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Picture this: phones as good as cameras

The new generation of cellphones comes with so many lenses, they can pretend to be as good as regular cameras. Which is right for you? ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK gives a guide to the best camera phones available right now.

Does anyone remember when Nokia boasted the best smartphone camera in the world? That was a mere six years ago, when the Nokia 1020 left anyone from Apple to Samsung in the dust with a 41megapixel lens and the biggest light sensor ever seen on a phone. But now both Nokia and Sharp, which pioneered the phone camera with the J-Phone at the beginning of the century, are forgotten as leaders in the field.

(For a brief history of the phone camera, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camera_phone)

Even so, the legacy of the 1020 was hard to shake off, until other smartphone makers showed in the last couple of years that hardware advances and software genius readily compensated for megapixels.

This is both good news and bad news; on the one hand, you don’t need megapixels for mega pictures; on the other, there is no specific number that tells you which phone has the better camera. However, a combination of numbers does help. Megapixels do matter, although not by themselves. Aperture, measured in f, matters even more, as it tells you how much light the lens allows in – the smaller the number, the more light. Sensor size counts, as it dictates how much light is captured. The bigger the size, the more light it captures.

Finally, and this would have been an absurd suggestion just six years ago, the number of lenses counts. When dual-lens cameras were first introduced in 2011 both the HTC Evo and LG Optimus, they were designed to take 3D photos – which no one really wanted. Consumers were demanding something seemingly simpler: better photos. Today that is exactly what multi-lens cameras do, with each lens contributing a different aspect to the quality of the combined image. HTC was the first with a dual-lens camera in the One M8 four years ago, but its two average lenses didn’t necessarily add up to one great photo. LG was next with two-lens phones in the G5 and G6, with the second allowing users to switch to wide-angle format.

It was only when Huawei partnered with Leica for dual lenses on the P9 and P9 Plus that the ability to combine images from two cameras came into its own, and now all smartphone makers are on the same path.

None of this guarantees perfect or even great photos, as the marketing hype promises. But more about that later. It is notable that only two of the 10 phones listed here have a single lens on the back, suggesting that it is dual-lens arrays – or more – that have finally laid to rest the ghost of the 1020.

Click on the link below to discover the top 10 camera phones:

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Veeam passes $1bn, prepares for cloud’s ‘Act II’

Leader in cloud-data management reveals how it will harness the next growth phase of the data revolution, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Veeam Software, the quiet leader in backup solutions for cloud data management,has announced that it has passed $1-billion in revenues, and is preparing for the next phase of sustained growth in the sector.

Now, it is unveiling what it calls Act II, following five years of rapid growth through modernisation of the data centre. At the VeeamON 2019conferencein Miami this week, company co-founder Ratmir Timashev declared that the opportunities in this new era, focused on managing data for the hybrid cloud, would drive the next phase of growth.

“Veeam created the VMware backup market and has dominated it as the leader for the last decade,” said Timashev, who is also executive vice president for sales and marketing at the organisation. “This was Veeam’s Act I and I am delighted that we have surpassed the $1 billion mark; in 2013 I predicted we’d achieve this in less than six years. 

“However, the market is now changing. Backup is still critical, but customers are now building hybrid clouds with AWS, Azure, IBM and Google, and they need more than just backup. To succeed in this changing environment, Veeam has had to adapt. Veeam, with its 60,000-plus channel and service provider partners and the broadest ecosystem of technology partners, including Cisco, HPE, NetApp, Nutanix and Pure Storage, is best positioned to dominate the new cloud data management in our Act II.”

In South Africa, Veeam expects similar growth. Speaking at the Cisco Connect conference in Sun City this week, country manager Kate Mollett told Gadget’s BRYAN TURNER that the company was doing exceptionally well in this market.

“In financial year 2018, we saw double-digit growth, which was really very encouraging if you consider the state of the economy, and not so much customer sentiment, but customers have been more cautious with how they spend their money. We’ve seen a fluctuation in the currency, so we see customers pausing with big decisions and hoping for a recovery in the Rand-Dollar. But despite all of the negatives, we have double digit growth which is really good. We continue to grow our team and hire.

“From a Veeam perspective, last year we were responsible for Veeam Africa South, which consisted of South Africa, SADC countries, and the Indian Ocean Islands. We’ve now been given the responsibility for the whole of Africa. This is really fantastic because we are now able to drive a single strategy for Africa from South Africa.”

Veeam has been the leading provider of backup, recovery and replication solutions for more than a decade, and is growing rapidly at a time when other players in the backup market are struggling to innovate on demand.

“Backup is not sexy and they made a pretty successful company out of something that others seem to be screwing up,” said Roy Illsley, Distinguished Analyst at Ovum, speaking in Miami after the VeeamOn conference. “Others have not invested much in new products and they don’t solve key challenges that most organisations want solved. Theyre resting on their laurels and are stuck in the physical world of backup instead of embracing the cloud.”

Illsley readily buys into the Veeam tagline. “It just works”. 

“They are very good at marketing but are also a good engineering comany that does produce the goods. Their big strength, that it just works, is a reliable feature they have built into their product portfolio.”

Veeam said in statement from the event that, while it had initially focused on server virtualisation for VMware environments, in recent years it had expanded this core offering. It was now delivering integration with multiple hypervisors, physical servers and endpoints, along with public and software-as-a-service workloads, while partnering with leading cloud, storage, server, hyperconverged (HCI) and application vendors.

This week, it  announced a new “with Veeam”program, which brings in enterprise storage and hyperconverged (HCI) vendors to provide customers with comprehensive secondary storage solutions that combine Veeam software with industry-leading infrastructure systems. Companies like ExaGrid and Nutanix have already announced partnerships.

Timashev said: “From day one, we have focused on partnerships to deliver customer value. Working with our storage and cloud partners, we are delivering choice, flexibility and value to customers of all sizes.”

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‘Energy scavenging’ funded

As the drive towards a 5G future gathers momentum, the University of Surrey’s research into technology that could power countless internet enabled devices – including those needed for autonomous cars – has won over £1M from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and industry partners.

Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has been working on triboelectric nanogenerators (TENG), an energy harvesting technology capable of ‘scavenging’ energy from movements such as human motion, machine vibration, wind and vehicle movements to power small electronic components. 

TENG energy harvesting is based on a combination of electrostatic charging and electrostatic induction, providing high output, peak efficiency and low-cost solutions for small scale electronic devices. It’s thought such devices will be vital for the smart sensors needed to enable driverless cars to work safely, wearable electronics, health sensors in ‘smart hospitals’ and robotics in ‘smart factories.’ 

The ATI will be partnered on this development project with the Georgia Institute of Technology, QinetiQ, MAS Holdings, National Physical Laboratory, Soochow University and Jaguar Land Rover. 

Professor Ravi Silva, Director of the ATI and the principal investigator of the TENG project, said: “TENG technology is ideal to power the next generation of electronic devices due to its small footprint and capacity to integrate into systems we use every day. Here at the ATI, we are constantly looking to develop such advanced technologies leading towards our quest to realise worldwide “free energy”.

“TENGs are an ideal candidate to power the autonomous electronic systems for Internet of Things applications and wearable electronic devices. We believe this research grant will allow us to further the design of optimized energy harvesters.”

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