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Friday, 20 June 2014


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You first response not to cover phone cameras, as in a test, was the correct one. No one cares about the specs of the camera in their phone. Any of them are good enough. No one buys a phone because of the included camera. Its added spec is just used as a sign of quality for the rest of the phone.

The quality of the iPhone 5s camera (and exposure and white balance) still surprises me at times.

It is interesting to see "feature creep" make its way into the cell phone world in such apps as Instagram.

Nokia has indeed been at the forefront of camera technology, too bad they have lagged in other aspects. Still, it's good to have a yardstick so that other companies (I'm looking at you Apple) don't get too complacent.

Speaking of Apple, what's the claim of world's largest camera manufacturer based on? Looking at these numbers, which should be reliable, Samsung is far ahead: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2665715

As for camera controls in iOS, opening up the programming interfaces allows 3rd party developers to make even fancier camera apps, though the iPhone form factor is very limited for actually presenting the user with many controls.

The Fire might be of interest to me, but...

Only on AT&T at introduction. Phooey. AT&T is dysfunctional in my neck of the Northern California coast.

Why, oh why, would Bezos & Crew try to take on Apple's iPhone while duplicating the provider that hobbled the iPhone's debut?

I also found Amazon's choice of name for the new phone odd, maybe for different reasons. I get that they are trying to go for a theme but they now Amazon Kindle e-book readers, Amazon Kindle Fire tablets, and the new Amazon Fire phone. Next up, I'm sure, will be Amazon's Kindle Fire Flame laptop...

With regards to phones as cameras, my issue is both image quality (though I admit not following the latest) and useability/form factor. Even if I do always carry my phone with me default, I still prefer a compact camera as my always with me camera.

You know, only a few people take themselves seriously when they claim their mobile phones can rival a serious camera. When you shoot with a phone in the streets, no passer-by gives a damn about you; if, however, you're using a real camera, people know you mean business. People in the streets are wiser than the whole photographic community, and so are those mobile phone users that make no pretence of getting the utmost quality out of their pinhead-sized lenses. The latter use it for fun - for taking casual pictures and sharing them instantly. Mobile phones are perfect for that purpose, and some have very reasonable quality (e. g. the iPhone 4S), but let's not go bananas and claim they are tools for the serious photographer. They aren't. I'm OK with people using iPhones to take pictures, as long as no silly claims are made.

I think that the world's largest camera manufacturer is Samsung...

I've had a Lumia 1020 for about six months now. Under the right conditions, stupendous image quality for a phone cam. It loves the great outdoors, with ample quantities of natural light. Indoors, and after dark, it's somewhat hit or miss.

It's beautifully made, and built like a brick *#@!house. The camera hump is only big when compared with other high end smartphones - as compared with any compact digicam out there, it's positively scrawny. Fun to use, too, with the very clever implementation of manual controls.

Could it ever replace a DSLR? No chance. But pretty dang good for something you can carry around in your hip pocket, with all the convenience and spontaneity that entails. First cell phone I've ever actually enjoyed using.

I've had a Lumia 1020 for about six months now. Under the right conditions, stupendous image quality for a phone cam. It loves the great outdoors, with ample quantities of natural light. Indoors, and after dark, it's somewhat hit or miss.

It's beautifully made, and built like a brick *#@!house. The camera hump is only big when compared with other high end smartphones - as compared with any compact digicam out there, it's positively scrawny. Fun to use, too, with the very clever implementation of manual controls.

Could it ever replace a DSLR? No chance. But pretty dang good for something you can carry around in your hip pocket, with all the convenience and spontaneity that entails. First cell phone I've ever actually enjoyed using.

Andre Y said,
"Which part of this isn't fulfilled by the iPhone today? None! And in its day, 35mm film was considered inferior in image quality to larger formats, just like the iPhone's tiny sensor when compared to its larger digital brethren."

Well, the part that isn't fulfilled is output quality. If you compared a 40s Leica with its best lens against a 4x5 or an 8x10 with their best lenses, the Leica would "lose," if you want to call it that, but the quality of the Leica prints is nevertheless spectacular. I have a large HC-B print on my living room wall (the one of the girl running up the stairs between the white buildings) and it's an amazing print. You could *not* make that print from a cell phone shot, and I doubt that you ever will be able to, because that's not what cell phones are optimized for.

In other words, the two limbs of your analogy are not parallel -- with the 40s film cameras, you could make spectacular prints with both Leicas and their larger-format competitors; with current digital cameras (even smaller ones like m4/3) you can make spectacular prints, but you can't with cell phone output.

I have nothing against cell phone photography, and I shoot photos with mine from time to time. But they do not directly compete with either my Nikon or my Panasonic systems in speed, quality, or ergonomics. I seriously doubt that they ever will, not only because of the problems with the physics of the things, but just because of the consumer aspect. Most cell-phone photos are made to be looked at on cell phones (duh) or perhaps on computer screens. Will people really pay a lot more money for a cell phone that can output a print of spectacular quality, if they never plan to use that ability? (And it will be a lot more money -- smallness costs.) My guess is that they won't.

I also suspect that the sensor/lens systems of cell phones will run into a physics wall well before that of the larger cameras, because one essential quality of cell phones is size. That won't change -- if anything, people will push to make them smaller. And as they get smaller, and the camera components have to shrink, the cell-phone makers may be able to maintain current quality, but I doubt they will be able to improve it much.

I am visiting New York City currently. With me I have three cameras: my Canon 5D Mk II (which I normally use mounted with the 50mm f/1.4, but sometimes the 24-105 zoom), my iPhone 4s, and the Hipstamatic app on the 4s. I enjoy each of these cameras, switch from one to the other with ease and purpose, get very different looking photos from each, and totally am satisfied with the results about 5% of the time (that has to do with my pickiness [i.e., editing] and not the cameras). I see no inconsistency or contradictions in using all three cameras, and can't imagine being without all of them. Neither is superior - they each have their gifts and their flaws. To me, photography is the language - technique/cameras/etc...are dialects and variations. My goal is to choose the appropriate camera for the given situation/intent.

Or get shot! But in the light of the Leica versus the cameraphone.......that may have been the thruth in de first part of the century, from 1924 till 1960, when SLR hit the field the Leica was for most part surpassed in versatility by SLR's and that counted enough. But having said that (and hating all things related to smartphones up to the point of not owning a cellphone alltogether), I must admit that for the documentation of everyday life cellphonecamera's are unsurpassed. Wether all of that is a good thing remains to be experienced by us all. BTW, Flickr is showing only panda's today.

Greets, Ed.

Mike have a look at https://www.stockimo.com
It is a boutique stock portal for iPhone images and a part of Alamy. I have been submitting images over the past few months.
No sales yet but then not a great number of images submitted.

The phone requirements are published and only the iPhone 3 cameras are not good enough.
What i have found is that depending on what program is used to manipulate the images, sometimes I am loosing resolution and images are being rejected.

Looking at that main Alamy portal perhaps we can use this as an arbiter in the debate about what camera is ‘good enough’ commercially. Alamy has a strict quality control in place and is happy to reject images that do not pass their standards. They also publish a list of cameras which are acceptable and those which are not.

Perhaps this can be referred to as the 'Alamy Paradigm’ and a camera either passes of fails this test.

No, no, no. I am pretty well with Andre Y up to the point about the 'rangefinder'-ness of an lcd screen... Which utterly fails to understand what a rangefinder vf does. Through a rf, you see the *world* (in three dimensions; your eye focuses at the distance of the actual real-world features), with framelines. An lcd at arm's length--or for that matter looking through a vf at an slr focus screen, or evf, whatever--shows you a flat picture of the world, everything viewed at the same focal plane about 2 feet away, and then that surrounded by the real world, if you look away from the screen and at the world again.
Almost nobody who has not used a rf, and even some who have, seems to understand this fundamentally different way of seeing pictures. It doesnt make a big difference for some people, and some people prefer looking at a screen; but for the others, it helps imensely to be able to look at the world to see pictures, instead of looking at pictures of the world.

So far smartphone cameras have had somewhat the role of the early Volkswagen, the "people's" car. Not big or fast or comfortable but good enough for the masses to use for their needs of photographing their daily experiences and sharing them through Instagram and similar technologies which are like the early autobahns. One without the other would be pointless. There are now billions of smartphones being used by billions of people who haven't a clue who Henry Cartier-Bresson is or what a Leica is.

Where it will end up is unknown but markers are being placed. Apple recently hired Ari Partinen who designed the 41 mpx Lumia 1020 smartphone camera you write about in this piece. IOS 8 allows for almost complete control of the raw file off the sensor of an iPhone. Adobe has just released Lightroom for the iPhone and it's surprisingly powerful. http://youtu.be/oBe-DdDi8FQ

I've never enjoyed taking serious photos with my iPhone but I think I'm going to start experimenting. I like the attitude of Stephen Shore who experiments with different camera technologies to see what strengths and unique characteristics each brings to his image making.

I think comparing cell phone cameras to the leica is quite sound. Interesting that the counterargument is that the image quality and other camera specs don't measure up, because the point is that these are irrelevant.

The leica occupied a certain psychological and artistic space. It allowed a new way of working and a new kind of art. So with the cell phone camera. Not the same way of working as the leica, not the same kind of art, but clearly a relative, a natural offshoot.

You can make superb art with a cell phone. Even a poor one. You cannot make every kind of art, you cannot take every kind of picture. But you can take fine ones.

Phone cameras suck! End of story (for me).

"Take a picture of this, Dad," implored my teenage daughter.

"I forgot my camera," her beyond middle-aged dad replied.

"You don't NEED a camera, Dad," she said eyes rolling and with a high degree of exasperation. "You have your PHONE!"

She was both right and wrong.

I am a member of the mid to early 90s generations, almost 20 thus my experience with mobile photography is very different.

True that for professional use it's a complementary tool but for some personal work it's invaluable.

I, for example, am always moving and commuting. An important part of my photography could be considered as daily snapshots.
Since I got my Samsung S4 (which has a decent sony camera module) it's been a boon to do this type of photography.
In fact, I could be a bit wild and say that no camera would be that good at this use. Because the cellphone is very inconspicuous. I think that even a P&S would be weird to use, at least it would be paid more attention.

Now, I've just got me a Fuji GW690 which methinks would be quite an attention grabber, no instagram for it as well.

Ah ha... so in my comment on the previous post in this recent series on camera phones I declared that I did not understand why people always write off camera phones as a matter of course. How cell phone cameras are only good for twitter or looking at small jpegs on the screen, and how you can't possibly make a good print from one, and so on and so forth.

I will concede that the ergonomics are not great. I will concede that the phone camera restricts a bit with respect to subject matter, lighting, and depth of field. But I will not concede that you can't do "serious" photography with one, even if you want prints. I've made my share of 11x14 prints from 35mm film. I think files from the iPhone 5s will print at least as well. Really. Even ctein backs me up:


Would I use the phone as my *only* tool? No. Would I grab the Nikons or m4/3 if I were going to spend the whole day walking around taking pictures? Probably. But can the phone get the shot if you need it to and if you know what shots to try for? Definitely. And, would I feel bad about "only" having my phone for a particular shot or two because I happened to leave the "real" camera at home? No.

Obligatory shot taken on a phone that a phone shouldn't be good at:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/13820995293/in/photostream

I bet you can print this at 11x14 and it would look pretty good, maybe even spectacular.

In my view, there are aspects of phone cameras that are astonishingly good. We have all seen examples of just how good they can be---under a narrow range of conditions--- They have a smallish sweet spot where they are really good, and a large sweet spot where they are convenient and better than nothing. Both of these are amplified by the fantastic connectivity they bring.
They are useful in ways traditional cameras are not "Is This the one you sent me out to buy, or this one?
And they ARE, for the most part, always with us.
You can even make beautiful prints up to around 5x7 of the best files.
What a real camera buys us is a bigger sweet spot of competence.
Thr 'Realer" the camera the bigger the sweet spot. The trade off there is bulk, weight and expense.
Interestingly, for the most part, Today's ' giant heavy cameras ' are only Mr.Barnack's 24x36mm in format, albeit in a considerably larger package.
So the question to ask, as always, is what kind of pictures do I want to take, and under what conditions do I need to work. Does my chosen field require 600mm lenses or tilt/shift capability or do I need to be able to produce double truck glossy spreads or billboard sized output? Is small size and stealth important?
Do I simply need to produce beautiful prints up to some standard size like 13x19.
Discussions often center around 'what will replace what' without asking under what shooting conditions and what is the output required.
We sometimes forget to think about pictures (actual output) first.
Same as it ever was, I think.

My iPhone 4S has as technically excellent a camera as I need in a phone. For Real Photography that is as simple as I need it to be, my Polaroid SX-70 does a darn fine job! :-)

No photographer should never take anything out of a phone camera seriously: http://www.theverge.com/2014/6/12/5802800/iphone-photography-awards-2014

Back in 2009 it seems that photographer Dan Burkholder managed to take a photo with an iphone that some took seriously as shown in George Barr's "Why Photographs Work." Online here: http://www.galeriebmg.com/dan_burkholder2.html

Ahh, if only these had been on B&W film they would have had soul.

I am seriously considering a new iphone to replace the faux retro x thing I carry on work days. If the iphone camera gives me trouble, I'll just say it's "quirky."

Actually, the Lumia 1020 is a slightly worse upgrade of the Nokia 808 PureView, which has an equal amount of pixels - 41 - but has a larger sensor. Also, the 1020 makes one frame per 4 - very long - seconds, where the 808 churns out one in less than a second. Both have operating systems nobody wants. The 808 runs a dead as a doornail, no longer supported Symbian, the 1020 runs Windows.

Oh, one more thing about the Nokia 808. Great for droning. I'd post the link but that would get trashed, so google for "PureView Drone Photography – by Peter Meijs"

@Andre: I thought the key to leica that time is that it can compete with 8x10 in 8x10 size photo I think, not just it is portable. It even got its own line of enlarger etc. In fact, its f3.5 lens is still good to use today. Also, may be key to this, it is not a mass camera and even then it is not affordable by many people. Very precisely made and expensive.

Hence, I am not sure compare iPhone with leica is right. IPhone is more a competent everywhere phone-camera. May be the Nokia is more like it as it got the quality potential ... I still waiting for Samsung act though.

Just now in Vancouver for a family holiday. I hope I can have a camera as good as a fixed lens Sigma DP2 Merill (with 3.5 eqv. lens like the one Leica launched its rangefinder; I do not expect any 1.4 or even 2.0 equ. phone lens). Really strange to carry 3 camera bodies. But phone lens of that level may never come

Disclaimer: Past M3/8 owner and today only old Leica M lens and V lens for Sony Nex-6 this day. As I have to ask price, I am not rich enough to be a Leica fan boy. But I do think it is more an artist camera even then.

I'm very hopeful that having more control of the camera in your phone may lead more folks to wondering what it would be like to use a bigger camera - like what happens when folks felt comfortable with 35mm started looking at 120, or the crop-sensors kids started looking avariciously at 'full-frame' cameras. Either way, Apple right now makes the most popular camera in the world. And they just made it easier for all sorts of people to work with it - not a small thing to be a little happy about.

Winsor wrote:
"No one buys a phone because of the included camera."

I did (iPhone 4S). I've had it for 2.5 years now and I still find it largely unnecessary to carry any other camera (exceptions: very low light, very wide DR with action, shallow DOF, telephoto).

John Camp wrote:
"I have a large HC-B print on my living room wall (the one of the girl running up the stairs between the white buildings) and it's an amazing print. You could *not* make that print from a cell phone shot, and I doubt that you ever will be able to, because that's not what cell phones are optimized for."

Don't bet on it (now or in the future). You'll lose. Even if we assume the best theoretical B&W-converted cellphone DR is currently less than Tri-X (or whatever HCB used), HCB negatives were notoriously badly exposed. The phone's autoexposure will be better. The picture (Sifnos '61) is shot in bright sunlight. The rest is in the darkroom/post-processing (and you're seriously underestimating what this does, for both HCB and the cellphone).

Not sure if you've seen this Mike, but Android phone users can now create shallow depth-of-field photographs where they select the focal plane after the fact. Here is Google's brief summary of how it works (it's a lot cleverer than the simple 'dumb' blur filters seen in many camera apps).

The most frequent photography question I hear from my friends is how to get shallow depth of field photos with their P&S/smartphone. Until now I've always said that physics says they can't. Faced with this some decide to buy a DSLR — it is the promise of creating 'professional/wedding'-style photos that most appeals to them.

I suspect this is going to further reduce the size of the pool who 'real' camera manufacturers can hope to sell to.

My phone is unobtrusive, takes good quality fotos and video, and uploads them to Facebook or Flickr in seconds. That's a perfect phone camera.

Dear Michael,

OMG, that is effin' brilliant!

Further on the subject of circumventing fixed-camera physics, someone (can't remember who... or maybe I read it here) told me just recently that one of the smart phone makers is going to be putting a small microcamera array on the back of their camera and doing synthetic image construction from it.

Not on par with my dreamed-up camera:


... but thinking in the same vein.

Do not underestimate the phone cameras, not what they can do now and not what they'll do in the future.

pax / Ctein

Because of the discussion here, I decided to print one of my favorite iPhone pictures for my TOP Print-For-A-Year (Or At Least 3 Months) exercise this weekend to see how it would turn out.

Here is the candidate picture: https://www.flickr.com/photos/andreyew/14187829116/

Yes, I wish I had taken it on my Ricoh GR, but I had just put that away when the plane started banking over downtown LA, so it was either the iPhone or no picture. I'm glad I got the picture. B&W conversion was done in Lightroom, and curves/dodging/burning in Photoshop to produce the web image.

After some adjustment to the photo to make it suitable for printing (brightened with a mild curve bump, extra Clarity for midtone contrast boost, and some unsharp masking done with LR's sharpness control set at 100 detail), I printed it on letter-sized Canson Platine Fibre with the factory Canson profile on a Canon Pro-10. If I do say so myself, it looked pretty darn fine, even in the high frequency details. Many of the nastier iPhone artifacts are completely invisible. This is for a 7.5-inch square image, so it's not the most demanding size.

After I get my Canon Lustre 13x19 paper profiled (the factory profiles are surprisingly bad), I'll print it at 12.5-inch square, and see if the thing holds up. I suspect it will do much better than most people expect.

(And yes, Canson Platine is rather profligate for this exercise, but I screwed up and ran out of the cheap factory paper.)

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