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Why are Mr. Blurrycam photos still a thing?

By Taylor Martin June 13, 2014, 2:55 pm

I remember the first time I came face to face with Mr. Blurrycam’s work.

I was sitting in my macroeconomics classroom on the computer, casually working on a project and checking one of my favorite tech sites at the time, CrackBerry. There it was, the BlackBerry Storm 9530, pictured in all its click-screen glory.

I swooned. An all-touch BlackBerry? As much as I loved the BlackBerry keyboard, I was dying for more screen real estate – more room to play Spider Solitaire, read emails, or browse the Web. As nice as the physical keyboard was, I was willing to trade it for more display space, and this crappy, pixelated photo sold me on the idea. I didn’t want an iPhone, and the T-Mobile G1 didn’t appeal to me at all. This thing was glorious!


Except … it wasn’t. The photo was so blurry, all you could really make out was the general shape of the phone, the shiny trim along the sides, and traditional BlackBerry navigation buttons: Call, BlackBerry Menu, Back, and End. Of course, there was no keyboard to be seen, and you could sort of make out Verizon’s mobile site on the display.

All the “pictures” of the 9530 were actually screen grabs from a low-res promotional video which later surfaced.

While some may not consider this the handiwork of Mr. Blurrycam, it was the first time I had seen the term used. It wasn’t the first time he was accredited for poorly framed, blurry, low-res pictures of an unofficial smartphone, and it certainly wasn’t the last.

To this day, Mr. Blurrycam (read: the collective dozens of anonymous camera wielders) has been hard at work, snapping photos of upcoming phones and whetting our appetites for the future, the unknown.

After over six years, these pictures still somehow find their way into headlines almost every week.


Among several others, we’ve recently seen countless pictures of pieces and parts of the purported iPhone 6, the rumored Galaxy F alongside the Galaxy S5, and a 12-inch Samsung tablet with a 4K display. All the pictures have one thing in common: they’re a dark, blurry mess.

Nothing surprising there, leaked photos have always come in a rather distinct style. The question is, why are all these pictures still so dark, blurry, pixelated, and godawful? Some of the worst smartphone cameras of the last two years often take better pictures than the leaked images that make the rounds, even in low light, and dedicated point and shoot cameras take even better photos in almost any situation.

Point being, it makes no sense for nearly all the leaked device images to look like they were taken with the 2-megapixel fixed focus camera from the Curve 8330 I carried back in 2006. I understand not everyone is a professional photographer. (I most certainly am not.) Not everyone understands how to frame a picture properly. And not everyone understands lighting, especially when flash is or is not helpful.

But how is it that every leaked image looks like it was taken with a four-year-old, budget camera in the corner of the darkest, sketchiest office in the worst part of town?

Prime example: the headline photo for this piece was from August 2013, not even a year ago. And it’s not just one or two leaked photos here and there; it’s almost every one … ever. It’s almost as if all the people who somehow have access to unreleased, unannounced smartphones and tablets all collaborated and agreed to take the worst pictures possible, just to drive us mad. To capture just enough of the phone’s appearance to show us its somehow different from anything out there, but not grab enough detail to tell us much more.

Remember when HTC purposefully leaked the ThunderBolt? We knew. Immediately.

I get that it’s crazy for me to even be ranting about the quality of leaked device pictures. People risk their jobs and legal action for just taking the pictures, let alone sending them to news outlets or posting them in forums. However, I’m not so much complaining about the quality as I am baffled by how every single picture – all of which are taken by different, anonymous people around the world – are of similar quality.

It makes you wonder what sort of situation the people snapping the photos are in when they’re hitting the shutter button. What cameras are these people using? Are they in a room they’re not supposed to be in? If so, how did they get there? Why were they left unattended near a top secret phone? If not, why not take the time to take a better photo? Most importantly, why risk everything for a blurry picture everyone on the Internet is going to criticize, doubt, and forget about in a matter of days?

Part of the poor quality photos, I suppose, is meant to add credibility to the photos. The few times we’ve see extreme high-quality photos of a device, it turned out to be controlled leaks from the manufacturer itself. The HTC ThunderBolt is a perfect example, and everyone was immediately skeptical of the leaked images.

Not all device leaks have to be blurry.

Still, it’s not impossible to take a high-quality photo of an unreleased device without raising questions about the source. We saw it just a few weeks ago with the Galaxy S5 Active. Yet the majority of device image leaks are hideous, barely recognizable photo evidence that only sometimes prove a rumored device exists.

What I’m interested in hearing from you, readers, is why Mr. Blurrycam’s photos are so alluring. Why do we get so worked up over questionable photo evidence of devices we know are probably real anyway? Why do you think leaked device images still look straight out of 2006?

Image via CrackBerry


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