D printing, or as a superior means for people to view products online.

Seene is free to download from the App Store.

Moment wants to bring more variety to smartphone additional lenses via Kickstarter

How many different lens manufacturers can you name in the next ten or fifteen seconds? Quite a few, I bet. We're accustomed to being able to choose between our camera manufacturers' lenses as well as third party lenses manufactured by the likes of Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Samyang et alios. Now that smartphones are the snapshot-camera-du-jour, and a vertaible feast of apps and accessories are springing up to help people make the most from them, why not a selection of additional lens manufacturers? Moment is aiming to bring some diversity to the smartphone lens accessory marketplace with its Kickstarter project that launches today. If it successfully raises $50,000, it should be shipping wide-angle and telephoto lenses, suitable for iPhones (4s, 5, 5c, and 5s), iPads (third and fourth generation iPad 2), and Samsung Galaxy smartphones (S2, S3, and S4), to its backers around June 2014.

Available for iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phones

The wide-angle lens offers a 35mm equivalent focal length of around 18mm (it varies slightly according to phone model); the telephoto lens' focal length equates to approximately 60mm, again depending on the smartphone model, in 35mm equivalent. Pledge $49 and you put yourself in line for one lens; $99 will secure you a pair.

iPhone 5 + Moment tlephoto lens

The mounting mechanism attaches a metal plate to your phone—either with or without a case—and to this you secure the lens with a bayonet fitting. The Moment team thinks, after lots of prototype testing, that this is the easiest, quickest, and most secure mount around.

And with the wide-angle lens

Moment is convinced that it offers the best quality lens you can attach to a smartphone. Some of its developers have worked in the manufacture of cinema lenses, and they've applied that knowledge to Moment's smartphone attachments to minimise distortion and chromatic aberration and maximise sharpness. Without a model to test, you have to take the manufacturers' word for it; but that's the gamble of Kickstarter.

You can check out the Moment video down below, or wander over to its Kickstarter page for a closer look!

Update! Moment reached its Kickstarter funding goal in under 24 hours. But that shouldn't stop you from taking a look!