3. White Balance, Exposure and Preset Scene Modes

If you prefer taking pics outside in the glorious sunshine (i.e. not in Britain!), you’ll need a camera phone that lets you tweak white balance or exposure settings. Over-exposed shots will tend to look completely washed out, with a blue sky looking almost white. Being able to control white balance will reduce the effect.
best camera phone - camera settings

It can be tricky to get good quality results, though, so having a good range of presets will do as an alternative. Look for as many different presets as possible. At the very least, your camera phone should include the following:

  • Cloudy
  • Sunny
  • Incandescent – use indoors with tungsten filament bulbs
  • Fluorescent – use indoors when fluorescent lighting is being used

Top-end camera phones, such as the Sony Ericsson Satio, also include modes such as portrait, landscape, sport, and even beach and snow! The more presets there are, the easier it will be to capture good quality pics.

4. Image stabilization

As with auto-focus, image stabilization is essential if want photos that aren’t blurred. Camera phones are notorious for producing poor results because they’re placed on a tripod and the camera taker (i.e. you) is rarely sober when taking the pic!! The result is a shaky hand taking blurry pics.

Image stabilization can’t prevent blurred pics completely, but it can do a great job of reducing the blur. If you want good quality pics, make sure some from of image stabilization is listed in the specs.

See top-rated camera phones with image stabilization.

5. Mobile Phone Features to support your photography

best camera phone with flickr, youtube and social network apps

A camera phone is not just a camera – it’s also a phone (no, really!), which means you cna upload your pics to loads of different picture sharing sites, as well as to social network sites such as Facebook.

For this to be practical, though, your camera phone needs three key features:

  1. Fast Internet connection – At least Wi-Fi and 3G, but with cameras that are 8 megapixels+ you need HSDPA as well. This gives you much faster data transfer speeds, which is what you need when you increase the megapixels, as the resultant pictures take up a lot of space.
  2. Built-in support for image sharing Web sites – at the least, your phone will need built-in apps for Flickr, YouTube, and Facebook. The easier it is for you to upload your pics, the more you’ll use these services.
  3. An easy to use user-interface – if the phone is difficult to to use, you won’t bother uploading your pics.

You might also want automatic geo-tagging, which stamps the location of the shot as well as the time and date that it was taken, but this is essenital if it’s a feature you particularly need.

Other mobile phone features, such as picture editing, tend to be gimmicky at best – there’s only so much editing you can do on a 3″ screen! – so don’t worry about these. Equally, camera-specific extras such as red-eye reduction and smile detection are a nice bonus to have, but they’re not essential. Many online photo editors, such as Picnic, will let you remove red eye easily after you’ve taken the shot.

See top-rated camera phones with great Web site and social network features.

6. Megapixels

best camera phone with 12 megapixels

I’ve deliberately left megapixels till last, as people obsess about them too much. A good quality 3 megapixel camera with the essentials listed above will take much better pics than a poor quality 8 megapixeller.

That said, as a baseline, you should look for 5 megapixels as a minimum if it’s good quality pics you’re looking for. Any smaller than this, and your pcitures simply won’t be able to capture enough detail. They’ll be ok, but not exactly great. And remember, if you’ve found a 5 megapixel camera phone, but it doesn’t have the other 5 features above, simply avoid it!

Going up the scale, 8 megapixels has become more common, and you can even get 12 megapixel camera phones. Whether you need 12 megapixels, though, depends on what you want to do with your camera phone. If you’re looking for perfect pics, you’d be better off with a digital camera. However, the newer 12 megapixel camera phones are at least as good as low-end camera phones from a few years ago, so if that’s the level of quality you’re after, then the 12 megapixellers will do you nicely.

Summary – The minimum set of features you need for a great camera phone

The following list summarizes the minimum set of features you should look for in order to get a great quality camera phone:

  • 8 megapixels (5 at a pinch)
  • auto-focus
  • image stabilization
  • a nice range of preset scene modes (and the more manual control you have over exposure and white balance settings, the better)
  • xenon or dual LED flash
  • good quality optics
  • fast Internet connection
  • easy to use interface

Now you know what to look for, have a look at great mobile phone deals on offer at mobiles.co.uk.