For the past few weeks I've been testing the photo quality of the almost-available BlackBerry 8300 "Curve" with its two megapixel camera, courtesy of Research in Motion (RIM).
For the first couple of weeks or so I was using beta software, but commercial hardware. I posted photos with this beta code on a BlackBerry 8300 moblog (see below).
As I previously wrote, I was disappointed with the quality of the photos. I thought the colors sometimes were dull and, in bright sunlight, often overexposed.
Just a few days ago I downloaded the commercially-ready "gold" code for the 8300. I was told that the photo quality should be better.
Comparing photos using PhotoShow
Well, for the past few days I have wandered around the Washington, D.C. area and the Chevy Chase/Bethesda, Md. suburbs taking lots of photos. During the past couple of days I've carried the 8300 as well as the BlackBerry 8100 "Pearl" with its 1.3 megapixel camera that I've had for many months (again, courtesy of RIM).
I took more the
30 35 photos each with the 8300 and the 8100, just seconds apart. I have posted those 60 70-plus photos in a "musical" slide show on Simple Star's PhotoShow Web site, a very nice way to quickly develop slide shows, as well as embedding it here, obviously.
(The music should be off by default, but it can be turned on. Also, if you've got a broadband connection you might want to click the "View full size" link and, when the page opens, click "View Large" to see, duh, larger images. I don't think the image quality suffers when viewed in the largest size.)
** Note: When I posted this very early Monday morning, the photo captions displayed just fine in Firefox and Internet Explorer. However, I now see that the captions aren't displaying in Firefox! I don't know why, but I have sent a customer support request to Simple Star/PhotoShow. Customer support doesn't start until 9:00 a.m. PDT -- wake up! In the meantime, I have two suggestions: Open this weblog or the PhotoShow link in IE (yeah, I, too, almost never use IE) or just remember that the first photo is from the Curve 8300 followed by the same photo taken with the Pearl 8100, followed by another photo from the Curve, etc. Sorry for the inconvenience; it was working fine when I posted it.
Never mind. It's working fine now. I can see the captions.
Thank you Robert Scoble of Podtech for recording interviews here and here (see left) with Simple Star that sparked me to look at the site. I watched the interviews late this evening at exactly the time I was wondering how I could easily post comparisons of those dozens of photos from the two BlackBerrys without lots of work.
PhotoShow didn't eliminate all the work, but it sure made it easy to create a way for all of you to see in succession first the 8300 photo and then the same one taken with the 8100. I wish PhotoShow had a bit more flexibility, such as allowing me to specify slide transitions rather than accepting the standard template that uses a multitude (too many!) of transitions within the show. I'd much prefer to use only one or two transition formats.
But overall, PhotoShow is very nicely done and I intend to spend more time playing around with it. And, it even has a fair number of classical music selections to accompany slide shows; thanks Simple Star for offering more than the typical current musical slop.
Pearl vs. Curve: Verdict
So how do the two stack up?
I've always thought the Pearl's camera produced better than average 1.3 megapixel camera phone photos -- certainly at the time it debuted last fall. So I hoped the Curve's somewhat higher resolution would produce even better images.
With the Curve's "gold" code, the images do indeed appear better....sometimes. The colors seem a bit more vibrant than the Pearl's and they aren't as completely washed out in bright sunlight as with the beta imaging code.
To stay with the "gold" image, the Curve's colors are warmer than the Pearl's. Pearl images are soften less vibrant and have somewhat of a blue tinge.
However, there's sometimes too much Curve gold! As with the beta code -- in sunlight images sometimes are much too yellow and the detail is "yellowed out." The Pearl's images are never (that I've found, at least) overexposed like the Curve's and, as a result, sometimes produce more realistic color.
Too much like popcorn butter!
Look at this example taken with the Curve with its gold code:
"Gold" is right!
Now look at the photo taken a few seconds later with the Pearl:
Yep, there's a big difference. The Pearl's image is much better exposed, although the Curve's colors are more vibrant. (And I think I'm not even using the most current Pearl operating system, although I don't know if the current OS offer better image quality.)
Fair is fair
But except for bright sunlight, the Curve's photos typically are better than the Pearl's. Look at this photo, that I shot in downtown Washington, D.C. when I was using the Curve with its beta code.
The SunTrust bank building in the background might be a bit too yellow, but the building really is bright yellow!
Look at this photo taken with the Curve, using gold code, of a small creek underneath a major street in Chevy Chase, Md.
Now look at the same scene taken with a Pearl.
The Curve's colors are obviously warmer and the green leaves are more vibrant. I prefer the Curve photo. However, the yellow color on the Curve's image probably should be toned down slightly.
Establishing a happy medium
I'd like to see a happy medium between the Pearl and the Curve, maintaining the Curve's more vibrant colors but modifying the white balance so it isn't as yellow and detail-destroying in bright sunlight.
But take a look for yourself and view the PhotoShow I produced. A few of the photos seem too blurry, either because I moved or because it was quite windy for much of the time I was taking the comparison photos.
As I've written previously, overall I like the Curve and I think it will be a big seller. But its imaging software still needs some tweaking.
Just two more features
Both the Pearl and the Curve certainly would benefit from manual exposure settings, -2 to +2 or -3 to +3. This can make a big difference.
And, I still want some sort of lens cover! Without a way to protect the lens, the Pearl and Curve lenses are accidents waiting to happen.
LCDs in bright light
Since I don't want to end on a sour note about the Curve, I should note that its LCD is excellent for viewing images in bright sunlight. Many other phone screens almost completely wash out in bright light, making it almost impossible to see what what you're photographing
The Curve's screen is one of the best; it's significantly better than the Pearl's.
Also, the Curve's LCD can be set to "full screen" when taking photos so the entire real estate is used to display the image rather than showing a row of parameters (flash, photo storage space, white balance) on the bottom.
Stop the flash!
Update: Very early Tuesday morning (around 12:30 a.m.), I took more than a dozen photos around my neighborhood with both phones. I wanted to take photos at night.
I found, however, that I couldn't turn off the Curve's flash. I set it to "off" but the %^@#$! flash still fired! I especially wanted to take images without the flash, such as close-up photos of lighted shop windows.
The Pearl's flash did turn off.
I have added about a dozen of these night photos at the end of my PhotoShow slide show above, although I didn't include the images with flash. The Curve's images generally were better than the Pearl's.
Time to contact RIM's technical experts about the flash situation.