Sony Ericsson has always been at the forefront of manufacturing phones with dedicated music player and built-in camera functions. Just two years ago, the company was among the first to identify the trend of convergence between telecommunication and portable digital imaging and the products that followed were the classic T610/T630 phones with built-in camera for basic MMS and photo ID feature. Since then, Sony Ericsson has been continually pushing out exciting handsets with the 2.0-megapixel K750 camera phone of last year one of the best selling ones of its kind in the market.
Fast-forward to 2006, Sony Ericsson has gone on to partner with Sony Electronics to introduce, for the first time, a Cybershot phone with 3.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, the K800i. Unlike its predecessors, the K800i comes complete with a host of new and useful features that everyone would appreciate.
Despite all the marketing surrounding camera phones, the fact of the matter is that most, especially 2.0-megapixel camera phones, are unable to reproduce the same quality capture as a standalone digital camera of similar pixel count. The key difference between the two lies in image noise (grains) and this inadequacy of camera phones is all the more evident when pictures are taken in poorly lit environments.
Blurring from handshakes is also more pronounced compared to standalone digital cameras because camera phones only have very basic imaging components. With the K800i however, Sony Ericsson finally has a camera phone that can truly boast imaging quality comparable to compact digital cameras.
Besides supporting a higher resolution of 3.2-megapixel, the K800 is also fitted with Sony's Super Steady Shot (SSS) anti-handshake technology, thereby giving it an edge over competition. Due to mechanical constraints, the K800i does not come with the sort of optical zoom as those found in say the new Cybershot T30. What it does have is 16x digital zoom. Sadly, it doesn't feature the infamous Carl Zeiss lens that almost all Cybershot cameras have.
Happily however, the K800 has auto-focus (infinite, normal and macro), which should give it better focusing property than traditional camera phones.
Besides sharing some scene modes (eg. Auto, Twilight Portrait, Twilight Landscape, Landscape, Portrait, Beach/Snow, Sports, and Document) with a number of Cybershot cameras, the K800 also lets you take photos with cool effects such as negative and "cartoony" frames. Interestingly, the K800i has several imaging related functions such as BestPic, effects, frames and panorama (via stitching) that even most Cybershot cameras lack.
The BestPic mode is particularly handy, as it captures a series of eight photos in quick succession and lets you pick and save the one you are most satisfied with while the rest is discarded automatically to conserve limited memory space.
Considering the multitude of functions the K800i supports within its handy frame, we were mightily impressed by how well image noise (grains) were suppressed in our sample shots – although fuzzy spots were visible. Details on the other hand disappointed slightly and not quite as comparable to digital cameras of similar pixel count. Overall color reproduction was satisfactory though, making it one of the best camera phones till date. However, for photo printouts, especially to a size of A4, we recommend that pictures are first processed for sharpening and noise reduction.
The K800i is a fun phone to have and we recommend it for those who don't want to carry two separate devices. Feature wise, the K800 is quite similar to the K750 with the exception of 3G video calls and RSS that mobile warriors would especially when moving about. The only gripe we had was the low 15FPS of its video recording mode. In a nutshell, the Sony Ericsson K800i has almost all the features you would want in a modern nifty device. It is available now at a RRP of US$593 without operator plan.