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A debate on Twitter earlier in the week (see below) put up one of THE most frequently asked questions about phone imaging. Why do I/we both pixel peeping when most phone-shot photos are only ever seen on 5"/6" phone screens? It's a good question, but I think I have a great answer. If you're a phone imaging enthusiast then you'll know where I'm going with this already, but for the casual user, here's why I do what I do and here's why enthusiasts care...
With the Pixel 3 in for review for a short period, and with a glimpse of sun here and there in November in the UK, I wanted to pit PureView phase 1 (Nokia 808) and phase 2 (Lumia 1020, adding OIS) with the Pixel's (as good as) PureView phase 3, doing all the pixel combination in the time domain rather than across a high-res sensor. There's a lot to compare, it's our biggest and longest imaging comparison piece ever, so let's press on and do allow time for the page to fully load!
No, this isn't a phone. It's not even a 'communicator' in the purest sense, since the LTE version hasn't appeared yet. But the Surface Go is a half way house between a smartphone and a full-on laptop or even a 'Pro' hybrid. Paired with a phone (to provide mobile bandwidth), the Surface Go is quite a lot of computing power and familiar interface in a surprisingly small and light package, offering something different from traditional Macbooks, laptops, even Chromebooks now, and letting you bring the power of a traditional Windows PC everywhere you go.
One of the reasons why there has always been a big debate as to what exactly constitutes "a smartphone" is that the definition itself keeps changing. Once we had dumb phones, then high end communicators and touchscreen multimedia gadgets for geeks, and then - by 2010 or so - enough people had what we had been calling 'smartphones' that they became mainstream and just 'phones'. But just what functions got added in each era, where are we now, and where do the different platforms stand?
My camera (phone) comparisons over the last few years have been gradually stymied by manufacturers choosing to over-sharpen, to edge enhance, and to reduce noise. All in the name of producing 'wow' images for social media. Yet, living in the UK, greenery - so trees and grass - and nature generally form part of many test scenes. And it's nature itself, with all its incredible textures, that proves hardest of all to capture using modern camera phones. By way of some data points, I investigate!
As is traditional, I save this sort of accessory review for Friday. Bluetooth speakers are very common and commoditised by now, of course, but I chose this one to review because it has a single unique selling point. It has a carrying handle. Don't laugh - it makes a huge difference and is immediately likeable - every other speaker has to be held in a vice-like grip or cradled somehow. The DA150 here can be hooked around a finger while you carry other things, to the beach, to the garden, whatever. Read on...
A 'different' (and somewhat pricey) accessory here, but one which should be of interest to almost everyone who drives. It's a dual port power bank for your smartphone and a powerful torch - that's also an emergency car starter. Up to 30 times over. It's well conceived overall, but the power bank side is poorly implemented.
Over on AAWP, I've been doing detailed shootouts between the Huawei P20 Pro, with its 40MP sensor and under the guidance of one of the original Pureiew co-creators, Eero Salmelin, and the Lumia 1020, but over and over again I've had requests to pitch the P20 Pro against the Nokia 808, the original PureView camera phone. Can the 2012 imaging tech match that from 2018? Let's find out.
OK, I say this every time, but... we have a new winner. In the power bank stakes, at least. The combination of input and output flexibility, capacity, ruggedness, coupled with a camping-grade torch, all make the slightly cheesily named EasyAcc MegaCharge D20 the accessory to beat at the moment. Just a fabulous bit of kit.
Zoom is one of the few really diffentiating factors in phone imaging these days, with 'simple' photo taking now being mastered in almost all light conditions. However, no sooner do I mention a telephoto zoom lens in a smartphone, such as the iPhone X or (here) the Galaxy S9+, than people pipe up with requests for comparisons to 'zoom champions' of the past. I maintain that, classy though these might have been, there's an element of rose-tinted memories creeping in. But let's find out, with some examples of camera phone zoom under a wide variety of situations and use cases.