USING THE NOKIA N70 cameraphone (not for this JFK image but for these photos) means I am very close to having megapixel coverage in my pocket. The N70 snaps two megapixels with very nice optics. In practical use, I get sharper images than other megapixel cameraphones I have used. The Carl Zeiss optics on the N70 make that possible. After shooting, I transfer the images to my computer via the USB cable Nokia provides with the camera. It's simple and elegant because my on-board Adobe software makes the images part of an electronic library.
Cameraphones have outsold normal digital cameras for the past three years and the gap is widening. I have often wondered why first year multimedia degree candidates at Tipperary Institute aren't told to come equipped with a cameraphone. Starting next academic term, I'm assessing caption writing, annotation and tagging as part of the Media Writing course that I teach. Multimedia students need to snap, upload and mark their photos. Those skills will serve students for the rest of their lives. According to a recent survey, some 70% of cameraphone users rarely get their photos out of their phones and into a computer or send them to someone else.
Nokia's N-series phones offer better resolution than most disposable cameras. They take some of the nicest cameraphone pictures visible on the web. Unlike disposable cameras, people carry their cameraphones with them. For most people who take pictures, they use the camera inside their phone. If they move their pictures from their phones, they can add to a growing photostream that is changing individual, social and political behaviour. No rock concert finishes without a cameraphone flourish. No riot happens without cameraphones brandished by onlookers. No birthday candles are blown out before the cameraphone moment.
We still have problems with people being able to find, show and use their burgeoning digital photo collections. We bought a pensioner a digital camera and became complicit in his "shoebox problem". He has quickly filled two SD cards with very nice images and knows he should store them in a fashion where they can be seen and shared. We burn them onto CD and they play as photoshows through a DVD player. Adobe Photoshop Album has automatically catalogued the photos onto a timeline and prompted me for tags that I added. Now a quick search for "birthday" brings up a family of faces.
In Ireland, several bloggers have geotagged images. You can see the collections unfold on sites like Geosnapper. I'm following research at Stanford that appears to automatically recognise landmarks like the Rock of Cashel.
Although I swore I would never admit to using my cameraphone as a documenter, I have shared the process on the advice of those who have gone before. Now I snap floor coverings, wishlist items, bookshelves, and items that demonstrate the rhetoric of placement. I upload trip images to Flickr because a handful of people care whether I have arrived. But the fact is that most of the people viewing my photos online are total strangers. Hundreds of people have climbed the stairs of our house without ever seeing a Tipperary road sign. Many of these unknown others are people linked by a common curiosity. Some become "contacts" or "friends" in my Flickr address book. On the heels of the London bombings and Katrina's flooding, professional journalists have asked permission to use some of my images. I'm not alone--citizens with cameraphones have provided an important backdop for hard news. Sky News requests cameraphone images from viewers. They got none from Abu Ghraib (Rumsfeld has banned cameraphones in Iraq) but plenty from London after the July bombings last year. I think some of the best made their way to Flickr. Systems built into Flickr have made personal experiences part of global memory, easily accessible and often shared.
I can't imagine where my cameraphone images are headed in this social network. That's not surprising--ten years ago, I never imagined cameraphones.
James Fallows -- "A Thousand Words" in The Atlantic Monthly, April 2006. Image shot with Nokia 9500 (not megapixel). You can see N70 photos on Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/tags/n70/
Adrian Weckler -- "Nokia N70 hits Irish shops" (His initial reaction: "Good.")
Bonus Link: N70 in blogs