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Thursday, 16 October 2014


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The workflow with the iPhone you're describing is a bit less cumbersome with newer Sony Xperia Android phones - they have dedicated camera ("shutter") button. So, basically, you fish your phone out of the pocket, hold the shutter button (it'll let you use the camera without entering numbers or drawing unlock patterns), and by the time you have it horizontally, camera app is ready and waiting for you to tap the screen or press shutter button. With nice 1920×1080 5"+ screen (as on Xperia Z series), it's not even that bad for framing.
That's without the flippy case, though...

But yes, you're pretty much right on the problem.

Hi Mike

I have no issue with you not liking the iPhone as a good camera but please don't pick on the start-up time as reason.

To take a photo (excepting any case issues or framing) is a quick 4 step process

1. Touch Home button
2. Slide up camera icon in bottom right corner (no need to unlock or use pin)
3. Put iPhone in Landscape mode holding with both hands
4. Take picture with volume + button



The trick is not to use a flip case. Use a case that leaves the screen accessible. The latest versions of the iphone operating system allow you to access the camera from the lock screen without entering the password. Just press the little camera icon on the bottom right of the lock screen and flick upward.

The beauty of iphone photography is that it is quick and simple. Much easier to shoot, post process and immediately post the picture, compared with a dedicated camera.

It's a nice bonus that iphones can do HDR, timelapse and panorama photography in a very simple and accessible way.

It's a truism that the best camera is the one you have with you, but I find that iPhone photography is really fun too. No need to worry about gear, just shoot and make the best image I can within the limits of the small sensor.

tongue in cheek I guess and well done. I had heard that Leica made pretty good cameras so I bought one. However, by the time I opened the car trunk, unlocked the 7 digit tumbler safe, removed the padded aluminum carrying case and unlocked that, removed the camera safely in it's leather case, removed the case...why it's just too slow for me. I couldn't possibly photograph children or sporting events. The Leica is clearly over rated.

Yes, the iPhone is a rubbish photographic tool, it's only good because you have it with you. As the saying goes, "The best camera is the one you have with you".

They were called never-ready cases in the UK and Australia as well. I can't help feeling you've managed to put one on your phone. I can easily take my iPhone out of my pocket, swipe up from the lockscreen to go directly into the camera app, click on the screen to choose a focus point and set exposure, and tap the shutter in under five seconds. With my other cameras I'd be a lot faster if I already had it hanging on a neck strap, but slower if it were in a bag. And of course Murphy's law dictates that my camera would have the wrong lens on it! Lastly, the iPhone 4s is showing its age a bit. I had one myself, and it was a big step up to the 5 in terms of speed and image quality. The 6 looks better still.

I use a DSLR (Canon 5 mkIII with 70-200 etc.), and I take it with me to take pictures of the kids at school shows and all places where I think it´s worth taking pictures. With the exception of another father (that bring even more gear then me, he have to DSLRs with different lenses), most of the rest takes pictures with their phones.

All I can think, is that don´t they love their kids? Why would they use their phone to preserve such memories (or not preserve in this case)?

If you have IOS 7 or 8 there is a little camera icon to the bottom right of the lock screen that allows you to launch the camera without unlocking the phone. That said, the 4s is in its dotage in phone terms and is a bit sluggish. My 5c is only one generation newer and can take a photo in about 5s from the lock screen.

I made a comment about my love for the iPhone and that is because it does not look like a camera but a phone, like everybody is carrying around these days. So no one pay attention. I like to take photos on the street. I may be sneaky AND a coward but it makes me relax. Something I find difficult even with a small camera. I use the Hipstamatic app and it is very easy to get the shot while the app is open. For me it could have been any divice or phone with a camera not only the iPhone. For me it works.
Greatings Jens.

I felt the same way with my old iPhone, although the newer models are better for taking pix. Of course, you seem to have the odd idea that an iPhone is primarily for making phone calls...How quaint!

Beyond snapshots of my grandson and daughter, at which the iPhone is perfectly adequate, I think of the iPhone as a scratch pad, a way to remember things I've seen and want to see again. Sort of what I imagine a painter would use pencil and paper for.

There is that "truism" that the best camera is the one you have with you but I think that's not completely accurate - especially if you are someone who is passionate about capturing light. These devices that can also take pictures are fine but they aren't cameras in the true sense. And if you want to do more than they can comfortably do, best to carry a real camera.

I don't disparage the iPhone as a camera. I think having so many people eager to look at their life through images is a mixed blessing but on the whole a good thing. What is has to do with making elegant and important images is an entirely other matter!!



I just had this discussion recently. My cell provider offered me a "free" iPhone 5s with a 2 year plan. I asked several people is it worth it for the nice camera that it has. I decided that for me it wasn't. I almost always carry an X100s strapped around my shoulder. The only time I don't carry it is to the movies or work. The iPhone seemed like more than I needed.

this probably won't convert you but you can cut the steps to access the camera app in half. You can go straight into picture taking mode from the lock screen (the screen you would normally swipe right to get to the security pad). See this quick tutorial - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oExGZxpZyfQ

Aren't most dogs able to walk? :) I thought the original quote was about a woman preaching or some such Victoriana.

For what it's worth, the newer iPhones fix several of your complaints:

1) There is no need to enter your PIN to use the camera.
2) On the new version of iOS, you can access the camera app directly from the lock screen.
3) The display is arguably one of the best viewfinders on *any* camera.
4) The Apple-branded leather case doesn't interfere with the camera.
5) Image quality is substantially improved.

I can pull my iPhone from my pocket and take a picture in less than 3 seconds (I timed it). This is in line with how long it takes my Canon5D2 to power up and take a picture.

My only real complaint with my iPhone 6 camera is the sensor size and it's inability to produce nice bokeh (which seems to be falling out of favor recently anyway). But like all things, YMMV.

You don't have to unlock the iPhone to take a photo.

Flip case seems to be half the problem. The other problem is that you unlock your phone - camera app can be launched without unlocking the phone. Press power once, then swipe from bottom right upwards.

I am not going to claim to enjoy iPhone's image quality (I have a 5), but I actually like the extremely simple shooting workflow. Point, touch to focus/exposure lock, shoot. I partly purchased E-M1 to replace my NEX7 because it replicated this workflow in an ILC, and even expanded on it by allowing me to do it from hip level (should have got the silver version for extra hip).

So, I agree with Frank - smartphone cameras are the most interesting cameras. They enable an exceptionally pleasing simple workflow, and are "always with you". But I wish I could have at least 1" BIS sensor there, because when I open the image for clean up in Lightroom, I certainly wish I used something else to take it ...

The phone camera is the Leica of this century.
Small, always with you, and good enough quality.

This site is worth viewing:


I mostly agree, but you can access the camera from the lock screen -- slide up the camera icon to the right of "slide to unlock" and the camera app opens directly.

This doesn't help with your never-ready case though...

If you have one of the more recent versions of the operating system you can fire the camera up without unlocking - just flicking an icon up from the corner.
If you understand its constraints, the iPhone is a perfectly good small camera, with the advantage of a built in darkroom with a seemingy infinite number of apps to post process.
I would think the days of the standard small camera (not big sensor or specialist models) are rather numbered.

How many of our real cameras have a lock screen to unlock before we can use them? And yes the quality of the iPhone image is pretty good if you remember to wipe the lens on your shirt after you take the camera out of your pocket. How many of us would be willing to put our cameras away without a lens cap and then regularly put our fingers all over the lens element? The number of smeared images is tiresome.

...everytime someone gives me a phone/camera, holding it out in front of me, and struggling to take a picture with it, I never get anything sharp, it's a source of mirth at my place of business that I can't take a picture with the damn things...I know there's such a thing as a camera with a phone in it, but someone should make a 'real' camera with a phone in it, like a Lumix LX7 with an EVF eyepiece, and then you hold the back of the camera up to your ear...

What you need is a recent Nokia Lumia (930, 1020). The ifoney is a poor camera indeed...

Since I am a long time iPhone camera advocate, I guess I'll come to the device's defense, for better or worse.

The iPhone's strengths as a pure camera come from two basic features. The importance of these features in how you work or what you want out of a camera will almost completely determine how you feel about the device.

1. The iPhone is always in your pocket. You never don't have it.

2. The iPhone is a camera with a large in-built "ecosystem", if you will, of image-related software that is always available to you for capture and/or post-processing (HDR, panoramas, black and white processing, and so on. You can take some shots and then at any point you have some downtime you can have your own little Lightroom session if you want). The iPhone is a pretty good camera with a built-in laptop to do processing work on whenever you want. A lot of people like that.

Again, if you have no interest in any of this, then the phone is not that interesting for you.

To the extent that "most" people use small cameras for grab shots of things that are standing still (food, buildings, monuments, etc), the iPhone's cameras, especially in the 4s-6 models, are more than adequate in terms of overall speed and image quality.

Will it follow focus that dog running down the street for the perfect street action shot? No. (But then, neither will most of the other pocket cameras in the world).

Will it be there in your pocket waiting when you come across moments of nice light while you are walking around doing other things? Yes. Can you use it as a substitute for most wide angle pocket digital cameras when you don't want to take your camera bag along? Yes. Can you capture a wide range of different sorts of pictures in a wide variety of lighting conditions? Surely.

Modest recent examples:


So, sunsets, buildings, food and so on. The perfect vacation camera.

Things the phone will not do:

1. Anything requiring fast focus. No moving kids, pets, and all.

2. If you want noise-free pictures in the dark, it won't work out. But it's still about as good as APS cameras were 5-10 years ago.

Still, the iPhone 4s can do this:


And the 5 and 6 are even better. So don't underestimate what you can do.

3. Telephoto, without weird tricks.

Other notes:

1. You can get to the camera without unlocking the phone by swiping up on the camera icon in the lock screen. Takes 2 seconds.

2. If you want to shoot with the phone a lot, don't use a case.

3. Oh yeah, I love panoramas with the phone. I hate taking panos with anything else.

4. It's really easy and nice to shoot square!

So, could the device be better? Yes. Is it a "camera"-y camera? No. But it's good enough at the job of being a small camera that I can't see spending (say) $600 on a fixed 28mm lens "real camera" that I would have to carry in my pocket along with the phone, if I have the phone with me anyway. I'll take another camera along if I want or need fast focus or telephoto, but for those things m4/3 is really the minimum line, and those cameras are not "small" anymore.

So, on balance the best small camera? I say yes. YMMV.

Last shot: it's also good enough for this guy. 😃


Flick to unlock. Enter the number code. Hit the camera app.

You're doing it wrong! ;)

Just swipe up from the bottom and hit the camera button at the bottom corner of the screen. Not as nice as the old double-click the home button, but not bad.

It's not a bad camera by any means. It just has to be appreciated for what it is.

I don't much like taking photos with my iPhone either, but there is a slightly quicker way to get to the camera, although granted it is not easily "discoverable".

From the lock screen, double press the home button then swipe up on the camera icon.

I'm sure that you'll get many comments like this one, but here goes:
"fish the phone out of my pocket. Flip open the case. Flick to unlock. Enter the number code. Hit the camera app. Unfold the case... "
Instead, you can: Press the Home button, and then slide the little camera icon in the bottom right of your screen up. This starts the camera app.
You still have to unfold the case to get it out of the way of the lens though. Why don't you use your phone 'naked' for a few days and see if that helps? (naked: without a case)

These three:

Flick to unlock. Enter the number code. Hit the camera app

can be condensed to:

Swipe the camera icon (on the lock screen) up the screen

Admittedly, that doesn't help any with your case, but for those of us with minimal cases, it can make starting the iPhone camera quicker than any compact camera...

It's my main camera when out walking the dogs - one on and one off a lead is enough to handle without a big old DSLR...

Thank you Mike, a most eloquent and much needed reality rant!
Phone cameras are only ideal for those who have let their phones take over their lives.

I guess you will get thousands of comments about this but you are so wrong about the operation of the iPhone 4s! You do not have to enter the passcode before using the Camera, just slide your finger up from bottom right and there you are.

The daily comment is a good idea.

Mike, I don't use a case. Never have. Also, you can access the camera directly from the lock screen. So that saves me two steps in your process. But I agree, for the time being a camera phone is generally not a decisive moment camera.

The 4S was the first iPhone camera I thought capable. It was much improved in the 5S (which is what I now carry). And the 6 looks yet again better.

I'm often quite pleased and sometimes surprised by what I can get out of the 5S. So put me in Frank's camp.

"...I can't understand why anyone feels otherwise."

There are so many reasons (all bad) why so many people use a phone to take a picture. The two main reasons:

We (civilization) have raised an entire generation of people to whom the art of written, and to a lesser extent, verbal communication is a foreign endeavor. They can talk well enough to order a latte, or discuss how "bitchin" the new Yap-Smap movie is, but forget about substantive verbal communication. And don't even try writing anything. (Yes, of course there are exceptions and exceptional people within this generational shift that remain rooted).

The second reason, which is intertwined with the first, is that our mental and visual perception of the world has become so homogenous that it's lost all nuance. So much so that a person can take a crappy picture on a phone and instantly "communicate" that "idea" to another with the assurance that the receiver will have the same mental perception. Since the individual's ability to distinguish between the mundane and the profound has vanished, the ability of the image to convey the nuance or the profound is not an issue.

Having said this, it is also true that a camera phone is able to take a nuanced or meaningful photo, but is is a major pain to get there.

These ideas are not new, and the reasons for this generational shifting are another topic.


I would tend to agree with you in regards to the iPhone's functionality, but if you can train yourself, there is at least a quicker way to get at the camera. From the lock screen, there's a little camera icon at the bottom right. If you flick upward at that icon, you'll bypass the number code and go straight to the camera. Not exactly to the point of the post, but if that's all the camera you have with you, at least you can get at it a little faster.

"I hate my camera — I keep it in this big bulky bag and have to unzip it to even be able to turn the camera on, and then I have to get it out of the bag in order to take a picture and by then the picture's gone. And when I do take a picture it's not a very good one, which clearly is the camera's fault. What a crappy camera."

Anyone else see anything wrong with that picture (pun intended)?

Modern phones (of either the iOS or Android variety) are one swipe away from being ready to take a picture. No password needed.

The 4S' camera is three generations old. That's 87 in phone camera years.

Third, using the wrong lens for the wrong circumstances is always going to produce a sub-optimal photograph. (Which is why I've never understood the fascination with the fixed-lens compacts, no matter how big their sensor is.)

A quick search on great phone photographs yields millions of hits, some percentage of which actually have great phone photographs in them.

When millions — MILLIONS — of people take great pictures with a piece of equipment and enjoy using it, and one doesn't, the problem is not with the piece of equipment.

I can tell you that an iPhone once ate me and my Canon 5D plus off-camera flash for lunch.

At a dark restaurant, as part of a wedding reception, about six of us were huddled together in a booth. I wanted to take a photo of us at that table, but the 5D has no built-in flash, and my Canon 580 flash can't be used at such close quarters. So, I cannily tried bouncing that flash on a path that would have made Willie Mosconi proud.

After about five tries, I had a decent photo. Not great, but decent. It was then that the sister of the bride joined us at the table.

She sat down, and said "Oh, I just have to get a pic of this!" Pulling out her iPhone, she took a photo in one second flat, and showed it to us. It was bloody brilliant.

The little flash on the iPhone was perfect for such intimate close quarters photography. And the flash algorithms built into that tiny device are to be applauded.


"Flip open the case. Flick to unlock. Enter the number code. Hit the camera app. Unfold the case to get it out of the way of the lens."

You don't have to unlock the phone to use the camera – you can flick up the camera icon in the bottom right to go straight to it.

And you can hardly blame the phone itself for being awkward to use when you put an awkward to use case on it.

In check-ride standards for a pilot's license, the FAA uses the phrase, "the successful outcome ... never seriously in doubt" Phone cameras would never meet that standard. Whenever I use my Galaxy S4, even with an add-on camera app, I always wonder what it's going to do. Not so with my Lumix GX7. There, it is MY proficiency that might be in doubt. GS4 vs GX7? No contest.

I think your beautiful leather case is your problem. In a pinch, you can get straight to the native camera app by quickly pushing the home button, then sliding the little camera icon upward - no need to sign in with either your thumbprint or code. You get to be like a gunslinger in this regard. For more careful shots, you need top sign in and pull up your favorite app.

I love this statement about getting the right picture with the wrong camera, because man, I am always thinking that way no matter what camera I use. But it cuts the other direction, too. If it's a picture I want to share right away, sometimes my fancier cameras can be the wrong one.

Several comments: First, you're right about iPhones, iPods, and iPads being awkward to hold. I simply can't keep one steady in low light. Nothing to grab on to. Lousy ergonomics camera-wise.

Second, the quality of the camera modules varies quite a bit. My iPod is noticeably soft in one corner, while my iPad seems pretty sharp overall.

On the other hand, an iPod can be slid through the opening in a chain link fence to get an unobstructed shot at what's on the other side. At a recent car race, this enabled me to get nice, clean shots of the race start through the fence.

Finally, on a recent beach trip, my wife took a picture with her iPod, applied a filter she likes, and e-mailed the file to me. I printed it out at about 6 by 8 inches, matted it, and framed it. You know what? I like it. It looks good. You never know.

I agree re the iphone usability, but for a different viewpoint check out pindelski.com if you are not familiar with his site. It seems to me there is an opportuinty for Apple to integrate better camera ergonomics with the image quality capability. But maybe most of the iphone audience don't care.

*Proof-reader's Alert*

Mike, that should be a "talking dog." Walking dogs do not merit comment.

I predict this entry will get a huge number of comments! Excuse any duplication herein:

I can't really address your 4s, because this iPhone 6 is my first smart phone ever. (Until last month, I used an old-school LG flip phone.)

But my iPhone 6 doesn't present any of your obstacles. First, I use a case with no cover (the Apple leather case). Second, I access the camera without even logging into the iPhone -- no code to type, not even a thumbprint ID. I just power the thing on, slide up the Control Center from the lock screen, and tap the camera icon. I get a working viewfinder in roughly three seconds -- slower than my dslr, but quick enough for almost everything.

Another nice advantage of the newest camera software is that I can tap and hold on the subject to lock the focus and exposure, and slide my finger up or down to alter the EV, which I do, routinely. (I find the camera tends to overexpose, but then, so does my dslr; that's probably just a matter of taste.)

There are plenty of reasons to use a better camera than the iPhone (depth of field for one!), but I'm finding that I'm less neurotic about carrying my dslr everywhere with me in case I miss a terrific photo. Most of those missed photos are captured well enough and big enough to post on the Web.

#1 You have the wrong case.
#2 Take the code off,stop being paranoid.
#3 The little camera in the bottom right corner on the wake screen, flip it up and you're ready to shoot.

The I-phone is better than a no-phone and that is where it shines.
Its small, pocket carried, does decent snapshots, decent video, never has to go to the drug store for processing, can take all of those photos that the drugstore will look at but not give you, and excels at publication. And you can caption your photos at the same time.
The results are not always that good, but are more than sufficient for the other 99%.
And that is why its good enough.


You don't have to unlock the phone to take a photo. Wake up the phone and at the bottom right on you screen is a camera icon, just swipe up and you're in the camera without unlocking the phone.

Mike, if you upgrade to iOS 7 or 8, you'll see a little camera in the bottom right of your lock screen. Just swipe up, and it will bring up the camera—no unlocking required!

On the other hand...the iPhone 5s has a better camera than the 4s, it's very easy to carry, it takes decent pictures in good light, and it doubles as a smartphone. It was my only camera when I went to Italy this summer (http://deanwightphotography.blogspot.com/2014/09/italy-with-iphone-5s.html). Do I regret not taking a dedicated DSLR? Yes, a little, but I did enjoy travelling light. You (still) can't have everything.

To help speed things up, swipe up from the bottom right of the lock screen. The camera app will immediately open without the need to enter your passcode. On my 5S this is as fast or faster than turning on any compact camera I've ever used.

I've heard it several times and I think right here in TOP.
"The best camera is the one you have with you". A 33mm point and shoot lens and 8 MP on my iPhone 5s is just fine when I need an image of damage or a serial number for reference, but except for when I first got it, I never take it as my "go to" camera, but if it's all I got it is pretty convenient. One time I taped it to the viewfinder of my Nikon F3 film camera and got a decent shot…..The split image rangefinder in the center of the frame was an interesting touch as I never saw it coming.

Have to say I absolutely agree. My wife's [very recent] Samsung drives me crazy in exactly the same way - to the point that she needs to have a VERY valid reason to ask me to take a photo with it, because, shall we say, the experience does not ever go down well for either of us because of the above reasons.

Most people have collapsed the two distinctions photographer and person-with-camera into the distinction photographer thereby blurring attributes artist and craftsman into button pusher.

There's no need to unlock your iPhone to use the camera - just hit the home button to turn on the screen, swipe up from the bottom, and click the camera icon to start the camera app.

Hi Mike,

A couple of thoughts:

1. I suggest ditching the nice leather case, use one that leaves the lens exposed instead. That lens has a nice durable sapphire coating and won't scratch easily. Or, live dangerously with no case as I do.

2. Recent versions of iOS have a camera icon on the lower right corner of the lock screen. To use it, switch the phone on with the power button and then lick the icon up towards the top of the screen with your finger. It launches the camera app without having to log-in, or find the app on your home-screen.

3. Use the phone's physical volume-up button to take the picture. It falls somewhat readily to hand when you hold the camera horizontally with the volume buttons facing up.


Get immediate access to the camera from the lock screen by sliding up from the bottom right—see the little camera icon?—without unlocking the device.

Also, use the volume buttons to shoot, much easier than the on-screen shutter release. This even works with the controls on the earbuds… so you have a cable release now too.

The newer iPhone software versions allow you to access your camera quickly from the lock screen without unlocking the phone, and iOS8 allows for manual of exposure. TouchID in the newer phones also improves speed. That combined with a case that doesn't block the camera makes it pretty fast. I've been using my iPhone over my X100 more and more...

flick not lick!!


The is likely the 700th message with these instructions, but on the 4s, with iOS 8 installed, on the start screen there's a camera icon in the lower right. Put your finger on it and swipe up to access the camera. No code required. And the iOS 8 camera has a handy exposure adjustment slider next to the focus box that really helps.

and, it looks like the sapphire lens covers actually started with the iPhone 5.... Sorry about that.


You can use the camera directly from the lock screen, without unlocking first, and as a bonus you also don't have to select the camera app; i.e. with a single gesture you can be ready to take a picture. Much like any camera, knowing the procedures helps!

Also, the 4S is quite ancient.

Agreed. I thought it was just me. The only use I can find for the camera on my phone is using it as a note taker rather than serious camera.

Mike, I agree with you completely: a camera in a cell phone isn't a very good idea. But how about a cell phone built into a point-and-shoot camera?

I'll agree to disagree with you, Mike.
Your critique of the iPhone 4s camera seems like a critique of your case choice. If you had had said that you think the Minolta SRT-101 was the best SLR of its day, and Frank had disagreed because his had an "every-ready case," that he had to fumble with before putting it into action, would you have accepted that as a legitimate critique of the camera?
I agree with those who say the best camera is the one you have with you. Although I carry a "real" camera with me often, I sometimes find myself wanting to take a photo and having only my iPhone 5s. I use one of two cases, both of which cover only the back and sides. I do have to take it from a pocket, which takes no longer than swinging up a camera on a strap. It takes much less time than extracting a camera from my camera bag.
My thumb unlocks it and then chooses "camera." That takes no longer than turning on, say, a Sony RX-100 with its retractable lens. It might take a second longer than switching on a Nikon D700D or Leica M.
What I don't like is the viewing screen. I prefer a viewfinder. But when I need to use it, it works fine. I have taken some fine shots with my 5s, not as good as they might have been with a "real" camera, but at my age, much better than the ephemeral shot in my poor memory and much easier for others to see.

The camera app is available from the lock screen on an iPhone with iOs 7 or later. No need to unlock and find the camera app -- just flick the camera upward and start shooting. Though I can see why having a case blocking the lens would be annoying....

One of my colleagues has a show of his iPhone images printed about 16x20, shot on public transit in Berlin. They are fascinating, and the image quality is excellent.

Ok, first ditch the case and buy a cheap plastic bumper on Amazon.
Second, if you swipe up from the lock screen it takes you straight to the camera app.

Third, if your camera is on vibrate it won't make a sound when you shoot,

I agree with Frank, 100%

It takes me four seconds to get my iPhone ready to shoot: take it out of my pocket, press the sleep/wake button, swipe up from the lock screen to the camera. You can do that last step without unlocking it.

As I recall, that dog was more famous for being able to talk than for walking.

When people rave about the iPhone they just aren't talking about the one you have.

Last year I upgraded from an iPhone 4s to an iPhone 5s, because my wife decided to downgrade the family to Verizon, and the difference in the camera quality was huge. I understand that the improvement in the iPhone 6 is even greater, with image stabilization, better sensitivity etc.

Also, the last few versions of IOS, since 7 I think, you don't have to unlock the iPhone to use the camera, using the volume button as the shutter release makes decisive moment photography possible, and the 10fps (not sure when that was added) shooting speed is pretty nifty if you are having problems with figuring out just when the decisive moment is.

Verizon and Sprint BTW really muck up the data aspects of the iPhone by having proprietary CDMA versions of it.

Hi Mike,
In regards to using an iPhone camera quickly, no need to unlock phone if using iOS7. You can get to the camera app by simply pressing the home button and swipe up on the little camera icon on your lock screen, or by swiping up from the bottom of the iPhone and tapping the camera icon in Control Center. So much faster, you just might get that shot after all.
As they say, "The best camera is the one you have with you". In the case of iPhone's, it is the latest model. My 5S is so outdated ;-(
Hope this helps, Greg

From Apple iOS7 user guide… "Quick! Get the camera! From the Lock screen, just swipe up. Or swipe up from the bottom
edge of the screen to open Control Center, then tap .
Note: When you open Camera from the Lock screen, you can view (and even edit) photos and videos by tapping the thumbnail at the lower-left corner of the screen. To share photos and videos, first unlock iPhone.
With iPhone, you can take both still photos and HD videos. And, there’s two cameras—in addition to the iSight camera on the back, there’s a FaceTime camera on the front for FaceTime calls and self-portraits. The LED flash provides extra light when you need it—even as a flashlight, just a swipe away in Control Center. See Control Center on page 29."

1. You don't need to enter an unlock code to use the camera. Just swipe up on the little camera icon at the bottom right corner of the display. (I learned that from my teenage kids.)

2. Get a case that doesn't interfere with the camera.


I have to come down on the iPhone side of this one. I've scoffed at them myself. But since I got a 5s I've changed my mind.

First, if you put a Leica in a "never ready case" does that make it a bad camera? I think a large part of your problem is the case, not the camera/phone.

Second, as a snapshot camera to take those family photos, the iPhone is unsurpassed. It's actually easy to use and easy to hold once you stop trying to hold it like a camera. And the photos are nearly always in focus and properly exposed. The image quality is vastly superior to what an instamatic or a consumer Polaroid produced (or a Holga or similar crappy "art" camera). The panorama function almost always delivers a perfect stitch. (Very annoying after many years of struggling with pano software.)

And I can instantly share the snapshot of the granddaughter with the whole family scattered around the country. What's not to like?

I still have my Canon S90 in a pouch on my belt, but I'm finding myself defaulting to the iPhone most of the time, unless I want to take a "serious" photo. I won't be giving up my Nikon or M4/3 cameras any time soon, but the iPhone does the snapshot job just fine.

"Something is always better than nothing" does not ring true for cameras. As you say, using a phone as a camera is mostly a frustrating experience.
Ah, perhaps those raised on phone cameras think they are the bees knees in photo capture. But to me, being able to take a picture and sending it on its way to cyberville means nothing.
I was at a concert a few weeks ago, "pro" cameras not allowed (I asked a security guy what that meant:"anything that fits easily in your pocket is not a pro camera". I took a few pix with, you guessed it, my phone. Pictures were unuseable. Overexposed and blurry. Next time I won't bother trying to take pix at that venue.
For those who enjoy the challenge, fine, use a phone for your camera.Good results are possible. But I don't enjoy a Holga I bought for similar reasons.

Could not agree more. I don't get the hype of smartphone cameras. They kind of remind me of the old disc cameras. Good enough for many people and undemanding purposes. Except the disc camera was a flop...

PS. I wrote a short post about this

Part of it is that the iPhone cameras are improving much faster than the camera industry is staying out in front of them. I just upgraded from the 4s to the 6, and I'm impressed with how much better the camera is. I haven't decided yet whether it's "good enough", but it's a lot closer than the 4s ever was.

And a little tip: You can slide up on the little camera icon in the lock screen to get directly into the camera app without having to unlock the phone. It speeds up the process at least a little bit.

Doesn't invalidate the rest of your argument, but you don't have to unlock your iPhone: since iOS 6 you can swipe up from the lower right corner to open the camera right from the lock screen. And you can use the volume up button as shutter button - also helps holding it still.

Squinting and picture quality will both be unaltered ;-)

A tip that will remove a few steps from the process of getting the iPhone ready to take pictures: Starting with iOS 7, there's a little camera icon at the bottom right of the lock screen. Rather than "slide to unlock", slide upwards on this camera icon and the phone will go directly into the camera app. Everything else will still be locked out, but you can take pictures.

Still nowhere near as fast as having a camera on a strap that you can quickly bring up to your eye, but it improves things a bit.

Whether a smartphone is a 'good' camera is three things - one, is the camera part any good at all, two, if the software is any good, and three, how you use a smartphone. For the first, the iPhone 5s was the first camera phone I found to be acceptable - even the 5 and 4 had...okay cameras, but lacking. For video, and for quick shots in okay light, it's shockingly good to acceptable. Some of the Nokias have great for smartphone cameras, and a few Android devices as well, but many are help by.... 2: Software. iOS has a quick swipe up access to the camera on the lock screen, which means i actually use the camera. If the software gets in the way, it's not a good camera. Third - if you're me, and grab your phone constantly, in a case that doesn't require moving anything(the never-ready comparison is apt), my phone is often the quickest camera to bring to use, unless I've got a camera in hand on on my shoulder. But if i have to go into a bag...the iPhone is quicker.

No need to enter the number code - just swipe up from the bottom of the screen and you can use the camera without unlocking. Problem solved - great little camera! Andy

I agree with Frank up to a point. My Samsung 4s has a stellar camera. Sharp, great colour and contrasty. While technically it is not the best camera I have, it's the camera I have with me, making it the best camera at the time.

There is a chap on www.dpug.org by the name of nhemann that takes stunning photographs of shipyard activities using an iPhone. This is just one example http://www.dpug.org/gallery/showimage.php?i=1760&catid=member&imageuser=4053

There are at least 3 unnecessary steps in your process. You can access the camera app right from the "slide to unlock" screen. So no sliding, no entering the unlock code, and no looking for the camera app.

Here are some of the images recently made with my iPhone: oil filter for boat, fuel lines of the boat, random document, a photo of a weird jelly fish, many photographs of my Labrador retriever being adorable and a lot of very mundane photographs.

I don't get in a creative space when I pick up my phone. It may be the most used camera I own, but that is because it is part of my life. I don't create with it they way I create with a DSLR or a Micro 4/3 camera.

A running shoe makes me want to run and a pair of boots makes me want to get into water. Certain tools make me want to do certain things. My iPhone would be a pair of loafers. Not something I use to do anything more than everything I do.

My iphone is the best small camera when it has been the only camera I had with me. With no camera at all, I would have missed a few special shots of my pets that have passed.

I have to agree with Frank, at least conceptually.

I understand your disagreement, Mike, but nothing in your argument corrodes Frank's opinion. Free your phone from all the gobbledygook faux protective junk and your view might improve. I bought my first iPhone, a 5s, only a year ago and also initially gave it a condom. It wasn't until I let it go nekkid that I really began to appreciate the camera's true handiness. Like any other camera it requires practice to use well, right?

Is the iPhone technically the best small camera? Naw, perhaps not. But it sure has encouraged a tremendous number of people to take pictures and, thereby, enticed a percentage of them to take a deeper interest in photography and even in the broader arts. And, technically, the camera is far from the worst digital camera I've used. In fact it's pretty darn capable especially when coupled with camera apps that offer more direct control.

Maybe this fall is a good time for you to update your iPhone and explore some of the terrific and free/inexpensive alternative camera apps such as Cortex Cam, 645 Pro, or MultiCam (who needs a $1600 Lytro when you have MultiCam for two bucks?). You like lenses and you like to dress-up your phone? Try Schneider's iPro lens kit. It's the best accessory lens system I've found.

I do carry an iPhone and share your fear of "What if I get something good" It happened on Monday-tough light all I had was a 5s and the pictures were disappointing. No camera is good at everything.
But that's also true of my little Canon S95, which can be wonderful, but also has limitations.
There have been many times when I have been truly impressed by the results and have made many satisfying small prints from iPhone pix. Even though my 'main camera' is FF.

To be fair, the camera in the iPhone 4 was not their best effort, and the new ones beginning with the 5s are much better.
As is the latest operating system which has a button to instantly go to the camera and take a picture.
I recently traded a 5s in on the new bigger 6 plus and am genuinely impressed.
To say it hard to use because you put on a case that interferes with the phone is a bit unfair. There are tons of cases that protect the phone from drops but don't interfere.
It has had an ever increasing area of competence --the situations where it can produce good results. Results that are "good enough" for an awful lot of people.
It's USEFULLNESS for practical representational photography is incredibly high. It's ability to communicate pictures quickly and easily is unprecedented. These are important 'small camera ' functions.
Is it my preferred camera for serious work? Of course not.
Is it an enthusiast camera, no. Although it's inspired tons of books.
Is it a great small still and video camera for many uses? I think the answer has to be yes.
The video quality that comes out of these things is astonishing.
I don't shoot much video and I'm guessing you don't either, but in many ways this is the camera most people want---'for the rest of us" if you will
Even if it is not the camera You want I think it's hard to leave it off any objective list of good small cameras.
If you qualify the list as enthusiast cameras, or dedicated cameras then leave it off.
As for "Being Forced to carry it lately" Perhaps you could think back a few years to times when you needed to be in touch and had to look for a pay phone..... what ANY modern smart phone from any manufacturer can do is a wonder in your pocket, be happy even if it's not your perfect camera.

On newer versions of iOS, you can get quick access to the camera by swiping up from the lower-right corner of the screen.

That said, I think the iPhone is the sort of camera that enforces strict limits on the artist, and the fun is working within those limits. Sure, it's got crappy dynamic range, poor low-light performance, and not-great controls. That's actually a good thing, in that it forces you to think about the pictures you're making, to anticipate and be ready. The only cameras good enough for quick-draw for me are high end SLRS; everything else, you have to be looking for situations and keep your finger on the shutter button.

Your comments seem to be grumpy rationalizations for not liking the iPhone as camera. If you liked the iPhone as camera, you would have figured out how to work with it.

I also have the 4s and felt the same way you did until two recent life events: the birth of a baby and the adopting of a new puppy. My adult kids set up photo streams to share photos and videos of these important life changes with all their friends and family. Six months into these events, I now understand why people feel so passionately about the iPhone as everyday camera for recording - and sharing - life.

It is all about sharing the moment at the moment (sorry for sounding like a Hallmark commercial). The new puppy does something cute and the photos/videos are shared with everyone within seconds (and everyone can share their oohs and aahs in real time, too). The new baby gives his first smile and grandma gets to see it immediately, while the excitement is still brand new. Who cares about a noisy image, we are all capable of not seeing the noise in the same way we are capable of not noticing 'white balance' in real life. Our brains are amazing editors. No one cares about these flaws when sharing real life moments in real time with family and friends.

The real eye opener for me was the sharing of iPhone videos. Again, who cares about the technical quality when you get to see your first grandchild from 1000 miles away within minutes of birth? And not the usual awful new baby hospital photos, but a real life moment of new dad bursting with pride yet also obviously terrified. The exhausted new mom tenderly caressing her new baby while sobbing with happiness and relief. The baby's first moments gazing at mom and dad (and blinking at the bright lights).

It was a learning experience for me to see the ease and speed with which these kids take short videos and share them with family and friends. And it was a learning experience for me to realize just how much better these videos are for sharing life experiences than photos are. Not as 'art', not as 'hobby' or 'profession' or whatever reason we each take photos and love photography, but as the way to share life moments in the here and now.

So I feel like I 'get it' now. I still would never reach for my 4s when I feel like taking photos, but I do reach for it when I feel like sharing a moment (sorry again for the Hallmark sentimentality). Although I have to say that the iPhone 6 does take amazingly good photos - my kids all have the newest ones and the difference is stunning.

Who cares wether it's a great camera or not, IMHO cameraphones are singlehandedly responsible for the death of photography and the demise of the western world, probably also for global warming and the global financial crisis.

Greets, Ed.

P.S. I sometimes get complaints that I don't expres myself quite clearly.....this was not the case this time.


Did you see this feature on NYT Lens about the magazine's photo editor and her instagram project involving the NYT building? Seems like strong, thoughtful work with a camera phone -- the right picture with the right camera for this vision.


Any communication device that thinks it can call itself "smart" or "i", had better be able to make ice cubes for my drinks. First. If it can dial a telephone number and also record an image that is suitable; that 's an added bonus.

Using an iPad as a camera is even odder, yet I see it rather frequently. Why use a fragile device that's bulky and shaky to take an iPhone 4S quality photo when a much less expensive consumer compact camera would be better and more versatile?

The Lumia 1020 has a dedicated button on the right (or top, held landscape) edge, more or less where your shutter finger would fall. When pressed for a half-second, it wakes the device and takes you straight into camera mode. Just sayin'.

Eighty four comments by the time I'm writing! There's something about the iPhone that really triggers the response of the photographic community.
Mike, the true about the iPhone as a camera lies somewhere in the middle. A nephew of mine owns an iPhone 4S and is very keen to shoot with it. Being a former design student, he developed a taste for strong lines and the kind of angles only wide-angle lenses can provide. Last winter he went on a trip to Asturias, Spain, and was very enthusiastic about showing me the pictures he took with his iPhone.
I must say I was surprised at the more than acceptable quality of what I saw. To my knowledge, no point-and-shoot or other smartphone can touch the iPhone when it comes to image quality: everything from exposure to white balance seems quite well-judged. I can see it being used as the camera of choice by many photography enthusiasts whose sole intention is taking snaps with higher than average quality.
That said it has its limitations. The operational ones are well described in this entry. Image quality is not without its issues too: the images look overprocessed and won't stand close inspection. Yet there are people who feel perfectly content with it, which is OK - as long as one doesn't go bananas and make outlandish claims about its image quality. I believe any wise person who uses an iPhone for photographing is aware of its limitations and knows something much better can be obtained with a proper camera.
My nephew is unpretentious about his iPhone. He rates it highly, but is completely aware of its limitations. He also tells me it is perfectly acceptable for the kind of pictures most people make nowadays, but one has to think beyond it if he is committed to photography.
Still I can't help feeling the Panasonic Lumix CM1 will make many converts among the photographic community...

The shutter lag is terrible, the exposure sometimes get screwed up but cannot be overridden (let's see about iOS 8 though...), lag for taking video is even worse and whether one triggers the camera by the volume button or the touch screen, it's very hard to keep the phone perfectly still when taking the shot, especially when trying to act quickly.

That said, under certain conditions it can perform reasonable well.

I don't use my iPhone for photography much. I do use it to take pictures-as-communication, though.

- I always have it.
- It can send pictures instantly by email or iMessage.
- Photographing with it attracts no attention.

Horses for courses.

Also, as an observer of the photography scene and as an Apple investor and employee, it's interesting to see how phone cameras have grown good enough to serve the needs of most of the photographing public.


you are commenting on the comment on your comment on some previous comment... I think we all better go out and take some pictures.

My feeling exactly. I travel a lot (like 200 days a year). I always have a 'good' camera with me. Usually m4/3 or APS (the modern one, not the original film one). But sometimes it happens that the camera is not accessible. It may be in the top part of the luggage in taxi boot. If something unexpected comes up, I flip out the camera phone. Most of the time I only get memories, the phone was just not ready in time. Sometimes when I actually manage to capture an image it is a very poor one. And on the few rare occasions when I actually can snap 2-3 pictures and get one technically good one, as good a the phone allows, it has so far never been acceptable to me when opened up in big screen on the PC.

I don't get any of this. I still have a couple of point and shoots. They work fine. Why take pictures with a phone anyway? What am I missing?

"Your comments might be more persuasive if you were packing an iPhone 6."
Sorry, nope.
Yes, I'm able to do nice shots with my phone IF CONDITIONS ARE RIGHT, but the usage envelope is narrower even than a medium-tier point and shoot. And me too prefer to not take an ugly photo that taking one at all...

I always laugh when people quibble over which new phone has the best camera; they're all terrible people! I do like my iPhone for digital note taking but I could hardly imagine a worse tool for enjoying the act of making photographs.

Dear Mike,

You're doing it wrong.

'S'okay, so would I. I'm even less of a cell phone person than you.

The folks I know with smart phone, almost without exception, don't keep them tucked in difficult-to-extract cases (at most, an easily-flippable, non-latching cover) because they use them. A lot. Not just for calls, but email and texting-- not the obsessive chat kind, but the even-more-convenient-and-seamless-than-email kind. They use them dozens of times a day. They make sure it's easily accessible, and they're so used to using it that their fingers instinctively know where to go the way yours would on a Leica rangefinder.

They couldn't do it any other way. It'd drive them nuts. Sides, by the time they noticed a call coming in, dug the phone out of their pocket/bag/purse, and got the never-ready case unsealed, the caller would already have been shunted to voicemail.

I'm never gonna be that person. Suspect you won't, either. But the entirely legit ergonomic issues you've raised just don't exist for those folks, the multi-daily users.

Something else that's going on is the ever-raising quality bar for acceptable photographs (of which I entirely approve). When I see point-and-shoot, I think of something like my film Olympus Stylus Epic II, which was the pocketable carry-it-everywhere camera of its time. It could not possibly ever have been my sole camera, given what I do, but it was the camera I could always be sure of having with me. I used a friend's iPhone 4s camera, just a little bit, after it came out. Beat the pants off my old Stylus Epic. In every respect, better picture quality. Easier and more convenient. More versatile, even-- the OSE II, like most film P&S's, had very slow focusing and poor low-light capability unless you loaded them up with ISO 1600 film and took a huge hit in technical quality.

So, by the standards of the film era, the cell phone cameras are really very, very good cameras. Not by today's, necessarily, and I don't pooh-pooh that. Me too. But, that's the raising bar thingie, and the real world of subject matter hasn't fundamentally changed. These things'll serve.

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

This comment is for Frank Petronio's statement about a serious camera with the panoramic feature - it's been in many of the recent Sony Alphas (and a lot of the NEX cameras). Just look for the 'Sweep Panorama' feature. If it works even half as well as it does on my phone, i think it will be quite useful.

in the alpha A7 top plate here, it's the position on the dial between SCN and the Video setting.

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