A new rumored cameraphone from Samsung seems at last to be taking digital camera/cellphone crossover devices in the right direction: The M8920 has a proper three-times optical zoom instead of a low-quality digital solution.
The last time I wrote about Samsung's cameraphone developments it was to lambaste the craziness of increasing the megapixel count. That's simply because the low-cost, crappy optics usually crammed into a cameraphone's imaging systems simply don't justify an increased number of pixels on the phone's sensor. The resulting photos have huge file sizes, and potentially lower image quality than if more attention was paid to the actual camera part of the phone.
Which is why the leaked images of the M8920 are a breath of fresh air for Samsung phone design. The device has a 12 megapixel sensor—which, indeed, suffers some of the problems I mentioned above. But it seems Samsung has added technology from its digital cameras into the new phone: it has a proper moving lens system, what looks like a larger aperture than normally found on cameraphones, and a proper 3x optical zoom. That's significantly better than a simple digital zoom, which merely throws away pixels outside the chosen zoomed-in part of the image. The combination of those three adaptations should mean that this cellphone will function as a pretty decent camera in its own right.
Of course, there's a technological trade-off, as the device looks to be pretty chunky. It's also not a true smartphone, simply running Samsung's Touchwiz UI...but at least the rumors suggest it has a large touchscreen. A reported 8GB of internal memory will also enable storage of a large number of 12-megapixel shots.
For imaging enthusiasts, however, this convergence device is an indication that cameraphones are at last moving in the right direction. Next thing you know, the iPhone will have 3.2 megapixels and proper auto-focus...