Why I prefer a real camera to a smartphone, and why you should as well.
By Steve Huff
For the last 2-3 years I have seen more people shooting photos with Smart Phones than ANY other type of camera. For a while, I was OK with it. I mean, the phones can put out a nice image, even using the iPhones fake bokeh mode…oh, wait, “Portrait” mode. Phones are now owned by almost everyone, even small kids. I just saw a 6-year-old wielding an iPhone the other day, using it like a pro. I was like “WHAT?!?!?”. Yep, the kids today are starting early and do you realize what that means?
Well, in photo terms, it means that these kids, as they grow and get older will probably not even know what a real camera is (of course many will but many will not). Many will grow up thinking it has always been like this. A mobile device that does it all..calls, texts, internet browsing, apps and games, and yes, taking photos. Cameras in the future may very well consist of only smart devices and the way tech is going, I am sure these sensors will get better, even bigger, and with lenses added via accessories, most will think they have the best camera ever created. Now yes, this is many years in the future… like if you have a one year old now, and never introduced them to a real camera, they would never know what a real camera was by the time they get older. Cameras in 20-30 years may be things of memories for us older folk (in the future), as I can not see them sustaining mass sales for 20-30 more years.
With that said, camera sales today in 2017 are stabilizing and after a 5 year drop in sales, they MAY be leveling off. Five years ago it peaked, and man, so many were buying up cameras like mad. New model after new model…because that was the era of mass and rapid improvement. Tech was evolving, and today it has peaked. As I have mentioned before, all cameras today are wonderful and while phone cameras can deliver good results and a certain very wide DOF look, for me, a phone could never and will never even come close to a real camera. A camera you can hold, control, compose through and even learn to master.
For me, there is no substitute for a real camera. Here, a Sony RX1R shot.
Another from the incredible, even today, RX1R MK1
I have reviewed, used, tested and fired off almost every 35mm and mirrorless camera made over the last several years. Even quite a few DSLR’s even though this website has been focused on mirrorless for so long. I love them all in many ways, and if all of my personal cameras were taken away or had to be sold due to some sort of catastrophe I would be sad. A smartphone, while highly capable of taking a shot, just does not give you the same feeling, the same satisfaction or joy as a real solid camera with dials, buttons and control.
When you take a shot with a real camera and nail it, you feel like you accomplished something. It’s an amazing part of why so many love this hobby or even profession. It’s a craft, a way of life for many.
But when I see 90% of those out there shooting using phones, it feels like something has been taken away from photography. I will say it again, YES, there are amazing works done with phones and processing techniques but what I am talking about is the feeling one gets from using a real camera as well as the versatility a real camera offers you.
The Leica M 240 and 50 Voigtlander Nokton 1.5
The Leica Monochrom and 35 1.4 Summilux
For example, and this is just one example…using something like a Leica M brings so much pleasure to so many who use them. It’s an entirely different way of shooting than from a DSLR or something like a Sony of Fuji. Even using a little Fuji X100 series can be liberating, fun and so enjoyable. Todays younger generation may never know these pleasures or the excitement of heading out to the streets to shoot with a real camera.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that EVERYONE today only shoots with a phone. There ARE some young folks today shooting with real digital cameras, specifically the starter Canon DSLR’s which are great bang for the buck models. But as a whole, the world has gone to smartphones for a few reasons. One is that it is always with them. While we may slag and leave our cameras behind sometimes, we never ever leave our phones behind, right?
The size that is slim, and just slips in to your front pocket makes the smartphone so convenient.
The ease of use means no one has to learn photography, no one needs to learn even the basics, about aperture or ISO. They just aim and shoot.
Leica SL and 50 Zeiss Sonnar
Ease of sharing. Today’s world is super focused on social media, selfies and sharing their photos to Instagram. The smartphone makes it easy with a few clicks.
The quality, while no were near what something like a Fuji, Olympus, Sony or Leica will give you (or any DSLR for that matter) is “good enough” for the ones who enjoy using their phones, and for many this is 100% true. They are good enough. But some ofuI can’t tell you how many times people have come up to me when I have been out with a real camera, asking me either “what is that” (in the case of a Leica M) or “you still shoot old cameras”, even when carrying something like a Sony A9. Mostly young adults, teenagers, etc. Curious about why I would carry around a large device to snap photos. They often go on to tell me how amazing the quality of their iPhone or whatever phone is (because they never experienced a “real camera”.)
All is good, whatever makes them happy but I wish everyone who had an interest for photography would at least try out a nice camera once, to see that there is much more to photography than using a phone. It’s not about the gear, that’s not what I mean..it is about the feeling, the joy, the pride of ownership..which in turn, motivates you to get out and use it. For me, the phone doesn’t do that.
1st Shot Sony RX1R and the 2nd, Leica Monochrom
If you want a shot like either of the above, with a phone, it is almost impossible if not impossible to create a REAL shallow DOF. Fake DOF and Bokeh do not count, and while they may look pleasing, they also look fake. So I hope that in 20-30 years we will still have cameras being made. With real lenses to choose from, with real buttons to push and dials to turn and with character like only certain lenses can give.
The Canon 50 0.95 “Dream Lens” on the Leica M. Can’t do this with your phone folks!
A Monochrom image with the Sony RX1R
As for me, I will grow old using a real camera, I will die owning a real camera and probably that is because that is the way I grew up. I wonder if I were just born today…I wonder what I would use when I turned 13 or 14 for my photos. Would it be a smartphone or some other tech just waiting around the corner? Will camera still be made in 16 years, 20 years? Only time will tell but I will keep pushing the virtues and benefits of real cameras because for me, there is no substitute.
1st Image from the Sony RX1R and the 2nd from the Olympus EM5
What do you think about the phone vs camera debate?
Leave a comment below!