Rob’s Cell-Phone Blog: The New Era of Cell-Phone Cameras (and Lens Blur, Part II)


Flower Taken with my Galaxy S5 16MP On-Board Camera (with virtually no touch-ups, save one – Lens Blur / Bokeh)


Cell Phone Cameras are Now Able to Take Great Pictures

I just upgraded to my new Samsung Galaxy S5.  I didn’t really need it, but I upgraded anyway for one specific reason: the camera.

The camera in the Galaxy S5 is 16-megapixel and offers great color, as well as a number of modes, specifically an HDR mode (that is, true HDR, not the artificial kind) which allows the camera to take pictures that don’t kill highlights and shadows.

the iPhone has a similar capacity, and both cameras do a great job with panoramas, stitching them basically perfectly (or close enough in some cases) – in fact, a few of the images I posted on the site are from iPhone cameras.

Introducing Rob’s Cell-Phone Blog

This is the first entry in ‘Rob’s Cell-Phone Blog’.  The magic of new technology is that it makes such great tools available to all of us.  Now anyone with a cell-phone released in the last couple years can get great pictures – and easily, considering our phones are with us all the time (I think this is one of the main things).

While I am working on the next version of Sagelight, I am going to start posting entries with pictures taken with my cell-phone, as well as those taken with my bigger camera for comparison.

My main purpose here is two-fold:

1. To show that you don’t need to be an expert or committed to expensive equipment to get good pictures.  Of course, the nicer the camera, the better the picture, and – more importantly – the more great pictures you can get.

2. To show that with cameras now returning ready-to-publish pictures, using an image editor such as Sagelight (or Lightroom, Photoshop, etc.) is even more compelling and creative.

As such (with #2), there is something counter-intuitive going on.  At first, it seems that, if a camera can return a great picture, you don’t need an image editor like Sagelight.

Well, you don’t.  And that’s the beauty of it and the part that seems counter-intuitive at first.

The main thing is that you really don’t need an image editor with most newer cameras now, at least in JPEG mode.  And that’s a great thing, because now you don’t have to spend time fixing the image for color and other problems.

That’s liberating, because now you can work on your artistic view of the image instead of what may be going wrong with your image. Now I want an image editor to do the things I couldn’t do with lesser images – those lower-quality, problematic images with contrast and other problems.

My aim is to show that the better the picture from the camera, it really means the more you can do with an image editor like Sagelight.

In fact, for those curious, this is why I have been steadily putting serious and powerful tools in Sagelight over the last 2-3 years (i.e. HDR, Bokeh, Power Details, etc.), because technology is allowing us to be more creative with our image than ever before.


Getting Great Shots Easily

As I mentioned, I am not saying – in any way – that the camera technology appearing in newer cellphones are nearly as good as a camera you would by as a standalone camera.   My Fujifilm SL-1000 is much better than the camera in the Galaxy S5, and I am always going to get better pictures with the SL-1000 than I will with the Galaxy S5 (and, by my rating, the Fujifilm Sl-1000 is only a mediocre camera, mostly because of the horrible JPEG codec, forcing me to take RAW all the time, and effectively making many modes (that won’t write out to RAW) pretty-much worthless).

But, I take my cell phone everywhere I go – with my bigger, standalone camera, I need to think about it; I need to be in photographer mode and out to specifically get pictures.

Now that my cell phone takes some great pictures, I can actually think about them artistically and see them as quality images, where I just couldn’t before except for the picture that somehow randomly came out great with my previous cell-phone.



The Original Image

Great Color and Image Quality

The nice thing about the Galaxy S5 camera (and no-doubt the pictures from the iPhone and other cell-phone cameras) is the perfect color.

The image above is the original picture with no changes. 

To me, that’s great – now I can spend more time creating my artistic view of the image rather than fixing it’s problems.


The New Image (again – this is the same image as the top image)

More Lens Blur / Bokeh – Lens Blur Part II

This can be considered a continuation of the Lens Blur post from a couple days ago:

The only change I made to this picture was to add some lens blur, using the techniques I described in the last blog article.  I wanted to bring out the flower into the foreground, especially since some concrete is showing in the upper-right (which I could have removed with the clone brush)

In this case, I created a more accurate mask with the Sagelight Masking and Fill Mask tools, which took about 5 minutes.


You can see where I made a more accurate mask.  I wanted to blur the background, but also wanted to keep it looking realistic.


Here is a closeup of the selection mask for reference – you can see the Sagelight Masking and the Fill Mask tool did a great job!

The result brings the flower more into the foreground, and now that concrete patch is a little less present as part of the picture.  If I wanted to continue editing this image, here is what I would do (if anyone wants me to do it, I can post it):

  1. Remove the Concrete Patch.  I would just use the clone brush to bring in some of the green areas (from the left) to obscure the concrete.  It’s easy to do and would look realistic.
  2. Remove the Blown-Out Highlight.  The upper-left part of the flower has some blown-out highlights.  I would just use the clone brush (with a low pressure) to blend in some texture from another part of the flower.  Actually, I did this and it looked great.  I must have reverted to a previous version before I did the Lens Blur / Bokeh.


I really like what I am seeing with technology in cameras these days.  Cell-Phone cameras can now take some great pictures, and since we always have our cell-phones with us, we have even more opportunity to take great pictures spontaneously.

Since I don’t always have my bigger and much better Fujifilm camera with me, the quality of my Galaxy S5 cell-phone camera allows me to think creatively on-the-fly when I am just walking by this flower or that rainbow, or wherever.

My larger camera still takes much superior pictures and gives me more chances at a nice picture, but I don’t carry it with me always, and its great to have a camera on me all the time where I can get something great here and there.

With the HDR and panorama modes, it makes life even better:


BJ Penn Gym, Hilo, Hawaii

The above image was taken with the photosphere program, which is a 360×360 image.  It’s not perfect and has a lot of errors, but it’s great to have.  This picture will never be professional-quality, but I also took in about 2 minutes and performed no post-processing on it.


Now that I can get great images from my cell-phone camera (as well as just about any camera nowadays), I don’t need to worry so much about fixing it and can concentrate on my vision for the image.

This makes image-editing much more fun and creative, when I can deal with a great image from the start – even with my cell-phone.


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