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Advances in smartphone photography
Old 12-24-2019   #1
PaulDalex
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Advances in smartphone photography

Hi all,

I saw this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FRTvlENpLw

and I am very impressed. I have an old Xperia Z5 premium (23 Mpix) and it makes good photos. The most annoying thing is the wide angle only lens. The Xperia 1 and 5 like many other smart phones have instead 3 primes. Add eye tracking inherited by the Sony cameras and in the hands of a pro the results are pretty good.

Maybe in a not so distant future (also looking at the sales trend of Nikon and Canon) digital cameras will follow the destiny of film cameras and become another niche product.

Your thoughts?

Happy holidays to all RFFers!

Paolo
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Old 12-24-2019   #2
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I think digital cameras are already a niche product. Cell phone cameras are pretty good and will continue to develop quickly. They leave a lot to be desired in terms of manual control combined with clunky ergonomics. Also, physics won't be denied: fine detail and tonality will always be 'better' with larger sensors and lenses designed for them. That said, I've taken more photos with my cell phone than with any camera over the last few years...
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Old 12-24-2019   #3
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Well I for one am glad that all I have is an old flip phone, if Hasselblad, Rolleiflex and Leica ever produce a camera that can also be used as a phone I would no doubt have a stroke.
No digital phone camera can produce the Black and White print quality of the above said optics. And after the electronics pack in as they surely will do, my wireless and battery less cameras will still be working as smoothly as ever.
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Old 12-24-2019   #4
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The thing holding back smartphones from being great cameras is that they are still primarily smartphones. Their usability is still pretty limiting, and there's not much they can do within the smartphone form factor. They're good at what they can do, though.

If a "real" camera could upload photos to the Internet directly, I would use my smartphone much less often.
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Old 12-25-2019   #5
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I have a master's degree in photography, and photography is massively important to me...

But I haven't used my camera since May, 7 months ago. And before that, it was the previous March.

I now only use my camera for serious projects and commissions. All my personal photographs - friends, family, holidays, memories, "out and about" - are taken with my Samsung phone. My Samsung is so convenient and good that I use it as my everyday camera - it's always with me, shoots in raw, I can instantly edit and upload online, and prints are pin sharp...

If all you care about is the image - like me - then the camera is dead except for specialist uses. For the foreseeable future I will need my high-end Sony, but with advances in technology, especially artificial intelligence and computational photography, the traditional camera will disappear within my lifetime.

I gave up 35mm film a decade ago when digital surpassed it in quality and 35mm film no longer had any practical advantages. I kept using 120 film alongside digital, but high-end digital now surpasses medium-format film in resolution (its last advantage over film), so I've given up film entirely.

So, film is obsolete for practical purposes, and the camera is going that way fast.
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Old 12-25-2019   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichC View Post
I have a master's degree in photography, and photography is massively important to me...

But I haven't used my camera since May, 7 months ago. And before that, it was the previous March.

I now only use my camera for serious projects and commissions. All my personal photographs - friends, family, holidays, members, "out and about" - is taken with my Samsung phone. My Samsung is so convenient and good that I use it as everyday camera - it's always with me, shoots in raw, I can instantly edit and upload online, and prints are pin sharp...

If all you care about is the image - like me - then the camera is dead except for specialist uses. For the foreseeable future I will need my high-end Sony, but with advances in technology, especially artificial intelligence and computational photography, the traditional camera will disappear within my lifetime.

I gave up 35mm film a decade ago when digital surpassed it in quality and 35mm film no longer had any practical advantages. I kept using 120 film alongside digital, but high-end digital now surpasses medium-format film resolution (its last advantage over film), so I've given up film entirely.

So, film is obsolete for practical purposes, and the camera is going that way fast.
Photography is many things for many people. With that said, I have shared a similar path and for myself, any image making device will do. Access, trust and 2 dimensional design logic is all that matters to me. Sadly I find phones maddening when it comes to photography due to ergonomics so compacts/point and shoots are my cup of tea. Often a few generations old to boot!
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Old 12-26-2019   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichC View Post
I have a master's degree in photography, and photography is massively important to me...

But I haven't used my camera since May, 7 months ago. And before that, it was the previous March.

I now only use my camera for serious projects and commissions. All my personal photographs - friends, family, holidays, memories, "out and about" - is taken with my Samsung phone. My Samsung is so convenient and good that I use it as everyday camera - it's always with me, shoots in raw, I can instantly edit and upload online, and prints are pin sharp...

If all you care about is the image - like me - then the camera is dead except for specialist uses. For the foreseeable future I will need my high-end Sony, but with advances in technology, especially artificial intelligence and computational photography, the traditional camera will disappear within my lifetime.

I gave up 35mm film a decade ago when digital surpassed it in quality and 35mm film no longer had any practical advantages. I kept using 120 film alongside digital, but high-end digital now surpasses medium-format film in resolution (its last advantage over film), so I've given up film entirely.

So, film is obsolete for practical purposes, and the camera is going that way fast.
This is photography we are talking about—since when does "practical" have anything to do with it?

Personally, I enjoy using manual focus 35mm cameras. I like the close-to-the-metal feeling. I think comparing a good manual focus camera to a digital camera is like comparing driving an old sports car with a manual transmission to driving a Tesla. The Tesla gets you there faster and more efficiently but the old sports car is a mechanical joy to operate and is satisfying in a way the electric vehicle could never be.

I also happen to like the look of the photos I make with my old 35mms.

When it comes to digital, I don't particularly enjoy using any of them that much. (I suppose I might feel differently if I could afford an M10-P, but that will be purely hypothetically unless I win the lottery.) My iPhone Xr is good enough for an everyday digital camera, and the only times I use my DSLRs any more is when I need a long zoom (which is very seldom these days).
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Old 12-26-2019   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichC View Post
I have a master's degree in photography, and photography is massively important to me...

But I haven't used my camera since May, 7 months ago. And before that, it was the previous March.

I now only use my camera for serious projects and commissions. All my personal photographs - friends, family, holidays, memories, "out and about" - is taken with my Samsung phone. My Samsung is so convenient and good that I use it as everyday camera - it's always with me, shoots in raw, I can instantly edit and upload online, and prints are pin sharp...

If all you care about is the image - like me - then the camera is dead except for specialist uses. For the foreseeable future I will need my high-end Sony, but with advances in technology, especially artificial intelligence and computational photography, the traditional camera will disappear within my lifetime.

I gave up 35mm film a decade ago when digital surpassed it in quality and 35mm film no longer had any practical advantages. I kept using 120 film alongside digital, but high-end digital now surpasses medium-format film in resolution (its last advantage over film), so I've given up film entirely.

So, film is obsolete for practical purposes, and the camera is going that way fast.

This is my experience and general outlook as well. I view photography as image trapping and recreation. However this happens is fine as long as it works...
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Old 12-26-2019   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichC View Post
I gave up 35mm film a decade ago when digital surpassed it in quality and 35mm film no longer had any practical advantages. I kept using 120 film alongside digital, but high-end digital now surpasses medium-format film in resolution (its last advantage over film), so I've given up film entirely.

So, film is obsolete for practical purposes, and the camera is going that way fast.
Define “quality”

I don’t like the way digital looks. Doesn’t matter what the specs are.
That’s why I shoot film.

There is nothing practical about art.
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Old 12-26-2019   #10
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I've got what nowadays is considered as ancient iPhone 6. Great snapshooting camera for daylight and a shot made it to the camera club exhibit 8x12" print was fantastic, although getting closer showed lack of fine detail. I do look forward to whichever next gen phone I may get.
Ergonomics wise, of course it's not a camera, but phones are very handy and always around. No issue with composing and shooting with it.

But, I am from what is considered a digital native generation (25 yo) although I consider myself as bridging both mediums.

Have an EM5 and 35-100 2.8 (70-200 eq) which is my main digital camera. Got each of the components for a song. I've been toying the idea of getting a normal or wide prime but at the end of the day I'm shooting much more phone and film for that. Phone goes where camera may be awkward to use and (mostly medium format film) gives me the thoughtful process and fun of printing in the darkroom.

I have a rocky relationship with 35mm. Yes, m43 digital could readily substitute it but doesn't have the look. 10 lab processed and scanned color negs cost as much as that 2nd hand prime lens ($100-125) but still... I keep at it. I do want to split more between Medium Format Film and digital+phone.

At the end of the day it's about tools.
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Old 12-26-2019   #11
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My recent model iPhone's camera is rubbish. It's rubbish to use and the image quality is rubbish. It's barely good enough for note taking and that's pretty much all that I use it for. My first digital camera - a Minolta Dimage in about 2003 had better IQ and was more pleasant to use. My Olympus Pen EE-S from 1962 has far better IQ and is significantly better to use.

No offence to anyone, I just really think the whole 'smartphones are good enough for photography' thing is pure hype. I'm not too old to understand them either, I'm just past 30.
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Old 12-26-2019   #12
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35mm film (for stills) was considered less than adequate when it first started; mere convenience, utter compromise!

Unless you're using 11x14 film then "image quality" is a compromise. That means we all compromise. Photography is a big place; fine detail and tonality as the final goal is but a small dog in a large park, all be it with a loud bark.
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Old 12-26-2019   #13
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Quote:
My recent model iPhone's camera is rubbish.
One item I have to be aware of is the lens on my iPhone can easily get smeared with oil from my hand as I find it easy to grasp hold of the phone, usually for talking, forgetting the lens.

I clean it as I find this improves the image quality.

I made some pretty nice photographs on a recent trip to Egypt with my iPhone 6s.

Take a look at this pano of a temple in Luxor Egypt I made with my iPhone 6s. It’s on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?f...type=3&theater
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Old 12-26-2019   #14
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Originally Posted by gavinlg View Post
My recent model iPhone's camera is rubbish. It's rubbish to use and the image quality is rubbish. It's barely good enough for note taking and that's pretty much all that I use it for. My first digital camera - a Minolta Dimage in about 2003 had better IQ and was more pleasant to use. My Olympus Pen EE-S from 1962 has far better IQ and is significantly better to use.

No offence to anyone, I just really think the whole 'smartphones are good enough for photography' thing is pure hype. I'm not too old to understand them either, I'm just past 30.
Yeah.. as mentioned by Bill, do you have a greasy finger print on your lens? I've fixed many a friend's iPhone just by wiping their lens.
While I get no joy using it, the camera on my iPhone 8 is excellent. From a technical perspective. Blows my old Canon S95 digicam out of the water.
But I only use it to text random pics to annoy those in my phone book. Look, a lemon as big as a grapefruit!
I use it for note taking, not photography.
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Old 12-26-2019   #15
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I've been using my hand-me-down iPhone 6 Plus with Moment lenses, and the usability issues are no joke!

1. The LCD screen is not bright enough when it's sunny. Composing a photo is a slow, tedious experience when the sun is behind you or off to the side a bit. If you have to snap fast, you're forced to "embrace" the sloppiness. Also, the LCD is pretty small compared to the image in a good viewfinder.

2. Using the volume buttons as the shutter when you're doing street photography (I'm using the anamorphic lens as a Hasselblad XPAN alternative) is a headache because I'm using the Moment app to desqueeze the photo in real time, and it often 1) crashes without saving the photo, 2) takes forever to take the photo, or 3) doesn't take a photo at all.

3. Autoexposure is slow to react to large framing adjustments, e.g., raising the camera up to shooting position. This means you have to preset exposure manually, which is normal, but because of the touch screen interface, you can't adjust exposure quickly or without fiddling with the screen. I want a physical exposure compensation dial so bad!
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Old 12-26-2019   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulDalex View Post
.
Your thoughts?
My thinking is that cameras have to follow the smartness of phones, to remain viable. On sensor and glass department phones can never compete, but can compensate with software trickery. Remains to be seen how well current camera firmware ecosystems can answer the challenge from Android & iOS + apps in future.

Edit: processors on cameras currently are also do-one-thing-well-but-not-much-else type off. General purpose programmable processors and operating systems are not anywhere close what phones can offer.
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Old 12-26-2019   #17
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My guess is that a company or two will go out of business, or at least take a big hit in market share, before they finally catch on.

Camera companies have to add the functionality that smartphones have. These things are basic features now.
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Old 12-27-2019   #18
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Thank you all for the interesting and thought provoking answers!
I think any serious photographer cannot be comfortable taking photos with a phone. The joy that using a top level camera gives, composing carefully, manual controls excellent results all this is gone!
On the other hand oftentimes inspiration strikes and I have no camera with me!
That is when I grab my phone to take some pictures.
And in this perspective the better the result the happier I am, and having more primes tracking autofocus, and possibly more manual controls would certainly help.
At the hand of the day, when this is the only way to take some photos home, one would be better off if they are of more acceptable in quality
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Old 12-27-2019   #19
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since iPhone can capture photos in RAW, it has become quite decent tool for me. Please be aware that I shoot both 135, 120 and DX digital. I print a family album once a year and I am content with what iPhone can capture.
Now with an iPhone Xs Max, I think that I can leave my Nikon D60 at home more often. Only iPhone and film cameras mainly with BW films.
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Old 12-27-2019   #20
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Thank you all for the interesting and thought provoking answers!
I think any serious photographer cannot be comfortable taking photos with a phone.
Thanks for starting the thread!

But I totally disagree with your next statement...

There are plenty of professional photographers who now prefer smartphones to cameras. And this trend will continue as phones become more versatile (I'm especially pleased to see the latest phones have multiple lenses - including telephoto).

One such "serious photographer" is Ben Lowy, a photojournalist who was won multiple awards, made the cover of Time magazine and covered wars with his iPhone. As he says:

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what tool you used; the image is what counts. Getting that decisive moment, that expression on someone’s face; that’s what counts.”
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Old 12-27-2019   #21
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My recent model iPhone's camera is rubbish. It's rubbish to use and the image quality is rubbish. It's barely good enough for note taking and that's pretty much all that I use it for. {deletia}

No offence to anyone, I just really think the whole 'smartphones are good enough for photography' thing is pure hype. I'm not too old to understand them either, I'm just past 30.
I just don't understand how anyone can profess that the obviously smaller and limited optics necessary to fit into a smartphone can deliver images equal to that of the quality produced with the better (or even the mediocre) of the glass lenses that we have today, and, as you think of it, had for over half of a century.
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Old 12-27-2019   #22
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Maybe some company will create a phone with a camera using film .
Would this work for you?
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Old 12-27-2019   #23
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I just don't understand how anyone can profess that the obviously smaller and limited optics necessary to fit into a smartphone can deliver images equal to that of the quality produced with the better (or even the mediocre) of the glass lenses that we have today, and, as you think of it, had for over half of a century.
Because sometimes... it is capable of a good photograph. In great light, it is. That said, anything is. People make great photos on a Holga...
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Old 12-27-2019   #24
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My guess is that a company or two will go out of business, or at least take a big hit in market share, before they finally catch on.

Camera companies have to add the functionality that smartphones have. These things are basic features now.
I think that boat has sailed. There's no point trying to compete with Apple and Google with software.

Said it in the Nikon thread- there's probably only three cameras that should be made now. A Pro camera, an enthusiast camera and a film camera - all things that phones can't do.
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Old 12-27-2019   #25
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I just don't understand how anyone can profess that the obviously smaller and limited optics necessary to fit into a smartphone can deliver images equal to that of the quality produced with the better (or even the mediocre) of the glass lenses that we have today, and, as you think of it, had for over half of a century.
Because we are now in the era of computational photography. Software reigns supreme and corrects for the tiny lenses, exposure, light values etc.

It’s already hit digicams. Have you seen how crap the image is from a Leica Q if you turn off the lens profile? Crazy distortion. Which then beggars the question, what are you paying for - the legendary Leica lens or the dood/doodette who corrected it via software because Leica cut corners in its optical design?
FYI not Leica bashing, they all do it now. It’s why often older lenses pre digital era work better on film cameras as they had no software to fix issues on film.
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Old 12-27-2019   #26
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Here is another photographer doing outstanding work exclusively on an iPhone:


https://www.rachaelshort.com/
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Old 12-27-2019   #27
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I really prefer images from phones from 10 years ago to today's. Pictures from old phones were not so full of digital and AI artifacts. I really dislike those artifacts.
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Old 12-27-2019   #28
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I think that boat has sailed. There's no point trying to compete with Apple and Google with software.

Said it in the Nikon thread- there's probably only three cameras that should be made now. A Pro camera, an enthusiast camera and a film camera - all things that phones can't do.
Hehe, but will the ship sink? Camera companies need to keep old customers and add new customers or else things will get worse and worse. A whole generation of potential customers has different expectations for what a good camera should be able to do, while the oldest generation still has to put up with post-capture digital workflow annoyances. Cutting down product lines to three cameras is a little too extreme, though they do need to be cleaned up a lot, and they need to be comprised of fully modernized cameras that solve current problems and frustrations.
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Old 12-27-2019   #29
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Maybe some company will create a phone with a camera using film .
Would this work for you?
Sounds like an episode idea for the Red Green show. Let uncle Red show how, with ‘the handyman’s secret helper’ and a little ingenuity, you can make your own phone/film camera.
“Remember, if the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”
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Old 12-27-2019   #30
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In regard to iphone cameras; is there anyplace to find out specifications of the camera?
For the camera in my iPhone 6s I would like to know;
The sensor size in millimeters.
The lens focal length and aperture. Is the aperture fixed or variable.
An internet search revealed the aperture to be f2.2 but does not reveal focal length or if the aperture is variable.
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Old 12-27-2019   #31
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Crazy how good the images can be from these phones. My wife has the new iPhone and her snaps leave me a little dumbfounded.. why am I still worried about this big old camera... eh.

Have to agree with Huss - There is nothing practical about Art.
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Old 12-27-2019   #32
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In regard to iphone cameras; is there anyplace to find out specifications of the camera?
For the camera in my iPhone 6s I would like to know;
The sensor size in millimeters.
The lens focal length and aperture. Is the aperture fixed or variable.
An internet search revealed the aperture to be f2.2 but does not reveal focal length or if the aperture is variable.
Sensor: 1/3" (4.8 x 3.6 mm)
Focal length: 4.15 mm (29mm equivalent)
Fixed aperture: f/2.2 (f/16 equivalent for depth of field only, not exposure)
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Old 12-27-2019   #33
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Said it in the Nikon thread- there's probably only three cameras that should be made now. A Pro camera, an enthusiast camera and a film camera - all things that phones can't do.
I would add a quality compact. When I don't carry a larger, interchangeable lens camera (film or digital), I will stick a Sony RX100iii in my pocket. Just about as easy to carry as a phone. In many situations, a better tool than the phone. I can connect to the phone and edit using Photoshop Express and then share. Not as quick as using the phone alone and the connection and uploading could be more streamlined, but not bad. And I have a RAW file if the photo is worthy of editing later with a full feature editor.

I wouldn't mind skipping the phone and being able to connect the camera to a wifi source and have a simple browser to upload directly to the site where I wish to share.
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Old 12-27-2019   #34
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Sounds like an episode idea for the Red Green show. Let uncle Red show how, with ‘the handyman’s secret helper’ and a little ingenuity, you can make your own phone/film camera.
“Remember, if the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”
Excellent idea. I'll duct tape my Olympus XA to my phone.
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Old 12-27-2019   #35
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I was taking photos of a waterfall yesterday. I first used the SWC then the M9 and then the iPhone. Each has its charms.
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Old 12-27-2019   #36
zuiko85
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichC View Post
Sensor: 1/3" (4.8 x 3.6 mm)
Focal length: 4.15 mm (29mm equivalent)
Fixed aperture: f/2.2 (f/16 equivalent for depth of field only, not exposure)
Thanks, my searching skills need improvement. I foolishly thought that the search word ‘specifications, camera, iPhone 6s’ would actually bring up something useful. I was beginning to wonder if the information was a state secret.
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Old 12-27-2019   #37
Pál_K
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With my phone I've made quite a few very nice photos I couldn't have made with a film or even digital camera at the time.

Even so, I much prefer looking at and making film photos and using film cameras.
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Old 12-27-2019   #38
Larry Cloetta
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I’m surprised no one has linked this yet: https://blog.mingthein.com/2019/12/1...iphone-11-pro/

One of the more even handed examinations to show up recently. There is a world of difference between an iphone 6 and an iphone 11 Pro.
Phones don’t and won’t satisfy a single photographic need I might have, but they’re more than valid for most people, even discerning photographers, at least part of the time. The tech has become pretty amazing in a short time and it’s only going to get better. If Nikon, Canon, or Sony had the wherewithal (they currently don’t) to put the same level of computational power and algorithmic programming into “real cameras” with “real lenses” that Apple can put into an iPhone 11 Pro, something that goes waaaaaaay beyond lens corrections, the results would be amazing.
Maybe camera companies will get there, maybe they won’t, but it almost seems like they have to if they are to compete with phones in the future.
Current iPhones can produce high quality results with mediocre glass, think what a camera company could do with good glass if they mastered computational photography.

Anyway, Ming Thein’s analysis seems fairly thoughtful.
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Old 12-28-2019   #39
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Thanks for that link Larry. Yep digicams are screwed.


“It’s impressive to the point that I find myself using either the phone or the Z7, and not really anything in between – because the shooting envelope of anything else is worse. “

This is why (ok one reason) I shoot film.
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Old 12-28-2019   #40
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I know a number of pros. As yet none shoot phones for work, but one does all his shooting outside of work on an Iphone 11, another mostly and a third when he hasn't got his film camera to hand (he mostly works in film).

I hate the feel and the shape of it all, it's not for me (but then digital largely passes me by). I wonder about the camera companies totally missing the trick - where is the camera that Apple could make - all this bulk and black plastic reminds me of grey plastic laptops before Macbooks arrived. Why no ultra premium digital status symbol camera? Where's their marketing? Everyone can have a phone - why no attempt at real exclusivity in a compact package.
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