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Could Phone Cameras Come Close?

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My once-beloved Sony RX100 lies stone cold in my gadget drawer and I wince every time I come across it looking so neglected. A new version, the RX100 IV, is now in existence and it’s as pocketable and light as it originally was and now it takes 4K video, but somehow, I’m looking to the next great camera on a smartphone. Although I’m loathe to go so far as to get rid of my RX100 (in case anyone’s asking), I would now think twice before taking it along on a holiday as I once did to the beautiful island to Langkawi. I’m afraid my Note 4 camera does an admirable enough job of holiday pictures.
 
Although no one has seriously thought smartphone cameras were as good as DSLRs, the truth is many photographers are tending to leave their DSLRs behind in various situations. A handful of smartphones have offered cameras that have been more than good enough for non-professional photographs, the iPhone, Samsung’s flagships, Nokia’s amazing 41 megapixel 808 and 1020 and now LG’s G4 with its solid manual controls over parameters.
 
And now, just launched, is the next in Chinese phone-maker Gionee’s ELife line, the ELife E8, with a camera that takes a staggering 120 megapixel photo. The camera is thought to use technology similar to Nokia’s Pureview, and is lossless. Zoom is 3X on this 23.7 megapixel camera. And that’s not all. The camera is reported to launch is 0.8 seconds, so you may just get that shot that you would with the super fast DSLR. Except that you’d have to be ready with the DSLR all mounted and waiting. It also features fast phase detection autofocus and optical image stabilisation. The lens is a six-element assembly. With the help of its software, the camera actually takes 120 megapixel photographs.
 
The rest of the hardware on the 6-inch (all the screen real estate to see those pictures and frame a photo) E8 is on the face of it equivalent to today’s flagships, though performance has to be seen when it’s in the hands of reviewers. There’s even a price floating around – Rs 41,000.
 
The recently launched ZTE Nubia Z9 Mini goes so far as to call itself an SLR camera. While that may not be altogether true, its 16 megapixel primary shooter has a whole lot of features unusual in a smartphone camera including very fine control over settings and the ability to do light painting. All it costs is Rs 16,999. 
 
Looking at these phones, already here, one can only wonder how far smartphone cameras will go in matching DSLRs in results. While at the present time it’s impossible to think of what a phone camera can do to mimic the sheer size of lenses used by full-fledged cameras – and the variety of lenses, to be sure – the real advantage will be that phone cameras will begin to suffice and even please in an increasing number of situations.