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Friday, 30 March 2018


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I can't quite see the point of taking all that kit with you. You might as well take your Olympus with its much better sensor. For me where the phone camera comes into its own is when I want to travel light. So the phone must be sufficient, and yes they are getting better.

Very thought provoking. I think many of us are shofting.
After 40 years I have sold much of my lovely Pentax stuff as when I went to buy the K1 which I had anticipated for years I realised whilst wonderful it was just too big.

So I bought 2 ME Supers for my off spring and they are both using all my remaining Pentax Lenses.

I have moved mainly to a Fuji X100F which I love and m43 which is wonderfully small and compact. All the cameras I have have good EVFs or OVFs as somehow that vision in my brain connects me to whats out there.

I do have an Iphone 6 which is a great back up. Its useful. I am sure the 7 etc will take good pictures ...its just I dont grt much pleasure from them.

However I realise this is more about form than function. The little So y APSC cameras are very ingenious but I got little pleasure from them.

So I love the concept of my OMD EM5 and its aesthetics but dont find it easy to navigate. The X100F is limited but delights in every way.

I will though always carry thevphone just in case.

It should be good - an iPhone X costs at least as much as very good camera...

Great article Terry, thank you so much. I sure hope that I can remain as inquisitive and flexible in my thinking as I push toward 70 as you are with the phone cameras. This article is an inspiration to me in that regard. And I will add: I really love my iPhone 8 Plus with the double lenses (28/56-e). It's fun and easy to use, and I agree with you, the results are pretty awesome.

For my use the iPhone is unbeatable in panorama mode. M4/3 and Nikon for all else.
Yes good article thank you.

I'm always happy to use my phone when I can, but it's important to be aware of the limitations and the workarounds.

If I'm shooting a wide angle shot, and the dynamic range isn't too great, and I don't want a shallow depth of field, and I'm not overly concerned with high-ISO noise, and I'm not going to print bigger than maybe 11x14, then most current phones seem to do a great job. Last week I shot a sunset over a Guatemalan volcano with both my iPhone 6 and my aging Fuji X-T10, and I'm very glad I had the X-T10 with me.

From the image that Terry shot with his iPhone 8, I'd say iPhones have gotten better at capturing a wide dynamic range than what I can get on my 6. The highlights in the clouds in his image retain most of their detail and there's still plenty of detail in the dark face of the house.

And by using add-on lenses, you're not stuck with that one wide-angle field of view. (I loved my Moment lenses, except there was some kind of misalignment on my phone so I returned them.)

Finally I've found that by using any handy post as a tripod substitute and using one of the third party cameras to set a low ISO and long shutter speed (I use Manual), I can defeat some of the iPhone's tendency toward high ISOs.

Very interesting. Must admit though for various reasons do not carry a cell/mobile telephone. The few friends I have remaining at my age (same as Terry at 71 soon to be 72) many of my friends are either dead or in retirement homes away from an atmosphere that allows the use of a telephone as a communication device. Retirement homes around here don't allow residents a cell phone, rather they have to use a fixed land line.

That noted, I see people using their telephone (IMO a small computer) for talking and photography. Ironically see more iPads of various configurations used to make photographs; think that stems from holding a device more easily than an iPhone.

One could say except for the physical front to back depth an iPhone or similar Samsung device is about the external dimensions of a mirrorless camera.

Then again if you, the carrier of the device want a photograph you'll use whatever is handy; be it an iPhone, mirrorless camera or even a full frame camera. Each to their own!

As things stand, I barely carry a cell phone as a phone, so I'm not very enthusiastic about carrying one as a camera, no matter how good it might be.

They just don't offer the same user experience, let alone the same quality of results. Plus, they can also be tracked and hacked, both legally and illegally, and who wants to rely on yet another device that exposes them to an even greater potential for that?

Besides, looking at the larger picture, I wonder what will happen to the camera industry once cell phones have replaced all but the cameras designed for and marketed to professionals?

Although I'm just a humble hobbyist, I pursue my photography very seriously. Being forced to use a pro-level camera will be an absolute disaster for me, because there are none on the market today that suit my (admittedly unique) needs very well.

I don't see this changing for the better, either, and especially not after a shrinking customer base forces camera manufacturers to effectively create one camera to rule them all.

I have seen a lot of discussion about the capability of phone cameras and there is little doubt that each generation gets better. For a lot of photographic uses the image quality is perfectly good. What I rarely hear about is the usability factor - the tactile experience.

Like many who have spent years using separate (real?) cameras, I find the user interface of phone photography to be a far bigger turnoff than the image capability. Holding a device at arm's length and actively tapping the flat of it seems like the ideal recipe for a shaky image at best and simply an uncomfortable and disconnected interaction with the device at worst.

I find manual focus with the focus-by-wire nature of my Fuji and Olympus lenses creates a barrier that leads me to feel disconnected from my subject and the photographic process. Using a cell phone is a similar disconnected experience multiplied many times.

I would personally love to engage in the world of phoneography (if that's a word) but every time I try it's the experience, not the images, that putts me off.

I think of todays camera phones as the modern day Brownie, but much easier to carry. Technology will only make them even better with time. It is amazing just how much has changed in the last 20 years in terms of gear.
"It ain't over yet"....but I still prefer to carry one of my Fujis and usually do.

And of course, we now have Steven Soderbergh's new film, UNSANE, shot entirely on an iPhone.

Makes all those film school days lugging around an Eclair or an Arri or even the CP-16 seem utterly, totally quaint~!

I also use an Olympus Kit and also whatever iPhone I currently own.

IMHO the twin-lens iPhones are at least as good (and in many ways better) for every day photos as any of the digital cameras of similar pocket size that you have been able to buy over the last 15 years. They might not do quite as well on sheer hardware as the current 1" sensor cameras but they make up for it by being more portable and having post-processing immediately available without needing to have workflow to move the image to a computer to do the post-processing work on.

You have to be careful about light levels and contrast, but this is true for most cameras. It's just a matter of degree.

I usually use my "full sized" Olympus cameras only for special events of it I know I might want shallow DOF or just don't mind carrying the bag that day.

An Olympus body and a full range of lenses *and* an iPhone in your pocket is probably as effective a small camera setup as has ever existed. The stuff is smaller than the 35mm film Leicas and is at the same (or better) level with respect to "image quality" as 35mm film ... depending on what you are after.

And I include the phone in this. It might not be the look you want, but it's as certainly as sharp as my old Tri-X and comes close to the various ISO 100-ish slide films ... and I can shoot it (the phone) in much darker places.

I mean, I shot this 6 years ago with an iPhone *4s*.


The current 7/8/X cameras are much much better.

I'd like to thank Terry Burnes for the Waterfield Designs info.It will work great for carrying my iPhone sound kit (several Sure Motiv iOS mics, cables, etc) that I'm putting together.

Content is King, always has been, always will be. Ansel Adams said: There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.

Steven Soderbergh has won a Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. He won an Academy Award for Best Director, in 2000, for Traffic.

His latest feature, Unsane, is in theaters now https://www.bleeckerstreetmedia.com/unsane Unsane was shot with an iPhone 7. What more needs to be said about iPhone quality?

It is clear the image quality of cellphones (AKA hand-held supercomputers), is getting quite good. I have a large number of images where the iPhone image is indistinguishable from a very good point-and-shoot.

What bothers me about them is that they are ungainly. "What!", you say? Yes, ungainly. You can't hold them easily—they're thin, can't easily trip the "shutter button" without contorting your hands in odd ways, and they are so light that holding them steady is an adventure.

There are a number of accessories that you can buy to alleviate these problems but they are accessories—something else you need to bring along.

Ungainly. :-)


Once we start to add accessories and add-on lenses to the phone, the portability advantage completely disappears. I'd rather then carry a Sony RX100.

Thanks Terry for a well written, and considered article. I looked at your images ( on a screen) and couldn't tell which were "phone" images and which produced by a "camera". Really enjoyed the scenes and textures you captured. Keep doing what you're doing!

The cellphone discussion is just a continuation of a long and boring discourse about the latest technology affecting image capture methods. In my lifetime there has been built-in versus external light meters, Manuel versus priority modes, Manuel versus auto focus, sensor size, mirrorless v slr, blah, blah blah.

Let's all agree to just move on, please.

[Easy for you to say. I'd be out of a job. --Mike]

I have no objections to using a camera that's built into a phone, it's just the appalling ergonomics that put me off. I use this phone:

It is a simple phone, but it has one thing that lifts it above using a smart phone for photography; a dedicated button for a shutter release. It's a pity it's such a rotten camera.

I only use it for work photos, where it is only just sharp enough for me to identify circuit breakers and the like.

The big flat shape of a smartphone would last about three weeks with me; this clamshell (think Star Trek communicator) type is rather more durable.

If they made a similar, thicker phone with double the battery capacity and a pair of reasonable cameras (28-E and 80-E) I would be very happy, so long as it kept the dedicated shutter release and had exposure compensation.

A carpenter doesn't use a hammer to frame a house -- he uses a nail gun and glue. But he/she certainly has a hammer in his/her tool belt.

A tool for every job and a job for every tool.

My always-carry camera is a Lumix TZ80. It's in one coat pocket and my phone, a mid-price model, is in the other. As long as I have the Lumix I feel no need to upgrade to the latest phone.

Phones might just kill off mirrorless cameras...

I'm close to selling off my mirrorless setup (having tried two of the main brands), because the phone takes such good still photos and video, with so little fuss.

If I'm doing serious photography, I want the DSLR and the big serious prime lenses.


Terry's correct. The iPhone 7+ as equipped has become my unofficial "6 by 6" camera. Here are some images I made when my "good camera" was elsewhere:


Cartier-Bresson would have used a phone camera

One can make great photos with a phone camera, several people do that. But I would not carry add-ons and other items to make up a phone camera system - for that I carry a dedicated camera with whatever lenses I need. Also, a major limitation of a camera phone is DOF, when a shallow one is needed.

In my engineering career, I used a Canon G12 for many years to record damage and repairs to small devices (mechanical seals). Shortly before retiring, my G12 died the death and I agonized about how, or even if, it should be replaced. One day, I realized that my iPhone 7+ was actually more than adequate for those "macro" needs and, in fact, could be accessorized at relatively low cost. Besides, I always have the iPhone with me. After a little more thinking and some testing, I wrote a few blog posts about using the iPhone for this task beginning with http://www.sealfaqs.com/?p=1046.

Off the main topic, but I'm outraged by "Retirement homes around here don't allow residents a cell phone, rather they have to use a fixed land line." Who do they think they are to "allow" or "not allow" such a fixture of everyday life? Do they see themselves as prison wardens, and the residents as inmates? IMHO, "don't allow residents a cell phone" is elder abuse.

Mid-range Motorola phone... sometimes just having a camera in your pocket is what matters.

Its interesting to me that nobody has taken Mr. Burnes challenge to differentiate between the iPhone and the "real" camera shots in his gallery.

I couldn't tell any difference, for the most part. #2, 53 and 79 feel like iPhone shots to me. I can't say their quality is any worse, really, just a feeling and one that I don't have much confidence in.

I'm often impressed with phone photos but, as cameras, aren't we back to the compact cameras of the 00's with only LCD displays to compose your pictures? I remember how hard it was finding a small digicam with a decent viewfinder and yet how important that was to many photographers.

My cameras have many features that I wouldn't want to do without.

I always seem to be the "Yes, but..." guy on the iPhone threads, so...

Yes, but I have a Sony DSC-HX80 with an 18mp sensor, twice as big as the iPhone X's. It has a fully retractable Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 30x optical lens, a flip-up view screen plus a pop-up viewer, a pop-up flash, built-in wifi, ISO12800, 10 FPS, optical image stabilization, in-camera battery charging, very small interchangeable batteries good for about 400 jpgs each, takes fast SD cards for virtually unlimited shooting, makes movies, AND costs about 1/3 of an iPhone X and is smaller than an iPhone X and is much smaller than an iPhone 8+. Plus, you don't have people yapping at you all the time when you're trying to take pictures.

And it's not even the best camera of its kind.

I don't think anyone could argue that it isn't possible to take good and/or interesting pictures with a phone camera. Their portability and simplicity allows you to use them in places, and from angles, that would be impossible with a regular camera.

On the other hand, whether you find them limiting or not rather depends on what kind of images you make, and what you do with them. They are great for web-based documentary and social photography, and even small prints. They replaced my regular camera at social events because they don't ruin the informality.

But while I agree that they are a useful addition to the photographic genre, I would not use one as a travel, street or landscape camera. You could, no doubt, but the difference is readily noticeable, especially if you try and make any edits to the image.

And for any kind of action, nature or portrait images, their limitations are even more obvious.

I guess I still haven't reached the point when I find using a camera to be a chore.

I am in two minds about this. One the one hand, anything goes, that is, anything is allowed in the making of any kind of image I like to make. On the other hand, I like to make images, instead of a robot making them for me. And the smaller especially a digital image making machine gets, the more its activities are robotized. In exactly the same proportion, less attention and craftmanship is required of me. That may be easier, but I regard it as a loss in several ways, and I think in the end it shows in the resulting image.


Humbly, I suggest that a Sony HX90V might serve. It is, I believe, the smallest camera with an electronic viewfinder and a 30x zoom lens (24-720 mm equivalent). Full manual control, if you want it, as well as a bunch of electronic tricks like HDR. It's smaller than a Sony RX100, will ride unnoticed in any shirt pocket, and you can stick a pair of spare batteries in the watch pocket of your jeans. No need for a pouch; now you're in total stealth mode.

I bought one recently and carry it all the time, and it continues to surprise me. Here's a link to some shots I took where the HX90V is at its worst: in low light. https://www.cameraderie.org/threads/pushing-the-limits-hx90v-goes-to-a-concert.46744/

Replying to cdembrey's reference to Unsane and question, "What more needs to be said about iPhone quality?", here are a few reviews of the movie's visual quality:

"The image quality is cold and grainy, feeling surreptitiously snatched rather than framed, and lending a sense of grubby voyeurism to the experience." -- Empire Online

"....a grubby, fairly intriguing genre exercise given a weird, did-it-myself-in-a-hurry visual quality" -- Chicago Tribune

"I could tell from the get-go that something was off about the film picture and could tell that it wasn’t shot with professional film equipment. I don’t consider myself as someone who has an exceptional eye for cinematography, either. The entire picture looks very granulated. The only thing I was surprised about was just how much I overestimated the quality of the iPhone 7 video camera." -- Steve J Donahue Reviews

"Soderbergh has bragged...“It's 4K...I’ve seen it 40 feet tall. It looks like velvet.” Yeah … no. I think he’s setting himself up for failure, on that front. At the very least, can we reserve a descriptor like “velvet” for images that don’t make skin look so splotchy? .... Unsane is at times an adamantly ugly and convincingly cheap-looking movie..." -- The Ringer


` Thanks Terry, love your article. Like yourself I shoot with a iPhone/Em5 Mk2 combo for my personal work, I have been delighted with the results and the overall flexibility, especially for travel applications. But something interesting happened recently.

Being a pretty serious iPhone shooter and having a new iPhone X, I decided to do some serious testing of the RAW files, I wanted to see how they compared to the M4/3 option. I was stunned at just how good the iPhone RAWs (DNGs) are in comparison to the RAW files from the Oly.

I published a long and serious deep dive on this recently, which drew some ire from a few iPhone haters when it got picked up on another site. The Oly was shot using the wonderful 12-40mm f2.8. Long story short, the results made me feel very confident about the iPhone X as a camera for all general purposes, in some instances the iPhone beat out the Oly, in most situations it was very very close, other than slightly more pronounced fine filmic noise. My wife has an iPhone 8 Plus and results are much the same, except the tele lens is not quite as good due to the lack of stabilization and the slightly smaller aperture, but it is still very impressive.

Anyhow, currently I am on holidays and being so impressed with the iPhone X DNG performance I decided to do something different for this sojourn. Shoot film and the iPhone so I could get two distinctly different looks, so in with Porta 400 and my old Minolta Dynax 7 (a very fine camera indeed) and the iPhone X running on DNG.

One fair comment Patrick made earlier is the interface and hold are not exactly ideal, however I have found much of this depends on the choice of capture app and the use of a handgrip. The one truly excellent aspect of newer iPhones is the amazing screen which makes for easy composing and framing unless the sun is shining right onto the screen.

If anyone is interested in the comparison, you can find it here, provided Mike is happy to include this.


I also have a shorter little comparison on the high contrast, low light situation here on my regular blog.


I still love my M4/3 stuff and will continue to be a very happy Oly camper but it is great to have the choice of so many great tools these days. Cheers and happy iPhone shooting.

Very interesting article on the use of an iPhone for photography. I’m strictly an amateur photographer and have used both my iPhone 8+ and Nikon D90 for my photography. To my eye, there are times when I have a hard time telling which photo was taken in the iPhone or the D90. I do think iPhone images are optimized to show best on iPhones, iPads and computer monitors with little additional editing. I’d be interested in hearing from others who have done editing and printing of iPhone images and if they are satisfied with the results. So far, I still prefer the images I edit and print from my D90 than from the iPhone. That could be my poor, but improving editing and printing skills however. I was wondering how others feel about this.

Is this a photograph ?

Just dug a hole in the snow, spring is late this year. And also did a few slow motion clips with my wifes phone to check clearance.

Any camera is a camera ... standing further away with my Canon 5D and f2.8 I could of course blur the background if I wanted to.

And together with this one they would male a good memory in years to come. They also print quite nicely on my Epson 3880.


Samsung A5 phone.


Gee, I wish my Pen-F had a simple screen where icons would let me choose picture format, HDR, flash, or something like that "Live" mode that I. can edit and save as animated GIFs. Or do panoramas so simply.
Instead it's so complicated that I have set it up like I want it, turned the screen in toward the body, turned off shot review and use it like a 30 year old point and shoot.
My point? Camera makers should learn how to make user-friendly cameras - like phones.

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