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Sunday, 05 January 2020


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Thank you for this post. I feel like you wrote it just for me. :-)

(And I know people say you can get great photos from phones, but they are more a product of software than hardware, imo, and there lie the limitations.)


Would you mind sharing your list of 25?

Wow Mike, very timely post. And, Steve Jobs' “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” I have been suffering from a McGurkian distractability (that a word?) for long. So my New Year's resolution was stop to be pretending I can still be an abstract painter as well as an - amateur!! - photographer - and just went back to being - an amateur photographer!! - trying to clean up my huge Lightroom catalogs, perfecting my P800 prints (going back to Charlie Cramer's class materials), continue to love my Canon 6D, my Canon 40mm pancake, my beloved Contax 85/2.8 (for portraits of my grandchildren), Zeiss Makro-Planar 50. And read your posts!

Well, I won't for sure be using my iPhone X camera for any grand things anymore, just for the distraction as you say (I like the mental notes aspect). Anyways, it got a bad case of dust _inside_ the lens cover, grrrrrrr.

My resolution is to shoot more film. I now only have one digital camera and multiple old school film cameras. I'm proud that my recent trip to Japan was done with film. Also signed up to start using a community darkroom which I haven't done sine 2004. Happy 2020 or whatever we're gonna call it. Ernie

My resolution is to get serious about building* electric guitar experiments and other unnamed musical instruments of my own invention.
After that it's working on my next book and there is this opera I seem to be involved it. This is of course is time constrained by taking care of my 90 year old mother.
*Maybe even play them, the problem is having to be in earshot of my mother.

I ran across this today after reading your recent post about phone cameras. I was really was disappointed with the results because I am a Sony user, just not that model.

I used my phone camera much more than usual this past year. I now use it in almost all wide(r) angle situations such as hiking a canyon I’ve traveled before or when sitting around with friends and family. This post made me realize I had used my phone to take pictures of my Dad at Christmas when I should have used my real camera. Dad is not often out and about while all gussied up and I should have taken advantage of the opportunity/situation. I was busy with hosting duties and just got lazy with my photography. I don’t know what I was thinking.

I’m normally much more of a tele guy and on Saturday I went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to exercise my injured foot (first time in two weeks) and my possibly injured EF 100-400 (minor tumble). Looking at the amazing detail in the animal portraits I captured reinforces my missed opportunity at Christmas (forehead slap)…I should have been pointing my EF 40 and EF 135 at Dear Ol’ Dad.


- You probably have a smartphone at hand nearly 24/7.

- Smartphone camera technology measurably and meaningfully improves with each model generation.

- Your desire/ability to schlep formal camera gear declines each year.

You will continue to eschew using a smartphone for "serious" photography.


My resolutions as such:

1) OCOLOY - D3200 with the 35/1.8G
2) Photo-a-day - make sure I'm using and learning it.

If I manage to do this, it will be a quite good photographic year for me.

Wow Mike, it's almost as if you've been reading my mind. I've been wondering why so many of your photos recently have been taken with your iPhone--all while you extol the many virtues of the X-H1 and have a full range of top-shelf Fujinon primes to choose from. I'm well aware that you view TOP as a showcase for your writing rather than your photography, but it's bewildering (to say the least) to read your semi-erotic descriptions of how well your favorite lens designs render the world, only to discover that most photos you post have been shot with something so quotidian as an iPhone. As you so often say, "just sayin'..."

[The iPhone is perfectly adequate for the blog, where the maximum size is 800 pixels wide. And the tiny sensor yields more d-o-f for pictures of objects such as the Nikon FE. I really don't need more for the blog site. --Mike]

Arg, hit post too soon. Meant to add at the bottom:

I consider myself a landscape photographer. Not that I think I am great at it (though I have built up a solid skill set over the years and do get real complements) but it is what I enjoy the most and what I do the most. That's good enough for me.

A wise choice, in my estimation. Since I won't buy a phone with a high-quality camera it's an easy one for me to make every year!

Unfortunately my main distractor is what I'm typing on; gear insecurity disorder and a bit of Trump derangement drive me to the box and hold me for an hour or more daily. I resolve to get out more for the first, can only pray on the second.

We decided a long time ago that small point&shoots weren't as good as proper cameras, so why do some people persist in thinking that phone/cameras are. But that's not my main beef with them. By leaving them turned on all the time we are telling the world that we are available 24/7. Why is that a good thing? I own one but leave it turned off until I need to call someone and I don't give out the number to many people. Why do we want a leash?

Why not just stop shooting on phone cameras’ weak side? Big, open, grand landscapes generally humiliate camera phone files.

I have an iPhone XR. I read the camera is decent. I use it for work related documentation and casual dog photos a few of us at work share several times a week but I do not use it for serious work. I think a 1 inch sensor is as small one can go and get a really decent file (with care and discretion of course.)

I guess you can admire those of a Walter Mitty mindset. But the finest classical guitarist in the world (whoever that is) probably did not spend a lot of time working on shredding.

Mike, may I suggest that you should re-read the late Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - a tome that I recall was the subject of a recent post on this site? One of its (several) main themes was that Western society would be better if individual success was defined by the well-rounded person, with wide-ranging knowledge, skills and abilities across a wide range of areas from the scientific and technical to the physical and the arts, rather than by lauding persons who were identified as the best at any one. Personally, I have no doubt (and, as the song goes, Oh Lord, it's hard humble when you're perfect in every way) that if I focussed the whole of my adult whole life only one my main one or two strengths I would be far more successful in my chosen profession than I am, financially wealthy, and remembered after my death (if anyone bothered to remember me at all) both as a great leader of my field - and as a fantastically boring man. For certain, I would know nothing of philosophy, or science, or politics, or the Arts; I would not be a practising (if amateur) photographer; I would not read literature; I would not watch popular television or sports; I likely would not be reading TOP(!), and certainly would not be posting here. Distractions all. My point is not that I disagree with the proposition that one should not strive for excellence in any particular endeavour, but rather that the defining of the extent of one's efforts by an active avoidance of other areas of achievement in one's lives (however modest) seems to me to be just, plain wrong. Put another way, I am pretty sure the world would be a better place if society were chock full of your Mr Ferdie McGurk's than it would if it were chock full of Mr Warren Buffett's (not that I know anything much about Mr Buffett - I hope he is very happy).

Tried to make my Buffett-list. Already have problems to reduce it to 25. If I have to concentrate on only five I fear that I have to leave out photography. At 67 I could skip ‘sex’ from the top five but even then unfortunately there's no time for TOP anymore.

I too have stepped back from taking "real" pictures with my iPhone but I still use it for personal "of the moment" (read: family) pictures. And Apple is working hard to keep me doing it.

Every morning I check the "For You" tab at the bottom of the iPhone Photos app to see what magic Apple has done with my iPhone photos and videos. And almost every morning there is a new album or video. Some are surprisingly good and all are valuable for sharing and the memories they trigger.

I think my view re. smartphone cameras is the opposite of yours, Mike. I have in the last month or so had two examples where I made a few shots with the iPhone camera (XS) and was pretty pleased with the results. Subsequently I went back with a decent-enough DSLR and lens combo (and tripod, in one case) to repeat the shots with a ‘proper’ camera. Guess which shots I prefer? In one case the computational elements on the smartphone have done a much better job than I can manage with the DSLR + Lightroom with a contre-jour, contrasty image that has enormous dynamic range; and on the other, the smartphone allowed me to get so close to the cute kittens I was shooting, whereas the DSLR + lens combo had me standing a couple of metres away,which. Was a problem in the domestic setting in which I was working. The kittens were significantly less happy when I poked the DSLR at them, too. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the one or two of the kitten shots are among my favourites of the year.

So I’m definitely not reducing my smartphone photography.

Buffett is wrong...for me. One of my top goals is to do all of the things I like to do plus learn about even more hobbies and techniques. I enjoy them all and I enjoy learning, and every so often I resurrect one I haven't done in a long time and thoroughly enjoy that, too. And no harm done!

I judge nobody for wanting to focus, but for me, spreading it around works just fine. Plus, I find that so many things are interconnected, learning about one area often reveals ways in which that knowledge informs other pursuits. I get better more slowly than the specialist by cycling amongst many interests (including cycling ;-) ) but I'm happy, so why not?

My suggestion?

Just do what I, and it also seems, Mark Kinsman does. Get a nice, clean used Fuji X100F (or even an X100T), put it in a small case, and take it with you everytime you go out the door. I put mine in a small ThinkTank case that I can slip through my belt, if needed.

Literally goes with me everywhere...

"Venice Beach Skateboarder"

Job done.


The new camera system in the iPhone 11 is starting to leverage the huge amount of CPU power that is sitting in the phone to combine multiple, even dozens, of images in ways that reduce noise and increase sharpness in the final files. This is mostly an extension of the existing "HDR" modes, but even more so.

Examples here:


The camera app tends to only kick this stacking mode (Apple is calling it "Deep Fusion" if you want to google things) into use for long exposures in low light... but when it kicks in the difference is sort of like the jump from the D200 (noisy, no edges) to the D700 (super sharp "all the way down") back in the late 2000s.

It can also take pictures that look like day time in the pitch dark of night.

The more disappointing part of the new phones is the "wide wide" lens, which is not that sharp and does not have autofocus.

But I guess they have to save something for the iPhone 13.

To Darin Boville: "With the iPhone 11 we’ve crossed into some new territory where I don’t even know what the camera is doing anymore."

Remember Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Profiles of the Future (revised edition, 1973)
I use that quote in my seminars on fiber optics all the time.

And as an aside, I's like to add a comment covering numerous postings recently.

Over the weekend we hung a new picture we just acquired, in itself a bit different, a picture of two crows painted with tar from the La Brea tar pits, (seriously, see the two crows at the bottom of the page here http://craigkrullgallery.com/Griffith/index2.html). To find room on the walls, we had to move some other pictures and I had an epiphany.

Virtually all of the photos we have on the wall are B&W, some 50+ years old. It occurred to me that why we like them is they have character - all are grainy, quite a few were shot in low light and are fuzzy. But they have character.

In a time when all cameras produce photos that are sharp, grainless,,,, too good. Those old film photos have "character."

I've tried digital B&W but find it without character - too damn good technically. I've tried film again several times unsuccessfully - too much concern over health and environmental issues to process it myself, not much fun to send it off to a lab and get scanned images back.

I'll bet I can find a digital filter in the camera that produces film-like images, but that seems like cheating....

Mike, looks like no-one else commented on your first paragraph, so I will:
Of course 2020 is the end of the decade, not the beginning of one.
When you turned 10yrs old that was the end of your first decade, right? The first yr of your second decade was when you turned 11, right?
So, fear not, Trump has a whole yr to get things right, right? :-)

I've found that using a mobile phone to take pictures is just too many steps.

With my camera, I just point and shoot.

With the phone, I have to take it out, unlock it, open the camera app, and then shoot. I know the "shutter" can be remapped to a volume button or something, but even then it's just too many steps for what is often a disappointing file.

Sometimes I shoot more with my phone, sometimes less. I had great hopes for my new iPhone 11 Pro Max, but now the software decides to overprocess photos for often garish looks. So I have to use an app. And that means unlocking the phone, starting the app, waiting a little moment until it's ready and then start taking the photo. The post-processing is also different now that I use an app to produce a raw file. It used to be simple! With a camera I can still turn on the camera and by the time it's at my eye I'm ready.

What's nice about this latest generation of expensive phones is the processing capabilities and fancy software for computational photography. I can do long exposures hand held now, which is really neat for just trying things out or see if something works out as expected.

But the bottom line is that when I have a camera with me, it's always the primary tool I'm using and if the phone comes out, it's really for experimenting something quickly.

This is a photo of mine on flickr that has the most likes of any of my photos and was taken with a Samsung S8. I like it but have no idea why anyone else would.


The opposite of getting distracted by interests 6-25 is to abide by the Helsinki Bus Station Theory: “Stay on the bus!” http://www.fotocommunity.com/info/Helsinki_Bus_Station_Theory

I use both cameras and phone for picture making but recently I’ve used the phone more. This is because my main outlet for pictures is Instagram and instant messaging and now that phones are incorporating cameras with different focal lengths and defocussing effects they are more useful than they used to be.

Uploading pictures from a computer to Instagram is a PITA. Ideally I’d like a camera which could upload jpegs directly to the internet but I don’t know of one, so I use a phone.

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