The power of cameraphones

Not so long ago, mobile phones were usedfor making phone calls, or sending text messages. Later, you could buy mobilephones with an inbuilt camera, but it served more as a novelty, and any moreserious photography than a blurry shot of your friends required a separatedigital camera, purchased for more money than you would have liked to havespent, and forgotten at home whenever anything surprising or picture-worthyhappened.

Now, mobile phones come with an inbuilt,high-quality camera. They're more portable than digital cameras. and you canupload your photos to the Internet with ease. One of the first affordabledigital cameras was the Kodak DC40, released in 1996, which came with just athird of a megapixel. Now, popular smartphones like the iPhone 4S or the BlackBerryBold 9790 pack 8 megapixels, along with a host of  additional features like sophisticated flashmechanisms, special lenses and artistic photo editing software. What's more,the iPhone or BlackBerryBold price is significantly less than you would have paid for the digitalcamera alone all those years ago.

It's not just photos of our pets orchildren, either. Along with social media, cameraphone pictures have played amajor role in the transmission of news stories such as the Arab Spring. Policebrutality captured on film by Egyptian social media activists caused millions ofprotestors to take to the streets to demand the end of dictatorial regimes.

Furthermore, a recent study from theNetherlands showed that cameraphones can play a vital role in medicaldiagnostics, especially in remote or rural areas. The study by Coosje Tuijn ofthe Royal Tropical Institute showed that a two megapixel camera can captureclear microscopy images that could be sent to a website for analysis by aspecialist. The specialist could then email or SMS feedback back to thepatient. "Such technological advances could improve diagnosis inperipheral health settings by empowering under-educated and insufficientlyexperienced health care and laboratory workers to meet quality standards,"concluded Tuijn.

The increasing accessibility, versatilityand sharability of mobile photography indicates that this is only the tip ofthe iceberg of what we can expect from cameraphones, and the coming months andyears will only continue to demonstrate their power.


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