Video phones have moved on a country mile in recent years. With full HD and now 3D, camcorders might soon prove obsolete. Our expert videographer called 'action!' on five big-shootin' smartphones to find out which is worthy of the silver screen.
Winner - Samsung Galaxy S II
Other phones may have more features then the Samsung Galaxy S II, but it's quality these camera phones were judged on and Samsung's flagship smartie shines right through. Sure, the audio is sub-par and the low light performance merely satisfactory, but the marriage of full HD with accurate colour and fine detail makes the Samsung the standout winner.
Spec - 3.5 / 5 stars
A respectable set of options for the MP4-flavour format, including full HD, exposure and white balance. A handful of effects complete the package.
Tech Tricks - 3.5 / 5 stars
There's a self-record function, as well as 'outdoor view' which ramps up the contrast for use on bright days. The most useful inclusion, though, are the composition guides, which help you keep the horizon level and compose like a pro. (See 'Improve Your Aim' boxout). It's just a shame there are no scenes to tackle common shooting conditions.
Quality - 4.5 / 5 stars
Outstanding. Deep colours and fine detail allow for a natural quality that never looks artificially enhanced. Viewing is as good on a laptop or TV as it is on the phone.
Low Light - 4 / 5 stars
It's as noisy as all other camera phones but manages an acceptable return under low light conditions. Use the onboard light, and by God, you'll blind everyone in a six-foot radius. It's by far the most powerful light of all the handsets.
Audio - 2 /5 stars
A mono mic with a seemingly-poor frequency response makes for uninspiring sound. No awards here.
Runner up - HTC Sensation
Spec - 4 / 5 stars
With full HD, there's plenty of image control: exposure, saturation, white balance, plus a glut of different effects. HTC has opted for an older 3GP format but the only feature we'd like to have seen is an image stabiliser.
Tech Tricks - 4.5 / 5 stars
Self recording with the front camera is handy, but where the Sensation really scores is through the flexibility of its nine scenes, with - amazingly - a wide enough aperture to creature pro-looking close-up shots. Nearly everything you'd expect from a digital camera is right here.
Quality - 4 / 5 stars
Well-defined, with punchy colours and plenty of detail, if a little over-sharp. Slight pixellation in fast-moving scenes loses it a star.
Low Light - 3 / 5 stars
With low or no light sources, it's dismal but the light compensates dramatically. You still can't totally avoid the dreaded red eye, though.
Audio - 3 / 5 stars
Boasts stereo audio but the recording level was comparatively low. It's just as susceptible to wind as any other phone.
Apple iPhone 4
Spec - 2 / 5 stars
As expected, the iPhone records 1280 x 720 HD in Apple's preferred MOV format. Other than that, there's no native control whatsoever.
Tech Tricks - 1 / 5 stars
You can self record with the front-facing camera and tap to focus on different subjects but that's your lot. Compared to the other grown-up handsets here, Apple's still languishing in the playground.
Quality - 3.5 / 5 stars
It's a shade dark but there's enough detail to fill the 1280 frame, plus the colours are nicely naturalistic.
Low Light - 3 / 5 stars
Expect average-quality stuff unlit but the light is relatively powerful at close range, albeit with a touch of red eye.
Audio - 4 / 5 stars
Nicely rounded, with surprisingly faithful voice reproduction, provided the subject's not too far from the mic. Hiss is kept in check, too.
LG Optimus 3D
Spec - 2.5 / 5 stars
Records full HD to the popular MP4 format and while it offers white balance and exposure control, that's pretty much it, bar three basic picture effects.
Tech Tricks - 2.5 /5 stars (2D) 4.5 / 5 stars (3D)
The main reason the LG scores so highly is because it's capable of glasses-free 3D video. If you've seen a Nintendo 3DS in action, you know what to expect, i.e. a gimmick to impress your mates. There's also an image stabiliser, which smoothes out gentle shake but, other than that, the LG is plain vanilla.
Quality - 2 stars (2D & 3D)
In 2D, it's dire: zero definition; edge smear, extensive chromatic aberration (blue edges); blown-out highlights; and vile colour reproduction. The 3D drops to 1280 x 720, losing over half the resolution, and trading colour and highlight errors for close-up focal problems. It's shoddy video, whichever way you slice it.
Low Light - 1.5 stars
In low light, the LG churns out the stuff of nightmares, rendering it all-but-useless, unless you're shooting some Grindhouse rot. Flick on the feeble light and only the closest part of your scene illuminates. Poor all round.
Audio - 2.5 stars
With standard mono recording, it's a dull affair that'll never set the audio world alight.
Sony Ericsson Xperia arc
Sony Ericsson has always been known for its market-leading camera phones, but the Xperia is a tad underpowered, delivering middleweight 1280 x 720 HD video. MP4 is the order of the day, with white balance and exposure completing the basics.
Tech Tricks - 4 / 5 stars
As well-equipped as you'd expect, bringing six shooting scenes and a welcome image stabiliser to the party. Not only that, but you can pick your metering mode: 'average', 'centre' and 'spot', which is essential when filming strong light sources.
Quality - 2.5 / 5 stars
Decidedly mediocre, with excessive smoothing and loads of jagged edges on fine detail. It's slightly soft, too, although the colours are well balanced.
Low Light - 3 / 5 stars
Quite grotty with no assistance but on a par with the HTC once the light's on, illuminating most scenes adequately.
Audio - 3.5 /5 stars
The Xperia delivers perky sound, with a superior frequency response and great clarity of detail - and all in stereo, to boot. The trade-off? More pronounced hiss.