They're all the buzz at the moment, and one of the hottest selling items of 2004, but when should I dump my digital camera and opt for a camera phone that I can keep on me at all times.
 
There is no doubt in my mind that cell phone cameras will revolutionise the photography industry because they can instantly share photos from your camera to people around the world! We're talking visual communication, not just preservation of memories.
 
But before this becomes a reality 3 critical things needs to happen;
 
1) The quality of camera phones needs to improve.
When compared to digital still cameras the quality is still at least 5 years behind. That's not to say that they will take 5 years to catch up, with technology currently available and the potential volume of sales of phone cameras, we're looking at maybe 2 years.
 
2) Network bandwidth
Both Telecom and Vodafone are launching 3G networks this year, which will give the same sort of speed as a dial-up modem. If you've ever tried surfing the net on dial-up you'll know what a painful experience this is, so we've got at least one more generation of networks before we can comfortably let fly with high quality images.
 
3) Cost of both of the above
Its one thing having the capability, but with New Zealand being a country of monopolies it could be a while before the average consumer can afford to play with a good quality camera phone on a high-speed network. Look for business applications to take off first.
 
Additionally there are some social issues to deal with. Camera phones are like hidden cameras because they are on a device we carry with us everywhere.
 
In November in the UK a nineteen year-old was jailed for six months for using his camera phone to take pictures in court. Shaun Nash, who was at a Bristol Crown Court for the robbery trial of a friend, was taking pictures and videoing proceedings from the public gallery. One of the jurors noticed what he was doing, and the trial was abandoned.
 
The NSW Summary Offences Act prohibits photographs of people indoors or in dressing rooms, (locations where there's an expectation of privacy), for the purposes of sexual gratification. However, "opinions differ about whether someone sunbathing topless at the beach could reasonably expect privacy. There may be recourse to defamation law, depending on how the image is used," the Sidney Morning Herald says.
 
So the upshot of all of the above is that its at least 2 more years before you should even consider replacing your digital camera with a cellphone camera. If you're into technology and like to have fun with your friends then you might like to give it a try. Check out our other article Better photos from your camera phone