Why I prefer a real camera to a smartphone, and why you should as well.

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!


  1. I think price/convenience will always win over cost/quality. Some examples from the annals of history:

    Vinyl vs. 8 track
    8 track vs. cassette
    Betamax vs. VHS
    Blu ray vs. streaming hd video
    Smartphone vs. camera.
    It is inevitable…

    • Except vynil records have made a significant comeback along with analog film. Will it ever be like it was before? no, but what artist follows mass trends. I have a friend who does oil painting, an entirely dead medium by people’s standards today, and yet there are people who buy his paintings. Cost is relative too. Buying a new smart phone every two years is probably a lot more than the avg person spent shooting and developing film in that same time frame.

  2. I’m not convinced that users will push camera phones to get that much better. Sure companies will keep trying to differentiate their products by improving the camera but the fact remains the current offerings are good enough when the output is only ever looked at on another phone. This is the interesting subtext of Yan’s experiment and this is a larger point not being discussed here. So much of photo viewing is now only happening on phone screens where the difference in quality is already equivalent across many different kinds of capture devices. If that is your canvas and you like to shoot with a phone by all means go for it.

    One thing not mentioned explicitly here is process of capturing photos. For me, and this may be a personal flaw more than anything else, I take very different photos on a phone. There is something about the phone that leads me to take what I consider more of a snapshot. For me the phone is used for capturing something I then immediately share via some kind of chat app (I refuse to give my photos to Zuckerberg or Cook). When I use my dedicated camera my process is different. I am looking for a photograph, I am not worried about sharing it is only about creating a photo. For me, having a device that has been tuned for that purpose makes the experience better. But again that is likely more my own failings than the devices.

  3. I have a different take on the future that may or may not be accurate but I’d thought I’d mention it. My nieces and nephews enjoy shooting with fuji mini-instax cameras and seeing the prints come out of a camera and I know other younger people in their twenties who have gotten into shooting film. While this may not be a “mass trend” more often or not these people become “trendsetters.” At some point in time social media is going to lose its luster along with smartphones and the perfect look of newer and newer digital cameras. It happens with everything. A new generation rejects what came before and embraces something new or puts there own twist on things. I think the idea of traditional cameras will be around forever because as humans we like to hold stuff in our hands and experience the tangible. Even adding a lens to a smartphone is already trying to make it like a traditional camera. It’s something ingrained in our culture that I don’t believe will go away anytime soon.

  4. Well, it’s an interesting article and commentary, however, they are all based on the assumption that smart phones will still exist 10 to 15 years from now. With technology evolving so rapidly the smart phone will be replaced by some communication device not even dreamed about today. Photography? Yes, we will still love beautiful images and something called a camera in the hands of a creative individual will take them.

  5. I agree in part but disagree with the premise that cameras will go away. Things like sports and fashion will forever necessitate their own tools. Now, I fully expect the still image for those ultimately dies in one way or another, and indeed high resolution frame grabs have taken over fashion and if they can get the speed / exposure / resolution for sports they will take over there as well too. Yet whether it shifts to a frame grab world for big glass / large apertures or something else that hasn’t been developed, the one thing that seems will eventually die is the consumer enthusiast slr/mirrorless.

  6. All interesting points of views: IMO; iPhone/M10/1970 Polaroid/digital/film etc. it does not, what matters is: is the image/content interesting? its really not the tool, its who is using it…..

  7. Look, I love photography and hope the hobby stays healthy because it is fun, rewarding and important to share images of our world. But I’m not going to do the industry any bidding. They are in “Extract the most money from the enthusiast” mode right now. From the 6Dii, E-M1ii, A9 and the models to come, they are making

    And camera phones have really opened this world up in a meaningful way. The camera industry was beat at their own game. And their response is to fleece those remaining holdouts by exploiting the obsession.

  8. Getting a lot of action on this one Steve, looks like you touched a nerve!

    I think it doesn’t make a lot of sense to anchor yourself to technology at a given point in time and refuse to move on. You aren’t shooting a lot of film these days, and maybe more importantly you aren’t shooting a 5mp early gen digital camera. Some day a phone will take a picture every bit as good as your m10 or a9, and it will probably happen much sooner than you think. Between multi lens phones and constantly improving algorithms we will likely have a m10 equivalent in 5ish years if I had to guess.

    Will I retain some nostalgia for shooting my m9 monochrom and my m7? Of course! I may even keep shooting them when I want to go on a ‘photo walk’. But if I had a camera that was every bit as good 100% of the time in my front pocket I would have to be a cantankerous old luddite to not use it.

  9. I agree and disagree at the same time. It seems to be generational. I was part of the buying new camera craze, x100, a7, x100s etc. We also also travel a lot and I like the “idea” of a camera, but when you have all this other stuff to carry, a camera most of the time becomes a hinderance. Just my opinion, but I would not be surprised for the general consumer market in the next 10 years to have phones that are equal to what camera’s are able to do now. Its also quicker to just wip out your phone and snap a photo, how many moments would be missed with kids if you had to run and grab your camera? I think the romanticism about camera’s will remain, but I know my daughter will probably never use one for general use……

  10. Interesting opinion Steve and I have to say I agree with you. My thought is simple, phone is always a phone which function as a way to communicate either verbally or through text these days. A camera on the other hand is to take photos, allow you to think creatively, see the world differently in that viewfinder and most importantly a magical tool that allow you to even develop a personal relationship (I give name to all my cameras as much as it sounds like I’m an idiot :P). Camera is irreplaceable in every single way and I’m pretty sure the first toy that I’ll give to my daughter will probably be a camera than a plastic doll!

    Thanks Steve for this wonderful website and let’s keep shooting with our camera! 🙂

  11. Dedicated cameras are great tools and so are phone cameras. To get a good photo with a cell phone can give anyone as much pleasure as taking a good photo with a digital camera or a film one. This debate reminds me digital vs. film decades ago. There will always be film users, but they’ll be just a minority. Cameras’ types are ultimately irrelevant for photography.

  12. I agree, I have a few cameras from when I started during late 80’s up until now and sometimes I just feel like loading up my old Contax 139 with batteries and film to get the old mojo back. It’s really pleasing to have mirrorless cameras and some adapters to breathe life into old lenses forgotten in a box, or cupboard. I have ended up with Olympus M43 cameras (EM1 mkII) having sold my canon gear. I enjoy the connection to my own history in photography and it makes me really appreciate how far technology have come. Having said that, it is almost impossible for me to make my wife use one of my cameras. She is just not interested at all and I am so pleased mobile cameras exist. After I bought her a smartphone she has actually started taking pictures and it turns she like to do it. With her phone. Instant access to the camera and sharing/viewing pictures won her over with hardly no fight at all. I am pleased because finally I get to be included in some family moments in pictures. When I realized how she enjoyed taking pictures with her phone after years of ignoring photography totally I thought to myself, “the compact camera market is SO screwed!” Yes cameras will live on but a majority of people will turn to cameraphones.

  13. Steve, I agree with you as a personal matter. My camera life started with an Olympus Om-1, and has moved through countless real cameras to my current stable of D700, Ricoh Gr, and V1. I wouldn’t trade a real camera for a smartphone for all the world – BUT like everybody (almost) on this thread I do use and enjoy my Iphone camera.

    I think this post is moving you ever closer to becoming a card-carrying member of the “get off my lawn” crowd.

    Cellphone cameras are driving a ton of innovation and experimentation. Lots of satisfaction being derived by folks using a limited tool to do all kinds of neat stuff. No telling where that will lead, even if they have to pry that Leica iiif from your (and mine) cold dead fingers.

  14. In the last two years I’ve used my smartphone far more often than my DSLR or DSLMs. This is simply because with two children I had to carry them and I was not able to carry around my stuff as I used to do.

    On the one side I’m happy about all these captured memories. On the other side the few captures out of my real cameras definitely stand out. Different focal lengths, different perspectives, varying DOF, extreme angles (UWW), hand picked WB from RAW, image detail in darker scenes and in brighter scenes when viewed largely, smooth backgrounds / bokeh without exaggerated local contrast or sharpening … it’s another world.

    But yes, many people never learned to look at pictures that way. They only see the subject and they seem to be happy with it. Not a bad thing to be happy and just don’t care. But I cannot … just as you.

  15. Real? What is real? What is the Matrix?
    Das “Wesentliche”? Die “Wahrheit”?
    Similar to Einsteins relativity theory, perspective is more important to paint human relations to whatever surrounds us than static pillars of Marketing terms.

  16. the past was so good the now is so comfy and the future so bad
    in fact its the other way around
    the past was so annoyingly cumbersome the now is an improvement in comfort and the future is bright and created by each of us
    means, if you don’t embrace the future pro-actively others will define what your future will look like and if they let you, you can hold on to the old habits, if not, you lose that old feeling and may drop some tears.
    its all about individual priorities and capabilities.
    if you`re in contemporary art none of this discussion will bother you, if you`re in GAS or a Renaissance guy all of this does.
    We’re in the digital renaissance period, make our cameras look like greek statues and run around like greek philosophes while having machiavellian & nationalists power disputes.
    the “picture” will remain, its form and creation evolve.

    sorry, I’m just trying to avoid this nonsense M vs phone vs DSLR crap discussion. Use what you want, only the picture`s inducing emotions count, just like music, not its bit-depth or dB Level, but what emotion it creates in you or with the artist, while creating it.

  17. I’m probably one of the only adults in the developed world who doesn’t have a cell phone, and never will. Simply because I don’t really need it.
    I live in a small village in south-west France, and we get a lot of tourists during the summer and fall. I would say that well over half are now using nothing but a phone to take their holiday pictures.
    The insidious trap of a phone, is that it can hold a ton of pictures in the memory, and that’s where they stay. I have friends who have hundreds of pictures on their phone with no backup of any kind.
    Every year, hundreds of thousands of phones are lost, stolen, fall in the lake, fall in the toilet, fall in a sink of dishwater, and another huge number simply quit working. All these family snaps, vacation pics, the new puppy, and baby’s first steps are irretrievably gone. Forever.
    I have urged friends to back up their phone pictures onto another medium, and they nod impatiently and say “yes yes, I’ll do it soon.” And never do.
    I have slides, negatives and digital images, (carefully backed up), going back about 44 years, and would be devastated to lose the whole works. The lost phone may not cost 44 years worth of pics, but it could cost 4 or 5 years worth, and some of them could be very important sentimentally.

    • Practically all phones now automatically backup to the cloud. Android phones to google photos and iPhones to iCloud. Which also means you can share and manage online automatically.

      I think google provides unlimited space for free while Apple asks $1.99 for their big plan. The plus side with apple is that for the fee it backs up all of your data not just photos.

      • Really? Yikes, I really feel out of date. I didn’t know that.
        Well, in that case, I think for the average family snapper, the phone is popular for the reason several other people have already said, it’s always in their pocket and easy to use. 90% of these pictures will be viewed on the phone itself or a monitor, and the pictures are pretty good for that sort of use. Prints, I don’t know.
        Most photographers who see it as an art form, hobby, etc will probably always have a camera. I will.

  18. I disagree totally
    I have a Leica M with many of the best summilux and summicron lenses but now I prefer my iPhone 7+ … much more fun to shoot with it , more direct , intuitive

    • I do not doubt your sincerity, Erick. I also have an iPhone 7+ and I detest it as a camera. Handling and control are severely compromised. If snapshots are all a person wants, then the iPhone suffices. I want more.

    • Interesting perspective. I prefer my Leica M because of the rangefinder. Im not aware of any phone that has a rangefinder yet? Otherwise, can’t understand why anyone would shoot Leica. I have an iPhone and i never take photos with it. The experience is similar to a point and click automatic, boring. Im still relatively young too. I don’t think comparing the two is very accurate.

  19. A most interesting POV. And some of those photos are terrific!

    Some people might want to consider than learning how to use a dedicated camera could pay off in the long term. I like phone cameras, specifically the iPhone. The Huawei P9 is also interesting.

    I don’t really disagree with you, but my POV is somewhat different:

    1. Phone cameras just get out of the way. Dedicated cameras sometimes are a hindrance to taking the photo. It’s about letting the camera disappear so you can concentrate on getting the shot.

    2. Dedicated cameras, much bigger than phones, are necessary for film shooters. But digital allows for smaller cameras, and the iPhone 7+ is amazingly good. CSCs (compact system cameras) offer way more quality than the average person needs. The SL is jaw-droppingly good, though!

    3. PJs still need dedicated cameras, but they don’t need system cameras anymore. I suspect that phones cannot replace dedicated cameras for telephoto shots, although there might be some surprisingly good adapter lenses available soon.

    4. I use a good camera app for my phone shots unless I’m just taking a snapshot.

    5. Macro photography is easier with a phone than with a dedicated camera, and you get amazingly good results with dirt cheap lens adapters (hint: use a lens from an old, motorized 35mm compact, which might cost you $5). I speak only from my experience here, as macro is not my specialty.

    6. You can’t do tilt-shift with a phone, but many people wouldn’t know what the hell that is. How many people who own an A9 or an M10 have a shift lens? In any case, focus stacking can replace lens tilt.

    7. For static subjects, frame averaging allows very clean images. This technique does not replace an SL with a Voigtlander 50mm Heliar, but it’s pretty good considering it costs no money to do.

    8. I would argue that a phone camera gives you an advantage in public, as people will generally not bother you, or suspect that you might be a professional (that sounds trite but sometimes you aren’t allowed to take ‘professional cameras’ into certain places).

    9. Instagram filters suck, but so does a lot of post-processing on RAW images from high quality cameras.

    10. Wisdom is knowing that you have a choice. To use something you grew up with simply because you’re used to it is not wise. You’ve used everything from SL to iPhone, and you made a choice. I do hope that newcomers to photography also allow themselves a broad array of experiences, both in terms of equipment and subject.

  20. For me I am trying to get as good a result with a smartphone as I got with DSLR’s in the past. Its far more challenging to take a great photo with a cellphone than a dslr. DSLR’s are great cameras but really they make the process a lot easier. So when I nail a portrait mode iPhone shot, I love it. It’s not there yet but I am blown away by how far its come and we are in gen 1 with artificial bokeh. It will be exciting to see what improvements are in store for the iPhone 8. Also editing is as big a part of the workflow as taking the photo. The nice thing about a dslr is it can give you a unique look compared to a smartphone but the smartphone is with you everywhere and for me thats becoming more important. I think smartphones less than 5 years from now will be able to provide as good of results as todays dslrs.

    • And if you start editing with iPad Pro + pencil and affinity photo or Lightroom mobile it becomes a real joy to use

  21. I fully agree Steve, and feel the same way. I love using a real camera, such as the RX1… or even the tiny RX100V which still gives you what a camera should.

    However… to play ‘Devil’s Advocate’ for a moment… the move to smartphones could, quite possibly, advance the art of photography in a number of ways. Once example is that I sometimes feel that camera enthusiasts such as myself place too much emphasis, and spend too much time, focused on the tool (gear) to the detriment of the results.
    For me, photography is about capturing a certain moment, about having and expressing a vision, telling a story… and includes things like an understanding of light and colour and composition. If future photographers were to spend the time that we (and I mean me, and those like me) spent thinking about gear, and instead used that time to more wisely think and learn about the light, composition, colour and story… well… we could very well see an overall spike in the number of great future photographers!

  22. I love the RX1. You can get a used one for under $1000 which is worth the price of the lens alone.

    I recently acquired a M10 and go out in the streets and shoot from the hip and I’m always surprised what comes out. It’s a blast to gauge distance and see what you get. Sometimes out of focus pic have a dynamism and real charm.

  23. Good article, Steve. Today’s mobile phone cameras are “good enough” for most, like the 110 point and shoot cameras of yesteryear. They still made 35mm SLRs and such back then too. I believe “real cameras” will be around and still being made long after we’re gone. 🙂

  24. There is one caveat for me. There are people who get lots of inspiration from the camera on their cell phone, it is the only one they own, and they consistently take good and sometimes great photos. I’m actually pretty jealous of them because I can’t get that inspired by my cell phone camera and would never be that motivated to take photos often with it. I also think they’re “stretching” themselves admirably to get such good results within the limits imposed on them by the device, a bit like those who extol the virtues of taking just one 50 mm lens on vacation, for instance. People who are consistently inspired by the cell phone are, however, in the small minority. I think most would benefit greatly from an introductory course learning the basics and a little experience with the joy you achieve by learning what photography really is, or can be, in all its dimensions. Just as importantly such experience allows us more insight into the accomplishments of the truly great photographers, past and present.

  25. My youngest son is 13. A few years ago he wanted a camera so I got him a cheap Fuji point and shoot. His birthday this year he put all the money he had saved for a couple of years plus his birthday money this year towards an Olympus em10 ii. Mainly because he could afford it and he loves the look of my om-2n. A week ago he took a course at the Royal Institute in London on pinhole camera photography where he took and developed his own shots and had a fantastic day.

    There will always be some youngsters who love real photography don’t worry!

  26. After 9 years, I upgraded my Nikon D90 to a D7500 with 2 new lenses. My first camera was a Kodak 126 Instamatic when I was probably not even 10 years old. I use my phone if it’s all I have, or to document the location I’m shooting at with my ‘real’ camera. Now that I can use SnapBridge on the new Nikon, I won’t even have to do that anymore.

  27. I’m really old, so my glass plates, tintypes aren’t used much anymore, My Kodak Brownie can’t be developed, no one knows how to put the film in and out of the box. My Speed Graflex is just too heavy for me to lift. My Land Polaroid lies quiet and empty of “film”. My Canon Pelix is too dark to look through effectively. I can’t find my Honeywell Strobe although I know it is around here somewhere but I can’t find the three D cells to put in it anyway (however I still have a bunch of “flash cubes”). Yes they have gone the way of my old tube electronic stereo equipment, enjoyed by just a tiny speck of humanity that clings to the way things were.

  28. It just happens that my son loves a couple of indoor sports. To get good shots, I need at least F2, ISO 400, and 1/200th. Cellphone pictures are fine if you are viewing them on a cellphone. If you are viewing them on a computer, or if you need to crop, you need a camera.

  29. I agree with you. I find for the most part smart phone images to be formulaic and without soul. Images are more a function of the firmware and the unengaging process of using a smart phone leaves me feeling cold.

    • Mostly, yes. But that’s only a product of the fact that most people are not excellent photographers, but 15 years ago they’d never think of carrying a camera with them. Now, you can’t *not* carry a camera!

  30. “For the last 2-3 years I have seen more people shooting photos with Smart Phones than ANY other type of camera.”

    Perhaps 20 years ago, you would have seen more people using single-use disposable cameras than any other type of camera.

    Perhaps, 60 years ago, there were more people using Brownies than any other type of camera.

    There was never a time when the majority were using Leicas.

  31. Never owned a smart phone, and my mobile doesn’t even have a camera. So yes, it’s “real cameras” for me all the way. But I can’t help feeling I’m turning into one of those old fuddy-duddies that stops keeping up with the times. You know, like the ones who said digital will never surpass film, or photography will never be art, or writing on paper will never replace hieroglyphs chiseled into stone. Goes around comes around…

  32. I prefer a “real camera” and probably always will. I do use my phone to capture images when I don’t have my camera in hand or when I want to post an image immediately.

    Of course my definition of a real camera probably differs from that of many of your readers. But, let’s leave that for another discussion.

  33. Well Said, I totally agree! A perfect description of what’s going on in today’s world!

  34. I’m a computational photography researcher and my career goal is to allow phones to take DSLR-looking photos, with all sugary tricks like fake bokeh, bracket exposure to get HDR, etc… I’m also a Leica user and totally understand the feeling of achievement when you nail the focus in a dark environment. I agree with you that modern phones and technologies are grasping joy of photography from people, but want to add some interesting experiments about image quality I did before. It’s a blind experiment. I used Leica M/Q/SL to shoot four photos in different environments, and used my iPhone 7p to shoot the same scene. The photos were uploaded to a social network (WeChat Moment to be specific), which has somewhat aggressive compression like Instagram, and I ask the readers which ones are shot using a professional camera, and which ones are from an iPhone. About 20 responses were collected for each photo pair in the comments. To my surprise, most people couldn’t tell the difference and for some photos, more people chose the wrong answer. Although the result heavily depends on the scenario and compression, it is very interesting that nowadays most/some users even don’t know how to identify image quality. That may explain a bit on why more users chose smartphones even though they have worse image quality — without training, image quality is possibly not a very intuitive metric.

    • I agree. It’s much like fine wines and rare coffees: It takes training and experience to truly appreciate the exceptional.

    • I don’t think it’s at all about whether someone can tell the difference or not. A truly great photograph will stand out and it doesn’t matter how it is made. The problem is that technology promises that it is the goal to have instant easier better photos and while that is admirable, a blurry photo that has a profound emotional impact is better than any technologically perfect but empty one.

    • Yan, I agree that algorithms (and probably multi lens phones) will narrow if not eliminate the gap. However, I think what is needed is time for improvement. We are not there yet and downsampling dedicated cameras and phone cameras so they look equally shitty isn’t really a test. We will be there when you can blow a cell phone photo up to 4’x3′ and print it out and put it on a wall next to a full frame equivalent and not be able to tell the difference.

  35. I agree of course. Although I see a converse side. Many who start to enjoy photography with their phone want something more. This leads them to cameras although these people are ignored by manufacturers to a great extent. Canon pushes the Rebel which is where many start. Mirrorless seems to require a larger investment. When someone asks me about my camera, I cheat a little (well a whole lot). I take often see a row of flowers. I will focus on one in the middle with the the range of out of focus highlighting the one in focus. When I get asked how I did that…………. I do have a loaner camera to get people started (a couple inexpensive 1″ sensor cameras). And I do not do those flower photos at maximum aperture as I do not want them be disappointed when there beginner camera with kit lenses does not look as good. I have those photos on my cameras just for people who want to know why a camera. I view cell phone photography as a door to be opened to those who want. True most will not. Still, it is better than that old 120 camera I had first.

    • BTW, the first time they take a WOW photo, they get the feelings you mentioned. I just have to get them to try it first.

  36. I agree wholeheartedly, I have read in the near future that say an image big Ben in London you take a photograph where most people take the same photograph from the phone then search the cloud combines the hundreds of photographs to bring you a multimedia experience of big Ben.for me I like to capture the moment it gives me pleasure in doing so, we are looking the sense of wonder when a computer mixed with advanced software can do everything and anything you want, you do not have to experience a sunset,or stand in awe at the stars.

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