Cell Phone Pictures – Paranormal Pariahs

c1So, it’s 2016 and who does NOT have a cell phone with a camera? All 3 of you? That’s what I thought. Now, how many of you have used your cellphone camera when looking for paranormal activity? How many of you have caught something interesting whether on purpose or by accident? Is it paranormal? Sadly, not likely. I know; I know; I already spoiled your “Holy Grail” ghostly picture in the park in the motion blur article! I have to play Debbie Downer yet again…my sincerest apologies (sort of).

So what’s my problem this time? Well, let’s start with the differences in make-up of cell cameras versus digital cameras. Keep in mind though, that no type of camera has captured a verifiable full body apparition to this date, so don’t feel too badly.

c2Cell Phone Cameras:
– have a fixed focus lens, inhibiting your ability to control narrow or wide focus in order to take both close up and far pictures with intended clarity and control “fuzzy edges”; also impacts quality in low light settings, such as investigations
– have smaller sensors which hinders quality in low light settings; remember most investigations are conducted in low light settings
– have slow “rolling shutters” which are prone to anomalies due to the shutter being open too long, increasing likelihood of motion blur, and other odd effects on the picture not seen when shooting. You likely have noticed that there is a noticeable lapse between pushing “shoot” button and the actual “click” of the shutter closing. So frequently, your subject has moved during that time period. Rolling shutters act just as the name implies; the exposed area “rolls” from top to bottom, picture rows one at a time, rather than all at once as in digital cameras. [4]
– have LED flash that provides less light over longer period of time [2, 3]
– “use digital zoom to get closer to subjects, which often introduces image noise and visual artifacts into the photo and degrades image quality.” [2]
– have pre-focus abilities; however, are also sufficiently slow to cause you to miss your shot, or capture something that appears mysterious due to the subject having moved much closer or almost out of range [1]
Digital Cameras:
– have a wide variety of focus settings – what you are trying to capture should lead you to change settings. Autofocus, while less accurate, is also available
– have a significantly larger sensor and a variety of settings controlling the amount and length of light exposure to sensor – even when you need to avoid using a flash; again what you are shooting should lead you to adjust accordingly
– have a variety of shutter speeds which control when shutter closes; has a total shutter, meaning the entire sensor is exposed at the same instant [4]
– flash is immediate and quite bright; of short duration
– “include a true optical zoom lens that lets you get closer to your subject without lessening image quality.” [2]
– Briefly reviewing the vital points of the digital camera, as detailed in the motion blur article, ISO settings work with aperture and shutter speed to determine how much light is allowed in and for how long. Issues such as shaky hands or movement of either photographer or subject, slow shutter speed, or incorrect ISO settings for your environment can all cause motion blur.

c3Glad you asked! Cell phone camera issues are generally associated with slow, rolling shutters, such as motion blur, distortions and image aliasing. The effects of a rolling shutter become especially apparent when either you or your subject are in motion. The image appears with significant distortions, the appearance of pieces being disjointed from the whole. Also odd blotches may be seen. A well-known example of image aliasing is that of a propeller which resembles a series of boomerangs falling from the sky near the airplane (screenshot attached to article). [4] One could easily mistake this for a UFO. This anomaly occurs because, as stated earlier, the rolling shutter exposes small rows of pixels at a time.

It is these anomalies that prompt those utilizing scientific method in investigating or in analyzing photographic evidence to dismiss pictures taken with cell phone cameras with little consideration. Cell phones also may interfere with other equipment, and are not permitted on site by many paranormal research teams. In short, cell phones are simply not reliable sources of potential evidence of the fringe sciences, despite their convenience.

121Clicks.com [1]
ConsumerReports.org [2]
Wikipedia.com [3]
Diyphotography.net [4]

Lisa Shaner-Hilty

Lisa Shaner-Hilty

I am a supervisor for several programs assisting individuals with intellectual and mental challenges. I have 2 Masters Degrees from Penn State in Communication Disorders and Psychology. My first experiences with the paranormal were around age 5. I’ve been fascinated ever since. I have been an investigator for over 10 years (first 5 years with a team, then leaving to form my own more than 5 years ago, and have taught classes on investigation, evidence analysis (especially EVP) and debunking at local community college. I also have abilities, some of which began at age 5 and others around puberty. Therefore my fields of major interest are investigation and psychic and empath. While I am open to considering all aspect and viewpoints, I am dedicated to seeking natural explanations first before anything is considered evidence.
Lisa Shaner-Hilty

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