Wiseman ponders: "How are we making memories in this culture?" The answer might be, we're sharing images of our lives in an unprecedented way, via blogs, websites, Twitter, Facebook and e-mails. And the cameraphone is custom-made to facilitate this dispersal. Jarvis's book and Best Camera app are in fact part of an entire "ecosystem" that includes a live feed at thebestcamera.com of just-taken images, connecting people from around the world instantaneously.
Close-Up Of Lisa Wiseman:
Home base: San Francisco, CA
Cameraphone: iPhone 3G
In the midst of the lovefest, there have been complaints - poor performance in low light, low resolution and limited battery life (Schmigel has spent many an hour "recharging" himself and his iPhone at Starbucks). The new iPhone 3GS has 3 megapixels and touch-screen interaction, and there are cameraphones out there with 7 or more megapixels. But Wiseman says that in cameras with a small sensor, a higher megapixel number makes the images too grainy. Fullana is willing to sacrifice technical superiority for mood. Though many photographers are satisfied with their 2 or 3 megapixel cameraphones, better image quality and more apps are sure to come.
For all the high-tech underpinnings, there is something visceral and primitive about this low-megapixel, optically challenged, pocket-size piece of equipment. A key part of the allure is the challenge. Jarvis calls it "infinity limited," saying that it "requires you to hone your creative vision." To make it art takes a certain level of commitment. Usually such an exercise is a barrier to a mass cultural phenomenon like the cameraphone, but Jarvis points out there isn't much of a hurdle to overcome in getting people to use what amounts to a new version of a point-and-shoot camera. In the case of the cameraphone, the nonremovable, usually nonzooming lens and limited pixels are not a handicap but a boon - there's not that much to think about, so just shoot. The cameraphone will never replace the D-SLR (though the iPhone is running a close second to the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi as the most popular camera on Flickr), yet when comparing the two, Jarvis uses the example of café menus - the ones with fewer items can be more appealing, despite the limitations. Says Jarvis: "The technology doesn't matter 99.9 percent of the time. It's really about the image." Or as Schmigel puts it, "It's not what you're using, it's the passion of the person seeing."
Jarvis posits that the functional simplicity and immediate gratification (likened to the Polaroid instant camera) makes the technology available to everyone, tapping into previously undiscovered talent, what Wiseman calls "the democratization of photography." As Jarvis puts it, the cameraphone "serves both ends of the spectrum and everyone in between." Even his mom, who always claimed to be uncreative, is now snapping away.
Close-Up Of Greg Schmigel:
Home base: Arnold, MD
Cameraphone: iPhone 3GS