First of all, new camera!
Er, well, sorta. I might have mentioned last September or so that come March, I'd be eligible for a phone upgrade. I was perfectly happy with my old phone—loved it, in fact—but I got a new iPhone 7 Plus so I could try out the camera. It's got a significantly serious processor, the quad-core A10 Fusion image signal processor (ISP), said to be capable of 100 billion operations used to process the images quickly and in all kinds of ways, and capable of some serious speed. You might recall that the iPhone 7 has a two-module camera, one 12MP with a 28mm-e ƒ/1.8 lens and another with a 56mm-e ƒ/2.8 lens. You can of course simply switch from one to the other, but the ISP puts the dual images together in several inventive ways. My feeling is that multiple-module cameras with serious intraprocessing is going to be one wave of the near future in camera development, so I wanted to get in on this. I think it's a milestone of sorts.
Plus, I confess, since the 1980s I've liked the idea of two- (or three-) position varifocal lenses on point-and-shoot cameras. Mavens might remember the Leica Tri-Elmar as well, along with Konica's 21/35mm two-position lens—both were fixed-position multiple-focal-length lenses for M-mount rangefinders.
And the recent Lightroom Mobile app allows access to raw versions of the images. I might futz with that too, to check it out.
That said, I keep having an irritating problem with my iPhone, to wit:
iPhoneitis, n., a recurring mild affliction no more harmful than a common cold virus but nearly as miserable, which causes sufferers to take pictures with iPhones that they would rather have taken with cameras.
It's been driving me a little crazy. (Sniffle.)
But I always see too much. There are times, for instance, when I'm doing something totally non-photographic and just happen to see something that strikes me as funny or odd. For instance, somewhere recently I was driving along in the middle of absolutely nowhere, a country road with empty fallow fields on either side, and I encountered two telephone poles—just two—about forty feet apart, with a single strand of wire running from the top of one to the top of the other. Nothing else. The wire didn't run down the poles or go anywhere. Who knows why that was there? Just a little bit of random weirdness in the countryside.
Or this. Which would have to be titled "Just In Case." A fire hydrant by the side of a country road surrounded by a whole lot of nuthin'. There's a string of them along Pre-Emption Road south of Geneva. Evidently someone expects or intends the city to spread out in that direction, and for something to eventually be built in those fields...something which might possibly catch on fire. Oh no! Which, when and if it happens, they're ready for.
Meanwhile, seems a tad incongruous. Made me chuckle.
Both shot with my older iPhone 6+, and dammit. I wish I wouldn't do that.
It wasn't three years ago that I wrote about how I never took any pictures with my phone and didn't like to do so even when I remembered it was there, which I often didn't. Various readers claimed it was fun and challenged me to come up to speed with it, so I committed, reluctantly, to doing some shooting with the phone for a couple of months.
Well, be careful what you wish for—because now I can't stop. I still take far more pictures with my camera than I do with my phone, but the ratio is down to maybe five to one. One-sixth of all my pictures using a phone is a lot, I think.
Granted, most phone snaps are just note-taking, like these from when the roofers were here. Then again, when the tree service was here, I used the Fuji and got some good shots. (The top one and the one of the three guys by the truck are both pictures I like.)
I'm not saying any of the four pictures here are masterpieces, but you gotta be careful about stuff like this. Photography is mysteriously random...good pictures are always out there lurking, waiting for you, and it's only a matter of time before another great picture will come together and present itself. When it happens, an iPhone is better than nothing at all, of course, but you're probably going to wish you had a camera with you. All four of these pictures are fine for social media. None of them are anywhere near as process-able or as printable as they would have been if I had taken them with my Fuji.
Worse: the fact that I have the iPhone as a fallback is something I sometimes use as an excuse to not bother with the camera. Lazy-ass iPhoneitis-afflicted...it's getting to be kind of a fustercluck. As a very young old man, I don't need yet one more thing to have to be disciplined about.
I self-identify as a photographer; I should carry a camera. That's all there is to it. Taking too many pictures with a phone is just a bad habit.
But sometimes you just see stuff.
Anyway, eventually I'll review the camera in the iPhone 7 Plus.
In the meantime I'll be trying not to use it too much!
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Roy Feldman: "I recently had a nice gallery show in which 4 out of 11 pictures were from my phone (Pixel) many of the attendees pointed out their relief that I was still shooting with film and mentioned they could tell it was shot with my leica. Far be it for me to correct them."
Tim McGowan: "And there's that Red Chair."
Mike replies: And Butters. A twofer today!
Kenneth Tanaka: "I am really delighted that you finally got the 7 Plus! I was hoping you would. Its dual cameras have made a world of difference in my use of the phone camera. You can meld the two via computational zooms, which is cool. But I prefer to simply switch between the focal lengths much as I would with primes. (See that 1x / 2x spot.) I've found that I often get a cleaner image. For a regular camera I've most often been using an app called ProCamera which also lets you record images in DNG. I find its basic camera functions to be perfect for the iPhone device. I think you'll like it, too. But do try the standard Camera app for 'Portrait' effects. It's fun!
"One last comment. Self-identifying as a photographer does not require you to have a traditional camera hanging from your neck. Anything that shortens the see/capture cycle is good in my book. Using your phone camera is, at the very least, visual exercise. Like a singer working the scales. Like a basketball player doing a warm-up shoot-around. Like a painter making sketches. 'iPhoneitis' is one of the healthiest maladies you can have as a photographer. Just look at your wonderful snaps! I rest my case.
"But it can also be something much better, and more substantial thanks to the quality of that 7+ camera and the recent improvements in phone imaging technology and integration with other methods and workflows.
"At the risk of sounding angry I say that anyone who defines 'photography' or 'photographer' according to technologies or techniques is out to sea. They just don't understand what photography's real nature is. No 'buts' about it."
hugh crawford: "There are a string of fire hydrants along an undeveloped stretch of road named 'Pre-Emption Road'? Sounds like a setup for a short story at the very least. I'm kind of curious about how Pre-Emption Road got named that way in the first place. I am imagining the aftermath of the Retaliation Roundabout and Spite Path debacle at the county roads commission meeting. I'm reminded of the story about the town board member that missed too many meetings and got the road between the sewer plant and the dump named after him. 'Pre-Emption Road' would make a great title for something in any case."
Mike replies: Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction Dept.: Pre-Emption Road roughly traces the old Pre-Emption Line, established by treaty in 1786 as part of a resolution of disputes involving New York, Massachusetts, and the Iroquois Nations. As I understand it, the English Kings granted certain colonies their charter not only to the lands they occupied along the coast, but in a corridor at the same latitude stretching Westward either to the Pacific Ocean or to the Mississippi, depending on who's telling the story. After the Revolution, New York wanted lands that Massachusetts traditionally had claim to through those colonial charters. Individuals had to get permission from State legislatures to negotiate with the Indians to buy land. The Pre-Emption Line was agreed upon at the Treaty of Hartford as the outer boundary of Massachusett's claims; East of the line, Massachusetts "pre-empted" the rights of other legislatures to grant permission to negotiate with the Indians. West of it, New York State could grant that permission. How New York got all the land anyway, such that the old Pre-Emption Line is now buried deep in New York State, is an even more complicated story. To understand it you would need to do a fair mile of reading, with an expert in historical law sitting by your elbow to answer your questions as you went along.
As if that weren't enough, the Pre-Emption Line is, by folklore, supposed to be the dividing line between Buffalo Bills fans and New York Giants fans, which is more a matter of tradition than actuality. However it actually does pretty accurately demarcate the "soda/pop divide," with people West of it referring to soft drinks as "pop" and East of it as "soda." You can see a map here that clearly shows the divide in Western New York.
The Pre-Emption Line is also on the same line of longitude as Washington, D.C., but that is coincidental, as the capital city was mainly but a gleam in L'Enfant's eye in 1786.
Personally, although I am not far at all from the old Pre-Emption Line, I inhabit a tiny 1.678-acre enclave where only sparkling and plain water is drunk, where all the dogs are above average, and where all the people—incongruously, perhaps—root for the NFC North.
Christopher May: "As someone who has used an awful lot of camera formats, I used to suffer a similar affliction to iPhoneitis. It usually revolved around wishing that I had used some other format for whatever shot I was taking. Back when I was shooting 4x5 and 8x10 a lot, I'd feel sick to my stomach if I came across a grand scene and only had a 35mm camera with me. If I was shooting large format, inevitably, I'd come across some distant wildlife for which I'd wish that I had my DSLR with a 500mm lens.
"Lately, when I walk out the door, I just accept that whatever I have with me will have to suffice since it's really impractical to bring all my gear everywhere. There will always be missed opportunities because of lack of gear. But I think that when I just accept that what I have with me is what I have with me, it helps me concentrate on the strengths of whatever format it is. This even applies to the iPhone. I enjoy the simple operation and the near invisibility the iPhone offers. Pull an iPhone out in a crowd and start shooting and not one person will notice you. Bring an 8x10 on a heavy tripod and everyone will.
"Incidentally, this is one of the reasons I still toy with the idea of trying the Leica year project. Committing to a single format and its associated strengths for a day has helped me focus. I imagine this benefit is magnified quite a bit when the gear is limited to a simple but very capable camera with a single lens for an entire year. Someday."
Mike replies: I think you've put your finger on it, even better than I did. It's really the feeling of being caught out without what you need for a particular shot. I'm sure if I were to commit to a project with just the iPhone I'd have no qualms about it. It's when I feel I "ought" to have my other camera and am "making do" with the phone—out of laziness, usually—that makes me unhappy with myself. It's not the equipment, just my attitude.