#715. Monday Post (23 April 2018) – Finding a useful spot for my Smartphone in my photographic workflow

#715. Monday Post (23 April 2018) – Finding a useful spot for my Smartphone in my photographic workflow

Dullite ! The term, a contraction of Luddite and dullard, was coined by Lee “Captain” Anderton and Rob “Chappers” Chapman, the two men jointly responsible for wasting more of my life online than anyone else before. It’s also how I felt until recently, realising the photographic opportunity offered by Smartphones but unable to exploit it in a meaningful way.

This changed during my recent trip to Scotland, a trip during which I decided to deliberately use my Galaxy S9 in conjunction with my Sony A7r2 (that number seems so passé now), each with a predefined separate role rather than one as the dim-witted, lazy alternative to the other.

 

Fairy pools, Skye, Scotland – Samsung Galaxy S9 panorama

 

Like it or not, phone cameras are now effective enough to create very good photographs and I’d be willing to bet that you would find some, on this page, difficult to ascribe to one camera rather than the other (at web jpeg size) without explicit labeling. And a dullite, I refused to be any longer. So here were the respective assignments of “big” Sony and little smart Sam during that trip. Basically :

  • Anything akin to recording a memory was dedicated to the phone
  • Anything creative was for the Sony

Note that none of this is about technical superiority or ergonomic distinctions between one and the other. I was simply trying to use the qualities of each system as intelligently as possible to separate two types of photography which never overlap very gracefully. The phone creates panoramas on the fly, adds GPS tagging, backs up photos to my Google drive account as soon as a WiFi is detected, allows in-camera editing and sharing and has an absolute corker of a screen compared to the distinctly medieval offering on the bigger camera (not that that matters as that bloody rear screen refused to work from day 1. Again.). The Sony allows me to mount no-compromise manual lenses next to a state of the art sensor for those creative, almost meditative moments that require a more deliberate and personal approach than holding at arm’s length a rectangular slab of silicon in various types of fusion.

It’ll come as no surprise to regular readers to hear that I consider photography as a purely creative self-development process and that the gear and photographs themselves are not all that important to me. So using glass that fulfills a vision (attached to whatever camera will hold them) to pursue that introspective activity in a completely different process to the collecting of memories for family albums, made perfect sense to me.

 

Near Loch Ness, Scotland – Sony A7r2 & Zeiss Distagon 25/2 ZE.2

 

How did it work out ? Mostly, excellently.

With memory collecting dealt with so efficiently, my creative tally can be counted in the few hundred shots over the period of 8 days. A fraction of what my usual single-camera count would have been, particularly in such an incredibly varied landscape. This gave me more time on the spot to think about the shot (remember this was a family hiking trip, not a dedicated photo expedition and my average snapping time probably hovers around one second). It also means far less clutter in my C1 catalog and far less antisocial PP time. Plus, from the Smartphone corner of the ring, an album ready to share with others that took all of 15 minutes to create.

Best of both worlds, really.

 

Castle Tioram panorama, Scotland – Samsung Galaxy S9

 

What did crumble with respect to plan was mainly down to human error. My inability to perfectly judge the scene distribution between the two cameras means that quite a few of my Sony shots are neither vivid memories nor really creative photographs worth working on.

Also, after creating a vivid phone album in such little time, opening the dull, grey, photographs from the Sony, each requiring a lot of work to spruce up, was a definitely anticlimactic moment. Nothing to do with bad RAW quality from Sony, mind you, quite the opposite. It’s just that high-dynamic range RAWs can feel very dull compared to low DR jpegs and that takes readjusting to. It depends on how the manufacturer sets the default RAW interpretation. The first Leica Monchrome got a bad rap for that and Sony also seem to err on the side of non-spectacular caution with the A7r2.

But this is all for the best as those few niggles really highlighted shortcomings of my mental processing of a scene, and this can only lead to better analysis in the future. I’ve often lamented lack of connection with the subject (from togs obsessed with cheap social-success recipes, in particular) and any such misbehavior from my part was highlighted much more visibly with this 2-camera approach than it had been in my soloSony approach of the past. Good 🙂

 

Old Man of Storr, Skye, Scotland – Sony A7r2 & Zeiss Otus 85.

 

OK, so, on location, the sight of a middle-aged bloke climbing steep hills with very heavy and expensive glass only to shoot pristine scenes with his phone did raise a few eyebrows, it has to be said 😉 But, for me, this was the correct approach and I’ll continue in that direction in future travels. In truth, my creative Sony tally should probably have been 40 strong, not 400. Over the 8 days, about 20 of my Sony photographs are worth sharing. And I’m convinced that an even stricter (and better formalised) threshold for getting the Sony out of the bag would have increased the success rate tremendously.

At 850€, the Samsung Galaxy S9 is an expensive phone. At 850€, the Samsung Galaxy is the cheapest photography coach around. An absolute steal and a gem of a tourist camera in good light. An essential photographic accessory for me, now. One that lives in the pocket, not in the bag.

 

On the road to Castle Tioram – Samsung Galaxy S9 (click for 100% enlargement)

 

So, what’s best for you? A conventional approach or this two-tier photos process with a Smartphone thrown into the works ? Wadjathink ?

 


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20 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Jens Kotlenga April 23, 2018

    I took a similar approach on a 16-day trip to Singapore, from which I returned yesterday. Project work was done with the a7R2 plus 2 good Zeiss lenses and one from Leica thrown in, memories and such stuff were recorded on an iPhone 6S. Worked fine for me.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy April 23, 2018

      I bet you had fewer files from your “big” cameras and a higher keeper rate. To me that boosts staisfaction a great deal !

  2. Avatar
    Steve April 23, 2018

    So, thanks for sharing Pascal. At a time when I am actively trying to spend less time watching stuff on line you introduce me to Rob “Chappers” Chapman. A quarter of a century ago I bought a red Fender Strat and Trace Elliot amp from Anderton’s but had managed to avoid stumbling across their Youtube channel – until today. I have just spent half an hour watching the “Tele or Not Tele – Blindfold Challenge “- I’m gobsmacked! I am undoubtedly going to spend many hours in further investigation….My Strat playing days are over and the guitar now resides in my son’s studio http://mwncistudios.co.uk

    As for the main thrust of your posting; I’m with you except I’m also loving the creative use of my iPhone for multiple image trickery. And I definitely take fewer, better shots on my Olys.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy April 23, 2018

      Ah, another life wasted because of me. As if my wife’s wasn’t enough ! I blame Chappers and the Captain. Funny thing is I spent 2 months every year in Guildford for the first quarter century of my life, on hols at my grand-parents, and had never heard of Anderton’s. I bought a Les Paul from them about 10 years ago but had never heard of their channel until a few years ago. Ever since, my life … well, YouTube 😉

  3. Avatar
    Steffen April 23, 2018

    In 2014 or so, I had the approach to use my big DSLR for all the “real” stuff and my iPhone for everything action. That’s very similar to your workflow.

    Later it turned out that my big DSLR was just the wrong camera for me. Why wouldn’t I just use one camera for serious and action stuff? Since I consider my A6000 my main camera, i never used my phone for photos – or indeed just when I have no camera with me or for visual notes.

    Maybe you need a new camera. Maybe you feel luckier with downsizing or less options. But maybe not at all.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy April 23, 2018

      Well, it’s just that it had always been difficult for me to figure out the meaning of “real stuff”, havig always been a tourist photographer rather than a dedicated photographer. The figurative (tourist memory) vs creative dichotomy works really well for me now. And using the phone means that all that pre-Gutenberg card downloading, backuping, labeling, PP … all that is gone and automated, now, for at least 90% of my photographs. It just feels so good I’m never coming back. It’s not a question of what camera but what process for what usage.

  4. Avatar
    Adam Bonn April 23, 2018

    Sometimes when my camera has a heavy lens on it and I’m resting it on a flat surface (in lieu of a tripod) to take a picture, the weight of the lens tips it over.

    I’ve discovered that my smartphone is the perfect width to sit under the lens so that it stays level.

    That’s how I’ve integrated my phone into my workflow 🙂

    To be fair maybe if my smartphone wasn’t as old as the original A7r I might find it more rewarding to use for pictures. Maybe.

    Glib jokes aside, you’ve really presented some stunning work here with your phone, and as you say, at web res there’s some compelling reasons to use the ‘camera’ you have with you all the time anyway and enjoy the instant web connection, geotagging etc that the phone provides…

    Sanity check though, a modern top of the range phone now costs more than an entry level DSLR and kit lens, so it’s good that the phones are able to perform so well

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy April 23, 2018

      That’s quite true. But I had to change my phone anyway, and the company’s paying for it, so I chose one with a good camera 😉

      Giving yours a Dutch oven under your heaviest lens really isn’t very charitable, Adam. Enjoy that while you can, I’m pretty sure some law will be voted against such barbaric practises, sooner or later 😀

  5. Avatar
    The anonymous admirer April 23, 2018

    Dear Pascal,

    it’s a valid approach that might ease my family relationships a bit, too. For sure you have triggered some self reflection.

    My current photocase is big, weighs about 8,5 to 9 kg. Just opening it up sometimes can cause an irritation of family members. Not to mention the additional seconds it takes to change a lens, compose, take the shot, pack it away, again.

    Can’t really get to grips with my phone as a photographic tool. I don’t know how and where it focuses. Is there sth like control ? A manual focusing mode ? Aperture/DOF control ? Am I too lazy to get acquainted ?

    Sold my tiny, ever ready APS-C MILC snappers in order to do less, but more concentrated DSLR photography – a post stone age misconception ?

    Looking at your phone shots, I’d say the quality is acceptable, though personally I think the look is a bit un-natural, when you take a closer look (e.g. the branches in th foreground of the last shot). Well, un-natural might fit the un-destination concept in one way or the other. It’s not about the tool, it is the photographers’ way to utilise the tool’s abilities or even its faults creatively.

    Thanks !

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy April 23, 2018

      Thanks AA. For my phone shots, I leave everything in full auto mode. That’s the beauty of it. It’s super quick and, even if the quality isn’t perfect – as you noted – it’s fine for a small printed album or web sharing. Whatever needs quality is dealt with using my Sony.

      The method sounds very basic, but it really is very liberating 🙂

  6. Avatar
    jean pierre (pete) guaron April 23, 2018

    Crawling out of my corner as the honorary Luddite in DS, I have a confession to make, Pascal. My “dumb phone” is nearing the end of its useful life – the protective case is slowly disintegrating through old age, the key pad needed repairs recently with SupaGlu and it is no longer in the prime of life. As the end nears, I’ve been promised a second hand “smart phone” – discarded and no longer loved by its owner, as all these “smart phones” are, when a new model comes out and takes their place. So I’ve had to figure where in my hierarchy of needs to fit it, when it arrives.

    And there it was – something I’ve always needed – something I can slip into the pocket of my camera bag, when I go on a serious shoot, so that I can turn on APPS, wherever I am. APPS like the photographer’s ephemerus! Maps! Maybe even some of those programs like Google Earth!

    I know that contraptions like the Galaxy S9 can take a photo – that they have a nice screen to view the shot on, both before and after – that they have at least one nice lens (latest offering I noticed some rave about has three Zeiss lenses – is that the S9, or something even more expensive?) I also know the battery life on these things is crappy, that there’s no thought given to separate chargers or spare batteries, that none of them has a tilt screen, that you can ONLY shoot using a screen that spends most of its life back-lit and less satisfactory than TTL or ELV in strong light** – and that even when the makes overcome all those negative qualities, they still have limited sensors and pixels. There is some point in pixel numbers – otherwise nobody would buy MF and makers like Canon and Nikon wouldn’t be bumping up pixel numbers they way they have.

    So – each to their own. You are happy, Pascal – and I presume you are saying your family photo album is digital, not printed out as mine is being now, so you can access it from your pocket anywhere, anytime.

    What I seem to be witnessing in the world around me is that amateurs all over aren’t even thinking of a “camera” any longer. A world where “point and shoot” will soon be done exclusively by “smart phones”. Where camera manufacturers will only appeal to prosumers and professional photographers. Where cameras (as I know and love them) that are small enough to slip into your pocket will ONLY be available in the form of an extremely expensive must-have fashion accessory. A thing I regard as cumbersome for a pocket phone, and although it’s “all bells & whistles”, lacking the grunt I want in a camera.

    I’m afraid it’s all too late for me, to make the transition. I have a tablet – I rarely use it. I have a laptop of sorts (a Microsoft Surface, anyway), and the only use I have for it is to keep recipes on, so it’s a electronic recipe book for my kitchen (I do the cooking 🙂 ) Till the cathartic moment after I was told I can have a free “smart phone” whenever my “dumb phone” finally expires, my major objection to having one was size, and if I was only ever going to use it as a phone, what’s the point? But it seems there is one – photographer-friendly APPS, accessible any time, anywhere.

    As for photography, my friend, I have always used cameras – I will always use cameras – I have already abandoned smaller pocketable cameras in favour of my somewhat larger Canon PowerShot – I love my Zeiss Otus lenses and don’t mind the weight or “inconvenience” – and to make it even worse, if I had the money I’d buy a Hasselblad or some other MF cam, with megapixels flying out of its ears, blistering image quality and the ability to produce 5 foot prints to use as wall paper around the house. I am recalcitrant.

    Maybe my failings are genetic after all, and I’ve inherited these faults from my great-great uncles, with their 8×10 and 10×12 collodion wet plate cameras! But I came into this world lusting after “cameras” and I’m going to go out of this world blazing away at it, with “cameras”.

    • Avatar
      pascaljappy April 23, 2018

      I think it would be a mistake to go the “no camera way” as there are many things a phone will not do well. First and foremost, allow you to craft a shot. I’m just saying that, for some uses of my photographs (namely, creating online albums or printing albums with small photos via an online service), a phone is better suited than my Sony. Particularly now that phones take more than decent photies. It take ages to process the 300+ pictures needed for such an album whereas the phone pics come out nice and shiny SOOC. This gives me ample time to process the more creative photos made with the Sony for myself.

      If I take this train of thought to its logical conclusion, it leads to a phone for tourist pics and your ancestor”s 10×12 collodion for the fine art pics. After all, since the number of frames drops drastically, going analog becomes possible again 🙂

      • Avatar
        jean pierre (pete) guaron April 24, 2018

        I do agree – my wife’s phone takes remarkable images – but there are difficulties doing it (available light – flash – backlighting of the screen – etc etc etc), and what on earth do you do with the images? – what’s an A4 or A3 enlargement of one look like, if you shoot a keeper on it?

        Anyway, I’m a camera addict – freely admit it – I’ve been one since I was a small kid. I have however decided that the pocket size point & shoot is not for me – “tick”, for convenience – but “cross” for image quality. The bigger screen and extra pixels in the PowerShot are about my minimum. And the lack of fiddly knobs etc on smartphones is also a complete turnoff for me. I don’t care that I can’t take movies with it – I don’t want to anyway – but there’s a line in the sand, beyond which I won’t go.

        It’s the same with music – I see some of you are into more modern musical instruments than I am, too. From the tender age of 3, I was DEMANDING to be given lessons to play the piano and ended up spending many happy years at the Conservatorium, at my aunt’s expense, after dad died. And at the other end of this room, where I do all my cataloguing and post processing, lives my grand piano.

        So my equivalent of your smart phone is my go-everywhere PowerShot. We’re on the same wave length – sort of – except that we have a slightly different solution to what we use for “everyday” and what we use for “serious”. And we have reasons for these choices – reasons that revolve around what we photograph, and why, and what we want out of it, and what we intend doing with our photos.

        It’s like that american jingle about the way the english speak – “you say ‘tomarto’ and I say ‘tomayto’ – you say ‘potayto’ and I say ‘potarto’!” There’s nothing right or wrong about either choice. They are simply “different” (except when some else makes the same choices 🙂 ). And vive la différence!

        • Avatar
          Kristian Wannebo April 24, 2018

          Pete,
          I”m also a camera addict but looking for a go-everywhere camera.
          Please, which Powershot is it?
          What’s your experience with the lens?

          • Avatar
            jean pierre (pete) guaron April 26, 2018

            I have the G1X Mark II.

            In some ways it’s frustrating. The manual is only available electronically – when you down load it, it’s full of tiny symbols that are OK to read online, but hard to read if you print it out, unless you use a whole A4 sheet per page – but that makes it enormous! I’ve had very little luck with the “macro” setting. Manual is kind of weird – you use a ring around the lens to adjust shutter speed or aperture, but you have to have it on M to do one and Av to do the other.

            But damn! You can take some great shots with it, once you get used to it! No it’s not going to beat the D810 or the Otus lenses – but those lenses don’t have AF, the kit is way bigger, heavier etc. And for something almost like a compact, it’s great. I regularly produce prints up to A$ from it, because one of the things I shoot is pics of people’s pets. A sort of “my style” cross between portrait work and candid stuff, that people gobble up! And as soon as they see any-print-at-all, they want enlargements.

            And because it DOESN’T have 50MP, the pixels are bigger, brighter, better. Less of them – sure – but the shots are richly saturated with real colour. Not fake saturated colours, like the old Kodacolor slides. And heaps more attractive than a lot of stuff I’ve seen from far more expensive cams.

            I even use it at night, for available light street scenes. Yes there’s a bit of noise – but I can control that in PP.

            Kristian, it’s not “the best” – but it’s a practical solution, for me, because I really hate going out without a cam & missing a great opportunity. And that ALWAYS happens to me, if I venture out of the house without a camera. Doesn’t guarantee that I’ll find a shot – but it’s excellent insurance against missing one.

            And the G1X Mk II appeals to me more than later versions – mainly I think because the lens has a greater range of focal lengths. Actually, I should give it a try on optical zoom, to see what that achieves – might try it tonight, perhaps.

            I also use it to start the process of exploring a serious shot I want to take. It’s a convenient notebook, for getting on top of location, focal length, style of shot (which governs the gear I need to bring in for the final shoot). It really is worth it, on many occasions – because then when I go for the “real shot”, I know exactly what I’m doing, what I need to have in the camera bag, where to shoot from, and pretty much exactly what I can (and should) achieve.

          • Avatar
            jean pierre (pete) guaron April 26, 2018

            Oops – I meant to say up to A4. You wanted comment on the lens. After F1.4, the maximum aperture on practically any zoom is a pain – but it’s not all that often, that you’d shoot at the maximum aperture, if you had any choice, or room to move. I’m not going by test charts – but the lens is “sharp enough” for close to mid range distances, and falls off a bit with longer distance shots. Is that unusual? – I keep seeing display shots from zoom lenses on the net, and almost always, their performance falls off at longer distances.

        • Avatar
          Kristian Wannebo April 27, 2018

          Pete, Thanks for the info!

          ( No reply button on your answer, so I put it here.)

          You mean the G1(one) II (not the G7 II as you mentioned in a comment to #614 – I did some googling), right?

          [ Canon user guides…
          I agree.
          Significant details are HARD to find.
          I download them to my Nexus and use the search function in Acrobat reader. The 7″ screen is large enough for comfortable reading.]

          You write: “.. the lens is “sharp enough” for close to mid range distances, and falls off a bit with longer distance shots.”
          I suppose you mean when zoomed (all) out? Yes, that seems to be said about many.
          And that is where I want the lens sharp…if possible, well. (The things I see and want to photograph more often want the long end of a standard zoom.)

          I suppose it’s the price we pay for compactness and pocketability.
          The announced Nikon DL 24-85 was ~1cm thicker than the competition, so would perhaps have had better optics.

          I considered the G1x III, but it seemed a bit expensive, and some said that lens was a bit soft towards the edges ( https://www.optyczne.pl/ ), not so good with snow…

          At the moment I’m hoping that the next iteration of Pan. LX10/15 will have an EVF… (My folding screen loupe would make it too thick for my pockets.)

          Or I might add a Raynox 2.2x tele converter to my DXO One. (But it would need a belt pouch.)
          ( A nice thing with the DXO One is that it remembers the set distance, so it works nicely for zone focusing.)

          • Avatar
            jean pierre (pete) guaron April 28, 2018

            Zoom – it’s the combination of the optics of cheaper zooms and distance.

            If something’s “wrong” but only slightly at 2 metres, like the shot I took of the girls doing cake decorating in the coffee lounge opposite my front door, at around 5AM this morning, then it doesn’t show. You get a nice sharp image, and the increased focal length comes into play mainly to get a bit of blur in the background.

            But the same (non-noticeable) “error” in the optics of one of those lenses, projected out with the same degree of zoom, over a longer distance, makes the fall off in image quality much more noticeable.

            That’s not a scientific comment. I learned physics “parrot fashion”, like the chinese students to at our universities when they come here for a “better” degree (ie – one from a foreign university, and this will do, it’s closer). Some of it stuck, but out there somewhere there’s a paper (no doubt) from someone who’s an expert in optics.

            But it certainly tallies with the images I’m getting, and if I’m wrong I should have noticed that, in post processing, because I blow most of them up enormously while I’m scanning them during PP.

            And yes, it is a price we pay for pocketability. But of course that’s what I use that cam for. If it’s a serious shot, I might prep for it with the Canon – but I’ll take it with one of the Otus lenses, or the 100mm Zeiss. Of if it’s an action shot, the 50mm Sigma ART.

            I’m a bit light on, with telephoto, on the FF – over the past 60 years, I’ve found I use telephoto so rarely that I can scarcely justify spending a large amount of money to buy one. If I was filthy rich, which I’m not, I’d likely buy the Nikon180-400 F/4 released recently. I believe it also “remembers” settings, but I’d have to bone up on the details of that. What’s stuck in my bucket list doesn’t have too many shots that require that kind of focal length though, so it might be a bit like buying one of those expensive cars, like a Bugatti Veyron. On the other hand, if I had one, I’d dream up all sorts of things that I’m currently ignoring, because I have to live with the gear I’ve got.

            Kristian, there are other options. Personally, I won’t touch Panasonic again. I’ve had too many bad experiences with them. But you can do very nicely with a fixed focal length tele, and cropping, on a FF cam. Or hire a lens, if the shot’s important – that’s way cheaper than buying at the top end. Tele converters are a good start – and a good one doesn’t really affect image quality, although it will affect the maximum aperture. If a zoom is essential, there’s plenty out there that’s better than any handy pocket stuff, and miles cheaper than the top end zooms. And plenty good enough. Tamron, Sigma, etc make great lenses for “prosumers”. Even for pro’s!

            PS – if you want to chat on the side, my email addy is pete.guaron@gmail.com Also, some/most/all of the other guys on DS can give better technical comments than me, I’m just an “end-user” chatting on the base of my own experience. And I think that one of the things that makes groups like Dear Susan work so well is the general willingness of everyone to help each other. 🙂

        • Avatar
          Kristian Wannebo April 28, 2018

          Thanks Pete,
          for your info on near/far lens behaviour!
          That was new to me. (Except for being careful of lens choice with extension tubes.)

          And you are right, this isn’t the place for lengthy lens discussions, so thanks for inviting me to your chat & mail.

          When I don’t mind carrying a (small) bag I take my Canon M5 + a few lenses of mixed makes (often including Sigma Art 30mm/1.4 + Planar 50mm/1.4 + Voigtländer 90mm/3.5).
          ( The standard M wide & tele zooms + 20mm/2 + 40mm/2.8 make a nice enough travel set.)

          One reason for my (momentary) use of longer lenses is details in the play of sunlight through the trees as I walk through the woods.

          For some years a Fuji XF1 was always in my pocket until it broke, but now with the better 1″ (or larger) sensors the bottleneck in a small carry-always seems to be the lens.
          Thanks for the Pan. warning (I just remember the praise they got for the lens on the old LX7 – but not for that sensor).

  7. Avatar
    NMc April 24, 2018

    Pascal
    Please update us when you have done a few more trips using and refining this mode. I would be interested to see if you think that the phone is like sketching and a previsualising tool or if it is just getting the snappy stuff out of the way using a completely different headspace. I am guessing that answer will depend on where you are, why you went there and who you are with. Will it work/translate to more photo centric outings? What will happen after practicing this for a while and you go back to not using the phone at all, will you retain the few with high keeper rate discipline for the big camera?
    I agree about phone (and compacts) being full-auto only cams. It is just too hard to do fiddly or menu dive control systems, though my own phone is a bit digitally Neolithic and controls may be more photographic friendly now.
    Regards Noel

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