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by Phil Ball

Q. My new smart phone has a camera and so does my tablet. They offer reasonable quality and have the advantage of always being available because I don't go anywhere without my phone. Why would I still need a regular camera?

A. You're right. These new devices offer the convenience of taking photos anytime and anywhere since they are always with you at times when you do not wish to carry a camera, too. These cameras can handle wide shots in bright light or even in mediocre light. I find that they work fairly well with close-ups where you actually hold the camera near the subject. They fulfill the old adage that "the best camera is the one that you have with you."

Still, they are not a complete substitute for a regular camera in all ways. They usually do a poor job on high contrast scenes with both bright highlights and detail in the shadows. Regular cameras have trouble with such scenes and cameras in devices tend to be worse. The highlights may be way too bright or the shadows show no detail in a scene where you can see lots of detail in both. They also usually offer no manual control so you have to settle for the exposure it gives you which can be a real problem in these high-contrast scenes. Device cameras also give marginal results in dim light or during long exposures. But the worst feature lacking to my way of thinking, is that they usually have no real zoom lens but instead simply crop the photo for you. Such digital zooming leads to even poorer quality images because cropping the original image is throwing away pixels needed to make a quality image.

Cameras in phones and tablets have strengths and weaknesses just like any other camera. By all means use it but I think you still want a regular camera for times when you wish to photograph under the conditions that don’t work so well with device cameras. Regular cameras are simply more versatile than the simple cameras built into devices.

Published: Courier 6/3/12 - Page 3C