18/04/2014 - Optical zoom tipped to hit HTC handsets in 2015
Like most companies in the smartphone game, HTC wants to pack its top-of-the-range devices with powerful camera tech, and that's no longer just a case of adding more megapixels. The new HTC One (M8), for instance, hosts a pair of Ultrapixel cameras on its rear that allow you manipulate depth-of-field, among other special features. Talking with UK carrier Vodafone on HTC's roadmap for camera tech, imaging guru Symon Whitehorn claimed "we could be 4K ready now," if it actually made sense to do so (burn, Sony). Whitehorn also mused that with phones well on their way to making point-and-shoot cameras obsolete, we could see performance encroach on DSLR territory within two years. To make that happen, however, handsets need to incorporate optical zooming, which according to Whitehorn "is not too far off at all for HTC." He wouldn't "give too much away," he said, "but within 12-18 months we'll see huge advances in phone optics." If HTC is indeed this close to adding optical zoom to it camera tech repertoire, let's hope it can keep things classy -- something previous attempts have universally failed to do.
There are plenty of cameras that send their photos to your phone, but you frequently have to transfer those pictures yourself -- and it's another hassle to get the pics to other devices. Eyefi thinks it can solve these headaches by launching its own online service, Eyefi Cloud. If you're using one of the company's WiFi-equipped Mobi cards in your camera alongside new Android and iOS apps, any photos go both to your mobile device and Cloud right after you've hit the shutter button. You only need a browser to manage your shots, so you're not stuck if you want to see your photos on a new PC.
The HTC One (M8) brought with it a load of new camera features, including its unique Duo Camera setup on its back side. Now, the handset maker is opening up the code that powers the pair in a SDK preview for third-party devs. This means that apps can be designed specifically for the M8's cameras with DualLens and DimensionPlus APIs baked right in. In other words, developers will get their hands on that bokeh-style refocusing and multi-angled shot selection in addition to depth maps from the pair of cameras. Of course, only time will tell how eager app makers are to latch on to HTC's smartphone snapshooting tricks, but at least now they'll have the necessary tools to do so.
Finally, we have an official explanation for the two round holes in the back of the new HTC One. The main camera, which sits in the regular spot, houses a 4MP "Ultrapixel" camera much like on last year's handset. The smaller lens, which is positioned directly above -- or to the side when you hold the phone in landscape mode to grab a shot -- contains half the resolution (i.e., 2MP), but it doesn't actually capture images. It merely offers a level of depth perception, allowing the camera to "understand objects in physical space." A key benefit of this, according to HTC, is a quicker autofocus time of around 300ms, because the camera can use actual depth measurements to focus on objects. Other benefits come when you edit a photo, thanks to a range of effects (such as blurring) that can be selectively applied to foreground or backgrounds subjects. HTC has also just announced an SDK that will allow third-party app makers to make use of the Duo Camera's depth map, which is stored as metadata within JPEG files. For more, check out our full review of the HTC One.
24/03/2014 - Oppo’s New Mega Phone: Find 7
Ever since a leaked image showed off dual cameras on HTC's next One (aka the M8), the rumor mill has been trying to figure out what they're for, exactly. Now, an ad from Australian carrier Telstra leaked to GSM Arena appears to have removed any mystery. According to the copy, the "Duo Camera" will bring improved low-light capabilities and let you select the focus of a shot after it's been taken, in a similar way to the Lytro camera. You'll also be able to highlight significant areas of a shot, soften the background and add 3D effects. The phone is called the "All New HTC One (M8)," in the ad, which also revealed a full HD 5-inch scratch-resistant screen and dual "BoomSound" speakers. Finally, it showed the latest Sense 6.0 version that'll let you double tap the screen to turn on the phone and swipe to access apps and social info. After all that, if there's anything left to learn, we'll find out in exactly two weeks.
Source: GSM Arena
Samsung's new crop of Gear smartwatches are no longer card-carrying members of its Android Galaxy. That's because Tizen, the company's open-sourced OS, has taken over the reins for the line begot by the barely five-month-old Galaxy Gear. And, in typical Samsung fashion, the company hasn't released just one new Gear, but three with very specific areas of focus: the fashionable Gear 2, the functional Gear Neo and fitness-focused Gear Fit. The newly announced trio was on display here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, giving us a chance to get acquainted with their particular quirks and let you know whether or not to free up some space on your wrist. %Gallery-slideshow181314% %Gallery-slideshow181315% %Gallery-slideshow181316%
Samsung has instigated a small corporate reshuffle that could potentially have big implications for its future smartphones. The company has shunted its digital imaging unit sideways so that it sits under the giant umbrella of the mobile division, in the hope of combining "technical know-how" in these two areas and ultimately "differentiating" its smartphones with better camera technology. At the same time, Samsung expects expertise to flow in the opposite direction, allowing its engineers to create cameras with better wireless connectivity. It's a move that makes plenty of sense given the recent spate of Galaxy-branded hybridized products, such as the slightly awkward Galaxy S 4 Zoom and hugely over-priced Galaxy NX mirrorless shooter. It also suggests that Samsung has paid attention to what Nokia has achieved by re-thinking mobile camera technology for its PureView phones, instead of using standard off-the-shelf parts.
Remember when dual camera modules on smartphones were all the rage? Toshiba is bringing them back -- only this time with technology that you're much more likely to use. Its new module uses two 5-megapixel cameras to record depth and images at the same time, producing a "deep focus" picture where everything is sharp. The technique offers a Lytro-like ability to refocus, even after you've taken the shot; it also provides gesture control and very fast digital autofocusing. You'll have to wait a while before you're snapping deep focus vacation photos, though. Toshiba doesn't expect to mass produce the sensors until April, and finished products will likely come later.
In our review of the Moto X, we determined that while its ClearPixel camera was decent, its performance was hit or miss. Fortunately, Motorola has taken a lot of feedback and has cranked out a software update with improvements to the camera's performance, specifically in the areas of exposure, color accuracy and focus speed. The refresh, which is so far getting pushed out to T-Mobile phones -- we expect it to roll out to other carriers as soon as each one is done testing the new firmware, though nothing is currently confirmed -- appears to make a rather substantial difference in several scenarios, such as reducing noise in low-light and eliminating haze in outdoor shots. Anandtech's Brian Klug had the opportunity to take the updated shooter for a test run and declared it to be "nothing short of the biggest [improvement] I've ever seen come across in an OTA update."
In addition to the camera improvements, Motorola also threw in a few other enhancements as well. Users who have downloaded the update should expect increased Touchless Control accuracy, a fix for the choppy audio issue some have experienced in voice calls and an improvement to Moto Assist as well.
04/09/2013 - Sony's Smart Imaging Stand hands-on
The Xperia Z1 was clearly the darling of today's Sony press event at IFA, but what is a smartphone without a smart imaging stand, right? The peripheral only got a quick mention as Kaz ran through phone specs, but we managed to get a bit more time with it on the floor afterward. The device is a cradle for your handset that you can control via phone, tablet or, in this case, the company's new SmartWatch 2. That's what Sony was using at the event -- though, we have to say, while we appreciated it killing two birds with one stone, maybe it wasn't the ideal choice.
Tap the icon on the watch's display and you'll see a barebones interface. At the center is a camera icon for still photos, with a video record icon in the upper right. There are also four arrows around the perimeter that let you adjust the stand's position. We had some serious trouble with the latter. Connected with the stand via Blueooth, we found ourselves having to hit the arrows multiple times to get it to move. When we did eventually get it to shift, the whole stand moved a bit -- though we're willing to chalk some of that up to the somewhat precarious position the stand was in while on display.%Gallery-slideshow79438%
Oppo's N1 smartphone has been sitting on our watch list ever since we first got wind of its strange N-Lens camera add-ons, which will apparently offer a choice of zooms up to 15x. Now we can flesh out another key spec: the Chinese handset will run on Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 processor, which should more than cope with its equally unusual dual touch inputs and possibly help it to rival other imaging-centric Androids like the Galaxy S4 Zoom and Sony's upcoming Honami. The HSPA+ Snapdragon processor (MSM8274) was shown on a photo of the N1's internals that was "leaked" by an Oppo marketing exec on Sina Weibo -- and unless we're horribly, horribly mistaken, the photo also seems to show a microSD slot to store all those optically stabilized, 16-megapixel images. Barring other significant pseudo-leaks, you can expect the next big N1 update on September 23rd.
Source: Oppo N1 (Sina Weibo)
30/08/2013 - Samsung's Galaxy S4 Zoom with LTE launches in Europe
We can't say that we were bowled over by the Galaxy S4 Zoom when we gave it the review treatment last month. That being said, if you've decided that the 16-megapixel Frankamphone fits your needs, you live in Europe and have been waiting for the LTE version to arrive, then today's the day. Samsung's just announced the Zoom avec LTE is now available across Europe, and has named Deutsche Telekom, Tele2, Telia Sonera and Orange as some of the networks that'll carry it. The launch is particularly timely for the UK, which just yesterday saw two carriers flip the 4G switch and another announce when its speedy network will go live. Hit up your local LTE merchant for the finer details, like when you'll actually be able to buy the Android-powered cameraphone and how much your wallet is going to hate you for doing so.
Motorola has been hyping up the 10.5-megapixel Clear Pixel camera inside the Moto X, but it's been shy on the sensor's technical details and origins. We now have both: it's the OmniVision OV10820, a 1/2.6-inch sensor with a video-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio and large 1.4-micron pixels. Its strong low-light performance comes through a two-chip approach. The sensor captures RAW images using a sensitive RGBC (red / green / blue / clear) color filter, and a companion chip automatically converts the resulting shots into the Bayer format that most imaging processors expect. The result is a high-performance camera that slots inside the Moto X without requiring any special effort. Whether or not we see the OV10820 used outside of Motorola is another matter. OmniVision can't comment on the sensor's exclusivity, but it does note that RGBC is an "extremely viable option" for the future.
[Thanks to everyone who sent this in]
Android on a point-and-shoot? Last year we learned that it could be done. But with some features that duplicate the functionality of a smartphone without an ability to make calls, Samsung's Galaxy Camera was a confusing mix of form and function. It was very much a first-generation device, and while they may have regretted it later, some curious early adopters did drop $500 for the soon-to-be-obsolete hybrid. The cumbersome compact, with its massive 21x lens and power-hungry 4.8-inch touchscreen, may not have won over the photography community, but Samsung's 2013 approach has a much better chance at success.
With a design that's based on the Galaxy S4 Mini, the Galaxy S4 Zoom adds a fair amount of heft to accommodate the feature that sets it apart from every other smartphone on the market: a 10x 24-240mm optically stabilized lens. But it's still pocketable, believe it or not, and it functions quite well as a phone. While the Galaxy Camera was first and foremost a camera, the Zoom's primary function is as an ordinary Android smartphone -- albeit one with a larger sensor and a powerful lens. Can it replace both devices? And will you want it to? Shoot past the break for our take.
Gallery: Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
11/07/2013 - Nokia's Lumia 1020 leaks again with substantial camera grip that will probably boost the battery
Three colors, 41 megapixels. What else is there to say about the incoming Lumia 1020? Well, The Verge has laid its hands on a picture of the previously FCC-listed detachable camera grip, which would put it closer to the side profile of Samsung's Galaxy S4 Zoom than preceding Lumias. With a micro-USB connection and a four-dot LED display like that seen on Nokia's own charging peripherals, it's very likely that there'll be some extra battery power housed inside it too. Rumored specs from UnleashThePhones say it could arrive with a 2,000mAh battery built-in, dual-core Snapdragon processor and a 4.5-inch AMOLED display identical to Nokia's last new phone, the Lumia 925. At least it's now just a matter of hours, not weeks, till we can cement all the details.
Source: The Verge
14/06/2013 - Fujifilm and Panasonic's organic CMOS image sensor boosts dynamic range and sensitivity
We've all been enjoying the benefits of AMOLED displays for several years now -- high contrast ratios, wide viewing angles and vivid colors -- so it was only a matter of time until organic films ended up in image sensors. Fujifilm and Panasonic have been working on organic CMOS image sensors and just showed the results of their collaboration at the 2013 Symposium on VLSI Technology in Kyoto. By replacing the traditional silicon photodiode with an organic photoelectric conversion layer, researchers have created image sensors with a dynamic range of 88dB (the industry's highest), a 1.2-fold increase in sensitivity (compared to traditional designs) and a 60-degree range of incident light (vs. 30-40 degrees, typically). What does this mean in practice? Less clipping in bright scenes, better low-light performance and richer colors and textures. The companies plan to promote these new organic CMOS image sensors for use in a wide range of imaging applications, including next generation cameras and phones. We can't wait!
If previous leaks had us fairly convinced Samsung's Galaxy S 4 Zoom cameraphone was a real device, this latest one has us certain. A Russian website has published what can only be described as a full review of the Zoom
, before it's even been made official. The camera is said to pack a 16-megapixel sensor and is capable of 10x optical zoom, performed by rotating a ring that runs around the lens; this ring is also used to launch the camera mode. A piece of glass sits flush with the end of the lens for dust protection. Inside, the Zoom is similar to the S 4 Mini, running a dual-core 1.5GHz Exynos processor, 1.5GB of RAM and eight gigs of internal storage (naturally, there's a microSD slot for boosting that). Facing you is a 4.3-inch 960 x 540 display showing Android 4.2.2 (with a TouchWiz coating, of course), a token 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera, and powering the whole thing is a huge 2,330mAh removable battery. For connection and communication, you've got WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC and the increasingly popular addition of an IR blaster, but it doesn't appear that LTE was supported on the Russian model.
The camera's default shooting mode is 16:9 at 12-megapixels, but obviously there are tons of settings to tweak and 26 different pre-prepared camera modes. From the raft sample pictures available, and they look pretty good on the whole. The Zoom is also comes with some new photography apps installed that make use of the camera. hi-tech.mail.ru reports that it's scheduled to launch in July at a cost of 19,990 rubles, or around $618 by conversion. While we've been writing this, Samsung's gone and announced the thing, but it's still worth heading to the source and checking out the review, with tons more sample shots and impressions. We've also put another shot of the cameraphone and our favorite sample image from the review after the break.
Don't get your hopes up, because the leaked video after the break is one of the most deliberately constrained pieces of camerawork it's possible to imagine. It avoids showing anything except the mechanical shutter release on the back of a phone that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Nokia EOS photos we covered yesterday, and in fact it comes from @ViziLeaks, who was one of the sources of those images. And, well, that's pretty much all there is to say about it, except that it adds a further bit of weight to the notion that we might see a new version of the PureView 808 camera (which also had a mechanical shutter) on a Nokia Windows Phone sometime soon.
Via: The Verge
Source: ViziLeaks (Twitter)
Everyone's found themselves in this situation at one time or another: you're in a picture-perfect setting, but a selfie at arm's length won't cut it. You want to be in the picture, so you wait for a friendly looking passerby and ask them to take it. But, now it's out of your control, and chances are the resulting snap won't turn out exactly as you'd imagined. Samsung knows you're too polite to hold the stranger up while you convey your vision, so it has come up with a camera feature that does the explaining for you. It's described in a recent patent filing, and the gist is that you select the backdrop and take an initial snap that acts as a guide for the next, similar to how some panorama modes work. With a silhouette of the desired scene now showing atop the live view, the designated stranger just needs to let you get in the shot, line the overlay up with the live scene, and hit the shutter release.
The patent application also talks of editing the overlay, such as adding a circle to show the photographer where you'd like your face to be in relation to the backdrop. If you want the passerby to know how well they're doing, the claims explain an on-screen "composition score" that would rate their lining-up skills. And, if you'd rather trust the final decision to the camera, a ball-in-the-hole scenario is described that'll automatically engage the shutter release when the live view matches your ideal layout. This is just words and a few diagrams at this stage, mind, but if the patent gets granted, we could eventually see such a feature added to Samsung's smartphones or Galaxy cameras. Until then, you'll just have to put your trust in strangers and hope they have at least a basic understanding of the rule of thirds.
Despite recent strong competition, several Engadget editors' love affair with the HTC One continues unabated. We've mused plenty on its Ultrapixel camera, but we're not going to refuse improvements, which is good, because that's exactly what HTC's offering its European customers. An incoming software update for existing handsets promises better noise reduction on slow-motion videos, improved dynamic range from HDR shots and enhanced audio recording on your Zoe clips. Naturally, there's some performance and stability improvements included, if you're not all about the imaging. According to SlashGear, the software refresh will arrive on European handsets this week, though we're still waiting for it to land on our own UK device.
24/04/2013 - Thinx upgrades the video monitor with embedded LTE and SMS alerts; ships in Q3 for around $500
As part of our tour through Verizon's Waltham, Ma.-based Innovation Center this week, we were able to see a brief demo of the Thinx 4G LTE video monitor -- a product that was briefly teased at CES, but we've heard precious little about since. Essentially, this is a rather sophisticated 1080p video monitor, designed for small businesses that would prefer that their monitors do more than just capture reels of archived footage. Thinx's solution throws in an admin panel and a smartphone app; users can install the camera and then define hot zones for the sensor to keep tabs on. If and when a specific event occurs (e.g. 50 individuals cross a virtual line), owners can be alerted via SMS -- and, of course, they can then view only the footage pertaining to said event with merely a click.
The aforementioned apps (available for iOS and Android) will allow owners to look in live at any time, with recorded video automatically stored on the included 4GB SD card, a personal NAS or a cloud storage facility like Dropbox. Better still, the control panel supports multiple cameras for those trying to cast eyes over an entire office complex, and there's room for a 12V battery that'll keep it humming along "for a few hours" should the power cut out. Tom Thomasson, vice president of marketing at Thinx, told us that the product is slated to go on sale in the US during the third quarter of this year, and it's one of "over 30" new products that Verizon will help launch during the 2013 / 2014 time frame.
You say you want a revolution? Too bad, because this Galaxy smartphone update is just that... an update. Samsung's newly unveiled Galaxy S 4 is an incremental step up, an evolution less "inspired by nature" and more by last year's GS III. Don't believe us? Just take a look at the two handsets side by side to see the overtly obvious heritage. Samsung's staying the course with the overall design language, though it's expanded the screen size to five inches -- now powered by a Full HD Super AMOLED display with 441 ppi (and yes, it's still PenTile).
On the inside, it has a processor setup that we're told will be either an Exynos 5 or Snapdragon depending on the region, along with 2GB of RAM, 16, 32 or 64GB of internal storage, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera and a 2,600mAh battery. Starting to see the bigger picture here? Samsung had a good thing on its hands with the GS III and it's not willing to compromise much of the tried-and-true with the GS 4. It will launch globally in Q2, with a stateside debut on T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, US Cellular and Cricket. Until then, join us past the break for our detailed first impressions.
Gallery: Samsung Galaxy S 4 preview
Gallery: Samsung Galaxy S 4 preview
Gallery: Samsung Galaxy S 4 press shots
Gallery: Samsung Galaxy S 4 press shots
27/12/2012 - New Toshiba camera sensor lets you refocus after the shot, plans 2013 launch in smartphones and tablets
Hoping for some after-the-fact focusing in your next smartphone camera? Well, you'll have to wait around a year, but Toshiba's planning exactly that with a new module that houses an array of 500,000 tiny lenses. These are layered in front of the camera sensor, which can then capture slightly different images from compound lens arrangements.These can then be combined in a "complete" picture using Toshiba's own software. The camera will also be able to measure the distance between objects in the shot -- similar to how 3D images are captured -- with the user then able to focus on both close and distant detail, or even create images that are in-focus throughout. Toshiba says the module will also be able to capture video with a similar degree of focus management -- something that Lytro hasn't got around to just yet. The sensor is still a work in progress, but the manufacturer plans to commercialize the module before the end of 2013. Toshiba is looking to ally itself with multiple smartphone (and tablet) makers -- and here's hoping that it finds its way into a device outside of Japan.
Source: Asahi Shinbun (Japanese)
Last month, tucked in alongside news of the 1080p Find5, we got word of another, less macho Oppo phone coming to China -- the Ulike 2. This Ice Cream Sandwich-based handset went on sale today for the equivalent of $370, and you don't have to be in love with its ladyphone ways to acknowledge that it at least tries something different. Its front-facing camera rocks a full 5-megapixel resolution, putting the HTC One X+'s vanity cam to shame, while a countdown timer and a bunch of beautification filters (including face slimming and skin whitening) try to make all that extra detail work in your favor. The other specs are mediocre at best, including the 960 x 540, 4.5-inch LCD and 16GB of non-expandable storage, but Oppo is hardly alone in its views on what women want.
Source: Engadget Chinese