Blog #48 Five Reasons Why it’s Better to Shoot with a Real Camera Over a Smartphone
This week I’m tackling another controversial topic within our beloved field of photography. Have you ever noticed that there are so many controversial topics in photography? We have film versus digital, RAW versus JPEG, black and white versus colour, grainy and noisy images versus tack sharp, full frame versus cropped sensors, Nikon versus Canon, and the list goes on. Perhaps the topic of controversial topics in photography can be addressed in another blog sometime down the road.
For this week’s blog, I would like to share five reasons why it’s better to shoot with a real camera over a smartphone. To qualify this statement, there is nothing wrong, of course, with making images with a smartphone. Many amazing images are being produced these days with a cameraphone. Real camera are expensive or out of the reach of some amateurs or hobbyists. I get that. This essay is not about dissing smartphones, but rather about why it is better to shoot with a real camera.
First I will admit that I am an Apple fan boy and chose the iPhone 7+ due to the improved camera and Portrait mode that can throw the background out of focus through a combination of hardware and software algorithms (yes, I love any excuse to write algorithm). The 12mp helps a little as well along with image stabilisation, and other bells and whistles baked into the software. I do make images with this device but really don’t get the same kick as using a film camera or even one of my beautiful little mirrorless gems from Fujifilm. Here’s why.
Although our smartphones have cameras that have come a long way and are currently dangerously close to or can even shoot at or above the quality of most point and shoot cameras, this is not the intended purpose of the device. The smartphone is an evolution from it’s predecessor the Palm Pilot that was essentially a datebook, address book, and data managing device with simple applications like a calculator, or gaming device. Somewhere along the way, a radio transmitter was added and, voila! the first smartphone was invented. The camera function was added later.
2) Smartphones are for consuming information, not creating it
The second reason why you need a real camera to make images is because it’s a dedicated devise for one purpose only and that basically for consuming information not creating it. Smartphones are for making calls, checking the weather, reading and tweeting, reading the news over coffee, keeping track of your expenses, making appointments, texting your friends that you are going to late to the party, and looking up your neighbour’s phone number to complain about the noise. The camera function is relatively new and most digital immigrants simply are not accustomed to using a phone as a camera. Have you ever tried to make a photo while your friends are Whatsapping you or your mother calls from Florida? Annoying, I know.
It’s a smart-phone not a smart-camera.
3) Better Images
In spite of the rapid develop and success of the smartphone camera, the image quality is still pretty crappy. The image sensor in your smartphone is a few millimetres square. Compare the medium in which the image is made from a smartphone to a 35mm film frame or APS-C sensor and you don’t need a doctorate in electrical engineering to figure out which will produce a superior quality image. Sure, image quality is not everything. The purists out there are beating there fists in the air about the gesture and the composition! Yes, I agree, but have you ever tried to edit a smartphone image or worse, print one? Yuck!
4) Creative Control
Try as they might, the geniuses at Apple or Samsung are try to wring every pixel out of those tiny lenses and sensors but there are some physical properties of image making that cannot seem to improve through software algorithms alone (ummm, algorithms).
Zoom lenses, blurry backgrounds, high ISO, fast shutter speeds, motion blur and other creative effects are pretty wonky when it comes to smartphones. Sure, you can snap on a mini 3” telephoto lens and go shoot that football game. How did that work out for ‘ya? Smartphones can do a good job at macro photography, portraits, and some landscapes, but it ends there in my book. You know what my iPhone 7+ is good for? Video! Time lapse and slow motion are pretty good and the iMovie editing app and sharing features are pretty awesome.
5) Making Images
It’s been said that the camera doesn’t make the image, the photographer does. It’s also been said that we don’t take photos we make photos. As a form of art, there is a kinaesthetic or visceral experience in carrying a camera, turning dials and the focus ring, and that oh-so-pleasing click! of the shutter. You feel it. This is the experience of making an image. You lift the camera to your eye and for a moment, it’s just you and the frame, the rest of the world disappears and all that is left if what you can see and feel through the viewfinder. Click! Bang! Nailed it! You push the button and camera pushes back with a physical affirmation. You are one.
Your feeling, sight, and hearing are all engaged in the process. Develop your own film and you will become intoxicated by the process and weird but wonderful smells of the chemistry. This process is infinitely more gratifying than holding a skinny 5.5” metal and glass slab at arms length and pressing the screen with no feeling. The camera manufacturers built in a Click! noise to emulate the sound of a shutter slapping around but its not even close. Use a light meter. Measure the light. Dial in the aperture, shutter speed, now focus. Bang! This is what photography is about. This is how images are made.
I get the whole lure of the digital smartphone thing. Shoot, post, like, comment, repeat. This will be emblazoned on the flag of the new millennials if they ever cared enough about anything to demand one. I’m from Generation X and we use REAL cameras to make images. We use film, real digital cameras, and Oh, sometimes an iPhone 7+ ;o).
The images in this post are my own and were made with, you know, a camera.
The light is always right.