Samsung A51 Camera

I like to keep two digital cameras: a compact one for quick, easy shots; and a digital SLR for more measured, composed photos. The latter allows more lenses and filters, enabling more choice and creativity. For digital cameras, the quality or resolution of the photos is often measured in mega-pixels - my compact Panasonic DMC-TZ30 produces photos up to 14MP photos, while my Nikon D3200 DSLR has a 24MP sensor.

Panasonic compact digital
Recently I’ve noticed that my compact camera hasn’t been producing very good photos. In particular, pictures were coming out very dark, even on sunny days, suggesting a problem with the light meter. Having fiddled with all the settings I was forced to conclude that, after frequent use for nearly 10 years, the camera has reached the end of the road.

I was considering my options for a replacement camera when I realised that I already owned the replacement. I’ve hardly used the camera on my mid-market Samsung A51 phone but the specifications look decent. Ten years ago the cameras on phones were fairly poor quality. The iPhone 5, current when I bought my Panasonic camera in 2011, only offered an 8MP camera which wasn’t considered serious competition for ‘proper’ cameras, although the convenience factor made it popular.

A phone or a camera?
Today’s phones offer a much better experience and you no longer need to choose between convenience and quality. My Samsung A51 has a sensor which provides 48MP - twice the resolution of my Nikon and nearly four times the resolution of my Panasonic compact.

But resolution isn’t everything. My Panasonic has a nice Leica zoom lens. Cameras on phones necessarily have smaller lenses which can compromise picture quality. To try and address this my Samsung has 4 separate lenses, each one optimised for a different range. Any zooming is digital but you could zoom 4x digitally and still be at original resolution of the Panasonic photos.

I have been using my phone’s camera for a few weeks to check whether it can be a true replacement for my Panasonic compact. So far the results are very encouraging. The lighting is excellent. Even when there is a great contrast, the entire picture is well lit. With 48MP the photos are certainly sharp and thanks to their size you can crop a small section and still show great detail.

Here are some recent photos from Farleton Fell, one of our favourite local viewpoints.

I also used it to take photos of our recent trip to Shropshire and I like the results - sharp, bright and colourful.

Kodak Instamatic: not instant and not fully automatic
It’s early days but it’s looking like my phone will be a worthy successor to my compact digital camera. And it’s all a big improvement on the holiday snaps I took as a child on a Kodak Instamatic!