« The Status of the Metzker Book (Small Stash Remaining) | Main | 10/20/14 The Morning Comment: Small Is Relative »

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

"Am I just part of a hidebound old guard? ". Your remarks suggest so. But keep your perspective. You cannot fall to any major margins simply due to your camera preferences. It's only your photographs that count, Mike. (Except, of course, in the amateur photography snake pit.). Use the gizmo you enjoy. But use the gizmo.

I regressed from 35mm to medium format film cameras because I can get better results by scanning the medium format negatives for use with Photoshop.

Hmm, "hidebound" - is this really about that obstructive leather iPhone case? (grin)

As someone who'd rant nonstop about the "primitive 19 cent" technology of film cameras (and is still using a Nikon w/Tri-X), I think smart phone cameras are great- and I'll use it soon as I get one.

I cannot fathom how somebody can be satisfied with using a phone as a camera for anything more than souvenir snapshots.

I am not among those who feel that "a crappy photo is better than no photo" (and by "crappy" I mean motion blur, noise, clipped highlights, etc.) If I was a photojournalist I wouldn't feel that way, but to me, they are fairly equivalent.

All that is necessary to understand a contempt for the "smartphone" is a trip into modern day public America. It is amazing how a device that is supposed to expand communication so effectively shuts it down. Today I witnessed a woman-I presume the child's mom- reading a story to her child while trying to continue a text conversation. I wanted to suggest she take a selfie of herself reading to the child and send it to the text buddy.


Sorry, I know I am bitter. And sometimes a complete jerk. I feel better now.

Not sent with my Iphone.

Well, No, you couldn't (also get a contax & Tri-X)
Because once you "start taking ALL my photos with" an iPhone 6 there won't be any left for the Contax.
Maybe you should get an iPhone 6 and take some of your photos with it.
If you hate the iPhone wait for the next wave of no OVF all 4k video and frame grabbing your stills camera
Which you can edit on your new 5k iMac which has 5K resolution but only an sRGB gamut.
But then you can hope for a 4k video camera that only shoots B&W

You may have to go back to whole Plate, but do it soon and stock up or you may have to coat your own glass plates.

Hello Mike,

While you are waiting to see if "smartphone photography is just a small flash in the pan, another evolutionary dead-end, and it will be as forgotten as the disc camera or still video within a few years.", you can expand the capability of your iPhone with some extras here:

Photojojo iPhone and Android Lens Series
Pro-quality Fisheye, Super Fisheye, Telephoto, Wide Angle, Macro and Polarizing cell phone lenses.
http://photojojo.com/store/awesomeness/cell-phone-lenses/

You will especially like improving your macro capability:

Easy Macro Cell Lens Band
Shockingly detailed phone shots at the snap of a band!
http://photojojo.com/store/awesomeness/macro-lens-band/

Happy shooting!

- Richard

Well I am going back to Tri X and iPhone for all of my photography. (Or film in general). I'm giving up all other digital. Every new camera seems to be a machine for making bland photographs more easily. You know I think it might be ideological for you Mike with the phone. Heh heh. I remember how horrified you were at even the thought of blogging with one. Just another image making machine. They are not even really phones any more. The specs would already exceed many earlier models of digital cameras.

Whether it was your intention or not, you make a case for owning and using only one "serious" camera—a camera whose strengths and weaknesses you become thoroughly accustomed to.

I know it's not a path that's suitable for everyone, but there are plenty of examples of great work done by photographers with historically significant careers who followed it.

Get the tri-x and shoot it regardless. The iPhone 6 is a waste of money. At least $650, if not more like $2000+ with contract. They are a flash in the pan.

4 x 5 cameras are still very relevant, I have at least 12 different 4x5s and shoot all of them regularly. Get off your ass and use that Chamonix.

The iPhone and other smartphone cameras are getting very good. I particularly like the iPhone color balance. They are great as note takers and sometimes wonderful for quick friend shots but, they are limited with their fixed lens and aperture. What bothers me the most about them as photographic devices, though, is that they are hard to hold and be meditative about the picture you're about to take. If someone came up with a dual-grip with some sort of trigger linkage where you're literally holding it with two hands would that change your mind Mike?

Mike,

Wasn't the son's photo in your recent father-and-son print sale taken using an iPhone and processed with Snapseed on the phone? If an iPhone is good enough for a print sale image, surely it's good enough for you?

Get yourself a holster for your iPhone that fits on your belt (you can get decent, cheap ones on eBay, but make sure that the belt clip also has a leather strip that comes up behind it and fixes with a press-stud, so that no-one can swipe it off your belt): that way your iPhone is always ready for single-handed photography, and is incredibly well protected unless you have a tendency to blunder against sharp, hard objects at hip-height. My old iPhone 3GS was pristine after four years of use, apart from a couple of light scratches on the glass, and my one-year-old iPhone 5s has yet to show any signs of wear and tear.

It must be said that I rarely use my iPhone for photos these days, because I also have a Canon PowerShot S110 in a pouch on my belt (which also contains a spare battery, spare SD card, and magnetically-attached polarising filter).

Best regards,

Alun

All very fair.
But do keep in mind that *today* cell phone cameras (and point and shoots) simply can not yet do many things that high end SLRs, or for that matter 4x5 view cameras can do.
(Whereas acetate based film was technically on a par with previous processes very early on.)

How important are those tasks? Not for me to say.
What fraction of the market are those tasks? The market will tell us.

Has the cellphone camera largely replaced, at least in a mass market sense, most "pocket" cameras? Yes it has. That doesn't make it a replacement for everything else.

Yet.

I'm one of those old guys who likes new technology. But I'm not enamored with the iPhone as a primary photographic tool. It's just too limited. It's wonderful to have a device that can be used for "record" pictures. It's not so wonderful to be forced into the limits it sets, at least at present. Neither the Contax nor the disc camera are really perfect analogies. The disc comes closer, though - a small, easily carried camera that was "good enough" for casual snapshots. It followed more or less in the tradition of the original Kodak. It embodied interesting tech (read Rudolph Kingslake's description of the interesting optical design of its lens, for instance) but used it as a means of facilitating "You push the button, we do the rest," photography. The Contax and other film SLRs were highly precise tools offering considerable control. Their only real compromise was in the size of the film. That's not to say that a phone camera can't be used effectively to make good photographs. That doesn't make it the camera of choice when you really care about the images. When a phone camera offers full manual control, raw files, a viewfinder that's usable in bright sunlight, and either interchangeable lenses or a very wide zoom range, I'll start to think of it as a serious photographic tool. Until then, it's not.

I have a big problem with smartphone cameras: It's very hard for me to get sharp photos with them! They're light and before voice activated controls were a thing tapping on the screen to take photos is normally a disaster.

I wonder if you treated the phone like a fixed lens camera instead of a phone that happens to have a camera, it might click for you better. Maybe not.

There is definitely a time and place for an iPhone and a big camera (it's funny that anything besides my iPhone is a 'big' camera now), and there are many things that an iPhone can't do.

However, I find the phone liberating to experiment with techniques that are extremely cumbersome or even impossible with a dSLR. Slit scan and panoramas are two prominent examples for me. Panoramas are technically better using a dSLR, but the phone is convenient, and I take far more using my phone. Slit scan, not at all possible without buying very expensive specialized cameras, or jury rigging from video.

Both types have their strength, but I always have my phone with me.

I think the important thing about smartphones is that it makes everybody a photographer, not necessarily a good photographer. For the first time we have not only a small, pocketable camera, but a camera that everybody carries with them at all times because it is their phone/email/location finder/note taker/credit card/airplane ticket/map/clock/calendar/music player thingy. Did the crayon destroy oil painting? Actually, it probably started a few good painters. Maybe there are few good ones still using crayons.

I'm still with you on this Mike. The iPhone is never the "right" camera; at best, it's the "better than nothing" camera. Obviously, a phone is better at sharing images than a camera, and millions of people have no interest in carrying anything other than a phone, but for me and presumably millions of other photographers who do this as a hobby, I can't ever think of a picture I've taken where I'd rather have had a phone than a camera. There may be things I do where I'd rather not have a camera with me, but that's about the thing I'm doing; not the pictures I'm taking.

Of course an iPhone 6 doesn't have to be your ONLY camera:-). Just saying. BTW, Ben Long has a very good tutorial on shooting with the iPhone 5s on Lynda.com.

Do not feel too bad. There are cranks like me who simply lost all interest in cameras when they still took film but started to resemble slightly melted plastic blobs with LCD screens. An original, all mechanical, Canon F1 still would quicken my pulse. A Canon T90, by all reports a completely capable camera, would cause me to doze off.

Know what I did on Saturday? Of course not, I haven't told you. I stuffed a little piece of photo paper into the back of a Zeiss box Tengor, when out and made an exposure, 1/2 sec at f16 (ISO 6, cloudy bright). Came out spot on, exposure wise and made a nice little contact print. That's lots more fun than any phone cam and also causes all types of passers by to stop and ask questions.

OK so this is the thing about camera phones, iPhones etc. Yes they are with you all the time, and the best camera is the one you have on you, which simply proves you were to daft to bring along something better. The usual reason you left your better camera at home is generally because you are taking the same journey as you have taken many times and you know what is there. If you are going somewhere you have never been then you are more likely to pull out the big stuff. But its on those regular journeys you take with your iPhone that you see something in the environment that you hadn't seen before, for me it could be the sun setting/rising, a foggy morning or perhaps a specific item that you want to feature on, putting everything else out of focus. None of these are very possible with a camera phone, you could get lucky, but you don't have the control.
Basically the camera you always have with you is just not right for those images you want to take when you are not wanting to take your big camera, Hence the frustration.

I have wondered about the same thing--why at the same time I have trouble taking my iPhone camera seriously but resist taking my "real" camera out with me (unless I am specifically going out to "do photography").

The same phenomenon has led me (at least since the dawn of the digital age) through a series of cameras, looking for the smallest one that I can think of as "real." What I have finally decided is that even if they are fairly compact (like my EM1), "real" cameras call attention to themselves and those who wield them. For the most part, that attention seems to be negative--photography and photographers seem to upset people or make them angry--and when I raise a "real" camera to my eye, I am sometimes conscious of the disapproval of those around me, which makes me hurry a shot, or move on from a location.

An iPhone on the other hand is so universally carried and its presence is so accepted that when I am carrying it and making photographs with it I am not seen as (and do not feel like) a "photographer". The iPhone has lots of image quality limitations, but I have seen quite a few shots on-line taken with the iPhone 5 and 5s that are very pleasing. On my MacBook Pro, looking at photos on Flickr and most photographer websites, I can't distinguish iPhone shots from those taken with most cameras below full-frame sensor size.

For me, the bottom line is that with the iPhone I simply feel more relaxed, more inquisitive, and somewhat more free to explore potential shots than I feel when I have my "real" camera. Once I strap a "real" camera around my neck, I instantly feel like a neon sign lights up above my head that says "Look--here's a PHOTOGRAPHER." It doesn't stop me from using my EM1, because image quality does matter--but I have to admit there is some real appeal to having a more or less invisible camera that's always with me and doesn't cause others around me to react.

I am also no fan of phone cameras - I find them clumsy, awkward and without sufficient controls. They do however have some advantages. They are always there. They are quickly available as they need no setting up. They can take pictures in almost any situation; good light, poor light, inside, outside, close up, long distance. The depth of field is incredible. It can take picture from positions that are impossible with a conventional camera. Where conventional cameras are banned, phone cameras are often accepted. Whereas conventional cameras feel at ease for me and people of my ilk ther is a whole new generation using phone cameras for conventional photos but also in ways about which we have not even heard. I suspect that phone cameras will become the norm, if they have not done so already, while conventional become a narrower and narrower market.

Hey Mike!

Just a word in praise of subjectivity here. I think it actually makes a difference how much the photographer likes the camera he's using. I think I take better pictures with a Leica not so much because it's a better camera, but because I feel more comfortable using it, which frees me up to see better.

So yeah, break out the Contax. You might take better pictures. SRSLY.

The digital sensor is the most significant change in camera technology since the advent of roll film.
The next major change will be when classical physics based lens technology gives way to other ways of bending light onto the sensor. We already have intimations of that with after the event computer processing to get rid of lens based aberrations.
Once we have the two technologies in conjunction then all current cameras, including those embedded in smartphones, will be regarded with nostalgia as incredibly old-fashioned but perhaps with a certain charm and maybe an interesting "look" to the images they used to produce which some may wish to continue to emulate.
But the majority of future image makers will welcome the new devices which will look very different from today's equipment and certainly smaller. They may even lack screens, having instead some development of the Google glasses for seeing the images they will produce.
But what will be even more interesting will be if such radical changes in technology produces corresponding changes in image making - in the "art" - and not just in the technique.

Learning new things is part of being healthy Mike, think of that iPhone camera and Photoshop CS as part of an Alzheimer's prevention routine. Nobody says you can't shoot 4x5 and use your phone too.

The problem with my iPhone is that it doesn't feel like a camera. It has taken me years, and many new cameras, to find a digital camera that feels right, the Fuji XT-1. But my Pentax ME Super is still the best photo-glove.

If it doesn't feel right it don't take good photos.

"Maybe I should get an iPhone 6 and start taking all my photos with it."
Well, if you like its focal lenght, its ISO sensitivity and max shutter speed, why not?
I've took interesting photos with my smartphone, but they were right in the "fly envelope" of it... and usually, I shot in another way at all - a smartphone it's just "not right" for me. And I prefer to not taking a photo at all, than taking what would be a bad one for me.

iPhone and Instagram got me to photograph again, as a hobby, because when beautiful view gets me I get to do a little edit and share the photo easily. With stand-alone cameras I need to use computer, or a film lab and computer, which often turns me off.

Mostly Finnish scenery on my feed: http:Instagr.am/heikkipekka/

The problem I have with phones is the way you have to use them - held away from the body, basically a barrier between you and the subject (watching someone using an iPad as a camera really makes the point).

When I shoot using a viewfinder, the camera becomes invisible to me and I feel I'm making a direct contact with the subject.

Having said that, I will admit to becoming increasingly comfortable with using the LCD on my EM-5, which amounts to the same thing. But this is largely because the EVF is not quite good enough for me - when I recently got an EM-1 I found I've reverted to using the viewfinder almost exclusively.

Colin

"Plenty of the most neo-centric photographers I've ever known were old guys who got excited about every new development..."

For example, Ansel Adams was a big fan of Polaroid cameras.

I did a lot of image comparing with my new phone, and finally decided that the image quality of my phone camera is about 10 years behind the image quality of my dedicated digital cameras.

For a while I was feeling all self righteous about that, and about the value of my current digital photographic equipment. Then I realized I have an 11 x 17 print hanging over my mantel that I shot and printed digitally in 2004!

I would still like to see a zoom lens in a phone camera though. And true RAW files would be nice.

Completely agree, Mike, you never know how things will develop. I don't think the interest in the tools of the craft will wither away in the next century and, hence, 'traditional' cameras - whether they be DSLR's, 5x4, etc. - will have a relevance as far as I can see. As a film user also with an E-M5 (previously a Nikon D80 and Sony A900), I'm not resisting change I just enjoy film more than digital, neither ranks as better in my opinion, though I do prefer the mechanical-chemical craft process of producing a picture out of a latent image, i.e. one I haven't seen a split second after taking it.
Phone photography interests me not one jot, as a user, I've seen some nice pictures on i-phones, etc. but, I just can't connect to the process/nature of the device and the format of the capture. I'm really struggling to describe why they don't appeal to me. You said it better but not quite far enough.
I'm not going to get into the notion of what is permanent - though I think that has something to do with my thinking - or indeed that I have seen some great polaroids which have 'permanence' and resonance and historically could be compared to phone images. Another problem I have with phone cameras is that they do seem pretty much to be a disposable device (a year or twos use)and that doesn't appeal to me. As you say, are these the Kodak disc format of today ? Will they be readable in 10 or 20 years ? Will they be stored on the cloud in perpetuity ? Who knows ? I guess all formats have undergone this historical weeding out: at least film/plate is an object albeit with a lifespan of only a couple of hundred years or so (if processed and stored well !).

Never having used a Contax SLR, I nevertheless think the comparison should rather be with eithe a Kodak Instamatic, which brought many people to photography, some of whom might have gone on and used Contaxes, or Polaroid cameras, which added the "instant factor". I-phones and their ilk provide an "instant at any distance" factor. They are not about image quality, they are not even a beautiful tool, at least for photography, but they make photography attractive for people, who otherwise would not have considered it.

I believe there's an analogy between photography and music recordings. Both are running similar paths. Vinyl is parallel to film, CD is analogous to digital cameras and smartphones can be compared to MP3. Ask anyone in the recording business about the best sound, however, and the likely answer will be: "master tape." This means there could also be an equivalence between master tape and large format plates.
If we think about it, we may come to the conclusion that quality decreases as technologies evolve: digital photography is catching up, but still not quite up to film standards. The same can be said about CD (which evolution nonetheless stagnated) and vinyl. This is because most people trade quality for convenience and will merrily get rid of old media, as the latter is cumbersome and not very practical. Yet that doesn't really mean it's worse when it comes to sheer quality.
This evolution is not ridden by quality: its purpose is just to sell more. It's always been like this - even in the times of film, when plastics began to take over as well as automatic modes that would allow anyone to buy a camera without the fuss.
Digital brought photography to a wider market, and the incorporation of cameras further spread it to an unimaginable crowd. Because quality decreases as technology evolves, some take a philosophical quandary and ask themselves whether it would be interesting to return to the times when image (or sound) quality was paramount. Hence the revival of both vinyl and film. And some people are slightly out of touch with contemporary technology, though I don't think this is the most significant factor in returning to conventional media. More important is the fact that, at least here in Europe, many art students have to use film in their photography courses. They've been keeping film alive.
It's all too easy to point nostalgia or retro-chic to explain the return to film, but that wouldn't be entirely correct. There are people who feel the digital frenzy has driven photography way off the track and want a different experience. I do admit to getting mildly irritated when I see people taking pictures with their smartphones and "phablets" (especially with the latter); whenever I see a tourist photographing some monument that has been photographed a zillion times, holding a smartphone by its corners and wearing a stupid grin on his (her) face, I understand instantly why people are turning to film. (The same when I hear a song on Youtube.)

Mike,
I wonder if the idea of being 'hide bound' when it comes to cameras and whether or not the IPhone is a valid camera comes out of the virus all photographers seem to have some degree of infection from.
The camera industry is one of the World's great marketing engines. They are constantly trying to sell us the 'new and improved' version and we seem to like it.
Photographers seem to spend a great deal of time talking about cameras rather than finding the one they like and just making photographs.
A good friend of mine is a painter. He makes his living selling his art work. While he doesn't make the kind of money he would if he had become a hedge fund manager he is content with his circumstance because it allows him to paint.
We talk often about Art and Art making and one of his arguments runs along the lines of, Many people give up art making because the process is hard.
It's not easy to go to work everyday and wonder what you're supposed to do or if what you're doing is worthwhile. I know this to be true from my own attempts at Art making.
As photographers it's much easier to digress to a discussion about equipment and the relative merits of this versus that.
Recently, I read a comment in TOP that the best camera to use is the one you have at hand when you want to take a picture.
I believe that to be true and might elaborate by saying the best camera to use is the one you like, and that same thinking would apply to should it be digital or silver or whatever medium you choose. I've noticed that painters rarely if ever talk about what brush they use or the type of paint.
Shouldn't we photographers be similarly focused on the outcome rather than the tools used to produce it?

What's to stop you shooting with a Contax and Tri-X?

Have you seen this shot-by-shot comparison of all the iPhone models, by the makers of the Camera+ app? The 6 is an improvement in image quality over your 4S, but probably nothing that's going to change your mind.

But as previous posters have said the first thing you should do is learn how to use the camera you've already got! A flick upwards on the camera icon on the lock screen and you're ready to shoot. Tap and hold to set focus and exposure. And then drag up or down to vary exposure. And the panoramic function is mind-blowing.

Don't think I've heard a peep in the past week about TOP's new computer. Surely the 14.7MP screen on the iMac Retina 5K is worth getting excited about? I haven't seen one in the flesh yet, but surely this is potentially more exciting for photographers than pretty much any camera recent announcement?

As someone who has actively sought out knowledge of all kinds of cameras (from 4mp Olympus to DSLRs to Mamiya 6x7 to iPhone 5C), I applaud your introspection, Mike. Cameras come to hand and fall away easily in this world of eBay and KEH and Amazon. The one common denominator is me, or you, or any person trying to make artful photographs.

An oatmeal box pinhole or a Hasselblad with a 100mp digital back, an iPhone 6 or an 8x10 view camera, all cameras should be taken seriously. They should be used carefully, treated with respect for their limitations*.

We are the artists; not the cameras we use. Use the camera in your hand; it's the best one at this moment.

*Except Holgas. Feel free to fling it full force against the nearest brick wall.

If you're going to make nostalgic comparisons, I think I would compare today's smart phone cameras to a 110 camera or any number of other small cameras from back in the day (pretty much anything that used flash cubes). I didn't take them seriously back then any more than I take a cell phone camera now. The difference in image quality of a cell phone camera/lens to a nicer camera is similar to the difference between 110 and a nice 35mm system.

I do use my cell phone camera quite frequently, but only for quickly documenting things or "scanning" receipts. I think the utility of the cell phone puts it in the same catagory (maybe a step above) as cheap Polaroid camera. Keep in mind that many offices used to have a polaroid just to quickly document things.

Luddite is more like it. I consider photos taken with smartphones or tablets as "i-photography", the paragon of which is the selfie. These i-photos will never see print being intended mainly for instant sharing in social media.

I don't own a smartphone. I'm not on any social media either. I use my cellphone only for calls and sms. I'm helpless with touchscreen keypads; I need to press buttons. (Also, a dumb phone's battery lasts for days.)

I have taken smartphone photos usually of a group where the owner wants to be in the picture. The shutter lag is glacial, it's difficult to get a handhold, and often my finger gets in the way of the lens. I never know if I'm in focus, or if the
picture will turn out not blurred by handshake.

I have nothing against group selfies provided I'm not in it. No one could possibly have an arm long enough to take undistorted selfies. The one whose face is closest to the camera usually has that fisheye look. Maybe, the lenses of late-model smartphones have a much shorter minimum focus distance.

Taking selfies with a smartphone or a tablet is a normal thing to do for the "i-generation". They're not self-conscious at all doing this. It happens everywhere.

As for taking conventional and fine art photos using a smartphone, I'd rather not. It would be a small tragedy if photos I take using a cellphone were better than the ones I take with a regular camera. An iPhone is the wrong camera for me. But only because I don't own one.

No.

This is like a woodworker deciding between a "do-everything machine" or specialized tools - only a beginner even considers that choice.

Anyone who seriously uses tools and knows the use and limits of each ends up with a set customized for their skills. Once you forget about the money... the tools themselves are fun and involving.

There's nothing wrong with adding another tool, but why limit yourself - oh yeah; cost...

My work shows the tools that I have (wide-angle lenses, no band saw) and I design with that in mind. I suppose that's the dividing line - are you taking or making a photo? Opportunity or design?

All answers are correct, just different.

Surely any comparison between a competent camera and a smartphone must take into account that they are very different devices with very different purposes? A camera is for making photographs with the possibility of producing very high image-quality if that is what the user desires; a smartphone is a communications device which allows you to make calls, surf the internet, listen to music, transfer data to other users, manage your money and capture mediocre-quality images.

The number of serious photographers making their images with smart phones must be vanishingly small, Mr Caponigro notwithstanding. And the number who use a phone as their primary imaging device must be even smaller. So who, exactly, is using the smartphone as their camera? They are not photographers, so how they take their pictures really doesn't matter, and photographers should probably resist being influenced by this wider public.

"Loyalty to older methods and decrying new technology" does not enter in to the equation. We are not discussing methods here and, in any case, one's choice of imaging device is not a method. And there is plenty new technology in our current cameras - renewed and refreshed every few months. I just don't hear photographers decrying that.

It's quite simply a matter of horses for courses. For photography with intent, a camera; and for modern communications, a smartphone. I can't make phone-calls with my D800, and I can't shoot precisely-framed, highly-detailed landscapes with my phone. But that's really totally ok.

I don't know if phone cameras are the wave of the future but I think this is ironic: if I want to use my iPhone as a camera, all I have to do is wake it up to find a camera icon in the lower right that takes me directly to the camera. If I want to use my iPhone as a phone, however, I have to enter my personal pass code and log-in first. There's no special icon that allows me to use the phone for what it ostensibly is, only for what it is not. Unless, perhaps, it's a camera with a phone built in?

Photography was the love of my leisure life, until it went digital. I used to subscribe to all the photo magazines, but no longer. All that's left is APUG. Bought and sold expensive DSLRS and went back to film. I continue to follow your column out of nostalgia, but miss the days when you supported film photography.

Part of me kind of expects film to outlive "serious" digital cameras. Both a smartphone and a D810 record information in much the same way, and given the general trends that usually hold in miniaturization, I can imagine that the gap between the best smartphone-type camera and the best pro-grade SLR is going to continue to narrow, perhaps to the point that it disappears. Film, on the other hand, is something fundamentally different, and that sense of difference, irrespective of any arguments about the quality of the final product, might very well keep it alive for a long time. Heck, there are still a few people making Daguerreotypes, are there not?

An interesting piece! I wonder if we might say that the D4 is currently the minimum piece of technology necessary to do its particular job (say, top level action photos); a phone simply cannot do that job as well. Likewise, a big framing nailer (and its airhose and compressor) is the minimum technology for putting in big framing nails at high speed all day. For almost everything else a normal hammer is fine.

Of course, amateurs can use whatever they like, because for them the "process" is often as important as the results. But it also seems that we amateurs are too likely to feel threatened by other people's processes.

I actually don't see a big problem with this one way or the other. To borrow an acronym I often see on here, YMMV. I'm of the view that whatever helps make pictures that are interesting to the person making them is the right choice.

Lets face it. The single purpose device that we know as a camera, in all its shapes and forms, is as dead as the dodo. I was killed off by consumer electronics, clever marketing, and the idea that you create a device that did lots of things that people would actually want to take out with them. The camera really only does one thing and since digital they have got clumbersome.

So does any of this really matter? I think the best camera you have is the one you have fun with. Wherever I go on the net of late I see people whipping themselves up into all sorts of angst about photography. Is this feature more important than that. Is x bit rate better than y bit rate when it is compressed? This lens can resolve 2 lp more than that one. Are yes but what about the bokeh? People photography is a hobby, a past time that is meant to add enjoyment and fulfillment to this temporary existence we call life. If its not doing that find something else.

As for me I've found a few rolls of film at the back of the freezer and a couple of button batteries in the draw of my desk. Think I'll fire up the Olympus XA and go out for a walk and have some fun.

I only use the camera on my BlackBerry for pictures of captured documents, and even then only if I left the Monochrom somewhere else (rare). I'm sure you can do wonders with a camera phone image in post-processing, but if a picture is worth taking, it's worth taking well.

I think of the phone cameras as the modern equivalent of Kodak Brownie. It just has a shorter box length. Sadly, most of the pics I see from them look like they were taken on 127 film. :-)

As one who is many years older than you, I should say I have a split personality as to photography. For around 60 years, I shot in manual mode. Even when autoexposure and autofocus became available. I still shoot much of the time in manual mode on my digital cameras, BUT I love some of the enhancements I now have: Instant review, the histogram (I love the histogram), ability to change ISO to fit without changing film or anything else, the ability to go from color to monochrome with great tonal control in post processing without changing cameras, the image control of using Photoshop, etc. And I lust for the high resolution of the D810 (although my budget doesn't). If I win the lottery, in addition to the camera, I'll get a set of Zeiss lenses-all manual. So I would say, yes, I'm hidebound, but its a stretchy sort of hide...

Convenience.
Conditioned by my employer I've spent last 2 years traveling around the globe, the only continent I haven't visited yet are South America and Africa, the rest is checked on the map, even French Polinesia. First year I've spent shooting with 2 FM2ns and 4 primes covering from 20mm to 105mm + one Olympus mju2, got the iPhone somewhere along the line. Spent 2 months vacation developing and scanning 40+ rolls of film... Not much edited before I had to pack my bags again, but got lots of keepers from iPhone. Left FM2ns at home and brought Bronica SQ-A with few lenses and Mju2 this time, bought 5dmk3 somewhere along the line... Spent another vacation developing and scanning and edited just a few few shots from mk3, le filme stuff still waits. All along I've been taking photos with iPhone 4s and somewhere along the line I started editing them through VSCO app. Printed lots of iPhone shots in 4x6, 8x6 and even 8x10. I've printed few from 5dmk3 but still nothing from 135s and 120s.
Do I notice difference in aesthetics and overall approach in between iPhone shots and rest? Of course I do! Do I take it less seriously? Hell no.

Found the compromise between my past habits and being on the move everyday so I ordered Sony A7 (wi-fi connection between camera and smartphone is heaven sent) - hope I'll use VSCO app this time for a7 shots more than I did for iPhone stuff.
Or maybe I should quit all cameras except iPhone and just admit Annie Liebowitz was quite right about iPhone couple of years back in that TV appearance.

There is ample evidence of people being able to use an iPhone to take pictures of more than adequate technical quality, and yet here we have people constantly writing off this entire class of device as nothing more than a useless toy.

If you personally can't do it, then I think that's more about *you* than the camera.

I personally use the phone in all situations where I used to use fixed focal length point and shoot. And IMHO it almost always does just as well. There are certain things I actually prefer to use the phone for (quick HDR, fast panoramas) because it's much easier than doing the same thing with my "real" camera and Photoshop.

If this is all not for you then I understand, though I think you are missing out.

An iPhone has its place. There was always a huge market for small, simple cameras that could document the main events of people lives without fuss and complication, and these small cameras in the right hands created some iconic images. The iPhone is now that camera, the Box Brownie and Canon Sureshot of the new age.

I can find a lot of uses for an iPhone camera, as an impromptu scanner and a brilliant way to remember prices and specifications of goods in shops. It can also be fun to take a few snaps when out with friends in the pub, not as art but simply as throwaway social documentary, soon to be forgotten.

But the laws of physics still apply to optics. There are too many things they can't do with such a small, thin format. The kind of person that saved up for years to buy an SLR will still want something equally capable of indulging their passion.

Look at what iPads did to the laptop market. The media's initial reaction was 'the laptop is dead'. Of course, this was premature. Tablets couldn't do 'work' but it turned out many people never used their laptops for work, but just for emails, surfing and downloading stuff. They never needed or wanted OSX or Windows, or a full-powered productivity suite, but there wasn't any choice. Now they had an alternative.

And what happened subsequently is interesting. Laptop makers are focusing more on quality and portability, rather than brute power. Some Ultrabooks are less than 2.5 lbs, last a whole day on a charge, have hi-res displays that look gorgeous, and can run Photoshop. Those of us that really DO need to do work can work just about anywhere we like. How cool is that?

Camera makers too, faced with the total loss of the compact market, started making 'proper' cameras that were 'just as good' as the bigger cameras people were used to, but smaller, lighter and infinitely nicer to look at. Cameras are suddenly sexy and desirable again, just like they were in the 70's, and come with a range of even hipper accessories. Somehow, they are more lifestyle friendly again. You don't have to look like the paparazzi any more when you are out taking pictures.

I think we have the iPhone to thank for the EM1 and the XT1, and all the other cute, effective smaller cameras that we can now choose between.

This is a great time to be a geek.

As for fogeyism, I see it as individualism. I didn't spend 54 years to end up being like everyone else, I only just discovered who I am. Now it's time to enjoy being myself. If that means I indulge myself in classic motorcycles, film cameras and valve amplifiers, but use an iPhone as a personal organiser, it's nobody's business but my own.

Bah humbug, 'n all that. Us old'uns have buying power and we've become a target market. I never thought I would ever see so many brand new turntables in audio catalogues, but they are everywhere. Come to think of it, I never expected to see an aperture dial on a lens again!

Personally, I have not so far found any small-sensor phone camera whose images do not seem lacking to my eye; the only phone cameras I am comfortable with are the larger-sensor Lumias. Add to that the image capture delays and the general clumsiness of most phone cameras, and I don't think I'm ever likely to find most phone cameras satisfactory instruments for my use.

I worry that the starting photography with phone cameras will make it difficult to develop an eye for a wide range of luminance and the decisive moment.

I think you should shoot with an iPhone 6 for a year... kind of a challenge.

I seem to recall a similar post of yours a few years ago ;)

My Android phones, and I believe an iPhone, have more controls (more ability to adjust) than my Pocket Instamatic or my Pixie 127 or my Brownie box camera ever did! But they're also optional, not necessary to get adequate photos most of the time; the modern cell phone cameras can do so much more than the really old snapshot cameras! (Especially close focus and relatively low light.)

I'm pretty sure nearly any expert in the sound recording industry (every industry has its crackpots) would say the best sound is from a "digital master". Master tapes had considerable hiss, worse signal-to-noise ratio than digital. Certainly modern digital reworkings of old master tapes frequently sound much better than the old analog releases ("frequently", not always; there's a question of skill and artistic judgment in the digital work just as there was in the analog, and not even famous valuable material always gets the attention of the best craftspeople).

"Photography" is not one thing, I don't think. It's everything from personal recording of life (snapshots) to photojournalism (professional recording of events) to arbitrary art (anything from totally realistic landscapes to providing material for digital composites) to note taking, with side-trips into specialized areas of scientific use (everything from x-rays to the Hubble space telescope), forensic documentation, security cameras, and so forth on and on and on. And because of photojournalism in particular (and also some kinds of landscape and wildlife photography, documenting threatened visual possibilities) it's hard to draw a hard line that any big group will agree with. Peter Turnley does work widely regarded as art (wish I could have afforded more than the one print I bought), but also works in photojournalism, and at least sometimes the two come together and a photo is both real documentation and real art. Famous news photos are somewhat conditionally admitted to the world of art, at least in the sense that people will discuss the visual properties of the photos and not just the information they convey.

I am kind of surprised that there are still people in 2014 holding forth claims about the technical superiority of film photography. I've scanned old film as recently as a couple of weeks ago, and made prints from it; I'm constantly reminded of just how far superior modern digital is to old film! (I knew that digital photography for "serious" work was a possibility when I learned that nearly all astronomy had gone to working digitally, which was in the 1980s. I thought it would take much longer to actually happen than it did, but of course our requirements for artistic or practical imaging are much lower than those of the astronomers.)

Despite having been in college at the right time to encounter this, I'm not entirely in sympathy with Marshall McLuhan (I'm entirely in sympathy with Woody Allen's use of him in Annie Hall, however). The medium in which a message is delivered to the final recipient can be important, but media used earlier in the chain of production are progressively less so. And photography mostly happens at the very beginning of those chains.

On the other hand, I think McLuhan's most famous observation ("The medium is the message"; fairly well-known I think but I don't want to be obscure on this) has a lot to do with the huge importance of cell-phone cameras. The immediacy of seeing events as they are happening on Facebook and Twitter really does affect people's relationship to those events. So for lots of people the photographs that live in their minds as iconic images are going to be shots from call phone cameras.

I really enjoy using my EM-5, and the image quality, but I was pleased with at least one image on the iPhone that would have been difficult with the Oly, even if I'd had it with me.
A crisp image of sunlit crocus flowers, taken from maybe 2 inches away, less than an inch above the ground, further bunches 4 feet away nicely OOF, and further street scene yet more OOF. I'm not sure I could have got the Oly that low. A corny shot, but very pleasing to me.

iPhone? Never used one, and I don't have any kind of smart phone, or phone with a camera. Nor do I have any desire to own such an item. That said, I really liked this iPhone photo I came across recently:
http://www.blipfoto.com/entry/4883698

The comments to this entry are closed.

Portals




Stats


Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007