Cell Phone Photo Quality

Cell photos with cameras are everywhere and you always have one. Are they able to take decent quality photo?

Yes…under the right conditions. THE biggest issue cell cameras have is the sensors aren’t very sensitive to light. Sounds odd, although unfortunately true. This lack of sensitivity to light causes images to be very grainy in low-light conditions. Forget the megapixel count, it’s the sensor sensitivity to light which really matters. Digital SLRs have very good sensors, but they can afford too since they’re upwards of $1000 or even much more. A cell phone has to do all kinds of things, like being a phone, internet browser, media player, etcetera. Hence the camera aspect in this mix is secondary at best. Given that the sensor is the most important aspect of the camera (right up there with the lens), and that good cameras are expensive, there’s little wonder cell phone sensors aren’t very good in all conditions. Compounding the problem is that the majority of people still think the number of megapixels is the most important aspect of a camera’s quality. Hence manufacturers pack in the megapixels at the cost of better sensitivity to light.

The solution for now: know that your cell phone is going to take a good shot only in bright light. Much of the time there is pretty good light. Just don’t expect the highest quality photos on really cloudy days, during twilight, or indoors if the lights aren’t turn well up.

But aren’t the pictures good enough?

Likely yes! Does a photo’s quality need to be so very great? Is it going to be sold or framed? Judged for it’s quality for any formal reason? Most likely that wasn’t the reason the shot was taken. It was taken likely because you needed to capture a memory or technical aspect of something. Or the photo was intended as a log, where it was simply a recording of a place and time. Many cell cameras do this just fine.

Also of note here is that digital pocket cameras aren’t all that good under low light conditions either. Better in most cases, but still not good enough to be called a quality photo. They can’t be printed much larger than 8 x 10 unless the light was quite right, for example. If consistent quality under a variety of conditions is required, go right to a digial SLR. They are exceptional and worth every penny.

Conclusion: What’s important about a cell phone camera is that you always have it handy when needed. And now you know not to expect too much when the light isn’t good. When the light is reasonable, shots can look like those below. If consistent quality under a variety of conditions is required, go right to a digial SLR. They are exceptional and worth every penny. Chances are though that your handy cell phone will do just fine.

Glenn Rogers, PMP
DBGallery Product Manager

Each of these images were taken with a fairly average cell phone camera these days: a 5 megapixel BlackBerry Torch. The light had to be just perfect. Click them for the full-size untouched original.

Figure 1

Sunshine Village, Banff, Canada

Figure 2

Oil Rig Supply Yard, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

Figure 3

A typical grocery store.

Figure 4

Lake Louise, Banff, Canada (with a window reflection)

Figure 5

Oil Rig Supply Boats, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

Figure 6

Memorial University and Long Pond, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

Figure 7

Jack (this photo is especially clear)

All photos were taken and their copyright owned by Glenn Rogers

This post is also available on my DBGallery Blog


About Glenn Rogers

Developer of DBGallery: Photo DATAbase System. Also a photographer who has been selling photos for 10 years, and a professionally certified project manager.
This entry was posted in Digital Photography, Photo Organization and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Cell Phone Photo Quality

  1. Glenn Rogers says:

    Another plus for using cell phones is that the majority will automatically include a GPS stamp. This is useful data and comes with no effort on the photographers part. DBGallery loves to have this GPS data because it makes browsers/searching a collection within DBGallery all that much better.

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