AS long as there have been cameras, there have been self-portraits. But in an age of instant gratification, it’s no longer deemed acceptable to have to prop the thing on a wall, set the timer and run round the front to get in shot. Now, you’re expected to be able to hold it at arm’s length and click.
What’s more, as art gives way to narcissism, the only pictures many of us seem to value are those with the photographer centre frame.
Since traditional cameras require the operator to be behind the lens and not in front of it, they have become somewhat redundant for casual use as most people now reach instinctively for their smartphones. That’s because most phones have a second lens on the same side as the viewing screen .
The trend for selfies has caught phone manufacturers off-guard, since the addition of front-facing cameras was originally little more than an afterthought, for use as low-definition webcams. All the development went into the rear lenses.
That explains the rush we’re now seeing towards the marketing of phones made with selfies in mind. These are the same as regular phones but with higher-resolution front-facing cameras and a front flash. If you’re choosing a phone for a teenager, this is now the single most desirable feature in a smartphone.
Yet front cameras are still the poor relation on most of today’s models. The iPhone 6, for instance, can capture stills at eight megapixels through the rear lens but only 1.2mp at the front.
One model that breaks the mould is the little-known Oppo N1, which has a single, 13-megapixel lens and flash unit that swivels from front to back. But with a screen just shy of six inches, it’s halfway to being a tablet rather than a phone and it’s hard to find in the UK.
The HTC Desire Eye takes a more conventional approach, with twin 13mp cameras on both sides. You can expect to pay around £350 for the privilege.
Sony is the maker currently pandering most to the selfie audience,with its Xperia C3 model as the ultimate phone for the purpose, with a more-than-adequate 5mp front camera and, most importantly given the proximity to your eyes, a softer flash. The 5.5-inch screen is bigger than average and the phone can be had for around £200. That’s if you can find it, as it’s about to be superseded by the slightly-upgraded C4, at £250.