Smartphone Camera Features That Need To Appear In 2013

Cameras in cell phones have come a mighty long way in the past few years, from the pixelated shit-vision of yore to the current breed that have replaced most of our compact digicams. But the sense of wonder is fading, and we need some new features. Who's going to step up?

No matter how serious a photographer, almost nobody considers themselves above taking camera-phone snapshots. But these five features would elevate the activity to whole other level. Let's shoot for the quality of, say, the Galaxy Camera, in the chassis of an iPhone sized device. It will take time for engineers to figure out how to implement them all without compromising the size and shape of our beloved smartphones, but a day will come!

Manual Adjustments

Pleeease let me adjust exposure. This really isn't an innovation. It's just a no-brainer. Some Android and Windows Phone cameras have some manual controls, and the ones that appeared on Nokia's PureView 808 were pretty comprehensive (too bad the 808 was awful outside of the camera).

Better Flash

LED flashes suck so hard it's remarkable people still use them. They always make your indoor pictures look like vomit-swirl, and your subjects look like laser-eyed robots. I'd rather attach flash-cubes to my phone.

Restrict Vertical Video Recording

No matter how much you explain to relatives why taking vertically oriented video with your phone is a no-no, it doesn't seem to sink in. The solution? Don't let them do it. Youtube has recently employed this tactic in their YouTube Capture app. Let's see it spread.


I'm not talking about digital zoom — aka not-really-zoom-at-all. We need a lens that moves to extend the focal length. PureView 808 had this, but again, that device is barely viable as a phone. The ability to zoom is one of the primary reasons people still buy compact digicams.

Larger Sensor

Sensor size is — arguably — the single biggest determining factor in digital image quality. Smartphone cameras have little tiny ones. Obviously nobody is going to fit a full-frame or even a micro 4/3 sensor in a phone, but they should be able to pump at least a bit of air into those photo-sites. It will increase dynamic range and low-light sensitivity drastically.

Automatic GIF Maker

Once you shoot a video clip, you should be able to simply select a segment and turn it into a GIF on command. Said GIFs should then be viewable in your photo library. I am sure apps do this, but it should be standard.


Shooting RAW files instead of JPG files will preserve more of an image's original detail. It also makes it easier to alter exposure, colour, and sharpness after the fact without degrading the image. Sure, it would use a lot of processing power, but, like, Moore's law — or something.

Image: Shutterstock, Furtseff



    You know what they say "jack or all, master of none".

    If you insist on being able to take decent photos then buy a camera.


      Cameras continue to get better. But to expect smartphones to have SLR features is a bit too much. Anyone using their smartphone for photos isn't working for National Geographic - they're only using it for close up quick shots.

      Serious photographers do pack a smartphone with a decent camera because "the best camera is the one you have on you at the time".

    The only side you want to improve is the camera.

    As the previous guy said, it sounds like you're better off buying a camera.

    I was hoping for a few interesting new features.

    Hahahaha... The GIF thing is a standard on the Nokia Lumina 920 I know for a fact, as I have one.
    But saving in RAW is ridiculous, the file size is just impractical for a phone.

    These all sound like features that should only belong on dedicated cameras.

    Better to take an extra camera with a big honking lens with a custom camera strap anyway. Makes you look pro.

    Wow. That article went down really well I thought. How 'bout you Michael?


    Whatever anyone may say about these suggestions, there is one that is a must.

    Restrict Vertical Video Recording!!!!

    +1. The Lumia 920 will now do animated Gif's in the gallery and allow direct sharing to facebook. Xenon flash is a must in a phone IMO - most photos are of ppl after all and ppl move.
    I don't understand why the iPhone went for thinner rather than keeping the same thickness and increasing the sensor/pixel size and maybe adding a Xenon. Probably the answer to that is because Apple don't manufacture cameras - and the "thinner and ligher" hype.
    Nokia is still the king of mobile phone photography in their flagship phones and have been that way for a very long time.

    Just one correction to the article, the Galaxy camera still has a smartphone sized sensor in it! It just has Xenon flash and optical zoom.
    Correction two (sorry) the 808 doesn't use optical zoom as inferred but it doesn't loose detail when zooming due to the 41 megapixels that get used when zooming

    Here's hoping that the pureview 808 can combine with the Lumia 920 to make the ultimate camera phone:
    1) Large sensored (808)
    2) Real zoom (via 808 pureview technology which doesn't actually use optical zoom but works similar to satellites)
    3) Xenon Flash (808)
    4) Optical image stabilisation (920)
    5) Dual digital MEMS microphones for the "pureaudio" stereo recording even at high volume (808)
    6) Extra software such as cinemagraph, a gallery that incorporates that software and extendable "lenses" in the camera UI software (920). Plus camera settings flexibility of the 808
    7) "Super Pixels" 808 style, where noisy pixels are binned and surrounding pixels are combined to create a super pixel which overcomes the problems of the Bayer style sensors. I.e. Lots of pixels on that sensor.

    Just one more thing on my wishlist that won't happen. A CCD sensor rather than CMOS so that there is no jelly roll when taking an image or video. But that probably won't happen since CCD is not a mobile friendly type of sensor.

    so you basically want to strap your phone to the back of the best point and shoot? Joke of an article, just buy a camera

    One day we'll have DSLR-like smartphones, probably within the next 5 years, but I doubt that's going to happen this year.

    Phone cameras are good because they're suitable most of the time.

    I'm starting to move away from "needing" things that will suit everything I could possibly do; this kind of mentality is what has given rise to SUVs and other like prospects in the western world. Usually there are much cheaper alternatives that will suit your needs and fill most of your wants, although probably not all.

    It's the same reason engineers are starting to build things for a specific purpose, life cycle, etc. Sometimes just good enough really is good enough.

    The flash thing is perfectly plausible.

    My old Sony Ericsson k850 had a real flash and to this day still takes some of the best photos I've seen a phone take, especially with the flash.

    The GIF make is already on my Lumia 920 so nerny nerny ner ner to that one.

    The larger sensor is possible, but only to a point. We don't want our phones becoming the size of small cars again.

    The resisting vertical video recording feature sounds pretty brilliant. I wonder it's not standard yet? Wouldn't be too hard to add in.

    "Restrict Vertical Video Recording"

    Jesus christ I am so sick of the whining about this that's always on here.

    It's a problem of the players, not the videos. If youtube offered a portrait player instead of only landscape, then you'd have a way to play them properly and everything would be fine. Just like how when you take a portrait photo, you don't have any problem with viewing that.

    Also totally don't get the complaints about the 808. Got one a couple of days ago and have been playing with it, I think it's awesome.

      ^^ THIS

      The standard aspect on a phone is portrait, not landscape therefore vertical recording is perfectly valid. Good on YouTube for restricting it within it's app to what it considers the standard but it should allow viewing in portrait for such recordings. Generally the videos never make it further than Facebook to be viewed on other phones anyway.

        Yeah I agree. I can't say I've really even come across any portrait video's that I wanted to watch anyway. However, if people want to shoot in that format then all power to them. I don't see the point in restricting it artificially.

        Quite honestly, I don't see how portrait videos is any more frustrating than having crappy animated GIF's everywhere. suggests portrait mode can be ok for fireworks. Yes the article is aimed at photos not videos, but it's pretty much the same thing.

    Jesus everyone calm down - you may not agree, but that doesn't make the article pointless.
    C38s made the perfect point - the movile phone is the camera that everybody carries in their pocket. I have a point&shoot and a dslr, but I don't take them everywhere.
    How many breaking news stories in 2012 featured videos or photos captured by camera phones? Whether we like it or not, the story of our generation may be told in iPhone images - so why not try to improve them?

    So basically what you want is an improved version of the Galaxy cameras that can also make phone calls, right? Either you have a smartphone with a decent camera without inflating cost or size, or you have a digital camera with smartphone features. If you have both, youre also going to have a very light wallet and a very heavy pocket, both of which still dont guarantee the quality of the devices ability to take pictures, video, or make calls.

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