On Dec. 9, 2004, I drove to Beverly Hills to pick up my first camera phone, a Nokia 7610 with a 1 megapixel camera. I was ecstatic.
In 2003, I first heard of mobile phone / camera phone photography and mobile blogging from Adam Greenfield & Mie Kennedy's blogs, as well as Joi Ito mentioning it at SXSW. I really really really wanted to start taking photos with my phone and upload the photos directly from my phone to the internet.
The last 2,045 days of mobile phone photography have been wonderful. I don't use the word wonderful lightly here. By wonderful, I mean a whole new world of wonder. A world of exploration, of pushing the boundaries of and of purposefully constricting the boundaries of photography.
In 2003-2004, most of my photographer friends were moving from their film SLRs to DSLRs and thought I was crazy for showing up at concerts and shows with a crazy little camera phone rather than my Nikon or my Sony Mavica digital camera. But as they watched me upload the photos directly from the phone to Flickr or Barflies.net or to this blog while I was still at the show, then their sense of wonder was activated.
In the nearly six years of taking photos and mobile blogging with a Nokia camera phone much has changed. In 2004, my Nokia 7610 was only 1 megapixel, but it was connected to the internet. I had a browser, email, and most importantly, I had Lifeblog - all the better to mobile blog with.
Today, I have a Nokia N86 8 megapixel camera phone which takes fantastic photos. It has a browser, email, GPS, and many more features, but unfortunately no Lifeblog so mobile blogging is more than a wee bit more difficult than it was 2004-2008. But I love the photos that the N86 takes, so I won't complain about the lack of direct phone to blog with no stops at 3rd party server mobile apps.
Having a camera on my phone in my hand, in my pocket, or in my purse has opened up many creative doors and worlds in my life the last 6 years - I wrote my masters degree thesis on how creative people use their mobile phones, I did a whole mobile geo-photo master's project by photo & video'ing while traveling around Ireland with a Nokia N80 and my brother's Garmin GPS (sorry, no GPS in phones in 2006). I have gotten to travel to India, Austria, Helsinki, and San Francisco as well as many other places in the name of mobile phone photography.
Lately, as I think about the upcoming Nokia N8, a 12 megapixel, HD video monster of a camera phone, I have been reflecting about how the camera phone has arrived. With the Nokia 5, 8 & 12 megapixel camera phones, the Samsungs & Sonys, and the just released iPhone 4, camera phones are now good enough that one does not need to carry a separate point & shoot and in many cases they can be better in crowds or public places than a bulky DSLR. And the camera phone in hand is always better than the DSLR that you left locked up at home or in the car.
The last few months, part of me has wondered if it is time to creatively move on, to purchase a high end Nikon DSLR, like the D700, with a few prime lenses or start exploring medium & large format film photography with a used Mamiya or pick up a rangefinder camera and explore that world.
As I researched other photography avenues, I kept asking myself if it is time to say goodbye to the now past frontiers of the camera phone photography world and move on? Is it time to say goodbye to the frustrations of sub-standard mobile blogging software and the further frustrations of trying to convince various industry folks that good software matters? Is it time to move away entirely and take back up with my paint brush, of which no software is necessary?
Then I met a Nokia N8 in the wild. What a beauty. I can't say more due to an NDA and complete respect for the owner of said device... but... Oh my, what a camera. Color, clarity, oh my.
Rather than get sappy at this point or descend into a drooling heap of gadget lust, I will refer y'all to the man behind the N8's camera, the man with 215 more days in camera phone world than I and more days in the Nikon world - Mr. Damian Dinning - who has penned a very thoughtful and thorough series of articles on camera phones, photography and the upcoming Nokia N8 for the Nokia Conversations blog:
Nokia N8 Camera - 2,260 days in the making Part 1/2
Nokia N8 Camera - 2,260 days in the making Part 2/2
Nokia N8 photography - all the FAQs
And yes, come release date in a couple of months, I will be purchasing a Nokia N8 and then tracking down a QT developer to help me flesh out the code of my mobile app idea. Here's to 2,045 more days of camera phone photography. ;o)
Follow up Post: Camera Phone Photography: Celebrating Constraints