Eye of the Fox: The Reno 2 Smartphone

Notes on the smartphone industry’s antics and the Oppo Reno2’s optics
from Barry Fox, (Fellow, International Moving Image Society)

Seeing the Wood through the Trees.

I HAVE OFTEN WONDERED why people change their phones so frequently—even before the non-replacement rechargeable battery locked inside has started to fail. Of course such flippant phone-swapping is common largely because the networks incite it, with seductive offers of a free new phone as part of their over-priced air time and data contracts. It’s the modern equivalent of a cat-and-rat farm. The cats eat the rats and the rats eat their kittens, with cat fur a free by-product. The networks fund the phone companies who make so many phones they are cheap enough for the networks to give away.

Moving up to the Oppo Reno 2 from what—after only a short year or two—will now be disparagingly regarded as basic smartphones, such as the Honor 7 and the Wiley Swift range, provided an alternative view of modern phone reality.

Sony QX-10

It’s clear that the phone makers have had to look for new avenues of popular appeal, particularly in the phone’s on-board still and movie camera functions. Small wonder that Sony has now discontinued production of the clever little QX10, a smart camera lens and sensor which “bolts on” to a smartphone, and uses the phone touch screen as a combined viewfinder and control panel. All these functions—and much more—are now there “for free” inside a smartphone.

The phone companies have also had to make it far easier to switch from old to new phones. Gone are the days when this process took a week of laborious rebuilding. Free apps like Clone Phone and Phone Clone, with QR codes generated by one phone and read by the other, in conjunction with a password-protected Google account, make it a doddle to securely copy more or less everything (except sensitive log-on details) from old to new in a matter of minutes.

And if the owner can’t manage it, or can’t be bothered to manage it, there will always be a salesman in a network high street shop to do the job free in return for a signature guaranteeing to go paying the network an obscene amount of money every month for several years.

What we need now is for the computer industry to adopt similar upgrade/swapover systems for desktops, laptops and servers.

The view from Afar (and Near)

*Barry Fox and Chris Bidmead were each given Oppo Reno 2 phones at the launch in October.

Barry Fox photographing

For me the main bonus of upgrading from an “old” everyday working phone, an Honor 7, to a new Oppo Reno 2*, was the option to take telephoto and close-up reference shots of birds, bees and perhaps-edible fungi.

Until now I have had to hump around a DSLR and extra lenses, with the result that the DSLR and lenses mostly stay firmly sat in a warm drawer while I brave the weather. Now I can do more or less the same with a pocket phone like the Oppo and its 20x zoom and electronic stabilisation.

Fomes officinalis

I say ‘more or less’ because on my first experience of a 20x camera-phone, it is nowhere near as easy to hold a small phone steady on a windy day, and line up shots on a small TV screen, than push a relatively bulky and heavy DSLR into my face and aim shots by looking direct through an eyepiece viewfinder.

So my question now is—who will be first to offer a phone with direct view viewfinder?

That’s the phone I will buy.

Barry Fox: 1 Dec 2019

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