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This is Why I Want a 5MP Camera on my Tablets

Mike Cane posted a rant earlier today over on his blog, and I wanted to chime in and agree with him.

Earlier this week I attended the Asus Windows 8 introduction. I had with me a Nikon CoolPix that takes 8MPx photos.

You know who was getting better pictures than me?

This woman using her iPad to take pictures:

I could see her captured images. They were far better than what the damn camera I was using got!

And because she was using a tablet, she could see right away if the image was actually good or not. On the crappy small viewfinder on the back of the CoolPix, I couldn’t tell a thing. Only when I got back to my desktop could I see if the photos had proper focus or were blurry due to motion.

I have long been an advocate of tablet photography and I have even taken some flack from commenters (here, here). In fact, the lack of a rear camera is most of the reason I never bought a Nexus 7.

I like taking photos with a tablet for the same reason which Mike iterated earlier today. The 7″ or larger screen lets you see how the image turned out right away. That’s not something you can do with the 2″ or 3″ screen found on most cameras or even the 4″ on the iPhone.

Size matters. If I could get a $600 camera built around a 7″ screen, I would buy it in a heart beat.  My current camera is quite good, but even with all its settings I still have to take multiple backup shots just to make sure the 2 or 3 photos I need come out okay – because I cannot judge how well they will come out.

Yes, taking a photo with a tablet looks weird, and yes, a 10″ tablet does tend to block the view of anyone behind it. But any decent camera used in the same position would be as annoying.

But that’s just me; have you ever tried tablet photography?

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Lyman October 26, 2012 um 4:13 pm

Nikon Coolpix 8MP cameras have sensors that date from the 2003-2009 era with screens to match. Those are 4-5 year old weak TFT screens.

Modern Coolpix’s have twice the screen pixels in the same area ( now around 400K versus old approximately 200K ) , double the MP ( ~16), better processor (maybe an Expeed 2 processor) , and far better low light resolution. The last is likely the actual core problem with the picture being taken here. Nikon even has a few 3″ 900K pixel screens Coolpix models, but the average Coolpix is now at 400K.

It isn’t the MP or screen of the iPad that is outclassing that other camera. It is the age (and implicilty the more robust underlying hardware/software that comes with being newer). If could attach a modern 3″ screen and a better processor to the old 8MP sensor you would probably get better pictures out of it too.

As for Tablets as cameras…. no. Again it is resolution, not size that is the issue. It is actually easier and more cost effective to make a 3″ hi-res screen than 10″ one. If it is the only camera you have in your hand (or brought with you ) fine. But generally better? No.

Mike Cane October 27, 2012 um 9:30 am

I have found the CoolPix to be utter crap and would not give one as a gift to my worst enemy. Save your pitch. CoolPix is dead to me.

k1tsun3 October 26, 2012 um 4:23 pm

I think Lyman’s explanation must be correct, because frankly the iPad I have (an iPad 2) takes really poor photos. Pictures taken outside in bright light look washed out, and pictures taken indoors in regular light tend to look too dark. I’m trying to remember what kind of digital camera I have; it takes far better images than any of the smartphones or tablets I’ve used, even though I think it’s six or seven years old now. Of course I never have it with me and I pretty much only use my phone to take pictures.

cookie October 26, 2012 um 4:24 pm

I guess then you should want the 5.3 inch Galaxy Note.

Nate Hoffelder October 26, 2012 um 4:44 pm

That’s not a $600 camera.

Smoley October 26, 2012 um 6:24 pm

>>Yes, taking a photo with a camera looks weird,…

Huh? Not on my planet it doesn’t. Taking a photo with a tablet or phone does though.

Makes me wonder how anyone today would have done shooting with a 35mm film camera where you couldn’t see what you photographed for *days* after taking the shots and every shot (good or bad) cost you money. I weep for the future.

Nate Hoffelder October 26, 2012 um 6:39 pm

One film camera required a lot of skill, and two. a lot of mistakes could be fixed while developing the film.

And I fixed my mistake. Thanks for pointing it out.

Tyler October 27, 2012 um 7:01 am

I believe it would be a lot easier to fix mistakes with Photoshop than to fix mistakes during the developing process for most people.

Nate Hoffelder October 27, 2012 um 9:17 am

Photoshop is expensive and I don’t know how to use it.

Mike Cane October 27, 2012 um 9:32 am

+1 I use Photo Toolkit and sometimes even the automatic controls frustrate me. I tend not to doctor pics unless really, really necessary. I had to apply a filter to some photos of screens to get rid of sensor moire patterns.

Samir Shah October 26, 2012 um 11:17 pm

iPad Mini.

Tim Gray October 27, 2012 um 4:07 am


And now I’m wondering if that genuinely does have a market among photographers for checking composition.

Aside – it’d be good to have a photo app that lets you take the picture comfortably with one hand. The standard photo app on my iPod Touch isn’t it.

Meryn October 27, 2012 um 1:31 am

As has been said before. The amount of megapixels generally means nothing when it come to taking high quality pictures. The quality of lens and sensor, your abilities as a photographer and the ergonomics of the camera device all are more important. Just try to take steady shots with an ipad while manually determining focus and timing.

Sure, a larger viewscreen will help you separate the wheat from the chaff early on, which can be quite useful with a limited-storage device. But, in all, i think that camera companies have probably found the right balance in their 100+ years of making cameras.

Nate Hoffelder October 27, 2012 um 9:21 am

" But, in all, i think that camera companies have probably found the right balance in their 100+ years of making cameras."

Except they have not been making digital cameras for more than a couple decades. And in most of that time most camera makers have aped the design of film cameras without actually thinking about how to design a camera from scratch.

Mike Cane October 27, 2012 um 9:34 am

Nokia seems to have done very well with cameras in their phones, with Zeiss optics too. That level of attention to a camera is what’s needed in pocketable and tablet devices. A dedicated camera for most people would be like buying a CD player over an iPod to listen to music.

Tim Gray October 27, 2012 um 4:03 am

Yes, the larger screen may help with composition. But I feel confident that the potential quality of the final image is greater in something that has proper lens optics and control over shooting options.

Though it is pretty amazing what a camera the size of a pea can do for point and shoot.

Eolake October 27, 2012 um 6:59 am

I agree very much, and I’ve blogged about it too.
Key is the quality of the camera. It needs more space than the half-thimble they have now.
You inspired me to a post of my own:

Mike Cane October 27, 2012 um 9:36 am

>>> and yes, a 10? tablet does tend to block the view of anyone behind it

I’m glad she did! It let me see just how much more detail in dark areas she was getting via her iPad camera that turned out to be totally black in my own photos. Her iPad seemed to be more sensitive to light over the crappy CoolPix.

Alex October 28, 2012 um 9:47 am

If you are really serious about quality of your photos, buy a proper camera and learn how to use. Even my old Canon A580 CHDK hacked can do better photos than any tablet or phone camera. And if you know how to do a proper focus, every picture will be sharp without need to check, easier for small sensor cameras with a huge deep of field. Do you want a 10’display on a camera? Buy one DSLR and connect to your ipad, done!


Nate Hoffelder October 28, 2012 um 12:12 pm

When I checked last fall (while buying a camera) all the DSLRs seemed to come in $600 to $2k kits with several lenses. This requires far greater skill than I currently have or even have the time to learn or maintain.

Like many people, I don’t use a camera that much. That’s why I need one which will make things as easy as possible.

Alex October 31, 2012 um 8:48 pm

Any modern camera, even the most expensive DSLR, have their “green zone”: a totally automatic operation, needing no knowledge from the user. Larger sensor cameras have relatively small deep of field (the area in focus), small sensor cameras (P&S) have more deep of field, that means more easy to have a sharp in focus picture. The program’s inside the camera work better if the camera have some room for error, low light cuts that room and needs perfect shutter and aperture settings. Get a point and shoot with a clear lens, like the Canon S100 f2.0 lens and you have greater chance that the program gets the photo right. On the other way you need to study some photography.

Mike Cane October 28, 2012 um 8:20 pm

Most of us are just taking pics for the Net, not for the sake of art. Point and shoot suits that best.

Sweetpea October 29, 2012 um 5:10 am

If you want to make pictures with your tablet, make sure it has a flash…

I rarely use my tablet for photography. Only when I want to make a quick snap and the camera isn’t in the area (my tablet usually is). I wouldn’t want to carry my tablet around an event or something to make pictures. I prefer a small camera for that…

Manu LM November 1, 2012 um 1:34 am

have you guys ever seen what pro photographers do on their >3K full frame ? they immediately check on the 3inch screen (now very good quality screens) and ultimately zooming in to check if the image is blurred or not.
So yes a bigger viewing screen would be great.
For the tablet photography, it can’t beat a good SLR camera, but its great for viewing… I believe a feature like live view on Ipad or any other tablet could be a killer app in the photo world (think of you son saying, hey dad, it’s blurred…).

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