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Thursday, 29 December 2016


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Are there actually good portraits shot with a cameraphone (and without good/controlled light, it makes it too easy) ?
There are certainly decent ones, but they would be 10x better shot with a camera.

(yes, the best camera is the one we have...)

I've just reviewed dozens of thousands of photos I've shot, including with cameraphones & SLRs, and I kinda wonder why I bother with cameraphones (ok I don't have an iPhone 7). Maybe we can be fouled at small viewing size, but with 27" UHD computer screen... or even on 5" x 5" book print, they're never looking as fine as from my SLR + Zeiss lenses, weirdly.

I share your concern that the incursion of camera phones will potentially limit the options available for "real" cameras. I have a phone with a reasonable camera, for what it is, but the ergonomics of the camera phone are so uncomfortable I would actually take far fewer photos if that's all I had to work with. Holding it at arm's length, trying to fire off a shot by touching the screen, and the absolute lack of any kind of holding surface make using it as a camera a dreadful experience. Of course, that's only a personal assessment. Clearly plenty of people find the ergonomics good enough, otherwise we wouldn't have seen the camera phone's recent explosion in popularity.

I can vouch for the 7+ as a camera. Didn't think I'd care about shooting RAW with my phone, but I find myself doing it a lot & getting pretty nice results. The Portrait shallow DOF really works in nice light.

But it is ergonomically tough to use. Every Apple ad I see centers around the photo/video taking, so why doesn't the damn thing have a shutter button? Or at least "rest and release" so I can eliminate shutter lag? (some 3rd-party apps still support that feature)

I know about volume snap, but the camera's on the bottom then. Can't get used to it. And it's laggy.

Bluetooth shutter solutions lag a lot. I did get a Bluetooth shutter remote for when I break out the gorilla pod.

I plan to get a Miggo Pictar when they come available in 2017. It'll add another $100 onto the price, but I can rationalize it because the 7+ is also a mini computer, TV streamer, even a phone. The only reason for looking into the Pictar is that the 7+ camera is so good, it has replaced most of my compact cameras.

On cameras ...
1. What do you need your camera to do?
2. What would you like your camera to do?
3. What are you willing to pay for 1 and 2?

To satisfy all its potential customers, Canon, Nikon, Sony and others manufacture and sell large portfolios of photographic hardware.

To satisfy all of its potential customers, Apple manufactures two cameras and claims that, "iPhone is the most popular camera in the world."

Remember the 1930s and 1940s when Leica and Contax pioneered their "miniature" 35mm format? A side by side comparison under a microscope of the negatives they produced would certainly not have positively compared with an 8X10 negative out of a Deardorff...Each format contributed to broaden the spectrum of photographic possibilities and allowed artists like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Edward Weston to find unique ways to express their own personal vision of the world. Iphones are the Leica of the modern times, and there are certainly some contemporary Cartier-Bressons artists around already pioneering new territories.

I wish they'd put an iPhone camera in something that is more camera shaped.

As I'm sure has been pointed out here before: what is happening to 'proper cameras' today is what happened to 'proper cameras' in the 1920s and 1930s -- a small, convenient device has appeared which takes relatively low-quality images but which will, nonetheless, largely displace the existing high-quality-but-cumbersome incumbents.

Soon, if not already, photographers will appear who can really drive the new devices. In fifty years the descendants of these devices will, for no very good reason, be worshipped as the ultimate in photographic image quality, with their serious shortcomings being praised as their best features (’it's a good thing that no-one over 50 can see the screen properly: it keeps photography young') and will command enormous prices, while being displaced by eye-mounted cameras of relatively low quality but enormous convenience.

I don't know of it's available on iPhones, but voice actuated shutter command on Samsung and other Android phones takes away all the handling problems involving touch screen shutter release. Wouldn't want to depend on it in an enforced quiet setting though. Barking out "Capture!"...or worse, "Shoot!"....at the wrong time could have dire consequences.

If I'm going to hang a photo on a wall, as 'art', for exhibition, and or to add to the look and ambiance of the room, I'd much prefer black and white. Or if in color, a monochromatic look, and muted tone is preferable.
Regarding smart phone vs. camera, I truly believe there's a difference. The phone does not have all the creative capability of a camera. Phones make sharp images in beautiful colors, but it's hard to do more then that.
That's my opinion, of course.
My wife went from a point and shoot, to her I pad mini, to her Samsung phone. Most of her pictures are of friends standing and smiling in front of places of interest. And my brother in law uses his dslr mostly on auto. I don't think he ever manually focused or manually controlled exposure. Both currently have come to prefer having their phone handy for taking photos.
This is 'don't rock the boat picture taking', and this is what a lot of people
do. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

The point of the story was that "good enough" is.

Phone cameras won't threaten the future of bigger, more versatile cameras. That future is behind us. It's over.

Open reels to cassettes to CDs to MP3s. Mainframes to PCs to netbooks to tablets to iPhones. (Fill in your own examples.) Better new technology will always replace worse old technology.

"Camera" sales peaked a few years ago and have shrunk massively since. (I've lost the chart but I think the year was 2012.) Expect to see no more than a couple of "camera" makers in existence within five or so years.

Remember those screamers writing in to those "Camera and Darkroom Technology Monthly" magazines? Saying that real photographers did real photography, and that required film, and it would always be true forever and ever, and to hell with this fake digital crap? I do.

A "real" camera is actually whatever imaging device a person actually uses. More often than elsewise, I simply look at something, search for its soul, and remember it. Other than that, my little pocket Sony is the best camera I've ever had. (Yes, I've used the big stuff.)

And do numbers matter? Have a look at your paycheck. Do you smile when you see a nice, sensitive typeface or when the numbers are big? I bet I know.

Billions of camera phones exist today. Billions of film-grinding SLRs with 40-pound lenses do not. Studebaker will never make that big comeback, and neither will they.

I keep reading, hoping for a glimpse of enlightenment, and mostly see the future shrinking smaller in the windshield, zooming off faster and faster from the crusty old photogs who understand only big hefty metal dial-and-lever-bound contraptions based on 1950s technology.

Meanwhile, the future is already on its second iteration: https://light.co/technology

I can't be bothered with smartphones vs. real cameras debates, but the black and white vs. colour controversy interests me. (And not only because I'm a Warner Bros' cartoons huge fan!)
I'm currently on one such quandary. Having been shooting almost solely in black and white for the last three years, and shooting mainly what came to be somewhat abusively known as 'street photography', a time came when I started wondering whether it couldn't be done in a different way.
I look at 'street photography' made by amateurs like me and I see a worrying pattern: all photographs are in black and white. It's as if there were some commandment that mandated 'Thou Shalt Not Shoot Colour' and one would burn in hell if he (she) violated it.
It's an imitation effect, I know: from the masters of yore to today's street photographers like Peter Turnley and Rui Palha, black and white has become a sort of universal language.
Never willing to be a mere follower, I made the decision to shoot colour. I had to adapt my aesthetics - shooting colour or black and white is not indifferent from an aesthetic viewpoint -, but I managed to steer away from the black and white cliché and push my self-imposed boundaries further away. With the added bonus of feeling free to explore different subjects.
In a way, it was a liberation. I still like the way black and white reveals lines, forms, textures and shapes, but I can't help feeling I've broadened my photography. After all, William Albert Allard wasn't entirely delusional when he proclaimed 'I see in color.'

They should have compared the IPhone to an Orange.....then they would have really compared Apples and Oranges.

Greets, Ed.

Similar to comparisons past (vs. other phones, vs other variants of "lesser" cameras like point and shoot; smaller vs larger formats; lesser vs better lenses; of elargement, ...), this one shows that the SLR's advantage is greatest at the extremes. Pushing gear to the extremes of light, of focal length, of depth of field, of speed.

The success of phone cameras for normal photos in good light doesn't eliminate those advantages. But they are pushing those advantages further and further out of the middle, which is impressive and as you note, somewhat democratizing. [Many other factors as well, but one thing at a time.]

Wabbit season . . .

I'm amazed at how well the iPhone performs in these tests. I wouldn't be surprised to find myself selling the Sony RX100-series camera in the next couple years and going phone full-time.

Cameras don't make pictures, photographers do. #cameradoesntmatter, the photographer is always in control.

For exteriors, pick the best time of day for the best available light for the subject. If you've picked the wrong time-of-day, neither a Leica or a MFD will improve bad lighting.

For studio work, use continuos lighting instead of strobes. Simple as that.

For skeptics, here a really large iPhone print http://www.pixuru.com/custom/

I have a plethora of cameras (not nearly as many as real hoarders ... er, collectors ... that range from a Minolta 16 to a Chamonix 4x5. But I still really like and value my iPhone 6s. Some of my "good" shots from Paris were made on the iPhone because, well, it was easy. I also had the XPro and an Olympus XA with me. TBH, when I go back I will shoot about 90% or more film, but it won't be because the iPhone is bad, it's just a decision based on what I want to accomplish.

Even with the iPhone's limited JPG hold's up well enough for computer display - on my 5K iMac it looks pretty good. But almost as important is that it can serve as a geo-located diary either for scouting or for remembering locations that were shot on film or a "real" digital camera.


Why would you get an iPhone 7 "just for the camera" and not a Panasonic CM1?

In a typical week I make, maybe, two telephone calls so it probably wouldn't make much sense for me to own an iPhone 7 for my personal photography.

From what I see, phone cameras are not about photography, they are about taking pictures.

In my sequestered little world, digital photography is all about trying to get the most out of the data. Phones are like film/digital point and shoots, where letting the "automatic" features determine what the device thinks is the proper exposure/focus/framing. Part of what I call the ADM syndrome(Any D*mn Fool) where the thought behind the image is just get something to push your ego.

No need to worry. Some day soon Apple is going to discover some "new" thing and forget all about phones and cameras, the way they currently seem to be forgetting about desk tops. I moved over to iMac a while back because I got sick of all the Windoze nonsense. I wanted something close to an appliance to use as photo and general purpose machine, but that doesn't interest them anymore, I don't believe. They let Aperture die, and it wouldn't surprise me if they let FCPx go too. I was just over on their site and there isn't even a drop-down for software on their main page the way there used to be. It's frustrating because they have the assets and experience to run 10 normal sized companies in different industry sectors (photo, film, desk top, etc), but instead are in the consumer toy business. Nothing wrong with that, but why abandon the other stuff. They were good at it.

I just acquired an iPhone 7+ to keep a close association with my MacBook Pro and iPads AND to see if I could have some fun with the camera and maybe even produce sellable landscapes (I am a member of a small local gallery). I have only had it 2 weeks but know already it's great at the fun part.

The jury is still out regarding the serious part, mainly because I print large (up to 2 x 3 feet). It is proving itself capable up to around 11 x 17 inches providing the scenes are within its limits. As the ArsTechnica shootout demonstrates, the iPhone 7 simply encounters too many situations it doesn't handle well enough.

But I obviously have just begun the learning curve and look forward to more work with it. I will say that, for certain forms of work, such as generating eBay or Craigslist ads, where really good stuff can be cranked out fast, the iPhone 7 is a winner.

Mike said - " ...they threaten for the future of bigger, more versatile cameras—that is, they might put economic pressure on cameramakers that might stunt or even stop the development of dedicated interchangeable-lens digital cameras and systems. But that hasn't gotten critical yet, and it might never. After all, you can still buy large-format film view cameras new."

That's likely an incorrect assumption, as a small cottage industry with low tech tooling can produce view cameras, a rather intense amount of industrial know-how and technology is needed to make modern digital cameras.

Then again, perhaps it can all be outsourced to some semiconductor factory in China.

I shot a lot with camera phones, but I never care about these shoot outs any more. It's like building an underground mass transit system along California highway 1 and compare the convenience and speed of travelling along the route. I'll choose Highway 1 for the experience, I won't care about getting there 30 minutes sooner....

Hmmmm I suspect that the iPhone 7 plus presents more of a threat to pocket cameras.

I took a bunch of pics of a woodworking project that I did with my Sony RX100V and then took a handful with my iPhone just before loading it up I ended up using the iPhone pics on my website.

I will never argue that the iPhone camera is superior on technical grounds. But it works for me.

The upside of the death of the low end and point and shoot camera market is that the "real camera" makers will have to come up with something better than the free* camera everyone has, and a reason that a non professional would need such a device. The second part is the more difficult of course.

*My kids think that an iPhone comes free every two years with the cell plan, but I think it costs about $750. You really have to put some effort into buying a cell phone without at least a mediocre camera.

I guess I'm not too concerned about the smartphone "threat." There have always been cheap and cheerful small cameras, for those who do not fancy themselves "photographers." Kodak Instamatic, for example. And the venerable Brownie line. My first camera was an Ansco box camera, that my parents bought probably around when I was born. That was shortly after Pearl Harbor.

My wife shot a Nikon F2 for "serious" photography, but for convenience, she always carried an Olympus clam shell pocket camera. When a Nikon D100 replaced her film camera, a Lumix ZS1 became her pocket camera.

I'm looking to get a Huawei P9 in 2017, to play with the monochrome side of that phone. Meanwhile, I have a stable of Lumi (that is the plural of Lumix, no?), and an assortment of lenses, for serious shooting: GX7, LX100, LX7, GF1, GF1 IR, GH2.

I just bought a mid-range smartphone and a used Pen e-p5. They're both plenty good enough for me in practice, as is the film cameras I also use. The camera is of course a lot better than the phone, in low light especially, but both are better than old film cameras and all of them are good enough.

But oh how it sucks to take pictures with a phone. It's not the on-screen view - the p5 has the same of course - but the complete lack of physical controls. I spend more time looking at on-screen settings than actually viewing the scene.

And the shutter lag is bad; you can almost forget busy scenes since your composition is already gone by the time the picture is actually taken.

I always prefer the quality of the pictures I take with my DSLR, but at what point is the phone good enough? Right now, the big reason I use my phone is convenience and that I can immediately share my picture. Image quality is just good enough in bright light to not bother with my DSLR unless I specifically plan on printing the picture fairly large or need more telephoto capability.

As for triggering the shutter, not only can you use the volume buttons as a shutter release on the iPhone, but you can plug in the included headphones and use the volume buttons on them as a remote release.

I like real buttons. I like to see the picture i·m going to make without a flare on the screen. No phonephotothingy for me.

iPhone photos are real photos, but they look terrible when printed.
The phone does take good pictures of documents and car accidents, so is therefore useful.

Mr. Camp,

What a really well written comment (not a big surprise) from you. this following sentence:
"It's like comparing a Porsche 911 to a Prius and scoring the Prius as the winner because it gets better mileage and will reach the speed limit, and who would ever want to drive faster than that or use up more gasoline than they absolutely have to?"
is the very definition of a Consumer's Report review of a camera.

Or a piece of Hi-Fi equipment, or, God forbid, a car.


I used to walk about with a small camera the whole time. Over the (many) years it was the Pentax MX, Leica MP, Sony RX100, Fuji X100 and frankly many others it would be too boring to list. The only small camera I have now is the Nikon Coolpix A that has a remarkable sensor. I had both the A and an iPhone 6s on a recent work trip to Qatar and even with the A hanging on my shoulder I used the 6s for 95% of the shots. Really I only used the A out of politeness.

As much as I would like to get a really capable large sensor but small size camera like the Leica Q or Sony RX1R II I fear it would be a pile of money down the drain given the fact my phone does most of it. Only rarely now do I feel the inclination to leave the house with a tripod and a bag of lenses. Not just because of the convenience of the 6s mind you, work and excessive quantities of small children play a large part in it, but as an incurable GAS sufferer I find myself mainly wanting an iPhone 7 Plus! Shocking really.

I enjoy taking photographs with a dedicated camera and a carefully chosen lens. It's as simple as that. I enjoy taking my time and immersing myself in the whole process, from first idea to final article. I feel good when I do this and miss it when I don't. That's all there is to it, in my view. I also take plenty of pictures with my Apple smartphone which is indeed very capable. However, the whole process is different and the reasons I use my smartphone are too - quick grabs, memories, records, something to share right now. All of that is great, but it is not the same, not at all. So many of these web shootout things forget the most important distinction: the difference is all in the mind long before the technology appears.

I've captured some pretty impressive images with my iPhone. I even sold a print of one taken with the pano mode. Within it's limitations the iPhone is capable but to to me it's about the shooting experience. The iPhone just doesn't handle like a well designed camera.

Let's get serious for a second.

Despite all the justification for camera phones, in use they have the ergonomics of a slab of drywall. Quality-wise, they're acceptable. It's easy to see their appeal to the "connected" consumer due to their inclusion in their essential multi-function device and to the person who doesn't really take pictures but likes the idea of having a camera handy even though it's seldom, if ever, used.

But for a serious photographer?

I own and use "proper" cameras but increasingly find the iPhone/Apple Photos combination pretty compelling. The iPhone is the "one camera, one lens" image capture device that many experienced photographers encourage.

I find my photography somewhat transformed when I use it. I seem to "see" better and am more spontaneous and experimental when it comes to selecting, framing and capturing subjects. Then of course there is the whole having it with me thing, so if something strikes me I take it out and use it.

And remember, it's not just the camera. Photos or similar makes it quick and easy to do the essential tasks of post processing to improve further upon the image captured by the phone.

Can you get a technically better image with a "real" camera and Photoshop? Of course, especially in adverse conditions or when doing premeditated shooting. But many people are just trying to capture their life and what's around them in an interesting way that makes the end result worth viewing. And the competition inherent in instant online sharing is challenging them to create better results so viewers will look.

The iPhone or similar with the included post processing software has taken personal photography to a much higher level for many more people than was ever the case in the past. I think we should celebrate that.

I'm reminded how snowboards were reviled by serious skiers when they first appeared. But in the end they transformed skiing into something much better than it had ever been by triggering the fat ski revolution. Now both sports coexist, each with its strengths, with everyone performing at a higher level than in the past.

It seems to me the pure camera makers are still struggling to incorporate the lessons of the phone camera in a way that will take traditional photography to a new level. To me it's about letting the camera do more so that the photographer can do more. The increasing ability of the camera to handle technical details challenges the photographer to do more in the way of selecting the subject, composing the image and perhaps telling a story.

Shooting RAW + JPEG on my iPhone has been an interesting experience. Sometimes it is very difficult for me to get a "better" image from the DNG file using Lightroom than Apple did. Just trying to match Apple's JPEG files has taught me a few things about post processing.

I didn't think much of computational imaging before shooting RAW + JPEG on the iPhone. Now I'm a believer.

Mike, your post is quite a propos. Well, at least for me.

Many observers here mentioned rightly so that the modern photo devices are very performing, the way to go and the future of photographer.

After 16 years of using digital cameras for my corporate work, I wanted to experiment first hand, maybe for a last time, shooting film on a travel. On of the goal was to take pictures then and there, not checking them on the run. I am just returning few days ago from a 8 days trip in Guadalajara, Mexico, using a leica M loaded with Kodak Portra 160 and a old flaring Summicron 35.

What I do appreciate in shooting film with a old camera is the involvement. Like many, I feel good when I am actually taking pictures. I love to look through the clear viewfinder, expecting things to happen all of sudden within the frame, finger at the ready on the shutter release. To enhance this pleasure, challenges like the limit of 36 exposures, the low-light inadequacy, the cost of purchase and processing seem to augment my awareness during my picture-making.

Certainly, the results could have been sharper, more or less saturated, more flexible and more whatever with any modern device. But as Edwin mentioned earlier here, Highway 1 is such a nice way to go.

I'm not at all surprised that an iPhone 7 Plus compared favorably with a "real" camera. My 7 Plus, with its dual cameras, has been keeping me sock-less since its introduction. In fact, like Mike, I used it to make several images that became some of my favorites for the year. As a very current example, I've just finished printing and mounting a 57-inch-wide 200 degree panorama of an installation at The Met I captured with my 7 Plus in October. It's a sensational record, and image, for which the iPhone was the most practical tool at the time. Whether or not one of my "real" cameras could have done a better job is an utterly irrelevant musing. The iPhone 7 Plus did a fabulous job!

As far as I'm concerned every camera is a "real" camera that can be used for "serious" photography, whatever that may be. Remember, it's the photographer that's serious, not the camera. Success with a phone camera requires patience and skill born of practice, practice, practice. *

Do phone cameras "...threaten for the future of bigger, more versatile cameras..."? Certainly, to some degree. But just look at the history of photography. What most people consider a “bigger” camera today was the widely-disrespected “toy” camera of less than a century ago. In fact, most of photography’s greatest recent (century) advancements have not been facilitated by the chemical-to-digital conversion but by the reduction of the camera’s size and ease of use. The increasing ubiquity of the phone camera just represents the latest stage of that relentless process.


* For a fun excursion with a (very) old dog learning (very) new tricks grab a copy of David Hume Kennerly: On the iPhone. You might just find it very inspirational.

I've never had a phone with a particularly wonderful camera (I'd rate the camera on my current HTC 10 as, "Fine, I guess"), but I use them for occasional snapshots and to document things in the lab. (I'm a research scientist, and there are plenty of times when I want a photo or a movie of an experimental setup or the screen of an old piece of instrumentation that lacks a convenient data export function.) The biggest problem I have with my phone cameras is that the bloody lens is always dirty! It lives in my pocket without a lens cap, so this should be surprising, but it is damn annoying.

There have been many very interesting posts regarding the use of camera phones. In my own earlier post, I expressed doubt my new iPhone 7+ would work out for me as a serious tool, but that was based on my using the phone's built-in apps. Today, I experimented printing two Photoshop processed images, shot using Lightroom Mobile to control the camera. I now must reverse myself and say there is a lot of promise.

Apple has an advertising campaign going on in Chicago (and other big cities, I'm sure) with large, blown up photos that were "taken with iPhone." Every time I see one of those photos, I get extremely jealous of the interesting subject matter, beautiful lighting, and creative framing. They are gorgeous photos. But at intended viewing distance, they don't have nearly enough detail subject detail. And I know I am at the intended viewing distance because they are directly in view as you leave a subway station, or directly above a tunnel as you pass, or what have you.

Anyway, that is how you stress an iPhone: by printing and enlarging the photos. I get what they meant to do, show that at the stress point, the iPhone camera does fine. What they showed instead was that the iPhone camera failed the stress test.

Anyway, I keep plugging away with a much worse phone camera and supplement with a real camera as needed. Oh well.

I've no idea what the quality of phone cameras is like but I do know that I hate using a phone to take pictures because of the ergonomics. I've always chosen cameras based on how they feel in the hand and how they fit against my face and how easy it is to get to the important settings quickly. Phones score badly on all these things.

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