Verizon Incredible Camera Improves the Picture

The Verizon Incredible's 8-megapixel camera raises the bar for the ongoing smartphone shootout.
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NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- The arrival of

Verizon's

(VZ) - Get Report

Incredible

phone not only manages to one-up

AT&T's

(T) - Get Report

rival

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

iPhone in a few key areas, it also promises to set off a camera-driven arms race in the smartphone sector.

The

HTC

-made,

Google (GOOG) - Get Report Android-powered Verizon Incredible features an 8-megapixel,

auto-focusing camera -- one of the first to really turn picture taking into more than an afterthought. (The image of the lacrosse game below was shot with an Incredible.)

For six years, low-quality cameras have been a common feature on most phones. The thrill of being able to snap shots anywhere, at any time, was always numbed by the resulting abundance of low-quality pictures.

Designing The Future Internet (Forbes)

The step up in quality of the Verizon Incredible camera has raised the bar for the rest of the underpowered camera phone makers, and, more than before, it threatens to pull in would-be camera buyers who no longer need separate devices.

On paper, the Verizon Incredible camera is far superior to the current 3.2-megapixel Apple iPhone 3GS and its upcoming 5-megapixel successor. And the shots, especially in daylight conditions, rival those of many compact cameras.

The Verizon Incredible, while huge, is one of the first in a growing selection of big camera superphones coming this year.

Next month -- May 12 to put a date on it --

Sprint

(S) - Get Report

will launch the HTC EVO, a WiMax 4G phone that has the same 8-megapixel camera as the Incredible. Later this summer, the delayed debut of the

Sony

(SNE) - Get Report

Ericsson

(ERIC) - Get Report

Xperia X10 is expected. The X10 features Sony's 8.1-megapixel camera. Later this fall,

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

promises to up the ante significantly with a 12-megapixel camera on its N8 touchscreen phone. And, as

TheStreet

first reported,

Apple will upgrade to the Sony 8-megapixel camera

on its 2011 iPhone -- potentially the

Verizon iPhone

.

Read on for more about these new camera phones.

More on Android

The Best Android Apps

Verizon Incredible

The newest

Droid

has earned a number of favorable reviews that have placed the phone in the same ballpark as the iconic iPhone. But one area where it beats the iPhone handily is in photos. A recent outing with a review model of the Incredible revealed a remarkably good camera -- here's an 'Incredible' snapshot of New York City's Central Park:

The onscreen adjustments are simple and the auto focus -- or screen-poke manual focus -- give the shooter a lot of flexibility. And while outdoor shots were clear and bright, indoor pictures came out a little grainy and poorly lit. The phone has a dual LED flash system, but the shots, even in normal office lighting, made the picture too bright in the foreground and too dark beyond. Shooting without the flash indoors usually had better results.

A $100 point-and shoot camera easily takes far better indoor shots, but outdoors, the advantages of a carrying a separate compact camera vanish.

HTC EVO

HTC has taken up the iPhone challenge more aggressively than any other phone maker. Unlike Nokia, which has been stuck in its own way, HTC has made thinner phones, bigger screens and has used better components in an effort to take any share of the smartphone market it can grab.

The

HTC EVO

stands out for being the first so-called

4G phone

. It's also the next 8-megapixel camera phone scheduled to arrive this year. Given its kinship with the Incredible, it's probably fair to assume the camera quality will be similar.

Nokia N8

Nokia takes the camera seriously. The

Nokia N8

, which was introduced last week, has a 12-megapixel camera featuring a Carl Zeiss lens and Xenon flash. Nokia also says the N8 camera will also allow users to take and edit high-definition video.

Nokia says the N8 will be available in fall. There was no mention of a U.S. phone company partner that could help bear some of the consumers' cost of the phone and help to bring the price down to the going rate of $200.

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10

The original mystery phone X: Sony Ericsson has been tinkering with different versions of this phone for three years, and limited sightings of the phone make it seem as elusive as Steve Jobs in public.

After

dazzling the crowds at trade shows,

the

Xperia has gone back into hiding

and missed scheduled appointments.

On paper, the Xperia X10's features are tantalizing, which may help explain why the phone's perpetual non-arrival still captures peoples' imaginations. Like the Incredible, the camera is 8-megapixel, but the Sony version adds a number of superior features like smile detection, image stabilization and face recognition. Sony is the only player in this group that brings its own digital camera talent to the phone.

This Sony camera is headed to Apple's 2011 iPhone, where Apple fans will finally catch up to the rest of the camera phone pack.

--Written by Scott Moritz in New York

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