The presence of a good camera in a smartphone is no longer surprising. But once upon a time, in order to get a good image from a phone, a suitable photo module had to be built into the phone. And there were times when manufacturers were not afraid to experiment, releasing "phone + camera" hybrids on the market.
With the advancement of computational photography and the broader competition for megapixels, all of these devices are now history.
In this blog, we at BnW collections, a well-known website for the latest DSLR cameras in 2022, have decided to spice up the story a little bit by recalling which camera phones were made at various times to comprehend precisely how we arrived at the current state of smartphone architecture.
We now live in a world where we can carry a camera, a clock, a phone, a notebook, a personal computer, a calculator, a compass, an entire global map, and an entertainment center in one hand. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Every day, we discover new parts of our life that we can enhance, develop, and reinvent. If anyone had said thirty years back that we would be able to capture images with my phone, we would have laughed.
However, that far-fetched vision is now a reality that is still evolving and improving.
Camera phones have come a long way from their pixelated low-resolution predecessors. It all started with the SCH-V200, Samsung's first camera phone with a built-in camera. It was first released in June of 2000 in South Korea. Essentially, the camera and phone were two different devices that shared a single body. To see the images on the SCH-V200, the phone has to be connected to a computer. Furthermore, it could only take 20 pictures at a 0.35-megapixel resolution.
In November of the same year, Sharp, a mobile phone company, created and marketed what they claim is Japan's first camera phone, the J-SH04. It can take 0.11-megapixel photographs and allows the user to send them electronically.
Two years later, when camera phones were popular in Asia, Sprint, a U.S. mobile company, decided to join the party and released the Sanyo SCP-5300. It has 0.3-megapixel capabilities, a rudimentary flash, digital zoom, a self-timer, and the ability to take photographs in 640*480 pixels with various filters such as black and white, sepia, and others. It had a substantial clamshell construction and was initially priced at USD 400.
The popularity of the camera phone grew rapidly, and by 2003, more than 80 million handsets had been sold globally. As its popularity grew, so did its price. Sprint announced the PM8920 in July 2004, the first phone in the US with a 1.3-megapixel camera and extra capabilities such as multi-shot and a dedicated camera button. It was a step forward, and it was only USD 150.
By the end of 2004, the popularity of camera phones had reached an all-time high. Nokia, a Finnish manufacturer, was leading the way, creating better camera phones with higher resolutions and a broader range of extra capabilities. The first camera phone by Nokia was a 7650 model.
It took 640 x 480 pixels still photos, which were saved in the internal memory of 4MB. You had to open the keyboard before snapping a picture because the lens was protected beneath the slider. It slightly ruined the sleek form factor (for the period), but it was apparent that it was new.
Mobile phones appeared one after the other, with the dominant motto at the time being "larger, more powerful, more strange." Manufacturers did not shy away from experimenting with phone shapes. They made clamshells, sliders, and transformers. The market was still young, and each new product was popular in some way.
However, there were no notable camera revolutions during this time span. It quickly became evident that the quality of images is influenced not only by the number of these same megapixels but also by the quality of optics. That was the heyday of Nokia and Carl Zeiss. They were the ones that ruled the ball for the most part.
The following are some of the most popular phones of that time:
Audiovox debuted in July 2004. Its 1.3 megapixels resulted in a significant increase in image quality. The images can be transmitted wirelessly and are of sufficient quality to be printed. The camera's settings included a multi-shot capability and could snap 8 quick images in a
By 2005, Nokia had taken camera phones to a new level with the release of the N90, which included a 2-megapixel camera. The camera has an LED flash, Carl Zeiss optics, and autofocus. Since it was ahead of its time, the revolving screen was also well-received.
By 2006, Sony Ericsson had taken notice of Nokia's dominance in phones, specifically camera phones. They competed with Nokia by producing the K800i, which had a 3.2-megapixel camera with Xenon flash, auto-focus, and picture stabilization.
At the time of its debut, 5 megapixels appeared to be the pinnacle of camera phone technology, and Nokia was the undisputed king of it all. Even the original iPhone featured a 2MP camera. The N95 had a 5MP camera with the renowned Carl Zeiss Lens and video recording at 30 fps (frames per second).
In 2008, Samsung broke out of the 5MP shell and introduced the INNOV8, the highest resolution at the time. This did not translate to the phone's success; as seen in the image to the left, the design was quite similar to Nokia's N series—which was a little tired at the time. The increasing popularity of cell phones has also harmed their stock.
In mid-2013, just as the race for the most MP in a camera phone was winding down, Nokia made a remarkable comeback with the Lumia 1020. It was equipped with a 41-megapixel camera phone! Their reign as the most powerful MP will last a long time. Among the camera's other features are Carl Zeiss optics, optical image stabilization, auto/manual focus, and Xenon & LED flash.
So, this was all about camera phone history by BnW collections. Smartphones now include functionalities that were not even assumed 22 years ago. Nowadays, we can see an increasing number of smartphones with three or more rear cameras and cameras with massive sensors. We have software capabilities that make it simple to edit images and video, as well as special effects to make your shots seem spectacular.
Not only this, a smartphone camera can help us shop, translate, listen to music, and even play games.
Now imagine the era of smartphone cameras in the next 22 years.