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Sony Ericsson C905 - sample shots and lowdown on camera
Sony Ericsson once had intentions to equip the C905 with one of the best CMOS chips out there, but eventually ditched this idea, since the tally turned out to be way too hefty. That's how come the Sony Ericsson C905 will hit the market with Sony's very own Exmor camera module onboard, although it won't be the first handset to feature this chipset - in fact it debuted in some offerings aimed at the Japanese market some time ago; and while sporting a less impressive megapixel count, some of these handsets boasted glass lenses and optical zoom instead.
If we are to compare it with already existing cameras offered by other manufacturers, the Exmor module doesn't give the C905 any substantial edge over its competition, furthermore, the much-touted noise reduction algorithm doesn't seem to do a decent job, since you will see the same amount of noise on images as before. All in all, when it comes to mobile devices, the Exmor technology, originally designed for reflex cameras with large CMOS matrices doesn't look like a particularly good solution - to make things work there, they will need something new, more tailored to the specifics of mobile phones. As far as the Exmor's competition goes, both OmniVision's (which are about to start shipping and will trump Sony's offerings on many fronts) and Samsung's matrices seem more fetching. The main reason why they decided to run with Sony's camera module developed in-house is actually twofold - there are some political and pricing-related issues behind this decision. Basically, Sony Ericsson won't be able to churn out lots of C905 units and other phones employing the same matrix, since essentially it's not a mainstream phone - unlike the Sony Ericsson K750/K800, the new C905 won't have tremendous sales, which has already been proven by the K850i's unsatisfying performance on the market (mainly because it was late to the market, but there are other reasons too, we'll get to them later). On the other hand, Sony is after smaller production costs for its chipset - other players on the market don't quite queue up to buy it, for it has better alternatives out there. But let's stop right here, since this is not quite what this article is all about, and get straight to the most interesting part - image samples.
So, as you probably know, first images snapped with the C905 already leaked out to the Web - some samples are currently available at Mobil.cz. But apart from Mobile-Review.com no other resource has played around with the final version of C905's hardware and, more importantly, software (basically, the C905 is worth looking at only with firmware version R1AA083 and above). They'll update its software a couple of times before December; the fact is, even today's firmware version has got a lot of glitches (for example, the Smart Contrast mode doesn't work properly).
In light of this fact, this write-up will feature only a handful of images taken with the C905 and some of our quick thoughts on its camera's overall performance - for the first time you'll get to see a real lowdown on the phone's camera running the latest driver available (version 1.4).
When shooting in environments where there is plenty of light, the C905 seems to be an okay performer that outputs reasonably decent images that are comparable with those taken with the Sony Ericsson K850i, bar the image resolution.
However, the C905's camera starts letting a lot of noise into your images when it comes to shooting in low light or when having two differently lit zones in one shot. For instance, the shrub on the picture above seems blurry largely due to the phone's matrix and hardware hiccups. All in all, the percentage of adequate shots the C905 snaps in the Auto mode hasn't increased - much like its predecessors, only half of all images taken in this mode are passable.
In view of the C905's noisy matrix, the macro mode won't work well when shooting indoors either - without flash you'll keep getting blurry snaps, and turning flash on will make the camera smear up some details. But the truth is, it's a generic problem of most today's cameraphones (although Samsung i8510's macro mode is still better). The Sony Ericsson C905's digital zoom is no bells and whistles - check out the images below to see how it works.
In low light the C905's xenon flash will allow you to take pretty sharp pictures of individual objects, but don't expect it to make for decent scenery shots.
While indoors, the flash may not always be the best way to go, but in all honesty, no other contemporary imaging-savvy handset armed with a xenon flash is better in this sense these days.
The C905 camera's spec sheet is as follows:
In my opinion, the images above require no further explanation. Let's face it, the C905 is no revolution, it simply delivers exactly what you'd expect from a Sony Ericsson branded handset. Basically, comparing a bunch of images snapped with the Samsung G810 and INNOV8, you'll certainly appreciate the i8510i's enhanced sharpness and color reproduction. On the other hand, running a similar comparison between the K850i and C905 won't give you the same impression. Sony Ericsson preferred to spend their money not on the handset's hardware (sensor), but its camera-related extras, such the feature that allows the camera to start shooting whenever it detects movement in the area covered in the viewfinder. All other so-called modes are, in effect, simple filters applied to images that don't make much difference in terms of quality; however they do render photos more eye-candy (at the expense of small details). But again, it's nothing groundbreaking - Motorola offers similar functionality with its Kodak Perfect Touch (learn more about it in our MOTOZINE ZN5 review), while the current generation of Sony Ericsson's phones employs Photo Fix for these purposes. While average consumers might find these filters a neat addition to the camera's functionality, they can do nothing to improve the camera's image quality.
On balance, the C905 is a mixed bag - while it's a flagship model they will be rushing to launch, Sony Ericsson also realizes that in terms of technical specs it's behind the competition and in essence all it can bring to the table is increased image resolution. Some people will be content with this feat alone, but many actually do care about picture quality no mater how much it'll set them back (that's the moment when Samsung's and Nokia's offerings step in). As far as the mass-market goes, Sony Ericsson's offerings can't stand comparison with Nokia-branded phones, and given their heftier price tags, may will prefer 5 Mpix solutions instead, since they can output pretty much the same image quality on TV screens and when printed out.
The megapixel race is all but over now - as many of you have already witnessed, the gap between 5 Mpix and 8 Mpix matrices doesn't live up to consumers' expectations. Significant improvements in image quality will come along in 10 Mpix cameras with decent lenses; on the other hand, some of today's solutions, such as the Samsung INNOV8 already offer some of that higher-grade experience. With that said, do Sony Ericsson really have a trump up their sleeve? In fact, they do, but they are going to release it late in the summer of 2009 - the new phone will boast a thorough revamp of hardware and lenses, next generation of Sony's Exmor matrix with a bigger diagonal, and a heftier price tag (around 700-800 Euro at start).
The fact that the C905 is in between these two milestones (5 Mpix and 10 Mpix matrices respectively) will have nothing to do with its mediocre sales. One of the real reasons is that by the end of this year Nokia will put up around six S60-powered imaging-centric phones with comparable image quality and lighter price tags on offer, which will automatically catapult them in the lead, while Sony Ericsson will have to make do with their tiny portfolio. Subpar video recording quality, which has always been a chink in Sony Ericsson's armor, can also put many off. Plus, those who are in the market for top-notch image quality will have a better option in the form of Samsung's INNOV8, and its price won't matter much in that case. So, basically, Sony Ericsson won't have enough wiggle room with their latest and greatest C905. Another noteworthy fact about this phone is that while it is still unavailable in Sony Ericsson's price list, many retailers already had a chance to play around with it and didn't come out enthusiastic about it. That's why it's safe to say that the C905 will follow in the footsteps of the K850i.
P.S. We'll throw in several extra images later, but that'll be about it - we see no point in composing a full review at the moment. Basically, in its present condition all the C905 can offer are bare images and no extra features whatsoever. But even based on these photos it's easy to see that it's nothing out of this world. Probably a thorough review will be available within several months or whenever Sony Ericsson will deem the C905 ready for release.
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Published 08 August 2008
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