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.
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)
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.
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