Sometimes Dear Susan articles are the result of private debate between it’s contributors; sometimes it is something that triggers inspiration and the desire for one of us to talk about something. Pascal has recently been telling us and Dear Susan’s readers how much he likes using his Korean fancy from the house of Samsung, much to the derision of some of our other members.
Recently, whilst using the LED flash on my phone as a torch to try and find my mother’s cat, it befell an accident and had to be replaced – a sad day as it had accompanied me through 2 years of travel, its huge battery battling through days of heavy use and its huge screen a great way to show potential subjects my portrait work. It’s funny how attached we get to the most unlikely inanimate things, and I lamented the passing of a trusted friend. When setting up it’s replacement, I happened to be looking through the pictures I had accumulated on my old phone, and I was quite surprised by how pleasant some were.
As a camera phone luddite, it was then that an idea for an article started to formulate, as I know Pascal had been experimenting with his camera phone, but others – including me – somewhat dislike our phones as photographic devices. It came to me as although I don’t ever really use my phone as a camera, I came across a few photos I had taken with it a few months ago, and quite liked one or two of them, so I asked Dear Susan’s other members to submit camera phone photos and share their thoughts.
Inevitably, as Pascal likes his camera phone so much, he was the first to reply.
Pascal (Jappy): I violently agree. The obvious caveat is that people who don’t like phones will not do their best to make the best possible pic with the phone… For example, against the sun with a greasy lens and with a completely black foreground
Adrian: Well I don’t think anyone should be aiming to create a deliberately bad picture! It’s just an excuse to make us luddites try something new – and then we can all bitch about how bad the results are and how much we disliked using our phones!
Steve (Mallett): OK, I’ll play. I realise it has never occurred to me to clean the lens on my phone so I won’t be needing to grease it up!
Philippe (Berrend): Hard for me to not disagree when Pascal violently agrees. How did he know that I would grease up my lens and shoot against the sun and a black background? In earlier times this man would have been burned at the stake! He’ll freely admit that he’s sold his soul to some kind of Korean deity…. Still, I’ll play along to show all of you unbelievers…
Adam (Bonn): I don’t even know what my phone is called…. It might be a galaxy s4 mini. I had a quick look through the photos on it – but they’re mainly from Ikea from when we moved here (when you have to know where to look in the warehouse for the tat your wife wants)
Speaking of my wife – I’ve arrived home to a note saying our daughter needs passport sized photos for school, and can I do the necessary. What’s the going rate for that? She’s always saying I give away too much photography for free.
Dallas (Thomas): I’m in I’ll just have to ask Anne how do I take a photo on my phone!
Steffen (Kamprath): What’s the idea behind it, the story, the take-away?
Adrian: Well given that Pascal likes his phone, but others of our number seem to positively dislike, I thought it was an interesting exercise – ‘we are photographers, who mostly hate phones, but here are some of our efforts’.
To try and get us going, I submitted some of my existing photos first.
Phone: Microsoft Lumia 640XL (13Mp Carl Zeiss f2 28mm equivalent)
I was walking past the Park Ventures’ “Ecoplex” building on T. Wittayu in Bangkok, and stopped to take a snap. In this photo, although the ISO used was quite high and therefore caused some noise, I thought the geometric composition suited a 16:9 frame, and the contrasty scene created a graphic image that hid some of the noise in the shadows and played to the strengths of a simple camera. The Windows Mobile Lumia Camera App allows manual control over all shooting parameters if required, and has a multi-shot HDR mode. The lens tends to create a lot of “bloom” along bright edges of contrast, such as some of the lighting up the building in this photograph. Edited with Ichikawa Software’s “SilkyPix for Jpeg”.
I was dining on the street under a parasol in Kuala Lumpur during a tropical rain storm. The heavy rain had emptied the street, and I liked how the bright lights reflected on the wet surfaces. Too lazy to take out a “proper” camera over dinner, I took a few photos with my phone. The composition isn’t perfect, but I like the light and atmosphere. Processed on my phone using Adobe Photoshop Express for Windows Mobile.
The photograph of Singapore’s “Atlas Bar” was another snap taken over coffee, where the scene suited a vertical 16:9 composition. The camera records a surprising amount of detail when the lighting isn’t too difficult. Edited with Ichikawa Software’s “SilkyPix for Jpeg”.
I rarely use my phone to take photographs, but occasionally something grabs my attention and I want a “snap” that I can easily and quickly attach to an email or a message. When I do use it, I am often surprised by how decent the photos are – I wouldn’t print them to hang on my wall, but for looking at on a screen, they can be surprisingly good. My most common reason for using the camera in my phone is as an excellent way to remember things – people, places, things, stories, articles, addresses. I find it particularly useful for making a record of useful tips and travel information often found at random when reading in-flight magazines!
I generally dislike the process of trying to take “proper” photographs with my phone because I dislike the ergonomics – holding it at arm’s length, prodding the screen whilst trying to avoid camera shake, unable to see the screen clearly because of the ambient light. However, having found these photographs lurking in my phone and taken a look at them on my computer, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how nice they are. For me, pictures with even light without too much contrast, or simple graphic compositions, often seem to look best. I might even try taking some more pictures using a tripod at base ISO, just to see how they look, although I think the dynamic range will be limiting for high contrast scenes, as is my phone’s inability to record raw files.
Philippe: Wow!! That first picture shows that the phone has serious distortion!!! Turning a sailboat in this! What? You mean it is not a sailboat? Then what is it, a ladybug? See, i told you so!!
Phone: Apple iPhone 6 (8Mp f2.2 29mm equivalent lens)
The smartphone (at least my iPhone 6) can do well enough if there is nothing particularly subtle or difficult, and if it is the “general impression” that matters, like the blue-hour picture of Paris or the golden-hour picture of the château de Saint Germain.
As you can see, the next photo I decided to do the obvious, and submit a postcard picture, the way many users would. To be honest, it just took me 10 seconds, because I actually live there, and no care was taken to “make it better”, either upon shooting or in post. Thus I consider it fairly representative of smartphone use for photography. The only “plus” is that the light was really nice.
Then, if the light gets more intense, the picture gets gradually flat and washed out. Detail evaporates, colours are both undifferentiated and unappealing. That is the case of the rear view of Notre-Dame.
Then an afternoon picture of the Arènes de Nîmes, with quite a bit of contrast (we’re past 6pm in April, it is still far from a high-noon glare), and the picture falls apart, hardly useable even for keepsakes. The image is downright unpleasant and painful to look at, so who would want to store such an image? in this instance, I just used it to send to someone to show where I was, and that I had arrived.
My comments, not wanting to belabour the obvious – easy to use, shoot–store-send, the 3-“S” trifecta of the Smartphone (that is a total of 4″S”). In summation, the camera phone is useful in 2 respects: in showing how easy, cheap-and-cheerful, universal photography can be (and, frankly, ought to be). And in showing how conservative, stuck-in-the-mud, snobbish, near-autistic, milk-the-market-till-it-dies the traditional photography companies are.
Steve: Here are a couple of decent iPhone pics. Like others have commented phone camera is incredibly useful as an aide memoire for snapping random stuff I might want later.
Phone: iPhone SE (12Mp f2.2 29mm equivalent)
Pascal: Well, I’m happy to see you are all hammering 9 inch nails in the mainstream camera’s coffin. These are very good. The sky is a tad too blue, nothing selective de-saturation can’t handle. And, after all, we all PP our photos.
Steve: Of course, we are clearly demonstrating, they’re useless in low light….
Pascal: Ahem. I beg to difer. That’s a brilliant photo.
Steve: I thought I’d throw one more into the mix, in black and white. It was the people jumping off the rocks that caught my attention and trying to capture them with a phone was absurd but the gulls flew up from the cliff below to make something of the image.
Dallas: I’m going with one photo only.
Phone: Apple iPhone 4S (8Mp f2.4 35mm equivalent)
Firstly I very rarely use the phone as a camera, I’m a snub. I actually hate using it, I will concede it is convenient. Phone cameras have there uses but not for me.
My partner Anne users hers all the time and get some great results – an example is below.
Steffen: It hurts my heart to cull down to just 3 but here we go:
Phone: Apple iPhone 4S (8Mp f2.4 35mm equivalent)
Some years ago, I was regularly commuting. I used the time to do some music or snap some shots. I particular like this photo because of it’s fleeing character, mysteriousness, grittiness, and many layers.
This is the coast of Rügen island in the Baltic Sea in autumn. I really like the simple composition and colors here. Actually I had this photo printed and framed for a couple of years hanging in my living room.
Another shot from Rügen and a year-long wall hanger. I really like the composition, action, and motif.
I used to photograph with my iPhone much more often in the past. I actually used to side-by-side with my DSLR for close-up action shots. It had this different aesthetic, that easy feeling, that “in the moment”-look. I often used Hipstamatic to intensify that feeling. So I had my clean DSLR files on one side and those “raw” snaps from my iPhone on the other side.
But now with the A6000 I can have both. I’m not striving for that Hipstamatic look anymore, but I can still be within the action with the smaller camera. Today, I mostly use my iPhone to take visual notes only. Another major use case is video because I don’t like to edit them – and actually viewing them. Apps like Spark or Cinamatic help me to capture small clips, already cut to handy pieces. And of course I use it when I don’t have my camera with me. But I much more often don’t take the shot at all. And I shot with the plain camera app and edit it within my usual Lightroom flow.
Adam: I had a quick look through the photos on my phone – but they’re mainly from Ikea from when we moved here, when you have to know where to look in the warehouse for the tat your wife wants.
Phone: Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini (8Mp f2.6 28mm focal length equivalent)
Graffiti in Bristol by Banksy.
The ‘rainbow’ and the toilet paper amused me and I turned it into a ‘pot of gold’ gag on Facebook.
This final shot is some age-old steam machine that runs (on electricity) in the local mall. This is the only shot I took specifically for the article.
Pascal : I think phones get such a bad rap from traditional photographers because of the way some selfie-tourists use them and because we don’t exercise the same caution (good light, stable hand …) with them as with our more expensive cameras (nor do we give them the same PP love). Unfair comparisons. Biases get us nowhere. I love the phone for 3 reasons.
One is the obvious convenience. Pocketability, auto-pano, auto-storage & backup, one-click PP, easy sharing …
Phone: Samsung Galaxy S6 (16Mp f1.8 28mm focal length equivalent)
The second is the look. Yes, my Sony is far better technically, but sometimes it’s just impossible to replicate the look of a camera (lens) with another and sometimes the phone camera is just the tool for the occasion.
The third is the ability to practise composition anytime, anywhere. Much like film directors carry viewfinders with them, I tend to pop out the phone from my pocket when something appeals to me, even if there’s no time to turn it into something good, even if I know the end result won’t be of high enough technical quality.
I’m not selling my beloved lenses anytime soon but, to me, the phone is a great photo buddy that deserves better consideration than it’s getting because of some tourist stereotypes 🙂 Unfortunately, I also feel that phone makers are losing the plot by making their products more complex and trying to compete with traditional cameras on image quality. Stupid and deleterious on both counts, but they’re the boss …
When I asked an innocent question about where a particular members phone created raw files, there was more vigorous debate.
Steve: In answer to the question, “does my iPhone shoot RAW”; I had no idea! I have an iPhone SE which is a 6 in a 5 casing as I wanted a pocket-sized phone. Turns out it does but not with the Apple camera app but various other apps do shoot raw including Camera+ which I use sometimes. I notice I have some resistance to the idea as it adds another layer of complexity that I’m not sure I want but I’ll give it a go.
Bob: It kind of defeats the main objects of mobile phone imaging – immediate, flexible and geared up for messaging and the brave new world of the internet? Casual snapping with communication and aide memoire in mind – the modern Polaroid.
Philippe: I agree with Bob, any PP runs against the main advantages of the smartphone IMHO.
Steve: Tosh! If you want to take the best possible image with your phone, raw and pp makes perfect sense. If you want a copy of a bill then jpg rules. The great thing about this happy band of marauders is that we agree on almost nothing…
Bob: Indeed re the “happy band of marauders”, but I must ask why would anyone wish to spend too much time (if any) processing mobile phone images if one aspires to a (much) higher standard as do most enthusiast and other serious snappers? After all, before digital, all film based imaging was essentially JPEG and without the ability to adjust those JPEG images in processors such as Lightroom unless scanned digitally. If the sensor, processor and subsequent image quality are “good enough”, the end result should be so, regardless of the image taken device. But I doubt that the mobile phone would meet my long-term satisfaction criteria.
I must admit that I mainly use my iPhone both as a “Polaroid” and to GPS locate the images I take on my more serious kit as, for some reason known only to the major electronic companies who make my “serious equipment”, they see fit not to include something as relatively simple as GPS into their expensive cameras….!!!
Adrian: I think mobile phones have spawned a new type of “Photographer”, who take their Instagram snapping very seriously. Their quality bar may not be the same as a D810 user, but they probably know enough to understand what raw is, and maybe perceive a benefit using it.
Film was only “jpeg” for mass market consumers who let the lab do their prints. Film was also a raw file for those who did their own darkroom work – so they could dodge and burn and all the other things (paper, chemicals, etc) to get a specific result they wanted.
I certainly agree that for the most consumers “good enough” is all that counts, which is why phones have killed off cheap compact cameras. But there appears to be a smaller subset of phone users who perhaps aspire to something more. Look at the way Apple market their phones as cameras, and how some other phone makers spend a lot of time with large sensors, high pixel counts, and brand name lenses etc.
Bob: I know I’m an old fart Luddite but I fail to see how this immediate, instant and throw away Instagram/Facebook generation and culture can be regarded as “serious”.
Colour film was very limited, especially transparency film, in respect of the latitude of which it was capable (light years away from modern digital sensors) and is something to which I return often, as I have a huge library of such images, and simply shake my head at how comparatively poor even a well scanned, medium format slide is compared to even a modern APS-C sensor digital image, never mind a full frame or medium format one.
As I said, each to their own and all in the eye of the beholder.
Adrian: Whilst I completely agree that the (online) world is dominated by people on social media who have been seduced into spending a great deal of time promoting themselves and their faux “perfect” lifestyles, I think you are being unfair to a decent number of people out there who are using camera phones with real talent. You only have to look in places such as Instagram to see that there is plenty of art and creativity, just not expressed at the standards that we, the “old guard” of photography, believe is “proper”.
There is talent out there, but it’s often lost in a sea of self-aggrandizing mediocrity and vanity.
Surely it’s about the message, not the media?
Bob: I’m sure you’re correct, Adrian, but I simply don’t have the time or patience (or ultimate interest) to wade through the acres of, at best, mediocrity to get to the gems which exist.
Pascal: All I know is that many of the photographs on this page are far from ridiculous. Some, I think, are really good. Given the negative bias of most of their users, I’d say that at least vindicates the phone as a potential image making buddy/tool. A buddy/tool some like and others don’t, but one that can’t be brushed under the carpet so easily.
Adrian: I have also been impressed with the quality and artistry of the photographs. It was only when I reviewed some of the photos on my old phone that I realised how surprisingly good some were, even though I wish the ergonomics were better. With such a diverse set of images and such diverse attitudes and interests, it’s hard to make any strong conclusions. Some of us don’t like the ergonomics of the photographic experience, others don’t care. Some of us use our phones as a photographic tool, others regard it as a form of heresy close to devil worship. Some of us make creative use of the cameras on our phone, others just use it as a way to remember something later.
The one thing we do seem to agree on is that although we all use the cameras on our phones to photograph different things, we all find them useful for something – and that is probably what the phone makers wanted: being ubiquitous.
Except selfies – nobody used them for selfies.
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?? – you guys seem to have exhausted the topic. The only thing left to say is my standard comment on “opinions” – they either coincide or they diverge – but they lack the ability to be either “right” OR “wrong”. Everyone has them – polite people air them very cautiously – dumbos hurl them at you, like hand grenades, but theirs are the ones that are most highly questionable.
Sigh – I’ve now taken two cellphone photos.
Pascal has seen one – it’s a shot of a kid photographing his friends/relatives/whatever, using a cellphone – there – the truth is out! But in my defence, I took that cellphone shot on a D810 with an Otus lens.
The other was actually taken WITH my cellphone – ancient archeological piece of gear that it is – a Nokia C5-00 (and I’m sure you all recognise it at once), with a 3.2 MP cam. The reason I used it to take a photo was because in Australia, if a store mislabels the price of the goods on display, the customer is entitled to take advantage of the mistake and hold the store to the price displayed. So when I found some nice French cheese (usual price around $70 a Kilo) marked as being $4 for 250 gm, I struck. First, I photographed it (and took two more shots, for good measure). Then when I reached checkout, I queried the scan as it displayed on the terminal – the checkout chick was nonplussed – I told her what the store had done, and asked her to alter the price from around $17.50 to $4 – she had a seizure and called for the floor manager, who started to buck and argue. I told her it was pointless and suggested she have a look at the shelf herself. She came back saying I was wrong. I showed her the photos and told her she was telling lies. My wife fled. I stood my ground. And in the end I left the store with 500 gm (instead of 250 gm), all for the advertised price of $4. I smiled all the way home, while my wife cursed me all the way.
So you see, cellphones do have a use. They help you buy cheese, cheaply. Et je suis un fromage! 🙂
Are you saying our article is cheesy ? 😀 C’est le floor manager qui a du en faire un fromage !!!
Minor stuff… the photo of the statue of Nimeño II in Nîmes is erroneously captioned “Rear view of Notre-Dame” – I suppose a cut&paste from the previous caption?
Thanks Fabrizio. Correcting this immediately. Cheers.
Thanks for collating this article. Even though it is not presenting new ideas it is a nice summary of a better type of group think; that is one which embraces diversity of views with healthy scepticism as required and is getting rare in public debate globally on any topic.
This however leads to my thinking on this subject, and that is that connected/online and social media digital photography, and phone cams particularly have lowered the bar in so many ways, and it is affecting or reducing the value of all photography as a communication medium. The system environment (socially and culturally) is a race to the bottom with quantity of relentless instant visual shouting trumping all other considerations. Notions of quality, technical or artistic, have somewhat diminished relevance in the discussion.
Whilst there is a lot of good stuff out there to see for free, you actually need to work to find it, the opposite of what the digital promise was. The digital online world is setup to extract data, visual communication is the medium, lure or trap to achieve this goal. Phone cams are somewhat parasitic devices as sold, and it takes a little self-discipline and social awareness to make them a tool for good.
When someone invents an app or social media platform that helps you curate and manage for better communication, instead of rating by quantity of data a post collects for the owner; then we will probably have something that is worth paying actual money for.
thanks for your feedback.
I actually think that although the issues are intertwined, there are 2 separate issues – camera phones, and social media.
The article was intended as a discourse on how photographers here at Dear Susan feel about the phones on our cameras, and how we find the experience of using them, in the context that generally many photographers tend to look down and be some “snobby” about the cameras built into phones.
The issue of social media is a different and complex one, which has from time to time also been discussed here. Before camera phones, cheap compact cameras and compact film cameras also offered a certain ubiquity, often combined with low quality results. The difference was that it there was no easy means to “share” the results.
As someone who tries to sell stock photography, I agree that the “democratisation” created by digital photography has in some ways lowered the artistic bar to entry, but phones are not entirely to blame. Image libraries are full of mediocre photographs taken with various “proper” cameras (because anyone who shoots a digital image is a “photographer”, right?), and you are right this has lowered both the commercial and artistic value of much photography.
Of course I have a small social media presence, mostly used for showing physique sports competition and portrait photography, and I do sometimes despair that snaps taken at the gym taken with a phone gathered 100s of times more interest than a carefully created portrait. As you say, quantity rules, not quality, and quantity is what makes content bubble to the top of the list on social media platforms as it has greater value to the platform owners.
However, we shouldn’t denigrate the camera phone itself. The cameras seem to be at least as good and often better than previous digital compact cameras, and their ubiquity can make them as useful tool.
There is one thing I’ve been noticing. Where I live, the population divides in two – locals & tourists. And they divide again – between cellphones and cameras. What is interesting is that the ratio of cellphones to cameras is different in both groups – and there’s a fairly obvious difference in either group, between who’s using a cellphone and who’s using a camera.
I don’t have statistics on it – but I’d say there’s a higher percentage of cellphone “photographers” among the tourists than among the locals. Tourists with cams are generally using medium to high end gear, within confines of portability. Locals with cams often surprise you – you don’t wander around your local district expecting to bump into a lady in her 40s, armed with a serious camera, doing purposive and clearly well-planned photography – and one guy had three REALLY serious cams (one set up on a tripod, with time controls, doing a time shot series – and two around his neck, one quite massive, as he strolled around taking other photos while the time shot was proceeding), and he wasn’t a pro, just a serious amateur.
It’s not over yet! Anyway I’m not changing – I love cameras & I’m appalled by this excrescence intruding into my world – my cellphone epitomises how I feel about the species, all it’s fit for is phone calls, SMS messages and a travelling alarm clock.
When looking at what tourists use to take photographs, what is obvious is the monumental decline in the pocket/compact camera business. Most people snap away with their phones, whilst a few more serious users have cameras (often modern and/or mirrorless ones). All the market data shows that even sales at the lower end of “proper” cameras, with interchangeable lenses, is in decline and will be the next casualty.
I first came across the phone as camera for “real photographers” in Cuba some years ago. I was blown away at what it could do. The first thing I noticed was that due to it’s size it allowed for a lot of unusual angles that would be nigh impossible with a traditional camera. A few years ago I got the opportunity to trade in my old flip phone for a smart phone. One of the things I’d also wanted was a camera I could use in the rain (rains a lot in winter where I live). I wound up with a “weather resistant” Samsung Rugby. I went wild for the first few months and got some really amazing images (to me anyway) and then the novelty wore off. Its still here soldiering on as a phone, but gets little love as a camera. I do take the occasional shot with it, when its the only camera available. Would love to show you some of the images but no way to post here.
John, to be fair these devices fulfill one very real need – to never-be-caught-without-ANY-camera, when confronted with the shot of a lifetime. And at the bottom end of the photographic market, they have cleaned up bigtime – a few short years ago, all sorts of retailers like hi-fi stores and elecrtical goods stores were selling zillions of pocket size cams (usually with a 4/3 sensor), but those cams have largely disappeared off the shelves now.
John, I think you nailed it here. Some things are possible with a phone that aren’t with a more traditional camera. The reason most traditional photographers don’t like phones is that they view them as a substitute for their cameras rather than as a complement. Phones aren’t just about convenience and easy sharing but about enabling scenarios that would be very difficult otherwise. As with every novelty, using phones exclusively soon wears out.
You can send photos (roughly 1000pix) to me (pascal dot jappy at gmail) and I’ll post them in your comment for you.
For what concerns the above discussion, yes, I think that socials are to blame more than phones for lowering the bar (I’m not advocating about phones: I’m barely able to shoot a photo with them). But, more than social, I mean the primary purpose of the social, that is sharing – even though one might argue that in the end it’s an unavoidable consequence of the premise – I think the hurry to publish is to blame. Hurry means that you don’t pay enough care to planning, but also to post-production. That’s why I fear mostly the connectivity thing, which is of course peculiar to phones, but it’s nowadays almost a “normal” feature in cameras.
Of course, I do understand the value that connectivity has got for some classes of professionals – e.g. photojournalists. But it’s a special case.
Yes, instant gratification has had a big impact on photography. Moments are more important than fine art. It’s probably leading many to think differently and no doubt artists will emerge that make the most of this tendency and thought process. We’ll see 🙂
I’ve yet to find any real use for the connectivity my cameras offer (Sony E mount) beyond using wifi and a phone app to release the shutter. It’s only really suitable for static work as there is a delay between pressing the shutter button on the phone and the camera responding, but it saves having to stand over a tripod for ages some times. I sat on some steps near the bay in Singapore and used the camera this way, having set it up ready for the shot, much to the amusement of other camera phone snappers and photographers around me.
I don’t find a use for any of it’s other connectivity features (post to Flickr, post to Facebook etc), although I know others value the option of tethered shooting via USB (if you count that in the same category).
Sony appear to have started to remove such “App” based features from the latest models, so perhaps other people didn’t value them either – although the Apps also allowed digital filter techniques (multiple exposure blending in raw) which added real value.
You are right that some events and sporting work, the ability to send files straight from the camera to a picture desk or someone to do selection and edit. I know a UK pro who shoots cycling and uses the connectivity features of his Sony E mount camera and phone app to select, watermark and upload photos to social media as he is shooting a competition.
To me a phone camera is a proper camera – if you can live with its narrower shooting envelope, and if it has a shutter release button!
( On such a light device tapping the screen makes it move much more during exposure.)
But I would grit my teeth a lot of the time, because a lot of what I see needs the narrower field of view of a (short) tele lens.
And if I have to fiddle with additional lenses, I prefer a pocket zoom camera – but I’m watching the new two-lens-phones…
( My – small and thin – Fuji XF1 was always with me until the shutter broke the second time within three years, and I still haven’t found a suitable replacement.)
I agree that the ergonomics of holding something at arms length and trying to prod the screen to release the shutter is an ergonomic disaster.
Microsoft previously mandated that Windows Phone devices had to have a physical shutter release button, which was much easier to use. Some handset manufacturers didn’t like it, so eventually Microsoft changed the policy and it was removed, to be replaced by a soft button on the screen. The Lumia 1020 had a very large 41Mp sensor, a hardware shutter button, and an optional phone back with a grip, a proper shutter release and a second battery, so it could be used more like a camera than any other phone I know of. It had a small cult following, but didn’t sell to the masses, so the experiment was never repeated.
I agree that as soon as you want to change focal lengths etc then it makes far more sense to use a small pocket camera, as the ergonomics are much better than trying to strap some lenses onto your phone and prodding at the screen to release the shutter.
( I did consider the Lumia 1020 for the possibility of cropping, but I preferred Android to windows in a phone.)
I have a full frame A7 system – A7R2 and the expensive lenses. However, during our recent trip to Florida we we wanted to travel extremely light, so I left my camera bag at home and decided to take pics only with my iPhone 8 Plus.
Yes, there are limitations – especially in very low light. The pano stitching is pathetic. I missed my telephoto a few times and my ultrawide even more often than that.
On the other hand i was able to take some dolphin pictures, and the sunsets have pretty decent colors. The software photo engine gizmos are not overly impressive – like the blurring of the portrait mode – and a decent camera beats the effects anytime.
However, nothing beats the fact that i biked without a backpack and that I could enjoy a bath in the ocean without stress that my expensive camera equipment will disappear.
I milked the 28mm/56mm perspectives all I could and I had a ton of fun with a (gasp!) selfie stick. 😀 I discovered that there is even an app for the selfie stick!
The end result was a decent set of pictures, perfectly fine for sharing on the web. I could not restrain myself and I processed them a bit with Lightroom before posting – I was amazed what the latest Lightroom can get out of some jpeg files!
I would definitely not take only the phone to an overseas photogenic destination.
Hear hear. Different look, different skill set. The phone is a different type of camera. Not remotely as good technically, but one that can provide a lot of fun and creativity.
What kills the idea of cellphones for me is the lack of a viewfinder. A screen is all very fine, if you’re standing in a shadow – but hopeless if you’re standing in strong sunlight, and the screen is backlit.
Another is my passion for available light shots – as the sun sinks, so do cellphones.
And using a relatively small cam (Canon PowerShot), I can have the advantage of a cellphone for phone calls etc, and a “proper” camera with full functional controls, an ELV (yes I do have one – it clips on) and a zoom. Not “perfect” – but with performance that’s miles ahead of what I could expect from a cellphone, and small enough to shove in a (large) pocket.
Sorry about your Fuji XF1, Kristian – before the industry ditches all small cams, there are heaps of them out there right now that can provide the functionality missing from cellphones and still fit the description “pocket zoom camera”.
And Adrian, I don’t seem to have too much luck with prodding screens or touch screen controls, which is all you can get with cellphones – I’m still much more at home with conventional camera controls. Something “new” isn’t always something “better”.
Well, phone screens are very good these days. Certainly worlds better than the rear screens on most cameras (in fact, any camera I’ve used). Some situations are still uncomfortable without a viewfinder, but you’re better off with a recent phone than with cameras that have no viewfinder either.
Low light performance is terrible. And not even pretty. Not huge coarse grain like high sensitivity films of old, but really ugly. Manufacturers are working hard on that which, in my mind is a great shame. With greater DR and noise reduction will come a different look, one that is closer to the look provided by traditional cameras, which will make phones completely useless (‘similar but not as good’ is nowhere near as interesting or useful as ‘just plain different’).
But the xf1 has (had) two advantages most pocket zooms don’t have, precise framing (here manual zoom) and a pretty good lens. ( If I don’t find anything soon, possibly G1x III, I might even consider a repair, i.e. new lens.)
Camera manufacturers have clearly moved to larger sensor, more highly specified, “enthusiast” compact camera models – for the obvious reason that they can charge much more for them, and they can be differentiated from phone cameras by image quality and features. The downside is that the cameras are often larger, or have rather slow (aperture) lenses, because you can’t fit a big sensor and a fast lens. Most phones now have lenses around f2, yet larger sensor fixed lens cameras have lenses that may be as slow as f5.6 – which somewhat undermines the abilities of their larger sensors! Everything is a design compromise. I do feel Sony, Panasonic and to some extent Canon have found a sweet spot with 1″ sensor pocket cameras that still remain small, but with fast lenses that maximise the potential of their larger sensor. As ever, it depends how big your pockets are – both literally and financially!
And I would also prefer a 1″ zoom compact.
But to me it seems that Sony/Canon/Panasonic have sacrificed some optical quality for better pocketability – probably market pressure. Nikon’s (also 1″) DL series were announced as ~1cm thicker but then sadly aborted.
( The lens quality of the G1x is still unknown.)