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Phone photo quality interests Google, Microsoft

Want something more sophisticated than a megapixel count to judge a phone camera? Two tech titans have joined an effort to offer a better guide.

Google and Microsoft have joined a group devoted to creating a way that cell phone buyers can easily comprehend the quality of their camera phones.

The International Imaging Industry Association said the tech titans signed up to help with the third phase of the Camera Phone Image Quality Initiative, in which a variety of companies try to create measurements to capture various test results.

Mobile phones that can take photos are ubiquitous today, but with tiny image sensors and lenses and severe budget constraints, they vary widely in their ability to take good photos. Mostly all that buyers have to go on is a megapixel count, which isn't terribly meaningful when it comes to such small sensors. The International Imaging Industry Association, a consortium whose mission is to make imaging better for consumers, is trying to come up with a better way.

The mobile phone camera tests include resolution, color uniformity, lens distortion, and lens chromatic aberration, but the group also plans to factor in sharpness and noise reduction. A variety of other possibilities ranging from dynamic range, white balance, and resistance to glare also could be added into the mix as well.

The group is trying boil all this down into an official star rating consumers can trust.

Other companies working on the standard include Aptina Imaging, CDM Optics, DxO Labs, Eastman Kodak, Fujifilm, Motorola, Nokia, OmniVision Technologies, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, STMicroelectronics, ST Ericsson, and VistaPoint Technologies.