Picture Quality

A few years back, a friend of mine quipped that playing music on his computer was in essence turning an expensive computer into a lousy stereo. Well, times have certainly changed, and you can now play music with perfectly fine audio quality using your computer (or your iPod). But the camera in your Centrino laptop is likely to still be stuck in the place the sound card used to beit's probably a low quality digital camera, comparable to the one in your cell phone. No doubt, in time, this will change for the better. I fully expect, in the next few years, to see digital cameras bundled in mobile computers that are every bit as good as standalone cameras (although this will take some form factor engineering).

Digital Cameras in Mobile Computers and Cell Phones

As a matter of fact, the digital camera in your computer is likely to be quite similar to the one in your cell phone (and some other digital devices). In fact, it probably uses the same camera on a chip, which is likely made by a company called OmniVision Technologies (although there are many other manufacturers of cameras on a chip intended for cell phones and digital devices, ranging from tiny startups to giants such as Sony).

OmniVision is the world's leading supplier of single-chip camera solutions, which are baked into devices including mobile computers, cell phones, cars, toys, bar code readers, medical appliances, and more.

You can learn more about the OmniVision camera on a chip at http://www.ovt.com.

For right now, good enough will have to do, and it's fine for many uses. The typical digital camera built in to a mobile computer produces images with a maximum size of 640x480 pixels for a total final image size of about 300,000 pixels (or .3 megapixels). Obviously, this compares unfavorably with the current crop of consumer digital cameras, which routinely produce images from 2,000,000 to 4,000,000 pixels (2 to 4 megapixels) in size.

One of the key issues in taking pictures is being thereand having the camerato take the picture in the first place. Obviously, a 640x480 pixel camera built in to a cell phone or mobile computer is no substitute for a higher quality dedicated digital camera. However, the whole point of having a camera built in to a mobile computer is that you might not have a separate camera availableand don't need to lug around two devices to take the occasional, perfectly adequate picture.

For example, suppose that you are sitting in your local coffee shop surfing the Internet with your cool, little Centrino laptop when two attractive members of the opposite sex come up to admire your hot mobile machine. This actually happened to me recently. If you have a camera built in to your Centrino laptop, you can offer to take their picture. It probably wouldn't have the same impact if the camera weren't built in to the computer.

A little more seriously, think of all the times you have your mobile computer with you, but not a camera, and have seen something that you'd like to photograph as a visual record and reminder.

What Can You Do to Improve Those Images?

What can you do to tweak those images taken using the camera built in to a cell phone or mobile computer?

Actually, quite a lot! First, you should pay attention to the lighting conditions when you take the picture. Photos taken with these cameras work best when there is some contrast in light levels and colors, but not too much. They do not work well in low light conditions.

They are digital cameras; you are not wasting film when you take multiple pictures. Check to see how your photograph came out, and if it doesn't look good, see what you can do to fix the problem on the spot.

You can correct problems in your digital photos such as "red eye" by using photo retouching software such as Photoshop Elements, which has an easy-to-use tool for just this purpose. (The comparable mechanism in Photoshop CS is a preset for removing red eye, which is part of the Color Replacement Tool.)

Generally, the appearance of low resolution digital photos can easily be improved in photo manipulation programs as Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements) by making the image smaller and increasing sharpness and brightness.

Anywhere Computing with Laptops. Making Mobile Easier
Anywhere Computing with Laptops. Making Mobile Easier
ISBN: 789733277
Year: 2004
Pages: 204

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