This week’s newsletter is slightly is shorter. You see, my first grandchild was born a few days ago, so my focus and time has been somewhat redirected 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
One of the most notable contributions to the media world of photography this week was made by Tony Northrup in his video about smartphone photography. I’ve written about this many times before, and it’s nice to feel less alone 🙂
Digital camera manufacturers missed the digitalization (gravy) boat focusing exclusively on digitization (ie creating expensive hand-held scanners with zero useful features) and on a race to quantitative specification that’s so pointless it makes reality TV feel like a deep dive into Einstein’s threen mind.
What would you prefer, a camera that can’t be stolen, produces files that are stitched into a pano while you sleep – without you asking – as above, stabilizes your shots almost to any exposure length (making you the human tripop you’ve always dreamed of being), backs up everything (also while you sleep), speeds up PP, … or one that has a bit more pixels and frames per second? Dunno about you, but the market has very obviously chosen. And that’s bad news, because sooner or later, there will be nothing left but phones to take pics with.
Have you been sorely tempted by the Hasselblad 907 and its ability to shoot on film and on digital backs? This might be an amusing althernative 🙂
Back to phones. They’re great and most of the talented young creators are using them (or film). Here’s the thing, though. If I’m so bullish about smarpthone, why am I not using one myself? Well, actually I am: here’s Egypt (largely) shot with a smartphone. But not a lot. Let’s put aside the fact that my battered relic doesn’t match today’s best, in terms of image quality, let alone that of my beloved X1D, and that the lens is harder to keep clean than a politician’s mind. Here are two more important reasons.
First, user experience. To me, the experience of making – crafting – a photograph, is more important than the photograph itself. With the right camera, I thoroughly enjoy the process of making images. It is not that far from a Zen experience. With the wrong camera (and I’ve been plenty vocal about the mind-bendingly poor ergonomics of some of my previous cameras), the process is akin to the eons of Samsāra you go through before you see the light 😉
Our tastes differ when it comes to grips, viewfinders, button layout … but it’s easy to spot a well designed camera and a bad ones. Phones are somewhere in the middle. By relegating the operations to an app, they can rely on the extremely well charted waters of UX to create something efficient, unobtrusive and convenient. But I’ve yet to meet one that feels involving and brings a smile to your face. Phones are still more about getting a shot than crafting it.
Secondly, there’s Post Processing. I’ll wager that 99% of photographers with real cameras have no clue what post processing actually entails. You only need to scan the PP software / application market, much of it sooooo wrong it could cause the ergonomics team in some camera manufacturers envious heartburn, to realise that.
I love post processing my photographs. Most people don’t. And phones do it for you. With a phone, you delegate the PP to someone else. And that’s fine, and much better than doing it reluctantly and poorly yourself. But if you enjoy PP, phone file quality and phone apps still don’t quite match the potential and – again – experience, of a more traditional digital workflow.
But here’s a challenge to myself. As soon as I get a more recent phone, I’ll take a trip somewhere and will photograph exclusively with the phone for all of the trip. Cold turkey?
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Thank you, Pascal and congratulations on the birth of your grandchild. Enjoy every minute as they grow up very quickly.
As usual a thought provoking and stimulating collectio.
Have a Happy Easter
Thank you very much, Peter 🙂 I intend to!
The kind of post processing you get on a cellphone, or out of any other automated system where the machine is in control and all you can do is press the green button and the red one, is not the kind of post processing that I like, with my photos.
It may – it DOES! – suit cellphone owners. It certainly used to suit the people who took all their films – or, more recently, digital shots – to some kind of processing lab and collected the prints later.
But it never has “done it”, for me.
I’ve done plenty of “comparisons” – mine might not be perfect, but usually theirs is garbage.
My “posterboy” with cellphones was the time I spent one morning taking a panoramic shot – or rather, a series of shots which I later stitched into a panorama – when an idiot armed with a cellphone strolled across the street, to ask what I was doing. “Photographing that island, 18 Km off the coast”. “Oh” – he said – “I can do that!” Well – sort of. A minute or so later he showed me his “pride and joy” – and yes, he DID capture the entire island. Bathed in deep royal blue (which it wasn’t), shaped like a VERY curved banana, with horrible serrated edges all the way round it.
Mine is now nearly 3 metres/just over 8 feet anyway wide, and hangs above my bed, because I couldn’t find anywhere else in the house to hang it. I am quite sure his ended up in the “bin”, shortly after he took it.
Oh – and neither LR nor PS could “stitch” the panorama. So I did that in a snap, using Affinity Photo, instead.
Automation is fine in some applications. Useless in others. And in yet others, destructive.
In art, or practically any other truly “creative” application, the idea of “automation” might provide a shortcut – but it simply displaces “creativity” with “mechanisation”. BEURK!
Digitisation! Ah, yes! Well let me sign my confession at the start. When CDs and CD players first arrived here, only one store had any of the CD players, they only had five of them, and although the owner of the store bought the first one, I was the first customer to walk one out of the store.
Mt brother – who is one of those “I know absolutely everything, so you’re just an idiot” types – was horrified. Why? – because his total mindset was on vinyl LPs. So he tried to argue with me about my election to go digital – and I detest “arguments”, so I tried to ignore him.
In the end, he came out with something like you mentioned – “Rediscovering that sound after such a long dry summer of digital was such a shock” – you see, there IS a “difference” – OF COURSE there is! – otherwise nobody would choose CDs/digital music OR vinyl LPs.
HIS “difference” was “the dryness of the sound”. OK – tick – he can have that one – so what? – it doesn’t end there! Mine was “Oh grow up! – they’re BOTH just a totally synthetic, totally electronic, replica of REAL music. If you want to know what it sounds like, go to a concert! If you don’t want to do that, you are just left choosing which of two major versions of ‘electronic’ music you prefer to listen to. You want vinyl – fine! – but that’s YOUR choice – and one thing you CANNOT do is to make it mine!”
Having started learning music on a formal basis when I was 10, being lectured on the subject by numbnuts didn’t achieve a thing. He never studied it. I matriculated in it. I spent some years at the Conservatorium of Music. I’ve been playing the piano (now) for almost 70 years. For some time I was in a small music group rehearsing every week and playing at concerts once a year. And for me, ANY of these “electronic” forms of music is simply a substitute for the real thing. A substitute stemming from the “convenience” factor. Of course I’d rather hear “the real thing” – why the hell else did I spend so much, buying a grand piano? But I never found vinyl “convenient” – if you weren’t cleaning dust off the needle on the pickup arm, you were polishing it of the vinyl disc – and worse! – FAR worse than any disadvantage in the “dryness” of the sound”! – was the number of times during something like an opera, you have to get up; and clean the disc AGAIN, halfway through a side – even if you ever make it through one whole side, each side is only about 30 minutes, so a three hour opera gets interrupted 5 times at least, and that usually used to end up at 8 or 10 – or put up with the dust, the crack and hissle of the needle tracking in the groove, and so what if the sound is soft and blurry?
You see I usually listen to CDs to analyse the sound of the instruments and the performance. Not the technology that reproduces it all.
There is NO foundation for “argument” in this. It’s simply “his choice” vs “my choice”. Shut up & go to bed!
BTW – before I add any more silly comments – congratulations to both parents on giving you both a grandchild – a girl, I presume? And best wishes to all three of them.
Hi Tony, all I have ever wanted my camera to do , but it cannot , is stream live to tik tok where , EVERY professional photographer has a presence. But then again a real smartphone would have an electronic viewfinder ( like my $400 camera does ) , a feature every amateur photographer must have to compose images in daylight because all screens are pretty much useless in the bright daylight of africa. But then again I suppose a professional photographer has no need for that as he NEVER EVER EVER takes any images in daylight. Man this is such a conundrum may I should just by a smartphone that connects to my camera and allows my camera to take pictures on the smartphone via a reverse app ????
Hi Pascal, congratulations !!
Photography is not a competition.
It is something you do to enrich your own life first and foremost
Important things first: Congratulations, grandpa! Being a grandparent is more fun and less work than being a parent. May everyone be thriving.
I’ll get to the posts later.
LMAO – that’s what I’ve always thought, Lad – that’s why I felt swindled, not having any kids of my own, to give me some grandchildren as “payback” for all I’d ever done for them!
Good papa-sitting 🙂
« Life goes on »… regardless.
As for photography for phones, I got my lesson; in 2020 I had an iPhone 7 Plus; I took better pictures with my Olympus E-M1 and the superb 75F1.8; I didn’t purchase any serious flash, since I loved « available light »… well, in the *very dark family house in North Vietnam, my gear was unusable; disastrous results for family portraits, and surprised looks, kinda « WTH does he does with all that pretentious gear? He must be a joke. » 🙂
This year I took my iPhone 12 Pro Max… in those conditions, with its « low light » mode, I captured tons of nice family snapshots, to their delight, using if possible my few acquired skills for composition.
It became clear that even my FF with a gorgeous F2 lens was unusable there without a powerful flash… try to capture children at 1/15 🙂
But I do agree with all the negative comments too: we don’t photograph the same way; what part of it rests of the long relationship we developed with our gear I don’t know; but it seems clear that the more a device does things for us, the less we « create » the result; it is true with any object we use.
Auto-everything makes us lazy 🙂
Even in manual mode, the « temptation » to just « take the pic » is strong… dunno if the coming generations will have a more « fresh » approach, but what I see is them rushing to… analog 🙂
Ah, the pendulum moves of « old junk » to « desired vintage »… will never stop 😀
Yesterday’s digital innovators are today’s dinosaurs ? Cellphones = the true democratisation of photography ? Has democracy out lived its useful purpose ?
I fear so, Ian. The new tech barons certainly think so, at any rate.
I still see good things for the future; few remember, but pianos were pronounced dead when electronic keyboards came (« why stick with only one sound? » etc); they come back in force; ditto for LPs, tubes amps, analog photo, old cars (should have kept my 1962 Beetle; worth a small fortune today); a friend with a super modern production studio was happy to spend North of 6 grands for a Moog that you could find in the garbage a few years ago… Photography should be no exception… room for us too 🙂
“the more a device does things for us, the less we « create » the result; it is true with any object we use.
Auto-everything makes us lazy ”
So true! Nobody could say it better!
PS – but I’m “old school” – I still get my kicks out of doing everything myself, out of exploring everything, out of touching and feeling it all.
I still play the piano every day, although I have a perfectly good HiFi system and heaps of recordings from far better musicians than I’ve ever been.
And I still like to use a “camera” – not a computer – to take my OWN photos – not its!
Couldn’t agree more… my teachers called me a very good pianist in my youth, but life’s events took that away from me… even while I literally live bathed in some of the most musical Hi-Fi systems (according to my long-term customers and since this is my activity since 42 years), my greatest joy happens when I play a few – now miserable – notes on my piano 🙂
I do take photos with my iPhone XR, but it doesn’t entrance me like my Sony A7III does. I have a friend who takes excellent smartphone images, and I really like some of them; but still it’s not for me. Why? I don’t want to cast aspersions or denigrate cameras that are supposedly not “real” (whatever that means). But here’s something of my rationale.
Other commentators have mentioned many of the reasons to stick with traditional cameras–haptics and habit actually are quite important, as are what I’ll call fuss.
I like the feel of a traditional camera in the hand, with dials and rings to twirl, not to mention a shutter button that is more than an icon–physical things that are not satisfied by a small featureless brick with a touchscreen.
I’ve used one or another traditional cameras most of my life, and they seem like old friends to me by now.
And I like to diddle around with various settings and such, not to mention the joys of fussing with post processing!
On the other side, I don’t use, or want to use, many of the “professional” features Tony Northrup touts, such as instant communicability (I’d rather massage my images before taking them out to show around), and I don’t live in a war zone (not yet anyway) where traditional cameras are a liability.
So I guess I’ll stick with what I’ve got.
Late to the party, but congratulations on the birth of your grandchild.