Ever wanting to minimise my camera kit, it’s crossed my mind more than once than a camera phone could be the only one I need.
Which would be ironic, as this is how I began photographing with intention over a decade ago, years before I discovered film, or knew what any of those intimidating and multiple numbers dials and buttons on an SLR were for – with a series of Sony Ericsson camera phones.
Could it be, that after shooting my way through literally hundreds of cameras and lenses, and making tens of thousands of photographs, I’d arrive right back where I started, albeit with (I hope) a better understanding of and greater competence in the dark mysteries of the art?
Well, almost, but not quite.
On the plus side, here’s what I like about my iPhone (5C), the most capable phone camera I’ve used –
1. It’s compact, convenient and always with me. The best camera you have is the one you have with you. That’s always the iPhone!
2. The images are more than acceptable, especially shot via an app like Hipstamatic. I don’t make huge prints, and any “defects” of the lens/sensor/app I see as a specific character of the device.
3. I have plenty of control. Again Hipstamatic allows me to manual adjust shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation, zoom, focus and white balance.
4. The phone works very well as a point and shoot, on Auto everything. For when I want to relinquish all that manual control that Hipstamatic offers. Which is 90% of the time.
5. It’s not much different to using a digital compact. Especially when using 3:2 ratio with the phone on its side and the volume button(s) as the shutter button.
6. Different aspect ratios are readily available. Especially with Hipstamatic, though I confess that I only really use 1:1 (which just seems right for iPhones, the seemingly obvious modern digital successor to the classic Polaroids) or 3:2 (as I’m so used to this ratio from 35mm film, my Sony NEX, and my Pentax DSLRs).
7. I don’t feel the need for further uploading, processing, etc. Keeping processing simple is vital for me with film or digital. With the iPhone I just use the images as they come out of the phone (granted I have a Hipstamatic combo of “film”, “lens” and “flash” that I tend to use for most shots, so they’re rarely straight out of camera/phone).
On the minus side, there is very little, but they add to the reasons why I can’t abandon all other image making devices for the iPhone yet (or maybe ever) –
1. It might not feel much different to a digital compact, but it does feel very different to even a DSLR with a vintage lens. Let alone a 35mm film SLR. The tactile experience of holding and using a “proper” camera and those beautiful old metal and glass lenses remains a vital factor in my enjoyment of photography. The iPhone just feels like a device, a gadget, albeit a very capable one. I never pick it up and smile at the beautiful ergonomics and glove-like fit in my hands.
2. The screen is pretty good for framing and focusing, but I miss the viewfinder experience of a “proper” camera. That sense of being immersed in the confines of those four straight sides and everything else in the world evaporating can’t be replaced when holding a device with a screen at arm’s length. (This is also a major reason why my Pentax DLSRs have almost entirely replaced my previous main digital Sony NEX camera, which despite its many outstanding qualities, also lacks a VF).
3. Storage seems very limited. My iPhone is also my iPod, my main email and messaging device, my portable internet browser, YouTube viewer/listener and more. Although I have very few apps, music or anything else overall, it always seems to be close to full, and I can only shoot maybe 40-50 photos before it maxes out. It doesn’t help that Hipstamatic is doubly storage hungry, keeping an original copy plus the filtered/processed version of each photo. I’ve toyed with the idea of upgrading to a new phone for everything but photography, then stripping everything but Hipstamatic from my current iPhone and using it purely for photography. But then I wouldn’t want to always be carrying two phones around, I may as well be using a “proper” camera.
4. Because it’s digital and so easy and instant, the pictures always feel disposable. This perception then extends so I feel I can’t/don’t make any images worth keeping, in the way I can with other cameras, even other digital cameras. Even though I have indeed made some photographs I really like with it. This is a state of mind I know, and maybe could be overcome in time.
5. I have very little emotional connection with it. This is similar to no 1 above or maybe a combination of 1 and 2. It’s just a clever little device – and has a huge range of uses of course, aside from being a very competent picture maker. But beyond that it has very little charm or attraction, and doesn’t evoke any particular affection. I’m not one for adulation of objects, but I can say that even my Pentax DSLRs bring a smile to my face when I pick them up – they feel like a comrade or companion in the quest to capture beautiful images.
All in all then, I can’t see that my iPhone will become my sole, even my main camera any time soon, if ever.
But it still makes an excellent back up for those spontaneous images when I don’t have another camera – or the time to get it out.
Addendum – I realised after publishing my last post about using just one camera and lens for a month, that I’ve also been using the iPhone, and even included images made with in that recent post!
But it hadn’t even crossed my mind that this had broken my one camera one lens run with the Samsung/Miranda combo!
More than anything else I think this shows how I don’t even count the iPhone as a “proper” camera…
Would you ever consider using a camera phone as your only camera? Let us know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.