The History of Cell Phone Cameras


The ability to take quality pictures at any time with the convenience of cell phone cameras has become the norm in recent years. We have easily forgotten about the effort put into buying and developing film. Phone calls, pictures, and videos can all be completed with one device. There is no need to cart around a separate camera to get quality pictures. Cameras on cell phones have not always produced the quality of pictures that they do now. They have come long way, however, in a short time.

Samsung and Sharp 

The SCH-V200 came out in June of 2000, and had a flip open feature that made it possible to access a 1.5 inch TFT LCD with a 350,000 (0.35 mega pixels) pixel resolution camera. There was no way to fill up your phone with hundreds of pictures back then, as you could only take 20 at time before you had to download them onto your computer. The camera and the phone, however, were not linked in any way and simply happened to be in the same housing.

Sharp is another company that came out with a camera phone later in the same year. There has been some debate as to whether the Sharp, j-SHO4 was more in tune with the actual camera phone idea than the Samsung version. This phone made its debut in Japan and was made by a company called J-phone, which has since changed its name to SoftBank Mobile. The camera on this phone had a 110,000 pixel (0.11 megapixels) capability. The argument about this one and the previous Samsung model revolves around the ability of j-SH04 to send pictures electronically. Many may remember those first fuzzy pictures on the early phones. Few cared about quality, it was all about the fun of new technology.

The United States Catches Up 

It took about two years for the United States to catch up with the new trend. The Sanyo SCP-5300 was available on a Sprint phone plan for a pricey $400. Some new features, however, were added. There was a flash included on this phone which added to the versatility. Interesting special effects filters were also added, such as negative, sepia, and black and white coloring. This camera functioned with the ability of 640 x 480 pixels (0.3 megapixels). By 2003, cell phones with cameras were beginning to be more well-known in the United States. Approximately 80 million had been purchased across the globe. About this time, camera phones were improving in quality and coming down in price.

Audiovox PM8920

By July of 2004, camera phone use and development was in full-swing. Sprint continued to make improvements with the PM8920. This phone boasted 1280 x 960 (1.3 megapixels) pixel capability. The exciting part of this addition to the camera phone industry was the print quality of the pictures. It was possible to send your picture to a friend electronically or print out a copy for grandma. The separate camera button made this camera seem more official, and the multi-shot capability added a modern feel. Eight pictures in a row could be taken quickly. The shutter sound could be changed by recording a custom sound, as well. Sprint offered this phone for only $150 dollars with special rebates. The recommended retail price (RRP) was $229. Sales of camera phones seemed to skyrocket after this, with about 50% of phone purchases including a camera capable version.

Nokia and Sony

Nokia and Sony began to go head to head in the competition from 2005 to 2006. The Nokia N90 came onto the scene with a two-megapixel camera and Carl Zeiss optics. The autofocus improved the quality of photos and the LED flash made it possible to take pictures in a variety of lighting situations. The camera screen actually came out away from the phone with a rotation similar to that of a camcorder.

Sony released some other great options soon after the Nokia N90. The Sony Ericsson K800i and K790i used the Sony Cyber-shot digital camera name. The Sony K800i hit the ground running with 3.2 megapixel capability. The popular Xenon flash and the addition of image stabilization, made this camera a fierce competitor on the global market. Nokia stayed in the game for a little while, however, with their N73 model.

The Pixels Increase

Samsung brought the first five-megapixel camera phone to the table, and this remained the norm for a few years. The Samsung five-megapixel model came complete with a Carl Zeiss lens and could record 30 frames per second when using the video option. The Nokia N95 came at a time when smartphones were close to emerging, making it difficult to stay ahead of the game, even with the standard five megapixels and sleek sliding design.

The year 2008 brought the release of the Samsung i8510 with an eight-megapixel camera, and the race was on to keep making phones of better quality. The brand LG took over the lead when they came out with the first touchscreen phone with a camera. The LG Renoir was also capable of the same eight-megapixel technology and made things more interesting with the touchscreen. 2009 brought 12 megapixels with 16-megapixel ability following in 2010.

Smartphones Slow Things Down

Smartphones came on the market and distracted customers and manufacturers alike. The camera became less of a priority for a while. Companies started to focus on making cell phones smaller and thinner, easier for people to maneuver and carry around. This also made them less durable, however. These delicate “mini-computers” have continued and show no sign of disappearing any time soon. The iPhone 8 came on the scene with 12-megapixel capability and a myriad of other camera features, showing that cameras are again a major feature to focus on.

Cell phone camera use is the norm for most cell phone carriers. Parents can easily capture their child’s adventures without carrying heavy camera equipment and film around. These phones improved steadily for about a decade until they gave way to the smartphone technology. Cameras have been back on the radar, however, and are still improving with each new addition to the cell phone market.


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