Camera v Mobile

It might be easier to take pictures with your mobile phone and leave your compact camera at home, but you could be setting yourself up for a nasty surprise. We reveal why a real camera is still the best option for great photos

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Camera phones are ok for capturing pictures on the run, but if you know you're going to an event where the images will be ones you want to look at again and again, you can't beat a proper camera. With a dedicated compact camera in your pocket you'll be able to take photos that can be printed, enlarged and shared with friends and family without any quality concerns.

The megapixel myth

A few years ago camera makers tried to convince us that a lot of megapixels in your camera meant better quality pictures. Although you do need a certain number of megapixels to be able to see the finer details of an image, picture quality actually depends on the number of megapixels in a sensor and the size of that sensor - so packing more pixels into a sensor without making it larger resulted in photos covered in a grainy, speckled effect known as digital noise.

Now camera manufacturers try to combine a reasonable megapixel count with sensors that are as large as they can be, leaving you with the best quality images possible.

But what does this mean for the cameras on mobile phones? Smartphones need to be sleek and slim and their minimalistic shells are obviously packed with the very latest in communications technology. Although the cameras are important, they come second to the phone's need to make calls, which often leaves phone cameras with tiny sensors, less-than-brilliant lenses and minimal gadgetry to improve the quality of your pictures.

On the other hand, cameras are all about photos and getting you sharp, clear pictures every single time. They might be a little larger than mobile phones but here's what you get for giving up a little space in your pocket:

Camera

  1. Blur reduction or image stabilisation technology to keep your pictures sharp
  2. Autofocus
  3. Smile shot and blink detection to keep your subjects smiling
  4. A powerful flash for lighting up the darkness - plus red-eye reduction technology to improve portraits taken in low light
  5. Space for a memory card so you can keep shooting
  6. An engineered glass lens with an optical zoom
  7. Test
  8. Great quality images that can be printed and enlarged with no concerns

Mobile Phone

  1. Smaller image sensors
  2. Plastic, fixed-focus lenses
  3. Digital zooms that crop into images and reduce quality of pictures rather than actually magnifying the scene
  4. Limits on image quality, meaning some images may not be able to be printed

Extreme close-up

Camera phones often have digital zooms rather than the more desirable optical zooms found on compact cameras. Digital zooms crop a picture and reduce the resulting quality of the image - rather than physically moving the lens and preserving details when magnifying a scene, as an optical zoom does.

How big can I print my pictures?

Being able to make real prints that show the details of a scene, have accurate colours and aren't fuzzy with digital noise depends on many factors.

If you want to create one of our large canvas prints a camera with a large sensor and lots of megapixels will capture an image that'll look better as a canvas than an image captured by a camera phone with a tiny sensor. You can still print images captured with mobile phones and create products with them, but a camera with a larger sensor will be able to capture more detail - and more detail in an image means a better-looking final product.

A minimum of 10MP in a camera's sensor should provide all the information your pictures need. Photos captured on the highest quality setting can be enlarged to our largest canvas without any loss of detail - assuming the image is in focus, of course!

If you're still concerned about quality, when you place orders for prints or other items from Tesco Photo, a warning will be displayed if there's any danger that your image might not appear its best at that particular size.

Tesco Photo Canvas


So what camera should I carry?

If you're looking for something that's as sleek and stylish as a smartphone, try Canon's line of IXUS compacts. The Canon IXUS 125 has a slim metal body that's packed with helpful features and a 24mm wide-angle lens for cramming detail into your pictures. At just 20mm thick you might not even notice the IXUS 125 in your pocket, but you'll definitely notice the difference in your pictures.

Canon IXUS

See the whole picture

When you take pictures on a phone, you have to hold it in front of your face to see what you're capturing, which can get in the way. Some compacts have flip-out LCD screens that allow you to shoot from awkward angles, such as above your head or down at your feet, without taking your eyes from the screen - this can come in handy at busy events like concerts or for more creative images of your adventures.

The traditional viewfinder still appears on some cameras, particularly higher-end DSLRs and CSCs. You can't beat these for seeing exactly what you're going to take a picture of, especially if you're working in bright light or outdoors.

Samsung MV800