Tag Archives: camera

The best 360-degree consumer cameras to take on the road in 2017

2017-07-15

Someone said that a writer’s most important tool on the road is a camera. What about 360-degree cameras that can capture everything around them? Would they be even better tools for photography and documenting places or events?
360fly 4k camera
Prices of 360 cameras have quickly com down. It was only two or three years ago when I tried a few models, but the prices were between 500 and 1000 euros/dollars then. Now, it is possible to get a 360 camera from a reliable brand for 150 euros. Let’s find out which products are the best if you are in the market for a 360-degree camera in 2017.

High-end 360 cameras

Garmin Virb 360 camera

360FLY 4K is a ball-shaped camera with the lenses on top and screw holes at the bottom for a tripod. The price, around 300 dollars, is unbeatable at the moment in the high-end category.

Garmin Virb 360 is a camera from the successful GPS and sports electronics product manufacturer. The Virb 360 has been acclaimed in many reviews because of its image quality, but the price is on the high side, about 800 dollars.

Budget 360 cameras

LG 360 camera
LG 360 Cam is the winner of the price/value category. At 150 dollars, you get a 360 degree camera that fits in a pocket.

Another product in this category to consider is the Dunkam 360 Camera. It is attached to a smartphone which means that the image processing takes place on the phone and only the special lens sticks out from the other end of the phone. No cables or anything, the camera is plugged directly into the port. The Dunkam is priced at 150 dollars which means they have been able to raise the price after the launch when it was 99.
Dunkam 360 camera for smartphones
Product reviews at Tom’s Guide and Digital Trends were among the sources for this article.

This is a travel writer’s most important tool on the road

2017-06-13

When any professional, for instance, a digital nomad or a remote worker, who is working while traveling, packs for the next assignment or destination, there is always the question if something could be dropped from the travel kit. The number of electronic devices seems to be gradually growing in my travel bag, at least. Which tools are the essential ones to get the job done, if the assignment is to write on the road?
digital nomad working at a terrace near fruit farms of Murcia

Here is the set of key tools for a travel writer according to my experience.

Maps.

Both digital and paper maps are crucial for planning. For navigation on the road I use offline digital maps, but I have good printed map books as a backup.

Laptop.

Most writers type their manuscripts on laptops, and so do I. Nonetheless, it is quite amazing how little laptops have developed if you compare them to tablets and smartphones that have gone so far in such a short time. Where is the touch screen in laptops? Decent battery life? Protective cases for taking them on the road?

Smartphone.

The ultimate communication tool for keeping in touch with collaborators or calling tourist information offices of the world. The camera on the phone is also a very useful and important tool for a writer.

Tablet.

I use tablet a lot for planning (maps, distances between distances, routing) and researching background information on destinations. On the road, it is the in-car navigation device instead of the dashboard GPS. Tablet is probably the first tool that many other travelers drop from their toolset, but in the future, I may even choose tablet and keyboard instead of a laptop.

prepaid SIM cards for internet access
Local prepaid SIM card.

Some travelers rely on Wi-Fi hotspots to get online, but the best way to have Internet access when you need it is to buy a local prepaid SIM card with data plan. Insert the SIM card to your smartphone, 3G/4G Wi-Fi router, tablet or laptop.

Backup disk.

The next backup disk I am going to get is a portable, wireless SSD disk. In the office, I can continue using USB hard drives that can store terabytes worth of data.

Camera.

I write and take photos for books, but even if you wouldn’t take pictures to be published in an upcoming book, camera is a vital tool for a writer. Photographs have many functions: they show how a place looks like, they help a writer to remember details of a place, and they can document objects.

I just realized that paper and pen are not included in the list of key tools. It is very rare that I use the trusted and reliable note taking technology, but occasionally I do. Pen and paper are usually somewhere near to make notes, for instance, during a phone conversation, but they are not vital tools anymore. Another thing I realized is that occasionally I need help. Hubstaff Talent is a service for finding remote talent.

mirrorless SLR digital camera with zoom lens
If I had to choose only one tool from the list above, which one would be the most important for a travel writer? Camera.

Yes, a camera. I am slightly surprised by my choice, but if I had to select only one thing I can take along for the next trip, it would be a camera. By taking a photo, I can document details of things I would have to write down. Overview photos of landscapes and city streets help me remember how a place really was. I can quickly document information boards that highlight the key points of a sight or a protected park. Video clips of local markets, main squares and pedestrian districts remind me of the buzz and feel of the place. A camera is also a handy note taking aid: I can record a video clip with a note to myself. If it is my job to take the photos for a book or an article, those images have to be taken as well.

Naturally, when the time comes to start actually writing, a camera won’t help anymore. But the photos and videos will.

The best smartphone for travel photography

2017-05-27

Smartphones, especially high-end models, come with so good cameras that even some professional photographers admit they use camera phones for photography. It is, after all, the one camera that is always with you when traveling, commuting or visiting friends. Different phone manufacturers use different camera components, and most importantly, different software algorithms that create an image from the captured bits of light. So, there are differences, but which smartphone camera is the best?
Google Pixel XL smartphone
Android Authority ran a test for high-end smartphones in order to find out the best camera. This time, they did not ask the experts, or measure the various aspects of digital images, but they asked the public. Anyone could vote for the pictures taken on each camera. The pictures can still be viewed on this web page.

The pictures of a camera that received the most votes was the winner. If professional photographers and camera experts had evaluated the sample images and chosen the best camera, the results would have been different. The public and the experts simply look for different things in images.

I remember when Sony was the number one television manufacturer in the era of CRT tubes, and everyone competed against Sony telling how natural the colors on their TV sets were. Many tests were organized where the public could choose the TV set whose colors they liked the best. Usually, the TV set with the brightest colors won. Having the brightest colors doesn’t have anything to do with image quality, but if that is what the public wants, that is what the public will get.

Anyhow, this is a refreshing way to rank cameras. High-end LG and Samsung camera phones have done well in all types of tests, and this test confirms it hasn’t been for nothing. The Apple iPhone didn’t participate in the test because it was meant for Android phones alone.

The results – the best smartphone camera is:

1. The winner was Google Pixel XL
2. Samsung Galaxy S8
3. LG G6
4. Sony Xpera Xzs
5. OnePlus 3T
6. Huawei P10

Google Pixel XL smartphone by HTC
View the test images and detailed results on the test page.

It would have been wonderful to have Nokia in this camera test as well. Recently, the company has introduced Android phones, and it had the best cameras when it was still the king of mobile phones in the 2000s.

Here is how you can turn your smartphone into a 360-degree camera

2017-01-20

Often, the best ideas are so simple that you ponder why didn’t I think of it. Dunkam 360-degree camera is exactly like that: a small, low cost product that you attach to your smartphone and start shooting 360 photos and videos.
Dunkam 360 degree camera
This is how the Dunkam 360 works:
– Download Dunkam application to your smartphone
– Plug the Dunkam camera into the USB port on your smartphone
– Open the app and take 360 photos or shoot 360 video.
– You can share your videos directly from the app to YouTube and social media.
– The app also features some special effects if you want to spice up your videos.

When you are done, unplug the Dunkam camera and continue using your smartphone as usual. The Dunkam camera is so small that it is quite easy to carry it in a pocket or purse – even just in case you would happen to need it.

The Dunkam 360 camera requires two things: you must have an Android smartphone (Apple version should be available later), and the USB port on your phone must be OTG (On-The-Go) capable. If you don’t know if the USB port can act as a host device for the camera, there is an app for that in the Play Store.

Since the image processing takes place on the smartphone – using the memory and processor of the phone – it is a good idea to clean the phone from unnecessary apps and data so that there is as much free RAM and storage space for the 360 images as possible.

The Dunkam camera is a beta product at the moment, but it can be purchased for 99 Euros/USD directly from the company that is behind it.

A tech reporter of El Pais met with the inventor of the product Julián Beltrán who demonstrated how it works. Here is a video (in Spanish) where you can see the Dunkam camera in action.
Dunkam 360 camera for smartphone

Technical specifications for Dunkam 360

– Two 8 megapixel cameras
– For smartphones with USB OTG connection
– Android only at the moment, Apple version under development.
– Resolution 1920×960
– Streaming HD 1080p
– Filters, tiny planet mode, exposure control
– Size 2.6 x 2.2 inches
– Weight 63 grams.


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Quick and easy tips for street photography

2016-11-17

After I saw a large exhibition of works of Henri Cartier-Bresson two years ago, I realized that there are so many techniques for taking photos on city streets. It looked like Cartier-Bresson had agreed with some people that they are being photographed. They should continue whatever they were doing without having to pose, the photographer may have told them. It was obvious, however, that Cartier-Bresson had taken many pictures without subjects noticing what was going on.

That’s the art of street photography – snapping frames without disturbing the flow of life and work on the streets.
tavira, portugal
Crowded places, sights, any places with lots of activity tend to be the easiest places to take authentic photos of people minding their own business. Experienced street photographers, like Eric Kim, have learned a few tricks how to take candid shots almost anywhere. He has shared 10 tips for street photographers in his blog here.

For instance, the video camera technique is something that I never thought of, but is an excellent tip. The idea is to move with the camera (for instance, rotate yourself like you were taking a 360 degree video) as many tourist camcorder shooters do. You, of course, only need to frame the true subject that you want to frame.

I have also noticed that taking photos with a smartphone is less intrusive than pointing a large lens of a SLR to a subject. When you frame someone with a smartphone, the subject tends to believe that he or she is not the centerpiece of your picture but it is something behind, above, or near him or her. It is also quicker to point and shoot with a smartphone – assuming you have the camera app already on, and you are looking at the screen like you were reading messages or looking at a map. From that position, it is very quick to raise the phone and snap a photo.

What about the situation when the photographer becomes the subject? Last year, in Lapland, I was being photographed from a distance. I noticed it because it was a noisy group of Chinese tourists, and at least one cameraman wanted to capture someone hiking. I posed, and other Chinese photographers joined the fun. As I walked closer, the photographer who started the whole thing wanted to take a selfie with me. It was an honor I couldn’t refuse.

sao bras de alportel, PortugalSao Bras de Alportel, Portugal.

The best camera apps for smartphone travel photography

2016-07-12

Many smartphone owners are happy with the camera application the phone manufacturer has installed on the device in the factory. In general, the factory-installed camera apps get the job done, but may lack an extra feature photographers maybe looking for. Fortunately, this is exactly where smartphones are strong: you can install another camera application on your phone. But which one is the best for travel photography?
samsung, smartphone, open camera app
Many camera apps are available both for Apple devices and for Android phones and tablets, but in this article we focus on Android camera applications. Joe Hindy on AndroidAuthority wrote brief reviews of popular camera apps for Android. First, let’s list the best apps, and then, we make our recommendation for the best apps.

samsung, open camera

Open Camera can show if you are holding the camera at level.


BestMe Selfie Camera
– as the name implies, the app has been designed for selfie photography
Camera FV-5
– manual control over images, including RAW format
Camera JB+
– simple photo shooting
Camera MX
– in addition to capturing photos, the app lets you edit images
Camera Zoom FX
– manual controls, RAW, 360 panorama
Candy Camera
– lots of filters
Cardboard Camera
– 360 photos for Google Cardboard
Cymera
– filters, stickers, photo editing
DSLR Camera Pro
– manual controls, histogram display, volume button as a shutter
Go Camera
– simple photo framing with filters
Google Camera
– HDR mode, slow motion video capture, wide angle mode, burst mode
Manual Camera
– strictly for taking photos exactly the way want with manual controls
Open Camera
– an open source, free, app with plenty of features
Snap Camera HDR
– plenty of features: 4K video, RAW, manual controls

You can read more about the camera apps introduced above here. What is our recommendation? Of course, it depends on what your requirements are. If you only want filters and don’t want to learn to use manual settings, download a simple app that can automatically snap decent pictures and has plenty of filters. If you know how to shoot on an SLR camera, you probably want more control over your images, and you should get an app with manual controls.

Settings in Open Camera app.

Settings in Open Camera app.


Our favourite for travel photography is Open Camera. It is a free app, and comes with features that have proven handy on the road and at home:

– an indicator that shows if the camera is at level with the horizon,
– burst mode,
– and burst interval.

Used together, the burst mode and burst interval features let you shoot timelapse picture sequences. You need a tripod or something else to hold the phone steady during the photo shoot, which can be as long as you want. For instance, we have created a timelapse from photos shot with Open Camera that has pictures taken at one minute interval for 24 hours. Open Camera won’t create the timelapse video for you, but you have to create the final timelapse on a PC.

Ebook news digest: exciting new travel cameras, mobile security, history of writing tools

2016-07-08

Ebook News Digest July 8th, 2016

freewrite typewriter, word processor, woman
This Pocketable Camera Gear Will Change the Way You Take Travel Photos (The Wall Street Journal)

Wall Street Journal’s traveling reporter tests three new small cameras that are designed to change the way you photograph. The reviewed cameras are the LG 360 CAM (a 360 degree camera that can shoot photos and video), Narrative Clip 2 (a tiny camera that can document everything you see), and Moment (a set of lenses for the iPhone).

Executive’s guide to mobile security (free ebook) (Zdnet)

Scary news of a new virus that can invade Android-powered phones and tablets is the latest proof that all Internet-connected computing devices must always be protected from malware. If your phone doesn’t work, you have lost a camera, and if your tablet doesn’t work, you have lost a valuable writing and reading platform. Zdnet wants you email address, but you get a free ebook download.

How to Write a History of Writing Software (The Atlantic)

First, a mechanical typewriter was invented to help writers write, and a century later, computers were equipped with word processing software. Science fiction writers were among the first to adopt modern technology because they realized it made them more productive. Fascinating stories on the history of writing.

Auroras Make Weird Noises, and Now We Know Why (National Geographic)

Many people who have seen a strong display of the Northern Lights claim that the lights made sounds. So far, science hasn’t been sure if that is really the case, but now a group of Finnish researchers believe they have discovered that the sounds are real and what causes them. Once you have read about the sounds, here is a guide to finding, viewing and photographing the Northern Lights.

National Geographic travel photography contest winners unveiled (BBC)

An image of a horseman in Inner Mongolia wins first place in this year’s National Geographic travel photography contest. View the amazing winning photos – our favorite: the Chinese school dormitory. More travel photography from Klaava Media here.

Low-cost 360-degree cameras are here – why do you need one?

2016-02-22

Wide-angle and macro lenses for cameras – even for smartphones and tablets – are useful in many situations when the photographer has to be close to the subject, but must get everything that matters into the frame. 360-degree cameras are a step further from that. The new generation of lenses can capture fairly high-quality images that cover everything around the lens. Now, the prices of 360-degree cameras have dropped to an affordable level. We took a look at a few low-cost models that are available today globally.

First, let’s take a look at a 360-degree camera in action. Here is a promo video by 360fly:

Who needs a 360-degree camera? Some photographers will buy a 360-degree camera just because it is a novelty, and soon forget about it. A 360-degree camera is another device that you have to carry along in addition to your smartphone camera. More likely use cases for 360-degree cameras are sports and action photography. Also, travel photography will benefit from 360-degree cameras, because travel writers/photographers often have to capture or document something in a small space, like in a room. Another common problem in travel photography is to frame a large object, like a building or statue, but it is impossible to move so far from it that it would fit into a frame.

Here are five 360-degree cameras for you to explore: 360fly, Bublcam, Giroptic 360cam, Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K, and Ricoh Theta S.
360fly, 360-degree camera
360fly
360fly wants to become the GoPro of 360-degree cameras. The black, round camera looks cool and comes with several optional accessories for mounting it on sports gear. It is waterproof and shock-resistant. Video resolution is 1504 x 1504 at 30fps. List price $399. New model, 360fly 4K is scheduled to be available in 2q2016 with a price tag of $500. The new camera can record video in 2880 x 2880 resolution.

bublcam, 360-degree camera
Bublcam
Most 360-degree cameras can capture the surroundings around the lens horizontally, but not vertically. It means that when you view the image, you can’t see what is above or below the camera. The Bublcam can capture everything, also the vertical dimension. Photos are captured in 14 megapixel resolution. In multiplex video mode, the Bublcam can record 1440p x 1440p (30 fps) or 1920p x 1920p (15 fps). In equirectangular mode, the camera can capture 1984p x 992p (30 fps) or 2688p x 1344p (15 fps). Price $799.
View images captured by Bublcam users at the Bubl Cloud site.
giroptic 360cam, 360-degree camera
Giroptic 360cam
The Giroptic 360cam is waterproof down to 10 meters for up to 30 minutes. Giroptic has a unique solution for battery: the standard base packs a removable rechargeable battery. The company was financed at Kickstarter, and had a long delay in getting the product out, but it is now available. Price $499.
kodak pixpro sp360 4k, 360 degree camera
Kodak Pixpro SP360 4K
Kodak has positioned the Pixpro SP360 4K as an action camera, and has made available a range of accessories required for mounting the camera on different types of equipment. The camera can capture 2880 x 2880-pixel-resolution video or widescreen video at 4K UHD (3 840 x 2160 pixels). Prices start from $449.
ricoh theta s, 360 degrees camera
Ricoh Theta S
The camera comes with two 12-megapixel lenses. The images captured via the lenses are merged into one 5,376×2,688-pixel-resolution photo that shows 360 degrees of the surroundings. The Rich Theta S can record spherical video in full HD (1080p) at 30 frames per second. Competitively priced at $350, the product is available globally.

Ricoh’s concept video:

Manage your action camera photo and video shots remotely from the Apple Watch

2015-12-19

GoPro action cameras are popular among adventure travelers, explorers and adrenaline junkies. GoPro is also the default add-on camera for many drone models that don’t come with a camera of their own. Controlling the camera can sometimes be difficult if it is attached, for instance, to a helmet and hands are not free to hold a smartphone that is connected to the camera. To solve this problem, GoPro has developed an app for the Apple Watch.
gopro camera app on apple watch
Once you have downloaded the GoPro application to the Apple Watch, you can see what the camera sees on the smartwatch display. You can tap the watch screen to take a photo or start video recording.

The configuration is not as straightforward as using the watch as a remote camera controller. The setup requires an iPhone where the GoPro app is connected to the GoPro camera via Wi-Fi. Once that connection is working, you connect the Apple Watch to the iPhone and gain control over the camera from the smartwatch.

Digital Trends tried it out and created a video that shows the Apple Watch GoPro camera in action.

Close-up photography on smartphone is fun and easy with an affordable clip-on macro lens

2015-12-13

The image quality on smartphone cameras has developed so high that even professional photographers take pictures with their smartphones, because it is always at hand. Obvious limitations in camera phone photography – lack of manual controls and a fixed lens – simply have to be overcome through creativity. There are, however, some useful accessories that can help anyone take new kind of images on a smartphone, such as clip-on lenses.
clip-on macro lens on LG smartphone
We accidentally discovered a macro lens kit for camera phones at an electronics store. The price was low enough (10 euros) to justify trying it out even if it proved to be a useless piece of plastics. After testing the two lenses included in the kit, our conclusion is that the low-cost clip-on lenses are useful and definitely good value for the money. Image quality suffers a little, but the fun factor is so high that it justifies the slight loss in quality.
macro lens kit with fisheye lens
The lens kit we happened to find includes a macro lens and a fisheye lens. Protective caps for both lenses, a tiny pouch, and the clip comprise the kit.

No instructions whatsoever on how the kit was designed to be used were included in the package. It took awhile to figure out how the lenses were attached to the clip. The macro lens is directly screwed on to the clip. The fish eye lens is attached to a collar, and the collar is screwed on to the clip.

Once the clip-on lens has been placed on top of the camera phone lens, snapping close-up pictures can begin. The clip-on lens must be carefully positioned at the center of the phone lens. The macro lens fits on any camera phone or tablet. The only problem can be if the phone or tablet lens is so close to the edge that the clip may not stay put. On the Apple iPad, the camera lens is at the edge, but the clip-on lens manages to hold its grip.
Appke iPad, macro lens attached
It is as simple as that. A whole new world opens up to a smartphone photographer who can now get really close to subjects. The macro lens in our kit is handy for photographing many types of subjects. The fisheye lens is a fun way to shoot video and take photos of pets and, of course, selfies.

Pets tend to be difficult to photograph: they move when they should be still and they come too close to the camera. The fisheye lens solves the problem of close-up photos for pets and for selfies.

The image quality slightly degrades when an additional lens is added on top of the existing camera phone lens. The image sensor also needs more light: some images taken on a clip-on lens are not as bright as without it. Blurriness around the edges can be quite strong, but since the whole idea of macro photography is to get close to specific subject, it doesn’t matter that much.

All and all, we are happy on our small investment in the macro lens kit. The only thing we worry is how to carry the lenses with us without losing them.

Here are a few side-by-side comparison pictures. The image on the left was taken with the macro or fisheye lens, and the image on the right without additional lens. Photos were taken so that the camera phone was on the same position for both shots.

snow on table, fisheye lens comparison

Fish eye lens on the left.


old trains, macro lens comparison

Macro lens picture on the left.


stonewall, smartphone lens comparison

A camera that can film your movement on a surf board, horseback or ski slope like a cameraman

2015-12-01

Travelers, selfie-photographers and hobbyist photographers have situations when they would like to be in the frame themselves, but there is no one around who could take the photo. Of course, camera’s self timer can be activated, but how about video recording? If the person who is being filmed moves around, and the camera should follow him or her? Soloshot has designed a new generation camera that can automatically follow the object that is being filmed.

soloshot tag

Soloshot Tag


The Soloshot 3 is a stationary camera attached to a tripod, but the camera lens can follow every move the designated person makes. The person being filmed carries a tag that identifies the target for the camera. The distance between the camera and person can be up to 600 meters / 2000 feet. Constant line of sight is not required, because the tag and the camera communicate via radio waves. The camera can film for three hours.
soloshot 3 base unit

Soloshot3 base unit


The Soloshot 3 camera system consists of three pieces of hardware:
1. Tag. It is a Zippo-lighter size electronic device that a person (or pet, or any moving thing) clips on her or his clothes. The tag transmits a radio signal that the camera follows.
2. Base. This is the intelligent unit that makes the Soloshot unique. The base is attached on a tripod, and a camera is attached to the base. The base follows the tag it has been told to follow.
3. Camera. The camera is attached to the base unit.


Soloshot 3 camera

Soloshot 3 camera


In addition to the hardware, the Soloshot includes a number of applications.
– Live streaming app can transmit live video from a Soloshot camera to the internet.
– Edit application for desktop and mobile devices is for video editing. The app has features that can identify highlights from long recorded sequences, making video editing a bit easier.
– Multimode control lets you monitor and manage multiple tags and base units in one app.

Demos of time lapse videos captured in Soloshot:

The night sky scenes on the demo video indicate that the camera should be able to film Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) as well. If it works, a time lapse of the Northern Lights can be a spectacular sight.

The Soloshot 3 is scheduled to become available in 2Q/2016. The product can be ordered from the manufacturer. The price depends on the ordering date: early orders start from $419.

The best smartphones for serious photography according to lab tests

2015-10-15

Every smartphone manufacturer believes the camera on the company’s high-end product is the best in the market. Image quality is, however, very difficult to prove. Countless camera tests among the top smartphone brands have been published, but because people tend to favor different attributes in images, tests conducted by asking viewers’ opinions don’t produce an unambiguous winner. When image quality is technically measured in a lab, we get some interesting results.

sony xperia z5 camera

Sony Xperia Z5

At the moment (in the second half of 2015) the best smartphone for photography is the Sony Xperia Z5. The Samsung S6 Edge is the second best and the Google Nexus 6P the third. The tests have been conducted by DXO in a laboratory using measuring instruments.

Here is the top 20 list for the best smartphone cameras:
1. Sony Xperia Z5
2. Samsung S6 Edge
3. Google Nexus 6P
4. LG G4
5. Samsung Note 4
6. Moto X Style
7. Sony Xperia Z3+
8. Apple iPhone 6Plus
9. Apple iPhone 6
10. Apple iPhone 6s

samsung s6 edge camera

Samsung S6 Edge


11. Samsung S5
12. Sony Xperia Z3
13. Sony Xperia Z2
14. Google Nexus 6
15. Nokia 808 Pureview
16. Sony Xperia Z1
17. Apple iPhone 5S
18. Samsung S4
19. Lumia 1020
20. Nokia Lumia 925

Sony and Samsung have a large selection of smartphones, and these two brands performed well in the tests. Sony acquired Konica Minolta camera business in 2006, so it is not a surprise that its camera know-how shows in smartphones as well. Apple and Nokia have performed well in camera tests where human eye has determined the result, but DXO test system gives different results.

google nexus 6p camera

Google Nexus 6P by Huawei


Years ago, when tv monitors still were CRT tubes, a tv manufacturer advertised that it has the most natural colors. Lab tests showed that it was not the case, but it didn’t matter: people bought the product anyhow. The tv monitors were adjusted to please the human eye. Who knows if Apple and Nokia have adjusted their imaging algorithms to please the human eye?

In a digital camera, multiple components, like the lens, image sensor (that captures the light), software algorithm (that transforms the light into image data), stabilization mechanism and speed of hardware affect the image quality. The company behind the lab tests, DXO, has developed a system known as DxoMark for testing and ranking camera test results. DxOMark measures camera sensors for:
– ISO sensitivity (speed)
– Noise (standard deviation, signal-to-noise ratio, dynamic range, and tonal range)
– Color sensitivity
DxOMark measures lenses (mounted on cameras) for:
– Resolution, derived from the MTF (Modulation Transfer Function) measurement
– Distortion
– Vignetting
– Light transmission (T-stop)
– Chromatic aberrations

A video from DXO lab shows how a smartphone test is carried out: