NTT DoCoMo's FOMA 900i series mobile phones are displayed at a presentation in Tokyo, Dec. 18, 2003. The 900i series boasts the first 3G phones equipped with a Macromedia Flash browser, HTML e-mail and avatar-capable videophone, Japan's biggest mobile phone operator said. (Photograph by Toshiyuki Aizawa/Reuters)
I have been sinking deep into the world of camera phones for the last few months - I picked up a T-Mobile Sidekick over a year ago and became a photographer again. The Sidekick has been retired in favor of first, a Sanyo 8100 (it works on my longtime cell carrier, Sprint, and the camera is integrated into the phone, not a clip-on like the Sidekick) and now both a Sanyo VM4500 and a Nokia 3650(on the flaky ATTwireless net). Both phones can do video and respectable stills (of the 640 x 480 variety).
These devices, for me, mark the first real change that digital technology is bringing to the world of photography. All the numbers say that the tipping point has been reached - especially the one that says sometime next year, camera phones will out-sell all other types of cameras combined!
Each photographic generation has seen both the hardware and its use change how we take pictures; tripod to handheld, 4x5 to 120mm roll film to the Leica. So far, our digital tools have taken the form of their parents - they look and work like 35mm cameras, just replacing film with digital guts. Camera phones, on the other hand, are a totally new beast and bring with them new capabilities as well as a new form factor.
Earlier this year Nikon announced an 802.11b add-on to one of its classic format digital cameras. Many of the camera phones already on the market come with networking built-in (3G and often bluetooth) and connect easily to that big network in the sky, the internet. Is it time for the professional leaders, Canon and Nikon, to switch gears and think differently? Or are they already behind the curve and out of the game?