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Saturday, 23 March 2019


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I remember beepers. There were a lot of people who hated them because they felt they were being forced to live life at the end of a long string which could be yanked capriciously at any moment. As the one designated to do the yanking, I took a lot of heat from guys out in the field who would rather finish their coffee and donuts uninterrupted no matter what was burning down, blowing up, or otherwise in need of a cameraman ASAP.

It would have to be in the body of an M4 (admittedly would make it a little awkward to make phone calls)

I don't have a smart phone, but I always (ie- always) have my GR, which not only is of proportional size, but unlike a phone, allows me to get incredibly high quality prints with a lens whose quality actually exceeds that of the corresponding focal length on my Fujifilm X-T1. That alone is pretty freaking amazing!

For the first two years of its existence, I refused to even consider a GR- my close up vision is shot, the viewing screen on a phone is comparatively... immense and luxurious, and it has no tactile, "camera" presence whatsoever. Despite all its drawbacks, I purchased one on a lark (almost at half price), and haven't looked back. It has increased my productivity exponentially.

When I think of a really modern, futuristic phone/camera, I think of one that has good physical controls, excellent overall image quality (that's the easy part) and it has a see-through viewfinder that disappears when not in use (like a part of the glass back and front that turns back into regular screen when held away from the face, but becomes transparent when holding the phone up to the eye).

Perhaps to solve the ergonomic problems, phone edges would be made to communicate with cases easily so that we could slap on our custom case of choice, with various controls if wanted.

I really do not want to get a phone call in the middle of taking a picture.

I've actually stoped waiting for people to take the picture with their phone. I just keep on walking.

I live in a location where the Sun is always beaming down and I don't know how anyone can see their phone's screen.

I make calls on my phone and take pictures with my camera. Fujifilm makes it easy to transfer images from the camera to the phone. Then I'm at a loss as to what I do with them. Social media is like going to a party and knowing no one but everyone calls you friend. Creepy.

In short phones for photos is a dead end.

Besides photo geeks (us) I know of no one in my circle of friends that makes prints to either hang on the wall or put in a photo album. Several make Blurb type books. It seems most are addicted to some sort of social media presentation for their snaps. Most don't even back up their photos. They rely on Facebook or Instagram to be their back up.

It seems most folks I know would rather buy wall art from Amazon or Ikea. As you can see I don't hang with the 1%.

As far as what is sufficient, well my old Nikon D70s at 6M pixels still smokes my Samsung S9

I use this telephoto adapter lens on my iPhone 7+:


Seeing Jack's big print reminded me of a few years ago when I produced large prints off a Canon ipf8000, which has since died. I "assembled" large panoramas by taking multiple 5 exposure sets with precisely leveled camera (mostly Nikon D700) locked down on a tripod in portrait mode. A few turned out to be quite nice and the biggest was 43" x 86" in size, based on 45 separate exposures. A lot of work and too much weight in camera gear. Which led to my wanting lighter stuff capable of doing the same thing on a smaller scale. My Fuji X-Pro 1 can take pans very worthy of 24" x 48" and look nice. I have tried my hand at taking multiple shots using Lightroom App on my iPhone 7 - but only hand held, which doesn't cut it. Other snags include skies often not blending together well and shadow detail and resolution are wanting. But admittedly, I haven't really been fair by keeping at it. Add in many of Mike's well thought out comments and that's the reason I use my phone as a camera less often then I imagined I would when I bought it.

Personally, I don’t ever see in my lifetime,my being satisfied with a phone as my Only camera. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate what spectacular devices modern smart phones are. I doubt we will again see a device that changes the world as quickly and fundamentally as the original iPhone and its decendants has.
I use it all the time for snapshots and informational pictures. I had no interest in video until the ease of the iPhone and a first grandchild combined to make me love it.
But I also like control, and large prints and a real viewfinder and files that are robust enough to edit well, and low light capability, and fine lenses.
The phone has to be a pocketable device, many of the above preferences are better served by a larger form factor.
This will not be true for everyone, but for me it is. I actually like holding and using a larger camera, and choosing lenses that I have come to know and appreciate.

Dick Tracey's wrist radio may have been fictional, but my Apple Watch 4 is the real deal. I can ask Siri to dial a call for me, or I can bring up my contacts and dial it manualy. There is a built-in app to use the A-Watch as a viewfinde and remote shutter button.

I have a Shoulder Pod grip/tripod mount for my iPhone XS


BTW the +/- volume buttons can be used as a shutter button on iPhones 8-)

From my POV, the only thing in the middle of the road is road-kill. I use either 20-28mm or 85-135mm FF equivlant. The upcoming 3 lens camera phones should handle the present lack of long lenses nicely.

My 8 magepixel Canon 20D made great 12x18 Costco prints. No reason that recent phones can't do even better.

For the photography I prefer to do, I will never be happy with any camera that does not have at least a rise / fall movement built-in. Hence the rationale for my various FrankenKamera projects over the past few years.

Because I also photograph a lot using long exposures at night, I'll never be happy with a camera that doesn't have a sensor that is at least 24 mm x 36mm, because smaller sensors don't -- and can't! -- gather enough light to -- cateris paribus -- be similarly low in noise as larger sensors.

Fortunately, I'm old enough that when the day comes that good-enough technology has eliminated superior technology from the market, as it inevitably will, I will likely just stop photographing altogether instead of adapting to it. Old dogs, new tricks, and all that....

Well of course this is another “how high is up” question.

In terms of resolution my iPhone XS with its 12 Mp dual camera has probably reached and exceeded my general needs, as well as the needs of 80-90% of the amateur photography crowd. In 2006, thirteen years ago, Toronto’s Art Gallery of Ontario made wall-covering vinyl prints from 8.2 Mb Canon 1Ds Mark II image files, up-rezzed to 12 Mb, I provided them for an exhibition. They were wonderfully immersive and absolutely gorgeous, at 10+ feet tall and 15+ feet wide.

AGO Gehry Exhibition

Could I have made those AGO images with my iPhone? Some, certainly. Others, probably not. But do I always, or even usually, need a dedicated camera device with an array of lenses to create images that represent my “vision”? Certainly not, as I have discovered.

Still, I think it’s honest to recognize that for certain segment of people images taken with a camera phone will always be disqualified as “real” images. For them, photography is more about equipment and cosplay than about imagery and communication. I say this as someone whose camera gear inventory suggests his former membership in this group. I absolutely love to explore new cameras and lenses and do so with gay abandon. But I’ve come to deeply recognize that interest as something separate from, albeit intersecting with, my interest in photographs as a medium. So today the “camera I have with me” is most usually my iPhone XS , and a very capable camera it truly is!

Addendum to my nutrition post. The greatest cause of death ain't heart disease, it's birth! I hate to tell ya, but no-one gets out of here alive 8-(

Last night is was talking to a woman my age about diet fetishists. She said: "if I enjoys eating something that shortens her life by 5 minuets, so what! At my age I deserve the pleasure."

I need 85mm equivalent, shallow depth of field and tilt/swing of the front standard. So long as camera has this I don't care for anything else - it may as well be a phone, though it would probably have to be a damn weird one to have all of the above.

Better visibility in daylight is going to be difficult with the current form factor. Unless you pair the phone with some descendant of Google Glass, and/or let it project an image directly on your retina.
Personally I'm happy to have my phone in one pocket and my Lumix TZ80 in the other. Though better communication between them would be nice.

I'd need a second phone with a 75-300 equiv. zoom lens on it.

Or maybe a 75-150-300 tri-focal lens.

I like the occasional long lens shot.

For me the rest of it is fairly fine right now.

Perhaps the solution is to modify a camera so that it also has iPhone capabilities.

To answer your original question...I guess about as good as a Nikon D850 with a complete set of interchangeable lenses.

I think at some point, the camera phone improvements will stop, because they'll become too costly, take up too much memory, and nobody will care about further improvements. The end point may come when your cell phone provides a clear, undistorted picture on a typical computer screen.

I use my phone all the time for note-taking, but that's about it -- I could do the same thing with an actual pencil and notebook, but I probably wouldn't because it would take too long. I sometimes wonder if all the conveniences of phones are degrading our intellects. We no longer have to remember certain things -- we take a photo of it, and refer back later. How much does a whole chicken cost at the supermarket? Take a photo. I've found myself taking photos of computer screens...

The volume controls act as shutter buttons in camera mode.

How good? As good as a Leica IIIf with a Summitar 50/2 spun on it? I could live with that set of compromises again if they could be made in my phone.

As good as Plus X at EI400 and developed in Diafine with a scanner as target rather than wet printing? Again, a set of compromises I could live with again.

But the reality remains that the phone is a completely different set of compromises. I can't hold it up to my eye and look through a finder, I don't have one of the all time greatest lenses ever made that has radically different looks depending on if it is wide open or stopped down, I don't have a negative that I can scan three four different times to find the way it looks best to me...

I could go on but I think you get the picture. Perhaps Patti Smith put it best in "Space Monkey"

Stranger comes up to him hands him an old rusty Polaroid
It starts crumbling in his hands
He says, oh man, I don't get the picture
This is no picture this is just this just a this just a
Just my jack-knife

Re: "a dedicated physical shutter release that's better placed"

On my iPhone 7 (no plus, just 7), I hold it with the home button on the left and then the buttons on the top of the phone are shutter releases.
I only need one, but both work. Perfect placement -- button under my index finger is a shutter release. Same button is "volume down" when I'm playing a podcast...

My iPhone will never be good enough to be my only camera. No matter what quality it can produce, it's still an unwieldy little slab. Now if Fuji could put a smart phone in one of their bodies....

My favourite carry-around camera, at the moment, is my Sony RX1002. If my iPhone XR could produce something like the RX1002's image quality (which I have printed at 24x36 inches without issue) and had the equivalent to a 24-100mm lens (or even 24-70mm) I'd be a lot happier with it as a camera. The biggest issue, for me, with both the RX1002 and the XR, is the lack of an EVF. I wonder how hard it would be to built an EVF into one corner of those Retina screens? Maybe a case that includes a little flip-down eye-piece?

Speaking of working with phone cameras - saw this article by Kevin Raber (Silo City Again – Challenging Yourself To See Different) on the luminous Landscape site a few years ago and thought it was interesting - hopefully it's ok to post a link here.


All a smartphone can do in order to emulate the performance of a proper camera is employ algorithms and try to get an approximate rendition of a photograph. I believe they call this "computational photography".
Not that the smartphone isn't perfectly OK for some uses. When one goes to the park with the kids, the smartphone is the only sensible thing to use, but those are mere snapshots, not photographs. And no point trying to get a keeper: you look at them once, and that’s it.
Smartphones have no ergonomy, erratic focus, zero low light capabilities and give little choice when it comes to focal lengths and exposure parameters. As long as people don't make outrageous claims about it, their image quality is adequate: if all one wants is to see snapshots on the smartphone's screen, they really don't need anything else.
Oddly enough, people are demanding ILCs to perform the same computational tricks as smartphones. As Josh Baskin would say, “I don’t get it.” People who used to wear T-shirts saying “I Shoot Raw” are now buying Fujifilms for the beauty of their JPEGs. As a result, raw files are becoming history: it’s too much fuss to edit photos when people just want to upload images to facebook. They’d rather leave it for the camera to do all the hard work. (At some point these people realize they’re better off using a smartphone: little wonder camera sales are declining.)
Photography is entering the age of idiocy. As I have no will to take part in this, I’ll keep my OM-2 until I get tired of photography – which, in this state of affairs, is likely to happen quite soon.

I believe that the latest smartphones are "there" for a carry everywhere camera, useful for note taking, family snapshots, and general documentation. Certainly, they beat the pants of the Kodak Instamatic that I used to carry when I didn't want to fuss with my RF 35mm.

But, I still want a "serious" camera, with decent lenses. Not being a "pro," I don't need a lot of high-end capability.

Presently, I am looking at a Samsung S10 to replace my S4, the S4 being my current era Instamatic.

'the ability to make good 15-inch-wide prints, approximately the image quality, highlight-recording ability, and DR of a topnotch Micro 4/3 of today, ...' Slightly ambiguous construction here: are you suggesting that a topnotch M4/3 camera is only good for 15-inch wide prints? Hope not. Sorry - it's that editorial itch.

"I've long believed that "tech for the masses" tends to dive to a lowest common denominator," Hmmm, sounds like you have been reading the comments on Dpreview.

Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GKHvaPyb_Y&list=WL&index=14&t=0s

Then give your impression of the smartphone camera.

I'm still not interested.

Even if a smartphone camera was as good as my camera in every way, I'd still use my camera(s) because I enjoy the process of using them. Maybe it's a false analogy, but how good would an automatic have to be to replace the feel of a 5-speed manual transmission in your Miata? Verus Art is using a 3D printer to reproduce priceless oil paintings. You can feel the brush strokes. It's hard to imagine someone who enjoys the act of oil painting dumping their brushes and tubes of paint in favor of a touch screen and 3D printer even if the effort was less and the results the same. In the end, I suppose, for the viewer, the artistic experience is contained solely in the image and how it came to be doesn't matter very much. But for the creator of the an image, I think the artistic experience is contained both in the image (destination) and process (journey) of making the image.

Mike, tech for the masses dives to the lowest common denominator is not new. You wrote this in " Luminous Landscape " in 2009:

The whole situation, when you think about it, is ironic. As more and more people buy cameras by the spec sheet, features and specifications have become more and more important, and manufacturers have loaded down their cameras with features to try to make them sell. Yet when it comes to the most important interface on the camera, most consumers are still ignorant of what the specifications mean — with the predictable result that most cameras have considerably poorer viewfinders now than average SLRs had twenty-five years ago

For phones I’d like to see a convertible case that could fold somehow to make a grip, perhaps with a pop up wire finder. Bluetooth shutter button built in and switched on when folding out the case to make the grip.

The Nokia 1020 with the optional battery grip answers a lot of "wants" from previous commenters. Only a few people noticed it, probably because of the operating system. I had taken amazing pictures with it, and it still is capable. BTW, there's no AI assisted processing involved, no auto-HDR or simulated Portrait mode, or crazy "night shot" mode. Just plain amazing 41M images.

I need a bigger sensor to get better low light images. I need buttons to control. I need a viewfinder, good EVF would do. I need lenses, more than the 'normal' 28 and 'telephoto' 50. 16-200 is a good start. 2.8 please. Except for one or two (28-50) that should be 1.4-1.8. And I need ergonomics, small but good to hold steadily. Oh yes, and a tripod screw, not a silly plastic clamp that could be screwed on a tripod.
Not going to happen anytime soon.

I'm late to the game here, but.... On the ergonomics issue, just remember this: anything that truly fits your hands probably won't fit in your pocket. When it comes to having your camera with you all the time it is the shape of your pocket that is the most important factor.

Where I work we still have beepers. I work in a secure area where phones are not allowed. So many people still have one-way pagers.

I really like that photo Jack’s holding. Do you know where a copy is?

[I don't know, where? ;-) --Mike]

I tried to answer this question for myself recently but for video instead of stills. Steven Soderbergh famously made his last few movies on an iPhone, and not even with the best, latest ones, but probably whatever iPhone he had easily available. And while they looked like iPhone movies, I was intrigued especially because a whole iPhone filming package with 4 different focal lengths including an anamorphic option, a USB battery, ND filters, and a gimbal could easily fit into a ThinkTank Turnstyle 20 sling bag. And if it's good enough for Steven Soderbergh, why not me too?

As it turns out, if everything is perfect, then the iPhone, especially the XS generation, can produce a surprisingly good image. And by perfect, I mostly mean two things:

1. Your phone is properly supported physically and by the light.
2. Your apps and phone don't misbehave.

1 is doable, but in some circumstances requires lighting gear whose weight and volume dwarfs any consumer-level video equipment. I tested in high-noon light so I didn't need any lighting gear. As an aside, it's always struck me as funny that people argue over the weight and space savings of mirrorless vs. DSLRs, or cropped vs. full-frame sensors when a single sandbag from a lit stills shoot will outweigh my gripped Nikon DSLR and its trio of Zeiss large-aperture primes that I use for those kinds of shoots.

Also related to 1 are the ancillary equipment you need to make an iPhone look good, like decent support. I mentioned the gimbal, but I also had the iPhone mounted on a $1500 video tripod, which not only helped with stability but also hid the rolling shutter of the phone. But the point is that the bulk and cost of the equipment needed on a somewhat non-casual shoot quickly overtakes the camera and lenses, even for bigger cameras.

2 is more problematic because it's not predictable. On my last test shoot (available to see as the latest posts on my Instagram feed as of the date of this comment), I had as a matter of course locked my white balance on a grey card in Filmic Pro, which is arguably the best available iOS video shooting app, so I'd have consistent color on all the different takes.

Some time during the shoot, the app decided to unlock its WB setting, and given the very colorful background of the shots, the auto WB was going crazy trying to figure out the correct WB. One of my talents' faces was visibly changing shades of color from green to blue to yellow in a single shot.

I've had another shot ruined when the app decided to crash in the middle of the shot. Since that was an unmanned camera, I didn't find out until later.

There are other technical issues with the phone, like correcting the footage to a known color space or that you can't ever close down the aperture of a phone camera.

So I think the phone is good for experimentation, and really quick and dirty tests, but it's not yet ready for primetime, at least not for me. I'll be using a Panasonic GH5 and its native 12-35 zoom lens instead for the actual shoot, and it actually doesn't need that much more space, when everything is considered.

I have an iPhone SE, a Fuji X10 but normally take 35mm film. I do use my iPhone for grab shots, record and note shots of various kinds, and quite often for seeing what the writing is in some part of an object inaccessible to my eyes (like underneath the couch)! However, the main drawback of the camera is not the picture quality, which in general is fine for my purposes, but the appalling handling (as a camera). It's the wrong shape, too difficult to hold steady; it's more or less a case of "roughly right and hope you can crop".

I could imagine my phone some day replacing my "toy" camera -- those have been a Fuji F11, Panasonic LX100, and Oly EPL2. So far the phones I've had don't come close. They focus far too slowly and do other things slowly as well; the delay between shutter release and picture capture can exceed a second easily. I wouldn't mind better low light ability, either (that was what drove me from the LX100 to the EPL2). But responsiveness is the fatal deal-killer right now with the phones I've tried. I'm also a bit unhappy with the concept of spending $1000 for a camera that's only good for two years, which is where you end up if you "have to" have top-of-the-line phones.

Many phones can produce excellent photos under easy conditions. That's not where the "quality" gets sorted out.

The first manufacturer to put a phone into a mirrorless camera body is going to make a killing.

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