Sunday, 29 March 2009

Photography with a mobile phone

The Nokia E71 isn't noted for its built-in camera. I have seen it described as 'poor'. So it was quite a surprise to get usable results from it. I'd go further, and say that in the right light you can get very nice results indeed.

It has all been a useful reality check. 3.2 megapixels really are quite enough for effective picture-taking. My first digital camera, which I bought in May 2000, a Nikon Coolpix 990, had the same low pixel count and yet produced excellent shots. It had a rather better lens, but results from the 990 and the E71 are remarkably similar. Moral: don't waste your money on pixels. Spend it instead on features you badly want. The Nikon D700 I now have possesses an outstanding ability to take great shots, without flash, in very low light. By candlelight, for instance, preserving all the atmosphere of the occasion. For me, this is the Holy Grail.

Of course, pictures taken with the E71 do not bear much enlargement. Zoom in beyond 50% and it all starts to look unsharp. But if fine detail isn't an issue, or you are looking for an 'Impressionist' effect, then the E71 - or any comparable phone - will do the job.

And you can shoot when using a 'proper' camera would be risky or inappropriate. Mobile phones are so commonplace nowadays that nobody bats an eyelid if you grab a few pictures with one. Phones are not seen as serious image-capturing devices. This mistaken notion can be very useful. I'm presently discovering the joys of walking around town and snapping at anything that catches my attention. I couldn't get away with it using a conventional camera. But the phone is accepted. It's not even noticed. Or if it is, then all people see is a person holding her phone up in the usual amateurish way. Little do they know. I'd say that the mobile phone has become the best available instrument for casual street photography.

Besides, my super-slim Nokia E71 weighs almost nothing, and is fun to use. You can't have such a giggle with the Nikon.

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