First, ArsTechnica has posted a shootout between a $900 smartphone (the Apple iPhone 7—they explain why they chose it) and the $3,200 Sony A7s. The iPhone didn't do badly at all, all things considered.
As an aside, I feel a reflexive urge to defend "real" cameras against the incursion of the Barbarian hordes a.k.a. phone cameras, but I don't actually know why. I'm interested in photographs mainly. I have a gadgeteer's love of cameras and lenses that's nearly life-long and a strong sympathy with people making or attempting serious work in photography, but that doesn't by itself argue against phone cameras. Phone cameras are making photography accessible to more people, they're getting people interested in photography, people are doing great work with them that otherwise wouldn't be done, and wot the heck, I like the poxy things myself—my plan allows me to buy a new phone in 2017 and I'll probably get an iPhone 7+ just for the camera. (Assuming I can afford it, which is not an automatic assumption.) And one of the best photographs I took in 2016 was an iPhone snap.
I guess the only thing I don't like about phone cameras is what they threaten for the future of bigger, more versatile cameras—that is, they might put economic pressure on cameramakers that might stunt or even stop the development of dedicated interchangeable-lens digital cameras and systems. But that hasn't gotten critical yet, and it might never. After all, you can still buy large-format film view cameras new.
B&W vs. color!
Second, for an even more critical battle, which is better, black-and-white or color? (I like this.)
(Thanks to John Hogg and Patrick Perez)
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Wolfgang Lonien: "Laughing out loud for that latter shootout—epic!"
Kent: "I'd like to know how many people buy iPhones, or whatever, primarily for the camera, and then exclaim, 'And it has a built-in phone too! That could come in handy!' Until the camera becomes the main purchase motivation I just can't get comfortable with that 'most popular camera in the world' shtick. Most pervasive, maybe, but that doesn't necessarily equal 'most popular.' I can take photos with my phone, to be sure. I can do digital zoom. Sometimes I can even take pretty decent photos. But with my camera I can focus manually or shift autofocus points as required, adjust aperture and shutter speed on the fly, apply exposure compensation, and even change lenses for a whole new perspective! And in modern electronic viewfinders I get to see what all those settings are doing in real time. There's more, and although I understand that a lot of people couldn't and in fact don't need to be bothered with the details, to me the details are what makes it 'photography' (drawing or painting with light)."
Alan Carmody: "A smartphone like the iPhone 7 is a better camera in low light than film cameras ever were. A smartphone like the iPhone 7 has a better, sharper lens than most 35mm consumer film cameras (such as a Retinette or Instamatic) ever had, for decades."
John Nollendorfs: "Phone cameras is where the new interesting imager research is going on, like backside illuminated sensors, computational imaging and the like. What's really amazing about the new phone cameras, is they just work, no matter who pushes the button. Just need to know how to point it. They deliver amazing images under conditions we never thought possible. These new phones are like a Swiss army knife—phone, camera, video camera, music, games, email, internet, calendar...I'm a latecomer, getting my first 'smart phone' a little over a year ago (MotoX Pure). The 21 MP Sony sensor in this phone really delivers under decent light levels. I made some 18x24" prints that totally rival same size prints from my Nikon D800E. In fact I recently had a show with prints from both cameras on display. No one could tell which images were shot with the phone and which with the Nikon. No, it doesn't replace the Nikon, but I do have the phone with me most of the time."
John Camp: "I'm really tired of these lame Ars camera comparisons. It's like comparing a Porsche 911 to a Prius and scoring the Prius as the winner because it gets better mileage and will reach the speed limit, and who would ever want to drive faster than that or use up more gasoline than they absolutely have to? I use an iPhone camera from time to time, usually for note-taking, and yesterday as a rubbernecker looking at an automobile accident (I was stopped at a traffic signal at the time) but I'd never use it for anything I thought of as serious photography. iPhones, in my opinion, don't take photos as good as those taken by film point-and-shoots in 1980, and in 1980, we still used Nikons, Canons, etc. Why? Because we wanted to take decent photographs. The same still applies."
psu: "I see the phone camera as a reasonable replacement for the relatively casual single (wide-ish) lens camera of yore. The last gen or two of the iPhone camera are certainly up to what 35mm point-and-shoot cameras could do. Probably better along many axes. This turns out to be what most people want out of a camera. And the fact that it's inside your pocket-sized internet-connected computer is just another bonus.
"The future will probably bring even more capability in the phones while the current traditional camera companies show no signs of understanding how cameras can work in the more modern context. The "'traditional' camera companies have had their lunch eaten because they have been building machines for a 2001 workflow that emulated the same basic workflow for 35mm film that has existed for 60 or 70 years before 2001. Meanwhile, what people want is a more seamless way to move from shooting to editing to sharing, which CanNikOlyFujiSony basically understand nothing about.
"I still shoot with a 'real' camera when the phone won't do the job. But I hate that it takes 10x longer to edit and process the image after the fact."