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Over the past several years, camera technology has taken some major leaps. Digital cameras and video recorders that have the ability of taking excellent shots are now relatively inexpensive and widely available. The camera I own and use for everything only cost me just over $100 this past summer and given the right lighting and patience, it can take some amazing pictures. Something equivalent or similar to this just a few years ago would have set me back several hundred dollars...or more. Not to mention, it would have been about twice the size and lacking many of the features.

One of the biggest showcases of these improvements comes in the form of our very own smartphones. I can still recall the time that I got my very first camera phone. It was a Kyocera Strobe, which came with a VGA rear camera and LED flash. Needless to say, I thought I was the coolest kid on the block and took pictures of everything. The blue-tinted display made it hard to even see what I was taking pictures of and the VGA resolution pictures didn't fare much better on the computer. Not to mention, flash memory was moderately expensive back then, too. I could only take a very limited amount of pictures before I had to free up some of the built-in memory.

Now it's all too common for someone to be carrying a phone with 5 or 8 MP cameras, sometimes more, and 16 or more gigabytes of memory. Cameras within phones can also record in HD (720p) now. People can now visually document and share nearly every moment of their lives through social mediums like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. But what is the future of mobile photography? Is this just a fad? Or is it the way of the future?

Since the beginning of this big camera boom in the mobile world, many have put on their creativity hats and turned their cell phones into much more than just a point-and-shoot camera for home movies and family photo albums. It has sparked a movement of amateur, mobile photographers – some professionals alike – who can do some pretty amazing things with their camera phones. Earlier today, Mashable composed a list of seven very impressive short films shot with, you guessed it, cell phones. Needless to say, these short films are amazing accomplishments and if it weren't for the uploaders boasting that their films were captured using cell phones, it would be nearly impossible to tell otherwise.

The age of dedicated, point-and-shoot cameras is likely coming to an end or a plateau as the technology within phones is quickly catching up. In addition, smartphones offer instant sharing and editing options while on the go. If you take a family trip to the zoo, you can have the entire album uploaded to Facebook before you ever leave the zoo. A digital camera is yet another device that you have to carry with you. With most, you will also have to transfer the files to a computer before sharing. In this day and age, it's all about convenience and time.

With this instant sharing option comes not only a quick and easy way to document your life on the social platform of your choosing, it comes with several unique benefits as well. You may recall from several months back that the FCC has plans to upgrade 911's system to receive text messages. There was mention of  picture and video messages, too. This can help educate emergency response teams of what they will be dealing with when they arrive at the scene of an accident or disturbance call.

Likewise, these widely available cameras being bolted to our cell phones means we will take them everywhere we go. They are portals to seeing what goes on around the world in real-time. Through platforms like Twitter, Instagram, or picplz, we are able to see things from all around the globe as they happen. CNN iReport's team seeks to track down the top stories and pictures related to global news and acts as an aggregator for all of this. They have an Assignment Desk where people like you and I can report news and upload pictures of important world events.

For example, there is currently an open story where people can add their own images of the earthquake aftermath in Japan, and there are countless people constantly updating the site with reports of the unrest in the Arab world. This is only the beginning. As more people get their hands on phones equipped with cameras, we will begin to see more and more of this. This will play a large part in how news will ultimately be delivered in the not too distant future.

Mobile camera technology is quickly advancing. With the ability to take and edit pictures and videos from a slim device easily slipped into the pocket, the possibilities are endless. How do you use the camera on your phone? Do you use it to make short films or for photography? Do you think this technology will drastically change the way we receive or report news in the near future?


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