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You are here: MacNN Forums > Hardware - Troubleshooting and Discussion > iPhone, iPad & iPod > The true faults of iPhone photography...

The true faults of iPhone photography...
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Mar 19, 2014, 11:56 AM
 
Hi,

let's face it: Photography made a double twist. First it went digital, which took some time to become really good, then it was built into smartphones, which quickly became surprisingly high-quality.

I studied photography for a while - I can see if I can post some photos at some point, I think I want to discuss for a while, if interested - and I wondered lots. When school was over for me, before I started studying, I bought a Canon EOS 350D, and, sort of sadly, used the original lens. It was a great experience, though. For someone who was about 19 or 20, it was a strange feeling to carry so much money around with you, just to get started. Everyone congratulated, though, although I thought it was a bit unnecessary.

Anyway, I think choosing a camera is messy when you are not a professional. I really admire the feeling of taking a photo with an iPhone: It is thin and compact and doesn't weigh much. It displays an image at really high quality without the usual color faults of even my old Canon, and the display is pretty big. You really circumvent the whole DSLR principle, you just snap your image, it is really fun. I wonder, sometimes, why Nikon or Canon aren't just releasing cameras like an "iPod camera", I mean a smartphone without OS, music, phone etc. Is it true you really need the great CPU for the image processing and displaying? That would mean the only reason something like this doesn't exist is that it doesn't really work out to build a tiny smartphone-like computer without any computer capabilities but photographing.

So, they say the line is blurring further and further, simply erasing the whole sub-300$-camera category and replacing it with people's smartphones.
How about zooming, for instance? Isn't that worthless on an iPhone, or is that getting better? I really tried taking a few pictures with an iPad, but I don't know how to judge.

Where are things going, and what should I buy now? What is the number one reason you would still buy a DSLR for, or is it finally dead because mirrors are being replaced with good enough processors and large enough displays to get a live image on the back or even in the viewer? What is the one iPhone photo you are really angry about because it wasn't high quality enough? What kind of photography isn't this at all suited for?

I am really confused, sometimes. I thought the whole camera category would be thrown up - or is that only about now true, because smartphone cameras have now come to a point where they can be taken more serious? I don't know if photography magazines now review smartphones or iPod Touches etc. Would be about time, right... I also don't think the whole idea of "smartphone photography" and "photography" categories will last pretty long, I think it will be just photography.

Any comments?
Greetings, and happy spring...
Pete
     
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Mar 21, 2014, 01:18 PM
 
Smart phone cameras are typically a step below "point-and-shoot" cameras, like Canon's Digital Elph. They are not in the same class as a DSLR. So the question becomes, do you want a "do it all" device that you'll have with you just in case you find something that you want to photograph, do you want a decent, flexible camera that doesn't take a lot of fiddling to put into action, or do you want a semi-pro or better quality camera that takes a little setup and is overkill for most photography opportunites. Even the highest resolution phone camera doesn't have the gamma, the lens flexibility, and the storage options that a nice point-and-shoot camera has...

I have my iPhone with me all the time, and I've caught some great shots with it, but only because the situation was just right. The first Shelby Cobra I ever saw (the originals, not a re-branded Mustang), the first 1966-vintage "rod" with a supercharger, sunset on an attractive building where I worked... That's what I use my iPhone camera for - in addition to pix of "get this brand and model" for shopping trips, etc. My Canon EOS Rebel is for "real" photography. I don't have a lot of in-between situations to worry about.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
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Mar 21, 2014, 05:36 PM
 
First let me preface my comment with full disclosure that I have never studied photography academically. I have only been a moderate hobby photographer with an SLR, then DSLR, then iPhone (never a pocket point-and-shoot camera).

If I had to water down the biggest difference for me between the 3 experiences, it has mostly been a matter of optical texture and depth. When I started using a DSLR, I was stunned by how quickly I could switch from one location to another with varying levels of light (no flash) and repeatedly capture images with evocative tones and depth – without spending as much time preparing the camera (again, I concede that I was a novice hobbyist and not proficient on my manual SLR).

Taking a photo with my iPhone has improved a great deal over the past 5 years, but it still doesn't come close to producing the optical richness and depth the lenses of my Nikon D7000 can capture. Maybe it's speed or focal length stuff, I don't know enough about the technical aspects. The processors and software in these phones or 3rd-party apps can imitate a certain amount of texture and depth, which I guess is fine for quick glances on Facebook or a laptop screen. But as soon as one of my DSLR photos pops up on my Apple TV or anything larger than a laptop, I'm reminded of the optical depth and magic that often gets "flattened" by my smartphone's lens. And I've noticed that when my phone does capture that special balance of depth and lighting, it seems like it sacrificed speed or crispness to achieve it – maybe I'm just imagining that or it's bad coincidence. When the photo is for a simple, calm, closeup moment, not a busy photo with several distractions, that depth and richness seem to matter even more.
     
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Mar 21, 2014, 06:22 PM
 
I'm an enthusiastic amateur photographer with a Nikon DSLR and about 8 lenses, as well as an avid iPhone user.

Carloblackmore is exactly right. As good as iPhone cameras have gotten, they still cannot compare with the results achievable with a DSLR paired with a good lens.

I agree that an iPhone is "good enough" to replace nearly all casual point and shoot cameras. However, for images that really pop off the page, in terms of richness, contrast, sharpness, depth -- all camera phones are limited by physics. The sensors and lenses are simply too small.

There is a reason that many avid amateurs like myself will spend $1000s to upgrade from crop to a full frame sensors (and a reason that many professionals unlike myself may spend $10,000 to upgrade from full frame to a medium format sensor). Similarly, there's a reason people will ditch their kit lenses ($200-$400) and shell out $1500+ to buy "fast glass" -- lenses that are bigger and heavier, but allow in more light. More light / bigger sensors = more captured photons, smoother colors, sharper edges, and better defined depth.

You can tell the difference. This is not one of those "acquired tastes", like the difference between a $250 and a $25 bottle of wine [ok, some may argue with my choice of analogy there].

With time we may get to the point where a cameraphone-sized sensor performs as well as a full-frame DSLR sensor. But we aren't anywhere close to that yet, and then one would also need it to perform well enough to obviate the need for "big glass". (I'm assuming that strapping a DSLR sized lens onto an iPhone is not an acceptable option, the availability of Photojojo adapter kits notwithstanding...)
     
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Mar 22, 2014, 08:32 AM
 
Sometimes wine is more expensive because of its label, not its contents. The same is true of pocket cameras and (sadly) smart phone cameras...

I really like how easy it is to use my phone to get a snapshot of something I need to capture, but my best photos have always been made with a camera, not "a device that includes a camera." I think that's the point.

It doesn't matter that you can get attachable lenses (and even filters!) for iPhones, it doesn't matter that you can export the original image easily to keep from filling up the phone, it's that you can't get the llevel of complexity in an image made with an iPhone (or just about any smart phone) that you can with a purpose-built digital camera.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
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Mar 22, 2014, 01:17 PM
 
1) Point-and-shoots (the <US$200 category) are dead, largely being replaced by smartphone cameras. There will be some sales to folks who buy phones with no cameras or phones with really lame camera capability.

2) DSLRs and mirrorless cameras will remain a solid (even if stagnant) segment because cheaper camera choices have relatively poor optics and truly awful ergonomics. However there is opportunity for someone to scoop the DSLR category, because Nikon/Canon have proven themselves to be grossly incompetent as regards melding cameras with communications software.

I shoot pro Nikon DSLR and always have a DSLR close by, yet often shoot snapshots using the iPhone 5s because the phone camera's image can be instantly messaged or emailed to any contact or group of contacts. Canon and Nikon should have facilitated the same thing into the high end a _decade_ ago but both firms show _zero_ competence in that area. Go figure.

There remains (IMO very large) opportunity a) for smartphone vendors to improve camera ergonomics and operation and b) for DSLR vendors to improve image communications.

-Allen
     
   
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