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Tuesday, 14 June 2016


I hear you. My iPhone camera gets a pretty steady workout too. But before you descend into complete despair remember that it isn't the camera that makes a picture. It's that gray (pink actually) blob about three inches behind your eyes that makes you a photographer.
And then there's this guy. He is rocking my old hometown of Bismarck, North Dakota.
You don't get much more old school than wet plate ambrotypes. I really love what he is doing.

I just returned from a trip to Boston to visit lots of family, and both my iPhone and my m43 camera got a workout. There is a very distinct difference in the quality of the files on the computer, but most people on Facebook don't care. I got keepers from both, and if my iphone shots looked bland and fuzzy, something like the Tintype app could always dress them up...

I'm currently putting your iphone/full-frame theory to the test though, because when I returned from Boston my new K1 was waiting, and I have hardly touched the Olympus since.

I share your unease. If I had an iphone with the dynamic range of my 2009 era m43 camera, I'd be hard pressed to say I needed something better for a carry-everywhere camera. I even learned my craft in college with a slow 28mm lens, so it's not as though I haven't done most of my work with those restrictions. Sure, I ached for better dynamic range, and less noise, but I still did work I am proud of.

The change you did not mention is this: soon I will be using a camera that shoots 4k. That's 30 frames of 8 megapixel jpegs every second. With a modest amount of understanding of exposure, I'll be able to get that decisive moment after the fact. That looks like the end of conventional photography to me. Looking through a video stream after the fact, at my lesiure, is going to be a much different experience. Will I use this for everything? No, not at all. But it will plug a gap, it will let me get those "sports and action" shots of my kids. 4k plus superzooming bridge cameras might be a real challenge to certain DSLR makers bread and butter, enrty level cameras.

One last question, Mike, if you did have a good-enough-for-most-things iphone camera, how much of an ubercamera would you want to pair it with? How big a sensor, and what angles of view would you want to pick?

I'm of the opinion that, for better or for worse, smartphones have more or less plateued in terms of their scope and relevance. Look back over the last 3 or 4 years of devices released by any of the major manufacturers and I don't think you'll see a lot of change. Looking at this article (http://snapsnapsnap.photos/iphone-6s-camera-comparison/), I don't see much difference between the 6S results and as far back as the iPhone 5, and arguably 4S. Most smartphone makers are shifting focus to regions, like India, where adoption is still low, and rumors are that Apple is moving from a 2 year, to 3 year update cycle.

I expect that the next decade for smartphones (and smartphone cameras) is going to look a lot like the last decade has for PCs. Which is to say, not much is going to change.

And what does that iPhone cost you every month in subscriptions fees?

[Nearly $200. But that includes my son's phone, and of course I use my phone for its main purpose...as a gameboy to play Angry Birds on. No, as a phone. --Mike]

Camera phones were racing to the bottom several years ago. We are now enjoying the bounce.

When everyone is cheap, quality is a differentiator. Sort of like TOP.

My 13mp Samsung phone is limited by tremendous depth of field and 33mm focal length. As an omnipresent camera it is often "the best camera" by default. When I go to photograph something special I often want a telephoto lens or shallower depth of field, or high speed,or slower speed, or wider angle, and most importantly..... sometimes I need to look like, and create the illusion, that I am a really cool camera dude who knows what he's doing !

Maybe a tempest in a teapot? My experience using my phone for ‘serious photography’ is that it requires much more cameraship then I possess. I consider myself an acceptable landscape and street photographer with my Micro 4/3 gear, but with the limitations of the camera on my Android phone that captures raw images, I am unable produce satisfying results.

"I tried to get the ball and the plane both in the shot, but by the time I'd worked out the framing—just a few seconds—the plane had left the picture." Here is a bit of advice I used to give when teaching photography many, many years ago: "A picture is worth a thousand words but all thousand words need to be about the same thing".

I use my smartphone for note taking all the time and have occasionally used it as a 'real' camera but it doesn't offer the kind of control I require for most photography. But then, I learned on sheet film cameras with manual controls over every aspect of the process, so perhaps I'm just a control freak. I don't like equipment making decisions for me. As always, to each his/her own.

"which big FF-or-larger camera I'd buy..."

- D800 and a 35/1.4?
- Half Plate film camera?

.... sorry ;)

My daughter recently went on her 8th grade class trip to Washington D.C. There were 14 kids in her class, roughly that number in another 8th grade class that went with them, and about 8 teachers & staff to chaperone. Out of that entire group, my daughter was the only one with a "real" camera (and that was only a point & shoot, albeit a decent one).

Hugh wins the internet for today!


[You guys are mean. --Mike]

All I need is my "smart"phone camera and
Snapseed. Ta da!
Who needs reality? Reality sucks.

While we anxiously await an unpredictable (and let's admit potentially marvelous) future for snapshots, let's not forget that smartphones are largely responsible for making cameras awesome again.

It wasn't so long ago that we were awash in small, frustratingly crappy digicams--from brands both legendary and obscure; many, if not most, with pitiful image quality, response and handling. The worst were little more than scams. By making the junk cam free, connecting it to social media (let's not forget social media's very significant role in the revolution), and continually improving it, smartphones forced camera makers to up their game--raising the bar on small cameras all the way up to "adequate", and on not-so-small cameras to "really, really good".

And here we are in a compact camera renaissance. There were casualties, but that's the nature of culling and pruning. The result is a much healthier herd or plant, better able to do its job. Can any happy snapper or serious photographer say our options and capabilities aren't far better than, say, ten years ago, with very few of our needs unmet? (Even leaving aside technological advances in component size and battery life.)

I'm not sure that still photographers in particular should be all that worried, either; easy video is already beginning to replace easy snapshots as the preferred medium of the masses for memories and events, if not ideas. Once snap video becomes easy enough, there may be yet more interesting evolutionary pressure on still cameras.

"manufacturers compete to provide the cheapest possible product"

You can't be talking about the iPhone.

[Just talking about the camera module in the iPhone. Remember, the iPhone does other things too. Most recently I used it as an electronic tuner for a mountain dulcimer, and I'm not kidding. --Mike

Oh my god, the Kodak instamatic with cartridge film is THE DEATH OF PHOTOGRAPHY!

I wonder that we don't all engage in the search for the "perfect" camera: one that's not too cumbersome an albatross and produces a picture of acceptable quality. I carried a Pentax K20D and then a Lumix and then a Sony RX100m3. Today I've got a back pack with a Pentax K1 and a couple of lenses. And an iPhone 6.

The K1 is my new infatuation but the iPhone is so seductive. I have supplemental lenses for the iPhone and have been working on a portrait series using a faux tintype app along with a fake "portrait lens" filter. I can enlarge these 8MP JPEGs to 15x15 out of Lightroom with too few digital artifacts to notice (or make me nuts). And I'm using it for a contemplative series of the window next to my side of the bed as the day moves on and the weather changes, posting on Instagram/Facebook. Small, intimate images.

But I use the iPhone like a camera: I'm conscious of "taking pictures." We've had students in the photo program where I teach who, with a smartphone, made extraordinary pictures but couldn't do the same with a "real" camera. I don't find the "smartphone juggernaut" frightening, just curious: For my millennial student who's got his phone in his hand all day, the phone's camera is just an extension of him and it makes no sense to him to use something else.

Maggie pipped me to the post (geddit?).
I was about to say that the Brownie surely caused a similar uproar. There will always be the eternal things-ain't-what-they-used-to-be arguments. Much like the recent Photoshop-isn't-real-photography dead horse flogged around these parts recently ...

[You realize both your arguments here take the form of an informal fallacy called "emotional appeal," don't you? Google it. It's when you mischaracterize your opponents' motives by lumping them in with things generally agreed to be negative. It's usually a weak form of argument. But your opinion is duly noted. ;-) --Mike]

I don't agree that iPhone or any other phone for that matter will ever be the best camera one can buy. It will always be a compromise because it will have to be a phone, a media device, and so many other things. A dedicated camera will always be better as a camera because it is built for that one purpose. Sure, most people don't care and they never need anything better. But that is true already today.

I've long wanted to do a dark version of the iPhone ad under the rubric, "Shot with an iPhone 6."

What a difference a simple preposition change can make. Weegee meets Helmut Newton. Let your imagination run wild.

Of course that ("Let Your Imagination Run Wild") is yet another marketing tagline.

Possibilities abound.

Right on, Maggie. The smartphone is everything the Instamatic couldn't be.

I recently got a Minolta TC-1 and it's everything I want -- great lens, 28mm, tiny and unobtrusive, great build quality, and quiet. And also a fill-flash mode that I'm having a lot of fun with...


And as Daido Moriyama points out here, because compact cameras look like toys, people are uninhibited in their presence -- much like a smartphone but since everyone recognizes smartphones as photo snapping devices, I wonder how long that'll last


My smartphone shoots RAW. With that kind of processing latitude in the captured files, I've made decent prints of shots from the phone. The technology has made great strides and I'm sure that will continue.

Where things have changed for the worse is how the images are shared. I'm sorry, but precious moments lose their luster when they only exist behind 5 inches of fingerprint streaked LCD. Yes, passing the phone around at a party is easy but it turns all the photos into commodities.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I think it's a shame how few people frame printed photos of their family for display in their homes these days. Junior worked hard for that degree. The graduation day photo deserves better than to be next to your selfie at the ballpark on your camera roll...

I was taking pictures at my wife's book launch, which was done in a library room with mixed lighting. My Olympus OMD-EM1 couldn't get the white balance right at all, even with a custom white balance. I pulled out my iPhone 6s Plus, and it totally nailed the white balance. I shot the rest of the event with my iPhone...

I recently got an iPhone 6s, and the "real camera" is a Leica M-Monochrom. My rationalization was that the former would be a "sketchbook" and that when I actually planned on shooting pictures, I'd use the latter. It hasn't worked out that way.

Oh, wait! I've been there before. Sometime my the remote [film] past, I bought a Rollie 35s, rationalizing it by the plan to carry it everyday, rather than my then primary shooter, a Pentax 6x7. Then, when I really wanted to do "serious photography" I'd take the Pentax, along with the 75 and 150, and leave the Rollie at home. The result was not what I expected. The Rollie stayed in a drawer, and I shlepped a Domke bag weighing, oh, 8 or 9 pounds, everywhere.

I think need a Leica with a cell phone accessory grip. My "day job" prevents me from leaving the cell phone at home, but as a camera, it's not working for me.

I waited for the iPhone 6s to update because I knew a better sensor was coming with that model. I like using it along with a "proper" camera, but for different purposes. As you mentioned, it's just always available; it's convenient. And the image quality is so much better than other smartphones I've used. (Whether it's better than competitive devices, I don't know, and I don't care.) And add-on apps provide a lot of functionality in processing images.

I haven't made any critical prints at larger sizes comparing the "same" shot between the iPhone and my X-Pro. But even that isn't that important for me. If a picture is important and needs a large print of the highest quality, I'll use a proper camera.

The biggest issue for me is handling ... as convenient as a smartphone is, for me its handling doesn't fully support the freedom of composition, control and timing that a real camera does. Others may not find that a barrier at all, and good for them. I will enjoy their iPhone images just as much as if they made them on a dedicated camera.

You're not irrational. I get depressed thinking about how an entire generation has grown up listening to MP3s, and thinks that's what music is supposed to sound like.

My only beef with the iPhone (smartphone) category of digital photography is not the original image quality or anything to do with ease of creation. It's with the image sharing commingling of family and friend-shared digital assets leading to an utter abdication of image provenance decorum.

When I shoot purposeful and unique images on my iPhone and avoid all family shared imagery my iPhone's "camera roll" is then "pure" and analogous to all my other digital cameras' assigned filename sequencing. I can then download my "camera roll" images on my iphone to my master digital image library on my computer , and all is good. The iphone assigns a unique filename to each image with my iPhone camera, and I can then use Image capture or other image ingesting software on my Mac to download those images to my computer, rename these files according to my conventional digital imaging workflow, and all is good.

But more often than not all hell breaks loose when family members share photos back and forth. As the family archivist, multiple digital image copies now abound that are the same exact image but have totally different filenames. And EXIF image creation dates aren't always honored, either, depending on how the derivative images and/or shared images arrive at your digital doorstep.

Receive an image you didn't take in an email or iMessage and want to save it? iPhone alters the incoming filename and sticks a renamed image in your iPhone camera roll thus also commingling it with your own personal photos, as if you'd taken the image yourself. Make a derivative image as in applying Instagram or other iOS app filters? Yup, another unique filename in your iPhone "camera roll" that bears no digital provenance to the original source image except maybe but not always a matching EXIF capture date and other EXIF parameters. Upload a file taken with your fancy dSLR so that you can show it to others on your iPad or iPhone? iOS strips the filename, adds a new one, and puts it again right back in your personal camera roll.

In other words, all this intra family and friends file sharing comes at a big cost to anyone who is trying make some curatorial/archiving sense of it all. Not seemingly a big deal today because we typically know the current context of why the images were shared and how they came into being. Will we know this context precisely a decade from now? Not without greater pains to manually organize our smartphone digital images in ways almost no one is doing nowadays.


I just saw on the dpreview site that the next iOS will allow raw output in .dng from some iPhones/iPads. Perhaps in the not too distant future, Apple will get together with Leica and produce a iPhone with an optical viewfinder but no screen. It could even have a retro dial to make telephone calls.

All this just means that the vast majority of photographers don't give a hoot about what pundits keep on discussing: dynamic range, ISO performance, noise, sharpness, contrast, etc, etc. They just use what is more convenient to them, i.e., the smartphone.

Strangely enough, I've done far less photography since digital! In fact, about the time my local drug store stopped processing film and making 3.5 X 5 prints, is when I stopped carrying my Olympus point-and-shoot, and when I stopped putting my street and casual snaps in a scrap book...it just all stopped...

While I have a job managing a photo department, and spent virtually all my working days since I was a paperboy, working IN photography; I just don't care about it much anymore. About a year ago, I was trying to flesh-out a M 4/3rd's system with primes, and I just stopped because it was more GAS than anything. I wasn't going to do anything with the equipment. Plus I started to develop my philosophy of wanting to look at sunsets, instead of take my 10,000th picture of a sunset. I've come to realize over the years that nonprofessionals that walk around loaded with camera equipment they can't put down, and buying 30 back-up storage units to maximize storage redundancy, don't really love photography, they have something else going on, like hoarders syndrome or adult ADHD.

People have said on here they'd never go back into the darkroom, HA, I was born in the darkroom and worked in it all my life, and I find sitting in front of a computer and moving sliders around the most unrewarding thing I can ever imagine. Unlike wet printing, the computer aspect of digital photography seems like boring work for cube-drones.

Camera phones are wonderful tools for those that are interested. For most of the people reading this site, arguing that they aren't legitimate photography is kind of like arguing that it's OK to screw-up photography as we know it by going digital, but we just can't stand going that extra blip.

It's like all the people that couldn't expose transparency film correctly, hence couldn't be professional photographers, got happy because with digital, they can finally do something and fancy themselves photographers. So they bought up vast mounts of equipment so they can act like photographers, and now they're mad because someone can use a camera phone and do a good job? Sorry, horse has left the barn...

I recently bought Mike Connealy's book from Blurb, on shooting with box cameras. And I find it wonderful. I fully intend when I get all my stuff under one roof, to sell off every piece of digital I have and just shoot with whatever is at hand, maybe even fix the bellows on my Deardorff. As far as I'm concerned, smartphone cameras are as legitimate as anything else someone would use today.

BTW, I don't own a smartphone, and literally have only the second phone I've owned since 1999, and it does exactly what I want it to do...

"The end of photography"

As time passes, and digital imaging progresses with greater strides toward perfection in image reproduction, and increase in convenience and portability, It becomes increasingly difficult for me to even recognize it as "photography".......At least in the sense photography is ingrained in my head. If the thing I recognize as photography is to end, it will more likely be, because heads like mine cease to exist; not because of advances in digital technology.

Email has all but ended the written letter; but on those rare occasions I receive a written letter, I realize that an Email, i.e. the digital equivalent of an "analog" letter, it is not a letter. While both may include the same information, the overall difference in gestalt is such that we do not ever speak of an Email as a "letter." Maybe, as we have mail and Email, Maybe we should have photography and Ephotography. :)

I find myself wondering how closely this discussion would mirror what the guys with 8x10 view cameras had to say when Kodak brought out that first Brownie. "You push the button and we do the rest." Must have seemed like Armageddon.

My best friend (we met in photo school in the middle of the last century) is retired after a lifetime as a very successful commercial photographer. He came over recently to have me make some prints that he was going to submit to a gallery. He had shot some of the photos with his phone. We printed them A3 size, 11.7"x16.5." I had to ask which were shot with the phone and which with his pro Canon gear.

Mike, I don't think there is much to worry about, I agree with robert e about the bottom end getting vastly better.
Additionally it has had the side benefit of causing most of us to always have a camera with us, and a surprisingly capable one at that.
As a result we have an explosion of pictures, including 'snapshots', pictures with 'artistic intent' and probably the biggest growth category, pictures a substitutes for words, -note taking, look what I saw etc.
There are now more 'picture takers' than ever before, - which is a good thing.
Smartphones ARE better than once common Point & Shoot cameras, but we need to remember that all cameras have "sweet spots of competence " where they are capable of wonderful printable results. What we will continue to pay for are cameras with larger sweet spots.
I use an iPhone all the time, but real satisfying prints from those photographs are not easy to come by. Most commonly I find myself thinking, 'nice picture, I wish I took it with a better camera' -but at least I HAVE it.
The size of the sweet spot is generally speaking, inversely proportional to convenience . We give up some convenience we get more capability in more situations.
The advance of technology makes more things possible at the highest end, but also, continually pushes capability toward convenience.
So we get 100MP Medium format, but also m4/3 that is already better than the best 35mm film- perhaps MF film---and better than early FF Digital.
We will get MORE capability in the future, but we may not be able to control the form factor.
The 'second shoe to drop' in the digital revolution will likely be form factor.( CSC's are a small step) Digital did not require cameras to look like film cameras or use existing lens sets, that was a marketing decision to "ease the Transition"
Old guys with lenses (like me) like that, but it seems to me that will have to change. The Dilemma for manufacturers is how to do that without derailing the train.
I suspect the answer is some sort of parallel evolution, but that comes with temporarily higher cost and lower individual volumes.
It will be interesting

Paul Hawkwood...

...no kidding! A friends iPhone 5 pictures she took while she was in India have better autocolor correction than my Nikon pro digitals! Apple certainly nailed that algorithm! If I were a camera company, I would just license that off of them...

I carry my iphone 6s with me all the time and get great snapshots. When I want features like different film simulations, I take my Fuji X30. These two make a perfect combination for me. I usually prefer my iPhone over my Fuji for quick 10 ssecond videos.

This discussion has been very interesting.

My "personal" take. I shall never own or use what is termed a smartphone. My hands/paws are enormous and all brands of these devices are way too small. My local indpendent Apple dealer had me hold an iPad mini, now that I can hold, in one hand with no problem! Don't require such a device, really.

This camera ability of a verbal communication device simply makes the opportunity to record an image, easier.

There is nothing about quality or what has been recorded or anything else. Ditto with those who use one of those "Pad" thingies such as the mini as noted previously, they are all "a recording of the moment device."

Whether the person recording the image shares said image with others either as an electronic message or printed, matters not.

It is the idea the hand held communications device can do but one more thing.

And face it, that recorded image is a form of communication as much as one using the same device to speak with another homosapiens somewhere else in the world.

Demise of photography? More likely call it a change of how photography is accomplished.

What a great discussion! Appreciating the historical perspectives especially. Thanks for the h/u in today's post.

Mike: "You know, I think I like your opinion better than my own. May I pretend I wrote this?"

Be my guest, Mike. I figure you share credit anyway for all the things I would never have written, or even thought much about, if not for your most stimulating blog.

Mike: "We've discussed in the past the virtual certainty that many of "the photographers of tomorrow" will look back and say they got their start in imaging using a cellphone or tablet."

Yes, of course! Access! Spielberg, Lucas and countless other photographers and filmmakers were able to find their potential early thanks to cameras in their childhood environments. Now cameras (and all the other tools smartphones contain) are available to far more of the next generation; you'd think that by sheer odds, we'll lose less talent to simple lack of access to tools (or toys, if you prefer).

Mike, my first camera was a Kodak 110 Instamatic, which really was the iPhone of the early 1970s!

I've been a wildlife and nature photographer for several decades now, so it's not likely that my phone will ever be my only camera. That said, it is frequently the only camera I have with me at any/every given moment and just about everything other than wildlife now gets this treatment. I'm not thrilled that my phone camera has no manual settings for shutter speeds, or focus, and no iris nor aperture settings.
But if I had such a phone with a couple of dials, and some means to approximate the focal lengths of a 24mm lens and a 100mm macro, I would likely find a phone sensor of today quite adequate for photo illustration, articles and books.

In the "good old days" before phone cameras many consumers shot with 110 film, APS film, disposable cameras, $19 drugstore fixed focus cameras, etc. - pretty junky. With iPhone and such they are getting better photos and shooting a lot more. Serious photographers used good cameras and they still do.

I just never take the device out of my pocket to photograph. I like to pick the aperture, have some control of depth of field and focal length. If I don't have the real camera with me, I never remember I've got a pocket device.

The phone camera has pretty much two purposes: "Honey, look, the cat!" Also, at a nursery, "OK, I can remember the name of this plant

For some reason I used it a bit in Nepal a couple of years ago, a little bit. And it's funny, just today I saw one of those photos in my catalog, and I was thinking, "why does it suck so much? What lens was that?! ... Oh."

I'm in Greece at the moment on a short holiday on my own. I have an old Canon DSLR plus a couple of simple lenses, and my iPhone 6. I'm using them pretty interchangeably, but the purpose is different. Anything to go in my travel blog is taken with the Canon, but anything to share immediately with my family is taken with the iPhone, and posted on Facebook.

Thom Hogan has a beef about the inability of the DSLR makers to do easy social media sharing, and I'm with him. On the other hand, I can't really see the iPhone screen without glasses. So neither is perfect for me.

Christ, Mike what a load of rubbish! I'm with Ken T, the end result is the point, frankly who cares what equipment was used. Remember "no one cares what you went through to get the image". Who knows in10 years you might be able to 3D print camera that's superior to what exist now. And by the way, although it may suck, the good old days, they're all gone.

Consider the choices that exist in the realm to audio, not to mention the return of vinyl. Your model suggests that we'll only be able to listen to mp3s on earbuds. I don't see that happening. Guitars same: more brands than ever at all levels of quality including American made high quality and not stratospherically priced

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