Smart Phones and RAW: it’s getting serious! or is it?


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While there are the ones who rejoice at smart phones getting better and better in terms of taking pictures, old hands that are used to big and heavy cameras such as SLRs and that place value on a certain standard of quality consider the small touch devices a thorn in the flesh. In all objectivity, the smart phones are just about good enough to compete with the cheapest or worst compact cameras. For a few months now, Google and smart phone manufacturers have been discussing RAW, which I, being an “ambitious photographer”, deem a highly important feature. However, is RAW for tiny smart phone sensors reasonable at all, or will it be just another item on a checklist? Well, DxOMark recently tested one of the top-5 photo smart phones, the Lumia 1020, and came to an intriguing conclusion. With 41 points, the 1/1.5“sensor (extremely big for a smart phone or compact camera) takes 222th place of a total of 242 reviewed devices. According to DxOMark’s ranking, Nokia just manages to draw level with compact cameras having a considerably smaller 1/2.3“sensor. Color depth and dynamic range don’t look too shabby for a smart phone, but noise performance is inferior to that of compact cameras with comparably large sensors.

Comparing the Lumia 1020 to one of the cheapest reflex cameras, it soon becomes obvious that a proper comparison is impossible. These are worlds apart. The smart phone lacks almost 3 stops in terms of dynamic range and a fair amount of color depth; what there’s plenty of, however, is grain. 😉

So, what do you think, does RAW-backing or –processing make any sense in the face of this kind of sensor performance?

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