The Connected Camera

The Connected Camera

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Antishake, red-eye reduction, smile and blink detection, on-board editing and panoramic stitching. Sounds like a spec list for the latest premium point-and-shoots? This year, those imaging features are just as likely to be found on smartphones—that popular crop of Internet-connected mobile devices, which have the added benefit of photo-sharing aids like one-button uploading to social media sites and geotagging.

Nokia, the cellphone manufacturer with the largest phone market share globally, has placed a high priority on image capture in its line of premium smartphones, the N-series. Picture Business & Mobile Lifestyle recently talked with Ira Frimere, a portfolio manager at Nokia, about the changes in consumer habits and awareness as more people begin using their cell phones as a pocket-cam and camcorder.

PB&ML: We’ve seen research suggesting that camera phones will account for 62 percent of all digital photos taken in 2009. Are you seeing a massive transition in how people collect images?

Frimere: Yes, 100 percent. The power of having a mobile, Internet-connected device that also acts as a camera is fantastic for consumers. Once they capture pictures or video on their phones, some people still want to maintain privacy, but nowadays, we’re finding that most folks really want to share their content with everyone in their social network. It’s inefficient for them to send photos or videos to one person at a time. They want a service that enables them to do it with one click. Nokia’s service is called Ovi Share (Ovi.com). The idea here is that folks can take pics and videos and with one click, share them either with a small group of friends and family or pretty much the entire Internet-connected world.

PB&ML: What are the limitations on capturing high-quality images from a phone?

Frimere: Remember, it’s not just megapixels that determine the quality of a camera. It’s the lens and the ability, for instance, to shoot wide-angle. We’ve utilized Carl Zeiss technology, partnering with them on our N-series devices. The N-86 (a Symbian smartphone featuring 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth) has an eight-megapixel camera. Our N-series devices have excellent shutter speed, flash technology and can handle sensitive light situations as well. We try to offer the consumer the best choice in the various attributes to give the best camera experience for their device. A lot of consumers, especially here in North America, don’t realize how good cameras have become on mobile devices. Dual LED flash technology has come a long way. I don’t see any limitations down the road.

PB&ML: Are you seeing a greater awareness of cell phones as video-capture devices?

Frimere: It’s coming. Two years ago, I gave my mother a new laptop and also got her a digital camera. She’s in her 60s and taking video for the first time and loving it. She knows how to download it. She’ll call me when she gets video of my nephew doing silly things. Now, we just need to extend that excitement to the folks with Internet-connected mobile devices.

PB&ML: I think many people assume it would take too long to upload or share video directly from the phone via their carrier network.

Frimere: We’ve addressed many network issues on the N97 (a recently released smartphone Nokia calls "the world’s most advanced mobile computer").

Over the weekend I was in Boston. I shot video of street performers, and I was able to upload it with an AT&T SIM card. Many of our devices also connect over Wi-Fi and that’s even faster. 3G networks have gotten very good and are now capable of supporting speeds required for uploading multimedia content.

PB&ML: Still, for average consumers, it seems that images they capture with their cell phones tend to remain on their cell phones.

Frimere: That’s exactly what sharing services are trying to fix. With Ovi.com, you can select 10 pictures on your phone, upload them all, and send people a link to the cloud. It’s not like a picture-message, the photos are in the cloud. But it’s true, a lot of pictures are stuck on cell phones. The SD cards do help. The other thing that helps are applications that enable you to connect and transfer data to your PC. Then, you can use a variety of online services for printing or sharing. We’re also seeing people use a TV out cable to connect their devices to show photos on the television. I’ve done that a couple of times recently for my family.

PB&ML: Why hasn’t the mobile/wireless retail channel been quicker to offer more imaging-related services to their customers?

Frimere: In our stores, we train our staff backwards and forwards that it’s not just selling a piece of hardware. You’re selling people on the experience the phone is going to support and how that experience will improve their lives. In our flagship stores, our staff is very well trained to show people what to do AFTER you take the pictures. They’ll help people sign up for an Ovi Share account or, on the N97, upload shots directly to Facebook with a Facebook widget. It’s a one-button upload. We need to train retail outlets to make sure they’re not just handing over a piece of hardware but explaining the full experience. And continuing to simplify that experience. Also, printing is still important. It’s certainly something we considered when we designed the camera specs. Pictures printed from the N86 look just phenomenal.

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