Google “OnePlus 3” and the first answer you get is 4. Beyond the hilarious search engine quirk, I’d like to share a few photographs made using this Chinese phone to illustrate the continuing progress made by the Smartphone industry in the photo arena. These were made by Theo Grimeau, my daughter’s boyfriend, during a recent trip to London. Thanks for sharing, Theo !
Why am I showing these here?
Well, I spent a good past of the end of last year trying to convince at least a few readers that Smartphones shouldn’t be discarded as cheap substitutes for real cameras, intended only for the clueless tourist and lazy tog. Just because 80% of Smartphone end up defiling the memory of Susan Sontag at the end of plastic sticks doesn’t mean the other 20% aren’t up to a lot of good stuff.
Judging by some of the comments, it’s fair to say I wasn’t entirely successful 😉 So let me try again to explain what makes the Smartphone such a great proposition for real photographers. And, no, it’s not about platitudes such as the best camera is the one you have with you.
It’s really about creativity.
To restate my argument about the vital importance of multiple sensor sizes, forget about what the specs tell you and what marketing departments want to force down your throat.
Today, technology has advanced so much that you can produce excellent photographs with any sensor size. What really differentiates one from the other is the final look.
As this preview of the scrumptiolicious Fuji GFX demonstrates, larger formats excel at soft-looking, shallow depth-of-field painterly moods. And Smartphones are just brilliant as the opposite. That direct, raw and edgy look that you couldn’t replicate with an 80 grand Phase back and hours of post-processing to save your life.
The sort of look you see used as illustration on trendy websites.
So, here we have it. Theo has a very good eye. He walks around unscouted territory and brings back the goods.
His phone is the OnePlus 3, from the opening paragraph. Good phone, low DAS score, great looks and super affordable compared to Apple and Samsung royalty. I’d never heard about it, Theo introduced me to it.
What 400 bucks/quid/euros buys you is 16Mpix and a well executed bag of tricks such as HDR, panorama, a mix of both and, for those with ADD, video in the drool worthy format of the day. While common decency precludes video from entering these hallowed pages, here are a few examples of the other features.
Now, you may or may not like the look of HDR, the huge depth of field or any of the attributes of what this camera brings to the table. But it’s impossible not to admire the image-making capabilities of such a tiny and affordable (compared to the average camera) device.
Even when you keep things simple and go for a more traditional approach, Smartphones are able to deliver the goods. See below, for instance. I can think of quite a few camera / lens combos that would mess up that sort of view with enthusiasm …
And, even in the traditional stronghold of larger formats, low light and high dynamic range, it’s possible to more than get away with it.
And the results really look different from what a 15-stop 16-bit camera would have produced. Inferior? Technically maybe but not aesthetically.
Anyone refusing to consider Smartphones as worthy cameras today is spending too much time on DxO or other lab test sites. The Leica M10 has a lot going for it (more on this tomorrow) but, for street photography, I’d take this phone over it any day. Beyond convenience and tranquility of mind, I think it’s really beneficial to every photographer to learn to recognise different looks and get their eye in. Just like it helps batsmen avoid copping a bouncer in the chops, and hit if for 6, it can open up new ways of seeing for sedate photographers.
You can find more of Theo’s photographs (and more samples made with that phone) on his Flicker page. What do you think? Still allergic?
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