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Camera or cameraphone?

My brother and his wife own a nice digital camera, but you'd never know that from his Facebook photos. Since he picked up a Motorola Droid smartphone, just about every picture he's uploaded has been taken with that device -- even though his older Canon could easily shut it down in terms of picture quality.

Seeing that shift happen led to today's column, in which I try out two high-end digital cameras -- Panasonic's DMC-ZS7 and Samsung's HZ35W -- to see which of their features make the stronger case for carrying around a camera in addition to a cameraphone. (I had hoped to test a third, Sony's DSC-HX5V, but the company's PR department didn't provide a loaner unit in time for my review.)

I know how I feel: I enjoy photography too much to give up tools like a zoom lens, image stabilization or manual control of aperture and shutter speed. (That's one reason why I took the photo that ran with the column.)

But what about you? On what device -- camera or phone -- do you take most of your pictures? If you alternate between both, what makes an occasion or a location special enough to warrant bringing your camera? How often do you wish you'd taken it? And if you've switched to using your phone alone, what was the tipping point? Tell me what you think.

(After the jump: Three photos showing how the Samsung and the Panasonic compare to each other and my own, considerably older camera.)


For your amusement, here are three photos taken from about the same spot in Nationals Park. I shot the first with my own camera, a roughly three-year-old, 7.1-megapixel model with a 4x zoom lens. The second came from the Panasonic model I reviewed, and the third came from the Samsung.




By Rob Pegoraro  |  May 14, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Pictures  
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I'm something of a Luddite when it comes to cell phones. I use mine for phone calls, and occasional texting. It doesn't have a camera or any smart features.

Posted by: Ghak | May 14, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

I take quick shots with phone, but that's where the photos stay. 95% of my photos are taken with a Canon A570, and the resolution is great. Whenever people want copies of photos, FB/phone size is inferior in terms of resolution. At Christmastime our extended family always puts together a photo calendar for our parents, and my siblings send me photos from phone or FB that do not work for a nice 8 x 10 photo. Some siblings had a hard time finding ANY photos saved at a higher resolution. I think the photos worth saving for the future are those taken with digital camera. Save the good ones!

Posted by: rjrjj | May 14, 2010 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Cameras in phones are ideal for tasks like "Is this the plumbing part we need at the hardware store?" or "What do you think of this couch for the living room?" As a rule, the lens and automatic exposure quality of camera phones does not adequately support their 5-8MP resolution. My fairly ancient 2MP P&S takes much better images than my sister-in-law's 5MP phone camera.

For "serious" photography, even the high-end point-and-shoots like the Canon A570 (I own an A650), with their shutter lag and without RAW format or high burst speeds, can't hold a Canon to even a good moderately-priced DSLR, many of which can now also shoot HD video.

I notice that most manufacturers (Canon is a good example) are dumbing down their P&S lines. If my A650 broke, I would have to spring several more bucks for a G-series, which isn't powered by get-em-anywhere AA batteries like my Pentax DSLR is.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | May 14, 2010 9:16 PM | Report abuse

80% of my pictures are taken with my HTC Eris, but that is because I post a lot to Craigslist and eBay or, as noted above, take pictures of parts before heading to Home Depot or Lowe's. However, my 'go to' camera on vacation or my daughter's recent college graduation is a Kodak Z950 P&S which is the right size and has enough features and flexibility (e.g,. multiple manual modes, preset scenes and full auto) to suit me just fine. I was a big film guy 15 years ago and had multiple Nikon bodies and a variety of lenses, flashes, etc., but who really wants to schlep that around, especially when air travel is tough enough. I take scuba trips at least twice a year which is even more reason to have a compact, dependable camera that shoots well just about anywhere.

Posted by: Ebola_22039 | May 15, 2010 12:09 AM | Report abuse

Your best camera is the one you have. I'd love to have my Nikon with me any time I wanted to take a picture. I'd also love to have my MacBook with me whenever I wanted to email someone. I don't, and my phone and iPod become the instruments of choice.

Before we went the DSLR route, we only had a digital point & shoot. Strangely, I believe if you added up all the 15 second, soundless videos we took with that, it'd be more than we took with our DVcorder during the same stretch.

Form over function, sometimes.

Posted by: WorstSeat | May 15, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

On those three photos, they all look good to me.

I use both my iPhone 3G's 2 megapixel and a several-year old Pentax Optio 7.1 megapixel point-and-shoot. The iPhone, of course, is always there. Sometimes for special occasions I will take the Pentax for the better-quality photos. (But I find the iPhone quite good.)

The Pentax also has a flash. Also, not being a very good photographer, I will often take lots of photos with 7.1 megapixel resolution and then crop to what I want at lower resolution to make up for my lack of composition skills. The resolution is still high-enough after cropping to display on the web or to print out a snapshot.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | May 15, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

WorsSeat summed it up perfectly above: "Your best camera is the one you have."

I just got back from a quick trip where I had my 3mp iPhone 3GS and a 10mp Sony. The pictures from the iPhone were decent for/of most things except the complex and detailed scenery found at a large waterfall. Whereas the Sony was more obtrusive and one destination told me no pics after I pulled it out. If my iPhone still had a charge at that point, I bet no one would have noticed or cared.

Posted by: davezatz | May 16, 2010 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes a tack hammer and sometimes a sledge hammer. I am amazed at the quality under ideal situations that I get from a BlackBerry 9700, but my big DSLRs still get lots of use, and a little P&S rides in my briefcase every day. Like the Minox of old, sometimes the BlackBerry is non-threatening to wary subjects and is the only possible camera.

Posted by: ChristopherTabby | May 18, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

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