Smartphone screens star The Mobile World Congress, the ‘photokina’ of the mobile communications industry, held in late February in Barcelona, …


Smartphone screens star

The Mobile World Congress, the ‘photokina’ of the mobile communications industry, held in late February in Barcelona, saw a brace of smartphone models featuring ever more capable camera units.

The two most significant trends among the top new mobile phone releases seemed to be larger screens and better cameras ““ both of which further cut into the compact camera market.  

The size of screens on digital compacts seems to be one picture-taking feature that the camera manufacturers are unwilling to address. It’s ‘the elephant in the room’ in the smartphone vs digital camera debate. Given most images are these days viewed on screens, the camera back becomes the photo album or the print. Restricting digital camera screens to a mere 3-inches – while mobile phones are coming out with screens over twice the size ““ further reduces the relevance of the snapshooter digicam.

The immediate impact of viewing what you have just taken on a 5-inch screen compared to a relatively puny 3-inch screen blows digital compacts out of the water.   Everything else ““ resolution, advanced camera features, etc ““ is almost irrelevant. Don’t the camera manufacturers understand this? And now there’s the new frontier ““ the tablets and ‘phablets’ with multi-megapixel sensors and relatively massive viewing screens”¦

A 13-megapixel camera complemented by a 5-megapixel front-facing camera for (ugh!) selfies and video calls, a high-res screen around 5-inches, and capability to take HD and even 4K video is a common set of imaging specs among the top smartphone releases, with waterproof/dustproof models also available.  

Given that 13-megapixels is more than respectable; a 5-inch screen renders the camera makers’ efforts pathetic; only one current camera has a front-facing ‘selfycam’ (the new Canon N100); waterproof digital cameras come at a premium; and NFC and WiFi are poor cousins to being natively online, it’s easy to see why digital compacts are being monstered by smartphones.

Image quality? It is a mistake to give image quality too much weight in the mass market segment.

Here’s a quick look at some of the new releases from top brands:  


Samsung Galaxy S5

The latest in the popular Samsung S range, the  S5  bumps up the camera sensor from 13 to 16 megapixels and claims a 0.3 second autofocus lag. It has a 5.1-inch screen.

It has an LED flash, a new advanced high dynamic range (HDR) mode and post-shot focusing: it takes two images every time you press the shutter, with the focus trained in different spots, one on the subject and one on the background. After the shot’s been taken, you can choose a defocussed or sharply focussed background.

The Galaxy S5 can capture 4K UHD video ““ four times the resolution of full HD. It’s also waterproof and dustproof.

Sony’s  Z2  has a 5.2-inch display and a 20-megapixel sensor. Photography features includes a burst mode, HDR, geotagging, image stabilisation, object tracking, red-eye reduction, scene recognition, smile shutter, sweep panorama, touch focus and capture. It captures both 3840ø—2160 pixels/30p video (4K) as well as standard HD. Once again, it’s waterproof and dustproof.


LG Optimus G Pro 2

LG’s hero release was the  G Pro 2, which lets users shoot HD videos at 120 frames per second and 4K content. A feature called ‘magic focus’ lets the user select the preferred depth of focus before saving. As well as a whopping 5.9-inch sceen it has a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilisation, 2-megapixel selfycam, and LED flash.

The  HTC Desire 816, a typical ‘mid-range’ release at MWC, has a 5.5inch display, a 13-megapixel sensor on the back as well as a 5-megpixel selfycam, and 1080p video recording capability.

They say one of the definitions of insanity is doing what you have done before and expecting a different result. Yet looking to the 2014 digital compact releases from the Japanese camera ‘majors’, there’s no change of course apparent even though demand for their snapshooting cameras has plummeted by over 50 percent in a mere 18 months.


Pro photographers’ news website launched  

Australian photo retailing’s highly-respected publication of record, Photo Counter, is joined this month by Pro Counter, a new website dedicated to the Australian professional photography industry.

The new website and fortnightly newsletter will focus on the businessof professional photography, rather than publishing camera reviews, profiles of photographers and photographic portfolio features – the kind of things Photo Review in all its forms does.  

It will cover technology and industry developments; industry association news, events and debates; opinion from industry leaders; all relevant new product releases; studio and small business matters; and topical issues such as intellectual property rights.  

Pro Counter will be fiercely independent, and aims to reflect the interests and concerns of its pro readers. It won’t shirk the more controversial issues.

For instance, among recent stories, it has looked at what is effectively a partial global recall of Nikon D600 SLRs  due to a chronic dust-on-sensor issue.  (Or was really due to a related class action law suit filed in California?)

We also cover a furore that has broken out at photographer-friendly photo sharing website, 500px, regarding its move to enter the (micro)stock business, taking a chunky 70 percent commission on participants’ photos along the way. (Could be worse, though, Getty company iStock only offers 15 percent!)

Other stories you’ll see on Pro Counter but won’t see covered elsewhere is Cairns Council’s move to charge wedding phootgraphers a hefty fee for the right to shoot outdoors in that fair city and its environs, and the worrying world-wide trend for newspapers to eliminate their photographic department, leaving the supply of images to ‘citizen photojournalists’ and journos armed with iPhones.    

Pro Counter will encourage readers to contribute, and strive for collegiate dialogue within the professional photography community.  

‘We are confident that once professional photographers, students and the expanding base of semi-professionals are aware that Pro Counter is available free on the web and in their in-tray each fortnight, it will take its place as the publication of choice to keep up-to-date with information essential to running a successful photographic business,’ said publisher Keith Shipton (Photo Review editorial affiliate and also publisher of trade website, Photo Counter [].

‘If you believe professional photography in Australia deserves an independent, third-party source of news and information, please subscribe to Pro Counter.’

Pro Counter is proud to be a Trade Affiliate of The Society of Advertising, Commercial and Magazine Photographers (ACMP).  

(Pro Counter publisher Keith Shipton is a regular contributor to Photo Review.)