Daily Inspiration #152 by Stuart Curtis


I immensely enjoy photography, but since it’s strictly an amateur hobby for me, I don’t spend much money on cameras, upgrades, editors etc… So I carefully research cameras before I make a purchase, which is only every 3 or 4 years. Then I buy something small & versatile, as we do a lot of hiking, backpacking & skiing. My rule is that it must be able to hang around my neck all day, or fit in my pocket without strain and deliver the best IQ for it’s small size. The Canon Gs have given me this for years.

You know a but is coming, so now the but part… this summer I re-learned a lesson, based on the ‘ole axiom we all know – the best camera is the one you have with you. Except what if the one with you isn’t a camera at all, but a freak’n phone? An iPhone4 to be exact. I brought mine on a ten-day vacation with my wife, backpacking and all.

It’s so easy to shoot with this thing, I found myself reaching for it despite having my Canon G7 close by in the other pocket. Not only does it take great pics, but you can turn on spot metering/spot focus, HDR, self-timer and more. Tilting the phone just a little bit up or down can completely alter the light balance in the shot for great creative changes. It’s crazy good and the wide angle is sweet. The JPGs are fine for modest post processing as well.

My wife Sara took this out of the car window driving through the Oregon drylands, east of Bend. The sepia treatment and graduated tint (to bring out the darkness in the clouds) were applied in Picasa. IPhone selected Metering Mode- average, ISO 80, exposure – normal, shutter – 1/1314.

This shows how well spot metering/focus works, accomplished just by touching the spot on the screen where you’d like it to be! I selected Metering Mode- spot, by clicking the screen showing the brightest spot of her cheek.  The iPhone selected ISO 80, exposure – normal, shutter – 1/196. Look how I was able to get the setting sun lighting half of her face, exclude the light in the rest of the restaurant and how nicely the camera phone captured that soft light.

This is one of my favorite landscapes captured with the iPhone. I used a warmify filter in Picasa and denoised it in iPhoto after moving it the Mac. I exposed for the brightest clouds by clicking on the largest, whitest, brightest one (on the screen). The iPhone selected ISO 80, exposure – normal, shutter – 1/2011. I took the exact same shot with my G7, but actually like the colors better from the iPhone. It seems to be tuned for a warmer tint, which appeals to me more.

I have many more great iPhone photos, but haven’t put them online yet.  I’m really amazed.  My iPhone camera saw more action than my G7, I took about 600 pics in a week long vacation.  And the iPhone photo IQ is so good, now my wife is considering getting one, just because of the camera.


  1. For iphone, those pictures are really good, and interesting.

    Still, we need a camera, it is about photos and money, it is an attitude of live.

    I love both my iphone and leica, not better one than another.

  2. If you want a camera phone, you need to get a Nokia N8 or similar high end phone.. The phone you mention has an utterly mediocre camera and does not have a real flash.

  3. A few short replies to comments above; First, thanks for the kudos on the pics.

    I haven’t really played with the HD video of the phone yet, so I can’t really comment.
    An app called NightCamera provides a nice self timer, as well a a bunch of other functions.
    Anders – very nice pic! Did you post process at all?
    Elaine – some nice dawg pics, he/she is very patient, mine hate the camera and turn away!

    BTW, iPhone spot clicking seems to have more affect on metering than focus, though I thought it’s supposed to focus as well.

    • Thanks! No, no prost processing. Straight from the “camera” 😉 Or should I say phone…
      Omni light on an overcast day can sometimes create wonderful HDR like images. I just wished I had my “real” camera thet day! 🙂

      • Oh that’s right – they do often have the HDR look. I’m always psyched when there are interesting cloud formations.

        BTW – Looking at a lot of what Steve shoots and recent experience with my iPhone has me re-examining the lenses I use. In fact, after looking through all my shots with a ‘real’ camera (not phone) , I saw that my favorite shots are almost all with a wide angle of some sort. Even my wife noticed that I hardly ever shoot tele. Maybe fixed wide angle is the way to go? Perhaps I should be looking at that Fuji when it’s released?

          • Your question really has me thinking… and I suppose there is more of an HDR aspect to (at least my) iPhone photos.

            Perhaps it’s the nature of the wide angle lens? For me, the whole practice of being forced to take wide angle shots with the fixed iPhone lens, is something new, so maybe the newness of the wide angle look makes those shots seems more HDR like?

            Then there is the wide aspect ratio of the iPhone screen itself. I think it’s became natural for me to compose shots which include big skies and other elements which nicely fill that wide screen. …and I believe you could make the case that those kind of compositions may produce a more HDR like look.

  4. Oops, by the way, lovely pictures. I’m always amazed and a bit envious of what people can get for pictures out of their iPhones. So beautiful!

  5. I’m not that familiar with my iPhone’s camera. I just got the newer iPhone 4, coming from the 2G. I still haven’t figured it out. LOL! What app did you sue to take these? Is it just the regular phone camera? Everyone has their own favorite. I didn’t realize you can spot meter or spot focus, let alone use HDR. How funny. I know I have a panoramic app, but haven’t used it yet. It’s been raining here all week. I do know that indoors, even with the flash, the low light of my house made my pictures look cruddy, but if there is an ISO option, I would love to know how to access it. I suppose if my iPhone came with a printed manual, I would have read it. LOL!

  6. The iPhone4 camera is definately a stepup from the 3GS. Get yourself the Hipstomatic (reviewed by Steff Huff himself) and Photogene or Adobe Photoshop Express and you are set for minor editing within the iPhone itself 🙂

  7. Hi Stuart!

    Great pictures!

    I can totally see where you’re coming from. Some of my very best photos have been taken on my original iPhone 3G and my current iPhone 3Gs (> 4500 an counting) . Maybe not technically, obviously, since DOF and image noise etc. cannot compare to a nice Leica system 🙂 but I totally agree with the old device “the best camera is the one…” there are simply so many more opportunities to practice your eye for “composition”. The mobile is about the only “thing” you always have with you and the iPhone especially seldom ever even leaves my hand! 😉

    One of my personal favorite pictures this year was taken with my iPhone in Paris. A day when the wife “couldn’t stand” more “stopping to take pictures” all the time 🙂
    To me the picture very much represents “my Paris” and is the reason I return several times every year even thughh I must have been there 30 times already!

    Anyway, having access to a camere at ALL TIMES make me IMHO a lot better photographer once I have my Leica film camera with my nice leica lenses 🙂

  8. Beautiful girl, but I can clearly see the Leica Red Dot in the middle of the picture.
    Are you sure it was taken with an iPhone?

  9. Hi Stuart,

    Wow amazing…from a phone…. The Times (definitly) are a chanching…
    I’m getting my iPhone4 in a few weeks, so thanks for sharing yours!

    On the FotoKina in Keulen I saw the new Nokia N8, release this month..
    It has a 12mp!!! camera with Zeiss glas and 3x optical zoom and optical focussing!!
    They show fotobooks made with the N8…..not bad at all..
    Maybe these phones will replace the compacts in 3-4 years

    Did you do HD video as well with the IP4? and what are your remarks on that ?

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Kodak Says It's Seeing a Film Resurgence - Seite 4 - Leica User Forum

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.