How I Chose My Smartphone, Lumia 535


Contents

  1. Preface
  2. Do I need a smartphone?
  3. Misconception regarding smartphone leads to misuse
  4. The Myth of Smartphone Microprocessor Efficiency
  5. Lumia 535 Just Does Its Job
  6. Higher Pixel Count of Camera Sensor Means Higher Quality Photo?
  7. How good is Lumia 535’s camera?
  8. Smartphone Is Not a Full-Fledged Camera
  9. Conclusion


Preface

Windows Phone 8.1 was released to “developers” on April 14, 2014. In this February, 2015, I finally moved on to Windows Phone 8.1 with Lumia Denim by acquiring Lumia 535 Dual SIM. Lumia Denim is an update exclusively for Microsoft Lumia (formerly known as Nokia Lumia) devices, announced on September 4, 2014. Announced on November 11, 2014, Lumia 535 (Single-SIM or Dual SIM) is the first Windows phone that bears Microsoft’s brand since Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s Devices and Services Division (i.e. handset making department). Legally speaking, a new company created as a result of this acquisition; it is called Microsoft Mobile, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary company of Microsoft Corporation. In practice, Microsoft Mobile functions as an integral part of Microsoft Corporation; rather than exists as a separate company. Microsoft Mobile was formally founded on April 25, 2014. After the acquisition of Nokia’s Devices and Services Division, Microsoft continued to make four models of Lumia phones under Nokia’s brand. Lumia 530 was announced on July 23, 2014. Lumia 730, Lumia 735, and Lumia 830 were announced on September 4, 2014. Lumia 535 is the first Lumia smartphone that carries Microsoft’s brand. Going forward, Microsoft discontinues the use of Nokia’s brand for Lumia smartphone. Top

Do I need a smartphone?

 With the sales of over 1.3 billion smartphones in 2014, it seems to be a silly question to be asked. For the starter, from the beginning of general availability of smartphone until now, smartphone does not seem to be able to replace my desktop PC as the main productivity tool. Without giving a second look to what a smartphone really does or what it is made of, many people would have jumped to conclusion. People tend to defend their habits and decisions, especially when they have spent a lot of money over smartphone-related cost. A lot of people coming to use a smartphone without in-depth understanding of how a PC works. Even when some people do have such knowledge, they often subject smartphones to different kinds of standards compared with PC.

You can’t compare an apple with an orange, can you? Technically, you should only compare two things when they are subject to similar constraints; in that regards, it’s true that PC and smartphone are different as apple and orange. On the other hand, when it comes to productivity or to get the work done, we call them tools or means to the end; not the end itself. In this regard, they are certainly directly comparable. So, which stance should we take? We don’t take any particular stance. We make decisions based on two primary factor: our needs and our financial resources.

When PC is accessible, it works best for both productivity and consumption. To average consumers, however, the main issue is the complexity of PC and the learning curve. To me personally, complexity is not much an issue. When it comes to learning curve, I recognize and accept the fact that we all need to learn so long we still live. PC exists primarily in two form factors: desktop and laptop. Desktop offers greatest productivity, comfort of use, performance, lowest price to specs ratio, but no mobility. Laptop typically costs twice as much as desktop but is far more popular than desktop due to the perceived advantage of mobility. It does not compete with desktop when it comes to highest performance. Carrying laptop around is not an issue if real productivity is needed. But generally speaking, due to the weight of laptop, it’s not something you can carry around all day in your backpack without feeling the weight. To be honest, it’s not really comfortable to use a laptop; it works when you need to travel somewhere with a PC.

With the constraints of various factors: size, processing power, battery life, energy source, display size, cost, etc.; it is always a question of how much capability we can bring over from PC to smartphone. The explosion of the smartphone market is partly due to its functionality; but more importantly, it’s due to the widespread deception and illusion that are being spread over the years. I do not say that smartphone is of no practical use; but mainstream media and the so-called “experts” and “pundits” often overstated the value of smartphone to consumers. Consumers’ ignorance, in turn, bring tremendous profits to smartphone makers.

No matter how good the device is, as long as it is overpriced and it is not an absolute necessity, I will not pay the bill. Of course, sound reasoning is not reckoned well by hundreds of millions of people around the world, apparently.

Ever since Nokia launched the Lumia smartphone lines back in the year of 2012, it has set its eyes on low-end smartphone. The meaning of low-end smartphone changes significantly over the years thanks to the drop of components’ price. On October 23, 2012, it announced Lumia 510. Such a low-end device was expected to be sold at RPP (Recommended Retail Price) of USD199.

For many reviewers, they have set their eyes on the market of “flagship” smartphones from the manufacturers; that is the highest-end, most expensive models of smartphones available in the market. Admittedly, premium devices that demand premium price allow manufactures to have higher profit margin; compared with the lowest-end market. If you only care about getting the best smartphones out there regardless of the cost, those devices are for you. But to me, when I know smartphone, as convenient as it can be, only serves as secondary computing device compared with PC; it simply does not make sense to spend money as much as I spend on a PC. That seems pretty calculative; but ultimately I only have limited financial resources and I want to make the best use of them. On the other hand, even for those devices, they seem powerful only because they are subject to comparison with other models of smartphones; they are not even close compared with a low-end PC.

The initial releases of entry-level smartphones from Nokia are as the price suggested; they were having limitations that were too obvious to be ignored; even when you put them on the “standards” of concurrent smartphone technologies. For example, Lumia 510 runs Windows Phone 7.8, the most current operating system at that time. It was estimated 5% of the available apps from the store would not run on this device. The early smartphone models, especially the lower-end ones, are very bad camera; it was partly due to cost-cutting measure for getting lower-priced components; the other factor would be software in the phone were less capable to closely reproduce the actual useful information with the signals captured from the lens to sensors.

Lumia 510 was announced on October 23, 2012; its general availability in the market was expected to be in November that year. Four months later; on February 25, 2013, Nokia announced Lumia 520, which eventually became the best-selling Windows Phone. On July 14, 2014, reportedly over 12 million Lumia 520 were activated. Windows Phone 8 was released on October 29, 2012; just six days after Lumia 510 was announced. Due to the differences between Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 8, it was known that existing Windows Phone 7 devices would not be able to run Windows Phone 8. Given the timing and limitation inherent to Lumia 510, it did not seem to be a sensible choice for consumers. Thanks to the efficiency of Windows Phone 8, Lumia 520 would be able to run apps just fine; if not the best performance in the smartphone’s world. In fact, majority of Windows Phone users are using low-end affordable Lumia phones; with the satisfactory performance by smartphones’ standard. Today, a variance of Lumia 520, called Lumia 525, is being sold at the price of MYR 349 at lazada.com.my. Lumia 525 is identical with Lumia 520, except that it features 1GB of RAM instead of 512 MB of RAM. Amazon.com is selling the original Lumia 520 at the price of USD 39.99.

Previously, due to the high cost but lower performance compared with PC, I would not consider replacing my old phone; thinking that it would not be economical. Indeed, affordable smartphone with decent performance makes me rethink how I can make use of smartphone. No, it did not begin to compare with a PC; it will probably never be due to physical constraints. But low-cost smartphone makes owning a smartphone begins to be economical or practical. Knowing the inherent limitation of the form factors, we can begin to discuss the actual practical use of smartphones and its limitation compared with a full-fledged PC. After all, if smartphone remains a high-cost device with little use, it does not make sense to even think about its usage scenarios. It would be a different story if it is a low-cost device that can be used in certain circumstances. The question of necessity or practicality of owning a smartphone begins with cost. That would be the case for most people; even though a lot of people do not spend money prudently and suffer because of that. Top

Misconception regarding smartphone leads to misuse

After spending hours daily on a smartphone, you may have thought that you have got a better idea of what smartphone is; if not fully understand it. Addiction to smartphone or literally cannot let go of smartphone, however, is a clear sign of misuse of smartphone. This article is supposed to talk about how I decided to buy and use Lumia 535; but my recent encounters with many smartphone users make me rethink how I should help the others. I intended to talk about the proper use of smartphone; which explained my decision to choose Lumia 535 over the others. The discussion of proper use can only begin with the discussion of widespread misuse, considering the situation many of the smartphone users are in.

Let me explain what I consider as misuse of smartphone. Any use of smartphone, which leads to the harming of oneself or others, is the misuse of smartphone. The loss of productivity due to the addiction to smartphone is also the misuse of smartphone; people often insist on using a smartphone to do certain tasks, when there are better tools.

Let me make one thing clear: smartphone is not a PC. Sure, recent development of smartphone and the explosion of the number of “apps” make people forget about how awful computing is on such a device with a lot of constraints. I can write email, type document, create spreadsheet, browse the webs, etc., all from the smartphones; are they not the tasks “traditionally” being done using a PC? If I do those things with a smartphone, then for all practical purposes it is a PC? But here is the catch, it is an awful tool for hours-long productivity or digital entertainment. By the meaningful modern standards, it does not qualify to be a PC; unless you are ignorant enough to hurt yourself.

Due to the size of smartphone, it’s not possible to use a smartphone for hours without harming oneself. Why is it? You may ask. When we use smartphones; we have to use them in “unnatural position”, which put much stress on our back, neck, finger, and arm. Granted, if we only use them occasionally each day, such stress would be relieved right away with enough rest; such as change of posture of our body to the more comfortable ones. The other organs that are often harmed during the use of smartphone are our eyes. Generally speaking, our eyes are not meant for close-distance use for prolonged period of time. There are health risks associated with the use of desktop PC as well; nevertheless, those are due to lack of safety knowledge, rather than inherent weakness of the form factor that is found on smaller devices such as smartphone or small tablet. By the way, you may read Ergonomics Guide published by California Department of Industrial Relations.

There are little debate that smartphones are several times slower than the lowest-end PC; having much smaller local storage; overall specs are simply no comparison. Yet, some people have dreamed about having a smartphone that would transform into a PC by simply docking into an adapter of some sort one day; such that a physical keyboard, mouse, external screen with built-in speaker, other peripherals can be connected to it; while the smartphone itself has the CPU and GPU. Given the speed of progress of the technology, some may ask why not? Such device should exist at some point, if not now. The uncomfortable truth is, however, such a device could not exist; not with our current knowledge of basic science. Technology can only advance so much within the constraints of laws of Physics.

But what set smartphone and PC apart? Why we can’t have both mobility and technical performance at the same time? I have already mentioned small form factor is unsuitable for prolonged use; what we talk about here is the ability to transform smartphone into a PC via an adapter of some sort. Let’s look at the critical components of smartphone and PC. Apple made an announcement that its A7 microprocessor used in iPhone 5s can offer blazing fast performance due to desktop-class 64-bit architecture. Well, I have to admit that Apple’s PR guys are really smart to come up with the phrase. Because what Apple said wasn’t wrong; but people would often misunderstood it as A7 microprocessor in iPhone 5s can rival a desktop-class microprocessor, which is wrong. Sounds confusing? Well, that’s what we called great marketing; I suppose.

It’s common, still to this day, a smartphone microprocessor uses a 32-bit microprocessor. Before the release of Windows Vista back in 2006, PCs commonly use a 32-bit x86 microprocessor. Of course, even then, 32-bit x86 microprocessor is not at the same level of ARM-based 32 bit microprocessor; you wouldn’t have to guess, technically x86 microprocessors are much faster but consume much more power. After Windows Vista and its successors were brought into market, x64 microprocessor gradually becomes mainstream. Today, other than lowest-end PC, virtually every PC sold in the market that is equipped with x64 microprocessor. The use of 64-bit ARM-based microprocessor can bring performance improvement to smartphone, albeit not much; clearly they are not the same as x64 microprocessor. What Apple really refers to is that the 64-bit microprocessor would bring performance improvement to smartphone; 64-bit microprocessor, which is x64 microprocessor for any modern desktop PC, is architecturally 64 bit. But we make a comparison between 64-bit ARM based microprocessor and x64 microprocessor; the performance gap is indeed very huge. Contrary to what Apple did, 64 bit microprocessor was actually not necessary in the case of smartphone; but they are considered necessities or common components in modern desktop PCs. Why do such difference exist?

There are many implications brought by the second law of thermodynamics. Each implication is essentially one way of explaining the same law of physics, albeit from a unique perspective.

  1. The arrow of time. For a closed system, heat transfers from the place where the temperature is higher to the place where the temperature is lower; until everywhere within the system shares the same temperature. Temperature is the measurement of average kinetic energy of the particles within the system, it’s statistical by nature. Such a process is non-reversible; thus implies the arrow of time.
  2. To remove heat from a non-closed system, an external work needs to be done. But for the larger overall closed system where a non-closed system is a part of, it basically follows the principle of equilibrium of heat transfer.
  3. The non-reversible of heat transfer process, that is, the arrow of time, also means that while four-momentum is generally conserved within a closed system; the usable energy can be used to do work is reduced over time.
  4. The reduction of usable energy within a closed system means that a machine of 100-percent efficiency of any kind could not exist.
  5. While commonly known as a form of energy, heat actually refers to the change of energy within a system; which is kinetic energy and potential energy of the particles, excluding rest energy. Potential energy is actually binding energy; within a bound system, the mass of the entire system is less than rest energy of each particle, such that external work is required to remove the binding; thus the total four-momenta within a closed system is always conserved. On the other hand, when each components are bound together to form a system, four-momenta would have escaped carried by particles of different kinds.

The above list is non-exhaustive. When it comes to microprocessor, higher performance means higher computing speed or ability to handle several tasks in a shorter time. The work done requires energy input. More work done within a given time means that more energy are consumed. That is basically what ‘performance’ of microprocessor means using scientific terms. The second law of thermodynamics excludes the possibility of 100% efficiency; which means more heat would be dissipated in higher-end microprocessor. That essentially means that a desktop-class microprocessor can never be “fan-less” or without some sort of “heat dissipation mechanism”. On the other hand, to reduce heat to minimum, the performance of a microprocessor has to be reduced; such that both energy consumption used to do work as well as generated heat could be reduced.

When it comes to performance of microprocessor, a smartphone is handicapped in several aspects:

  1. Battery. The energy source of smartphone is battery; which severely constrains the energy input. A much slower microprocessor is necessary for a smartphone to have adequate “battery life”; which translates into “how long you can use it on battery”. That is also one of the reasons why 64-bit microprocessor offers little advantage to smartphone; regardless of architecture, its computing is required to be slowed down.
  2. Energy source. Thin-and-light is a design requirement for smartphone. Today, we are far from being able to unleash “rest energy” other than nuclear reaction; anti-matter at this point is only an subject of experiment but not suitable for commercial application. The mechanism remains unknown to us; if it exists at all. But conservation of four-momenta does exclude the possibility of infinitely light energy source.
  3. Heat dissipation. Due to the form factor of smartphone, it cannot have heat dissipation mechanism of any kind; its size simply cannot fit in to a smartphone. The only way to cut down the heat dissipation to minimum, much like energy constraint put by battery, is to have a slow microprocessor.
  4. The overall form factor of smartphone. This refers to the size of the device. The key advantage being marketed by smartphone manufactures is mobility; which means that a smartphone has to be small, thin, light, and having a mobile energy source. Ironically, it is this key advantage becomes the greatest limiting factor for the components that can be used. It cannot have fan; must use battery; must be small. Consequences of these constraints of form factors are the choice of components: battery, microprocessor, RAM, etc.

Other than higher-performance applications, one of the key advantages of 64-bit microprocessor is the ability to take advantage of RAM of greater than 4 GB. In particular, Windows 8 Pro x64 is able to support up to 512 GB of RAM. To take advantage of higher performance of CPU and more memory, 32-bit x86 applications are required to be rewritten as 64-bit x64 applications; which are the cases for applications such as Microsoft Office 2013 or AutoCAD 2015. There are two types of main memory being used by PC: ROM and RAM. ROM stands for Read-Only Memory and RAM stands for Random Access Memory. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for smartphone manufacturers to incorrectly advertise local auxiliary memory as ROM. ROM cannot be rewritten or modified at least by the user himself; typically used only before the OS began to boot.

Just as higher-performance CPU (microprocessor) requires more energy, RAM of bigger size or higher speed consumes more energy as well. Smaller-size RAM being used means that 32-bit ARM-based processor is adequate for smartphone’s use. A resource-intensive desktop-class computer application would require high-speed CPU, RAM, auxiliary memory, or sometimes high-speed GPU as well. The commonly used auxiliary memory for a desktop PC is hard drive; while smartphone generally uses flash memory of some kind. RAM is much faster than hard drive or flash memory but costs more as well. When an application is running, the data is transferred from auxiliary memory to RAM before it is being processed.

Nowadays, hard drive is available in much larger size in much lower cost compared with flash memory; but it does require a dedicated fan for heat dissipation. Flash memory does not require fan. Higher-speed hard drive generates more heat compared with slower-speed hard drive. The size of available storage found in hard drive is generally more than 100 times bigger than of flash memory found in smartphone.

Putting all the technical information aside, a smartphone fan can hardly understand the huge performance and capability gap between a PC and a smartphone. He may ask: if such gap truly exists and it is as big as we claimed to be; why does he still get pretty good performance from his beloved smartphone; his smartphone is not unresponsive; perhaps all those technical disadvantages of smartphone do not matter at all? Except they do matter. Given the constraints of a smartphone, the key to the eventual user experience lies on the design of software.

The operating system, as well as the “apps”, aimed for smartphone require smaller footprint in terms of computing resources as well as memory usage. To achieve that, only a subset of functionality made available for smartphone. In the case of Windows, it was componentized to separate the core from different groups of components aimed for different usage scenarios. Only the OS core as well as certain components made their ways to smartphone. Office on Windows phone and Office on Windows desktop may bear similar UI or functionalities; but they are indeed very different. In laymen’s terms, one is for casual use or light editing; the other is for heavy use. An average consumers may only see the difference in terms of screen size, touch screen vs mouse and keyboard, mobility, apps that are running, etc. There exist deeper fundamental difference between smartphone and PC as well.

To replace a PC with a smartphone can only lead to less productivity; heavy use of smartphone leads to self-inflicting harms. All those scenarios commonly seen today are stemmed from misconception regarding smartphone as well as PC. Top

The Myth of Smartphone Microprocessor Efficiency

The upper limit of efficiency of any machine is 100%; which itself is unreachable due to the laws of physics, more specifically, the second law of thermodynamics. The definition of efficiency is context-dependent; but its general meaning is the ratio of work done to energy input. It’s not unusual for some people to spread the ideas that somehow mobile microprocessor, more specifically, the ARM-based microprocessor is inherently more efficient compared with x64 microprocessor. They even suggested the improvement of efficiency would lead to desktop-class mobile microprocessor. Of course, such claims are inherently wrong in various aspects; I do not even need a crystal ball to explain why.

The first question to be asked: is the smartphone microprocessor more efficient? Yes and no. If you are talking about the very definition of efficiency; yes, it is more efficient; but at the same time, it’s not really more efficient. Ratio of work done to energy input is not constant; regardless of microprocessor design. Such a ratio depends on targeted workload. When the work to be done by microprocessor is inherently light; mathematically speaking, more energy are put into work instead of being wasted. However, when the workload becomes heavy, a larger portion of energy would be rendered unusable, hence reducing the energy efficiency. More efficient microprocessor that cannot handle heavy workload; which itself is practically meaningless to everyday usage.

The second question to be asked: can a mobile microprocessor be improved to rival a desktop-class microprocessor? Some people have bet on improved efficiency to a desktop-class performance. However, to have better performance, it means more energy; larger size; more heat; that would be a desktop PC instead of being a cellphone. Top

Lumia 535 Just Does Its Job

It’s unlikely to generalize what a smartphone can do; given that each person uses his smartphone differently. I can only tell what I experience; some of them are based on my actual need; some of them are based on experiments. As a modern cellphone, it can call, send and receive text messages. As Microsoft moved on to Windows Phone 8.1 and dropped support for Windows Phone 7; some of the apps can only run on Windows Phone 8.1 devices, including Microsoft’s own Skype. Windows 10 for mobile is around the corner; Microsoft promised that most Windows Phone 8.1 devices are upgradable to Windows 10; what remains unclear is whether this particular device is supported.

Mobile version of Skype, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, OneDrive app can be found on Windows Phone 8.1 device. There are many “apps” can be found on Windows Store; which may or may not be useful. The “app” experience could be sometimes replaced by a mobile web page. Essentially, desktop-style web page is just too big to fit in a tiny smartphone screen; mobile web developers can create a custom mobile version of their web pages to expose certain features. Google has been notoriously reluctant to support Windows Phone. Due to the use of web standards and the existence of web version of YouTube; I can just browse YouTube mobile web site from Internet Explorer to play YouTube video. By default, visit youtube.com on Internet Explorer would bring us to mobile version of the web page. That is fine for watching YouTube video. To upload video from SD card or local storage, do a search for “YouTube Upload” would lead me to a desktop version of YouTube upload page; which works fine for uploading video from a phone. Some banks such as Public Bank Malaysia, Citibank Malaysia/USA/Singapore, etc. do have mobile version of their web sites; which mean while there are no dedicated apps available from the store, you can still do mobile banking. Maybank Malaysia does have a dedicated app and mobile version of its web site. Hong Leong Bank Malaysia only has desktop version of its web site; but it does have a banking app. Some apps are region-specific; to install them, a change of region is required; but to use them after they are installed, region does not matter; it means that it is possible to use apps from other regions.

For the larger web community, many, if not most, web sites do not have mobile versions. Even if they do; the experience is ‘incomplete’ compared with desktop’s counterpart.

Being small does have its advantage. Windows phone is integrated with Microsoft services; such as OneDrive, outlook.com, Skype, etc. Cortana, powered by Bing, is the personal digital assistance built into Windows Phone 8.1. Whenever there is Internet connection, it does support voice search and general web search. It can be triggered by pressing the search button at the bottom of the screen. Typing at the address bar of Internet Explorer would also lead to web search using Cortana. It works even without Internet Connection; whenever there is no Internet Connection, it cannot do web search or understand voice command. You can still type on screen to make calendar appointment, search for an event from calendar, launch an app, set reminder, etc.

There are some number of mobile games available from the Windows Store as well. Some people have talked about running high-end games on a smartphone. Playing games on a smartphone are for casual gamers; as we previously discussed, this kind of device is not for prolonged use. The top-of-the-line smartphone is still pretty slow; if you are serious about high-end game, get a PC or game console.

The perceived performance of Lumia 535 is generally very good; mostly due to the nature of apps and OS being run. It works offline as multilingual dictionary, GPS device, map, Music player, Video Player, etc. Unlike Windows Phone 7, it does support WMA lossless. It can play 720p HD video just fine; but not without re-encoding it into H.264 video of Baseline Profile. Lumia 535 does not come with a lot of internal storage; but it can be expanded via a micro-SD card up to 128 GB. Other than the OS and a small number of pre-installed apps, most apps can be moved and install on micro-SD card. Top

Higher Pixel Count of Camera Sensor Means Higher Quality Photo?

Lumia 1020 was well-known for having a 41-Megapixel camera sensor. It was widely praised for having a top-notch smartphone camera. Technically speaking, the quality of photo is not directly proportional to the pixel count of camera sensor. The lenses, microprocessor, sensor, camera software, lighting, etc. would all affect the eventual quality of the photo. Lumia 1020 took great photo for a smartphone not just because of pixel count of camera sensor but also all other factors combined. Generally speaking, a higher-end point-and-shoot camera would surpass smartphone camera in every aspect; that includes Lumia 1020; point-and-shoot camera does not even need that many pixel count in its sensor.

It has been claimed by many pundits that higher-resolution photo means higher-quality photo; except that they are not in most cases. Due to the perceived correlation between pixel count of sensor and photo quality; many smartphone or camera manufacturers have advertised their respective products being improved as their sensors having larger pixel count. The meaning of pixel actually varies in dependence on context; their meanings are correlated nevertheless. An image sensor of camera converts the light that hits it into signals and pass them to image processor for further processing. Pixel of image sensor represents the smallest unit of that sensor that converts light into signal. Pixel of a digital image means the smallest unit of a digital image; for an uncompressed image, each pixel can represent a unique color.

A digital image is meant to be put on display on a large PC screen, TV display or be printed out. Our eyes perceived the world in certain ways; digital images were meant to present visual information the way our eyes would have perceived in real world. Any information that are irrelevant to match our perception of real-world objects are called “noise”. The signal each pixel captures does not necessarily match our perception of object; this is especially true when there are no change in lenses, processor, or the image processing software. How closely the signal captured by each pixel of sensor matches our perception of real-world objects; that is what really counts. A larger sensor coupled with larger lenses found in bigger camera would have more information to be passed to processor, resulting in more faithful reproduction of image. A salesperson probably do not know himself the quality of optical system or image processing unit found in the camera or smartphone; let alone explaining them to his customers. Put it in other way, unless matched by similar “boost” of optical system and image processing unit, larger pixel count does not lead to more detailed photo.

A related term, also called “pixel”, means the Picture Element; that is the smallest unit of a digital image. Given our explanation of sensor pixel, it is no wonder why some pictures captured by digital camera or smartphone are not meant to be viewed in “full resolution”. When the picture is scaled down, the noise becomes less noticeable. If all pixels faithfully represent our perception of real-world objects, how many pixels would it require in photos? Not many; compared with the common pixel count found in “higher-end” smartphone or typical point-and-shoot camera.

The perceived details of a visual object depend on how far away we are from the object and how small our eyes can perceive. A 23-inch display is pretty good for having 1920 × 1080 pixels; but a 50-inch display can also have the same amount of resolutions. There are much talk about pixel density; particular in the discussion of smartphone or tablet display. Does that mean that 50-inch display is worse than 23-inch display for having lower pixel density? Not really. When we stare at 23-inch display, we are sitting less than 3 feet away from the display; when we stare at 50-inch display, we are sitting 10 feet away from the display. Each pixel represents a color for a display; our eyes could not discern small object very well; how do higher resolution in small display benefit our eyes? Top

How good is Lumia 535’s camera?

What does 5 MP (Megapixel) camera featured in Lumia 535 really means? This number refers to the effective resolution of the image taken in 4:3 format; which is 2592 × 1936 pixels or 5018112 pixels; approximately equal to 5 MP. Lumia 535 actually captures pictures in 16:9 format by default; the resolution for 16:9 format is 2592 × 1456 pixels or 3773952 pixels, approximately equal to 3.8 MP. In terms of resolution, it has approximately 82% more pixels compared with 1920 × 1080 pixels. As we previously discussed, full-resolution view would make visual artifacts due to noises or processing errors more visible; we only need more pixels to eventually scale down the picture for full screen view.

16:9 Sample Image (Click on the Image the See Full Resolution)

4:3 Sample Image (Click on the Image the See Full Resolution)

I’ve put together sample images posted by Microsoft on my OneDrive.

You can also see the slideshow on YouTube version or in lossless format. You may need VLC Media Player or K-Lite Codec Pack Mega to play the lossless MKV slideshow. If you install K-Lite Codec Pack Mega, you can watch the slideshow using Media Player Classic Home Cinema (x64), Media Player Classic Home Cinema, or Windows Media Player.

Click here to download the lossless MKV slideshow.

For casual photo-taking by consumers; in most part, we have to admit that Lumia 535 does take decent photos, especially when the lighting is good. This aspect is being recognized by Rich W Woods and Ashish Mohta. Lumia 535 does not fare well in extreme low-lighting condition; but indoor lighting can dramatically improve the quality of photos, while the best-quality photos can be taken in either under sunlight or very good indoor lighting. These are some samples of images taken by Rich W Woods; these are some sample of images posted by Microsoft.

When it comes to subjective quality of photos; there are objective part and subjective part. Lumia 735, for example, is supposed to feature a camera sensor of higher pixel count (6.7 MP). You can look at the samples here. Based upon his own testing; subject to real-world conditions such as lighting; Rich W Woods found that lower-res Lumia 535 took photos that resemble the real-world colors more closely, hence higher-quality photo. Make no mistake, he actually thought Lumia 735 took decent photos as well. Paul Thurrott, on the other hand, judged quality of photos in extreme low lighting condition; he nevertheless highly recommended Lumia 535. Rich W Woods thought Lumia 735 took better photos than iPhone 6. Based upon Rich W Woods’ comparison, in terms of rear camera, Lumia 535 > Lumia 735 > iPhone 6. However, in both pixel count of camera sensor as well as retail price, iPhone 6 > Lumia 735 > Lumia 535.

In this article, I define “quality of photo” as the fidelity of objects in the image compared with real-world objects. There are some people who prefer “artistic” look of the photo; either oversaturated or under-saturated; over-brightened or under-brightened; etc. Personal taste of “beauty” is not covered by any means in this article. There is no “standard right or wrong” in personal taste or artistic view; it’s just that people’s tastes are different.

Obviously, taking great photo needs more than a good camera; it does need a good photographer after all. In my journey to learn more about smartphone camera, I realized that photography can certainly be regarded as science; which is based upon many laws of Physics. There is the design of software to reproduce the image from the collected signals; there is the design of lens, optical system, etc.; there is the design of microprocessor. Moreover, taking realistic photos requires taking many factors into considerations; such as ISO, shutter speed, lens, aperture, lighting, camera sensor; a good camera software requires to be customized based upon the specs of the camera itself. Photography is an example of work requires both hardware and software. As a consumer-focus device, though, Lumia 535 allows consumers to take decent photos in some conditions without knowing much about photography; photos are just to be taken in “auto” mode; this can only happen by good design of software. Top

Smartphone Is Not a Full-Fledged Camera

I do admit that the experience of photo-taking with Lumia 535 is quite satisfactory, especially when you know where the constraints would be. Make no mistake; any smartphone in the market does not by any means begin to compare with a full-fledged camera; that includes some of the lowest-end point-and-shoot cameras. Of course, here we assume that the photographer himself does have technical knowledge about photography. For starter, whether in regards to quality or size of lenses, image processing unit, quality or size of camera sensors; all of them simply belong to different classes. The purpose of built-in “flash” is to assist in lighting; frankly, to achieve optimum lighting in low-lighting places, the best way to do that is having a separate lighting system. Still, smaller “flash” and due to the fact that it is very close to the camera itself introduces noises to the image especially under low-lighting conditions; but noises are significantly much worse for smartphones.

While it has been a norm for smartphone for not having optical zoom; some of models do have “digital zoom”; point-and-shoot cameras do have optical zoom; higher-end DSLRs can have interchangeable zoom lenses. No, shooting at higher megapixels does not offer a way to replace “zoom lenses”. While Lumia 535 does not have built-in digital zoom; for all practical purposes, it does not matter at all. “Digital zoom” is essentially “crop and enlarge” using computer software without increasing the amount of input light signals coming from lenses. “Zoom lenses”, on the other hand, allows distant objects to be capture because of having different focal lengths. As we previously mentioned, without relevant change in the optical system itself, it is not possible to capture more information at the sensor.

For private collection of amateurs’ photos for memory, the modern smartphone probably suits the need of many people. For serious photographers; either for artistic work or capturing clearest image possible; smartphone, just like how we compared it with PC, is simply not suitable for the job. Whether you are shooting a short film, documentary, theatrical films, TV series, etc.; it remains unlikely smartphone being used in many quality-demanding scenarios. Top

Conclusion

In many pundits’ reviews of consumer electronic device, they often rate the device feature-by-feature; as if they are objective measure of how good or bad that product is. Ultimately, human beings are just looking for happiness in their life; whether it is through sensual pleasure, higher level of concentration, or full liberation. They form their opinions based upon a number of assumptions; often with shaky ground from the facts. Can we objectively say that there are real “standard” for good or bad product; without relying on our own perception on how things work or what the world really is?

I admit; this article definitely contains many technical information that puzzles many consumers. All I want to do is let the people see the things they really are. To me, I ultimately regard smartphone as secondary computing device; as a media player; as a ready-to-go casual camera. Whether or not it contains some higher-end features among cellphones; those are really irrelevant if I have access to better tool such as PC. I use smartphone for what it is best for; more importantly, I have extra money to spend elsewhere. People’s rating of device is inseparable from people’s perception of good and bad; more importantly, contact of “good” brings forth happiness; contact of “bad” brings forth dissatisfaction. While pre-conceived notions of yours do affect how you feel; the physical world does behave according to laws of Physics, which after being contacted by it; your feeling would be affected as well.

One way of choosing smartphone is looking merely at the “cool” factor; without judging from actual productivity or even entertainment need. What are other people doing; how does the smartphone look; how good are the specs compared with other model of smartphones; etc. One thing I would not recommend is to seek happiness based upon illusion; which ultimately only brings sufferings. We could not simply separate our views of smartphones without looking upon our own needs or other similar devices. What we should look at are not so much about smartphone itself; but rather how much we can benefit from it coupled with other commonly needed devices such as PC; let’s not overlook the fact that we do have limited resources; a healthy body does contribute to better life experience. There are many aspects of life involved when it comes to a decision being made; it’s just not about the smartphone itself. Top

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