Do you prefer a hardware camera key?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from  Arizona
| Published: December 22, 2012

Before my daughters were born, I never took pictures with my phone. And no, never isn’t extreme. More often than not, I’d simply forget that my phone even had that capability. I’m barely an amateur photographer, and while I’ve owned cameras in the past, taking photos with my phone had never really been on the top of my priority list. Now, though, that’s quite different. I take pictures and videos of my daughters all the time, to the point of where they yell at me to stop, or hide behind their hands like little Hollywood actresses. However, as I’ve started taking more pictures, the one thing that I look for the most hasn’t changed: How good to the images look?

I don’t really listen to the on-the-paper comparisons. We all know that the more megapixels that a company shoves into a camera only counts for so much. We know that it also has to do with the coupled technology, the shutter, and a plethora of other tiny features that all add up to put together an outstanding, or middling, camera.

Back when Windows Phone 7 was announced, one of the things that I thought was a stand-out feature was the hardware camera key. Back then, finding a dedicated camera key wasn’t all that easy. In fact, they had become somewhat of a rarity by then. They existed, sure, but it was like going on an adventure trying to find one. So when Microsoft made sure that it was a feature that couldn’t be compromised, I was happy. Especially considering it would wake up the Windows Phone-based device from sleep, so you could take an on-the-fly photo when necessary.

And when you have kids, especially two, there are a lot of on-the-fly the moments.

But, here’s the thing. That dedicated camera key? It never actually worked the way I had envisioned it. Sure, it was relatively quick, but if I had to be honest? I could generally unlock an iPhone and activate the camera, if I knew where the icon was, in the same amount of time I could activate the Windows Phone camera. That was the case between Windows Phone 7.5 and iOS 5, and I compared it between iOS 6 and Windows Phone 8. Same results.

Actually, no, the iPhone is faster. With the slide-to-activate camera feature, I can honestly say that getting to a camera on a phone is super quick. Based on my usage, mind you. I know that, based on a quick conversation, a friend of mine would swear by his Galaxy S III’s camera, and its lock screen icon.

The truth is, I’ve sort of lost interest in the hardware key for taking photos. I generally forget that I can use the volume rocker to actually take photos with the iPhone, especially if I rotate it one way versus another. Touching the screen to take a photo is just easy, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It’s a good thing, really.

And last night, I saw a commercial for a camera, a dedicated camera, which had a touchscreen (which isn’t new), but that the whole point of the ad was to show off that you could just tap the touchscreen to take a photo. What? A dedicated camera that foregoes the hardware button? You don’t say. What has the world come to?

I’ve been told that the hardware key actually helps with taking photos. That it adds a bit more stability to each shot. I can see where those comments come from. Especially if it’s a function key that has multiple levels, and adds a bit more time to find faces, or gives a bit more time to steady the shot. For me, though, I think I’m gradually starting to prefer the software function key, rather than the dedicated hardware key.

But what about you, Dear Reader? Do you own a phone with a hardware camera key? If not, do you wish you did? Did you pick up a Windows Phone device for that particular function? Over the years, have you learned to love the hardware key more than the software counterpart? Or is it the other way around? Let me know!

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