Friday, 13 January 2012

The power of cameraphones

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Not so long ago, mobile phones were used for making phone calls, or sending text messages. Later, you could buy mobile phones with an inbuilt camera, but it served more as a novelty, and any more serious photography than a blurry shot of your friends required a separate digital camera, purchased for more money than you would have liked to have spent, and forgotten at home whenever anything surprising or picture-worthy happened.

Now, mobile phones come with an inbuilt, high-quality camera. They're more portable than digital cameras. and you can upload your photos to the Internet with ease. One of the first affordable digital cameras was the Kodak DC40, released in 1996, which came with just a third of a megapixel. Now, popular smartphones like the iPhone 4S or the BlackBerry Bold 9790 pack 8 megapixels, along with a host of  additional features like sophisticated flash mechanisms, special lenses and artistic photo editing software. What's more, the iPhone or BlackBerry Bold price is significantly less than you would have paid for the digital camera alone all those years ago.

It's not just photos of our pets or children, either. Along with social media, cameraphone pictures have played a major role in the transmission of news stories such as the Arab Spring. Police brutality captured on film by Egyptian social media activists caused millions of protestors to take to the streets to demand the end of dictatorial regimes.

Furthermore, a recent study from the Netherlands showed that cameraphones can play a vital role in medical diagnostics, especially in remote or rural areas. The study by Coosje Tuijn of the Royal Tropical Institute showed that a two megapixel camera can capture clear microscopy images that could be sent to a website for analysis by a specialist. The specialist could then email or SMS feedback back to the patient. "Such technological advances could improve diagnosis in peripheral health settings by empowering under-educated and insufficiently experienced health care and laboratory workers to meet quality standards," concluded Tuijn.

The increasing accessibility, versatility and sharability of mobile photography indicates that this is only the tip of the iceberg of what we can expect from cameraphones, and the coming months and years will only continue to demonstrate their power.

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