Sunday, December 08, 2019

Who needs a "proper" camera?

Farm cart

You know what's special about this photo?

Or this one?

Pendon Cottages

Both were taken at Pendon, on my mobile 'phone. And both are really good. 

Unlike my "proper" camera, the phone has made a good job of the white balance. There's depth of field too thanks to the small sensor. 

It's not even a really good camera phone either, a Samsung whose model number I can't remember. No fancy iPhone or Hauewawi (I can't even pronounce it) for me. I know I have used 'phone photos in Garden Rail in the past, but how long before this becomes the norm? 

What happens to all those "proper" cameras? When do they become obsolete? And when will people lugging DSLRs fitted with wopper lenses at shows realise they are wasting their time?


Mark said...

When I was looking for a new mobile (about 3 and a half years ago now) I specifically wanted one with a good camera. I'm not an Apple fan and having hunted around and read all the reviews the best option was a Samsung Galaxy S7. Not sure what model Samsung phone you have but you might find (for the time you bought it) it's camera has actually won awards and five star reviews. Certainly mine lived up to the hype.

The photos from it are excellent and even blow up well (some of mine have been blown up to A3 size canvas prints). Like you I've noticed that the white balance tends to be better as well (compared to my main Sony bridge camera), although there are occasions where the different style of lens on the big camera is more helpful.

James Finister said...

AT Peterborough on Saturday I even left my high end compact camera at home for the first time at a show. The only problem I found was I seemed more prone to jostling than using a proper camera

Huw Griffiths said...

I hope you don't mind me being controversial here.

Please don't get me wrong - you've certainly got a valid point about picture quality. In competent hands, lots of smartphones and tablet computers are certainly capable of delivering decent quality photos.

However, I wonder if some DSLR fans might actually be looking for something which phone cameras (however good) would struggle to offer - perhaps the extra flexibility and freedom from being able to choose and change settings at will.

At this point, I'd better make it clear that I've never had a DSLR myself, but ... .

However, when 35mm was the norm in photography, I can remember getting a lot of enjoyment from a Praktica BC1. I liked being able to focus the thing manually - choose the shutter speed - the aperture - the depth of field - the lens focal length - interesting, fun, technical stuff like that.

A number of years later, I got my first taste of using a digital "point and shoot". Much like with smartphones and tablets, although there was nothing fundamentally wrong with the picture quality, all the fun was gone. In other words, I didn't like this taste - and I still don't.

I could think of other analogies - some current - some not.

You might remember when recorded sound generally meant C90 tapes - played back (and often also recorded) on something like a ghetto blaster. Of course, the quality of DIY sound recordings would often be pretty rubbish - especially if you tried using the built-in microphone and got loads of motor noise. The automatic gain control could also be a bit of an irritant to some people.

Of course, there were alternatives - at a price. A budding sound engineer could always splash out on a 3 head tape recorder (even on a ghetto blaster, "erase" was on a separate head to "play / record"), with sound level meter and the chance to set the gain yourself - perhaps something like a Marantz CP430, which also offered a range of noise reduction options. Of course, you'd have to add your own microphone - but this was a bonus to anyone really into all that lovely "techie" stuff. I mean, how else could you get the chance to experiment with different sound pickup patterns, frequency responses and the effects of altering mic placement.

Yes - all good fun - for anyone who's into this sort of stuff.

Fast forward a couple of decades - and we come to the issue of self driving cars. Personally, I wouldn't want one - I wouldn't even want to travel in one on a closed track.

Anyone who really knows me also knows that I'm rarely comfortable as a passenger (unless I know that the driver is really good).

Strangely enough, I've also never been a fan of automatic transmission - as far as I'm concerned, if a car doesn't have a proper "stick" gearbox and clutch pedal, then it isn't worth driving.

I also don't think I need to say too much about my preference when it comes to "sat-nav" versus "map-nav" - that's right, I taught myself to navigate ... .

Anyway, back to the smartphones, with their built-in cameras. A lot of them seem to be rather good these days. Lots of people use them too - even photography enthusiasts - but I'm not convinced they'll completely replace DSLRs for everyone, any time soon - just a gut feeling ... .

Anonymous said...

You say that real cameras are a waste of time but in the thatched cottage photo. for example, only the near end of the building is in focus and I don't like the contrast of even that.

I agree that phone cameras have improved dramatically but they are not a good camera replacement yet for indoor use & outside they are also very limited by the lack of a zoom lens.

James Finister said...

Gosh, some of the comments here remind me of the "digital will never be as good as film"debates of around sixteen years ago.

A friend who is a professional photographer happily alternates between using a 5x4 and the camera on his phone. Photos taken on his phone appear in many art, travel and food magazines, sometimes as cover shots. For fun, he sometimes labels phone shots as being taken on his 5x4 and 5x4 shots as being taken with his phone.

The current state of the art camera phones have incredible capabilities, and still allow you the flexibility of processing your own RAW files, if that is your thing, and to set the controls manually. Not only that but the editing apps on phones are also very good. If you haven't used one then it is hard to know how you can be dismissive of them.

A great many non-photographers now take good photos thanks to these developments. And taking good photos is all that 90% of us are capable of or require. TBH if you want to take fine art shots of layouts then an exhibition is one of the worst places to go.

Dedicated cameras do still have a use and a place, and I'm sure we might see a generation of new digital cameras that exploit the computational advantages of current smartphones.

Andy York said...

The most useful camera is the one that you happen to have with you. That may lead to rubbish pictures and film in news reports these days but those bystanders didn't have an SLR and fat lens with them at the time.

Anonymous said...

As Andy York says, the most useful camera is the one you have with you at the time, and like most people now I think, that happens to be my phone. My last couple have been low to mid range Motorolas, and I have been pretty impressed with the photos they capture. (Although I think my old G5 took better photos than my current G7 Power for some reason).

And yet, I simply prefer using proper stand alone cameras. I find them more comfortable to hold, rather than the Jack of all Trades oblong of a phone, and have a nice secure wrist or neck strap - as a clumsy oaf, I'm always worried about dropping the phone out of a window, over the side of a bridge, down a drain or some other disaster. And if I know that work is going to take me somewhere interesting or picturesque, I'll often take something with a bit of decent optical zoom to supplement my phone.

Also I seem to have picked up the habit of acquiring various obsolete digital cameras for very reasonable prices from certain online auction sites. Twelve months ago I had just two cameras (aside from the phone and tablet(s) That number has increased tenfold. Daft I know, but they all work, I enjoy using them, and like cars, no two are alike. And if/when they do conk out they can go on display or back on eBay as a source of spares for someone.

I haven't yet worked out if I'm an idiot for indulging in yet another hobby (my shelves are already bulging with various books, model cars, planes and trains), or whether I've been perceptive enough to get in at the start of something...

Nick H