Cameras and the way we take our photos have changed a lot in recent years. Gone is the holiday in Spain, disposable camera in hand, to be swiftly followed by a trip to Boots to develop the snaps and buy a photo album.
These days most of our pictures are taken on our phones (we’ve even rated the best camera phones) and we rarely print them out. Instead, they live on our computers or in social media.
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As the camera struggles to stay relevant manufacturers have introduced cameras with Android. These are typically a compact camera loaded with the same Android operating system you’ll find on your smartphone. But are they worth buying? We asked our cameras expert and deputy technology editor:
Cameras and Android just don’t mix
And yet I hear you’re an evangelist for featuring the smartphone operating system in a camera. From Samsung’s Galaxy Camera 2 to the Nikon Coolpix S800c, I’ve tried several of these products and loathed them all. You buy a camera for its manual controls over shutter speed, aperture and more. Cramming these into a touchscreen benefits no one, except the manufacturers who have to make fewer physical buttons.
Honestly, I’m intrigued to hear your case for the defence. How are you going to defend these ghastly hybrid devices?
Robert Leedham – Senior Researcher
Android cameras are quick and easy to use
OK. Calm down David Bailey. Unlike you, I’m not interested in twiddling with the shutter speed or endlessly fidgeting with the aperture to take the perfect picture. I just want something I can pick up and take a good picture with quickly and easily. And it’s that ‘easy’ bit that’s really crucial here.
Did you enjoy Ulysses, Rob? No. No one did. And no one enjoys reading a hundred page manual that explains (badly) what the nameless icons and letters plastered over their camera mean. On an Android camera it’s simple. Everything is explained in English, in full sentences on the touchscreen. Want to set up a 10 second timer? You don’t need to break the Enigma code to do it.
If you need every physical button under the sun to take the perfect selfie, then good luck to you. Most of us don’t.
Rory Boland – Deputy Editor
Simplicity and convenience aren’t the same thing
So it’s simplicity you want, Rory? Allow me to introduce the compact camera. These easy-to-use beauties have existed since the 80s, which is when you must have last been in the market for a new snapper. A 100 page manual, honestly…
In all seriousness, you have struck on my main complaint with Android cameras. They mistake simplicity for convenience. Sure, everything is accessible from one touchscreen, but this isn’t useful in practice. Tactile buttons are essential if you want to quickly access a camera function while keeping one eye on your photo’s subject. That’s why even Android-powered models stick with a physical shutter button.
As for your 10-second timer example. I grabbed a random camera from our product room to test it. It took one button press to set the timer. If there is a benefit to Android cameras, it’s certainly not in taking a photograph.
Android makes it easier to share
While I’m delighted your game of blind man’s bluff was successful and you got a single function to work on a single camera in a short amount of time, it’s clear to the rest of us that setting up the photo you want is simpler on an Android camera.
And, while you might not be a fan of convenience, the rest of us don’t have as much free time on our hands. Android cameras don’t just make it easier to take pictures, they make it easier to store and share them as well. I rarely print out pictures any more. Instead my snaps live on Facebook or i cloud storage. With their built-in apps, Android cameras make it quicker and easier to get your photos where you want them to be.
Rob, I’m hoping and praying that you don’t print out your selfies to give to friends and families. Instead, I’m betting you like to pop them up on Instagram, Twitter and other social media services? Wouldn’t you like to do that quicker?
Wi-fi now comes as standard with cameras
As much as it pains me to admit it, you’re right that Android cameras are much better for sharing selfies. Or at least they used to be. Most cameras feature wi-fi and NFC capabilities now, so you can swiftly pass off your shots to a mobile or tablet and then onto Facebook, Twitter and the like.
Photographic innovation from both iPhone and Android handsets have forced traditional camera manufacturers to focus on simpler menus and shareable shots where they didn’t before. That’s to be applauded and means that compact cameras, in particular, are better than ever before.
It’s easy to take great photos and show them off – but Android cameras only fulfill one half of this equation.
So that’s what our experts think. But what about you? Are Android cameras the best thing since George Eastman started messing around with celluloid? Let us know in the comments below.