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Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?

  
 
Steve Spencer
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p.3 #1 · p.3 #1 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


virtualrain wrote:
I think the revelation to me is this...

When digital SLRs first appeared on the scene, they could not compete with the quality of film, but offered a number of advantages over their film counterparts. Many adopted these early digital platforms, despite the fact the quality was inferior. It actually took some time for the quality of digital to match the resolution and dynamic range of film but the benefits made this sacrifice worthwhile for many.

I feel like I'm at a similar point now with mirrorless vs camera phones. Of course camera phones can't complete with the quality of a dedicated
...Show more

I do not. There are two things important to many people the cell phone cameras are likely to never do well. First, they will always be challenged by low light situations as long as they have small sensors and are not built to control flash well. Cell phone cameras are at least 2 stops behind FF cameras in high ISO performance just because of the smaller sensor size, and they can't make this up with flash because the flash they provide can't be controlled well. This leaves many many situations in which a cell phone just is not up to providing good photos and until they go to larger sensors or noise reduction get a lot better, both of which probably will happen in time, they are going to suck for those settings. The flash problem, however, seems very likely to persist and that is going to be a long-term. I don't see cell phones ever being built to control flash well.

Second, when targets and moving quickly and erratically it is really hard to get them in focus and that is true with every cell phone I have ever seen utilized. Now this problem could be at least partially rectified in the future with more computing power and better algorithms, but when things move quickly and erratically many if not most times you want to have a long focal length to capture that movement. The longer focal length let's you get far enough away so tracking is easier. I don't see cell phones ever being able to accommodate tracking with long focal lengths.

To me, however, when I look to the future I expect in the next ten years for cell phones to become much less common. Cell phones are based on the idea that people talk to each other over the device, but people are doing that less and less and if they want to talk to each other many people are happy using their ear buds to do that. How many people actually talk to each other by holding a phone up to their face? That means there is an opportunity for a new device to emerge that isn't a phone. I imagine something like a personal cellular hub (which could be much smaller than a phone) that people connect to with ear buds to talk, a small device to text, a larger device to surf the internet, and importantly for this discussion modern cameras with a built-in wifi connection to the hub. I think this future makes too much sense not to happen. Personally, I don't want one medium size device to try to do everything (although some will always want that), I want a small device to connect me to the world and several devices that allow me to flexibly interact with the world. So, although cell phones could get much better, my guess is that they won't last as the dominant devices they are long enough to be really useful for low light or fast action photography.



Sep 18, 2022 at 08:02 AM
amci4
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p.3 #2 · p.3 #2 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


lxphoto wrote:
I've carried an iPhone together with Sony (A7, A7ii, then A7C) for years.

iPhone is like a camera stuck in AUTO mode. It's better than nothing, but ...

You have no control over exposure settings.

It doesn't produce RAW files, and sometimes the JPEGs (HEIC) are awful, especially in low-light, so forget about post-processing.

The ergonomics are horrible.

The flash is very low-powered, can't bounce.

It runs out of battery during a long day way before the camera does.

It doesn't shoot in normal 3:2 aspect ratio.

It takes an extra second to go into shooting mode, not as good as instant On/Off on the real camera.

It
...Show more

This isn’t exactly accurate.

1. There are cases that can improve the ergonomics, add battery life, and give you a mount for lenses or filters (Moment has several).

2. There are 3rd party apps that give you full control over the camera settings like aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed.

3. Lume Cube lights can attach to the iPhone and trigger via Bluetooth in strobe mode.

4. The iPhone has allowed RAW capture for about 3 years now and the new one will allow you to capture a 48 MP RAW file.

5. The camera is accessible from the Lock Screen, and one of the volume buttons can act as a trigger.

Now with all that said, the limitations have to do with the fact that only the standard sensor has 48 MP, the other two are still old school 12 MP sensors.

The portrait mode is 100% artificial Bokeh, so it is good that it is adjustable after, but bad that it looks horrible in most cases.

Taking only my iPhone to a place in northern Mass, I found that the 3 static lens focal lengths were less than ideal (I have an iPhone 13 Pro). The 14 offers a little bit more flexibility for focal lengths thanks to the 48 MP sensor, but not that much.

Also, computational photography cannot yet resolve the same level of detail that a true optical solution can. The precision is not there, and the noise levels from such a small sensor with always be worse than the larger sensors.

A big advantage is that two Lume cubes, a phone gimbal, battery case, always connected photo backup, a few 3rd party lenses / filters, and a boom mic, will likely weigh less than one decent zoom lens and fit in a much smaller bag.

As for night mode shots, that’s not actually an issue, because this is one place that computational photography does very well and can deliver very clean images by capturing multiple and merging them for better low light handling.

Here are some of the accessories I mentioned above.

LumeCube 2.0 Pro Lighting Kit

Moment iPhone accessories

DJI Gimbal

MagSafe Battery Pack


Halide Mark II Pro Camera App


Filmic Firstlight Pro Camera App

All told you’re looking at about $700 to get a good flexible and usable setup. You can add other items for arranging the Lume Cubes for Macro work and getting a better Macro lens, or black mist filters for dramatic portraits or cinematic video as well.

Edited on Sep 18, 2022 at 09:09 AM · View previous versions



Sep 18, 2022 at 08:24 AM
amci4
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p.3 #3 · p.3 #3 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


lxphoto wrote:
Which app and where do I find this RAW mode?


It is actually in the main camera app that you can capture RAW.

Go to settings under Camera / Formats and turn it on. You can also switch from HEIF to JPEG there.

In the camera app you can turn on Macro Mode Manual Control, and Enable Volume Up to do Burst Shooting.



Sep 18, 2022 at 08:32 AM
smpetty
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p.3 #4 · p.3 #4 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


Dave Sanders wrote:
So, ask yourself why you do photography. For me, I love the process. I like thinking of locations, I like packing my gear and getting out. I like checking the tide or looking at sunrise/sunset. I like looking at the light and using my experience to start thinking of the final image. I like setting up, being patient, calculating stops of exposure on my fingers, the internal dialogue as I debate a shutters speed or aperture; I like taking the exposure. I like downloading my photos, the anticipation before the image pops on my big screen. I like zooming
...Show more

Couldn't have said it any better. I would bet that Dave's observations apply to most of us at FM.

It often seems that our hobby (not speaking for the professionals) is facing an existential threat from smartphones...

- the vast majority of images are now taken with smartphones
- the vast majority of images are now viewed on smartphones
- as a rule, smartphone photographers don't print or enlarge their images
- IQ is not a consideration that matters to most smartphone photographers
- the current smartphones take good enough images for the overwhelming majority of users
- everyone has a camera, and everyone takes pictures of everything all the time...
- which results in a flood of images of almost every subject from every angle instantly available to everyone
- it is difficult to get excited about a trip - as a photographic endeavor - when the goal of that trip has been photographed and displayed ad nauseum
- smartphone photography is "free" (sort of)
- most people are so distracted that taking the time to appreciate any form of art, photography included, is unusual
- most people can't imagine taking the time to process RAW images
- most of us have less free time than we used to
- most of the population is numbed by TV and streaming media and haven't the time or compulsion for any serious hobby
- and the list goes on...

As Dave suggested, for those of us that enjoy the process of photography, and for those of us that appreciate the quality and creativity of a great photograph, our hobby will go on. I am thankful for FM and other photography communities that give us a space to learn from, to teach, and to appreciate the talented group that we are.




Sep 18, 2022 at 08:55 AM
AmbientMike
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p.3 #5 · p.3 #5 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?



virtualrain wrote:
I think the revelation to me is this...

When digital SLRs first appeared on the scene, they could not compete with the quality of film, but offered a number of advantages over their film counterparts. Many adopted these early digital platforms, despite the fact the quality was inferior. It actually took some time for the quality of digital to match the resolution and dynamic range of film but the benefits made this sacrifice worthwhile for many.

I feel like I'm at a similar point now with mirrorless vs camera phones. Of course camera phones can't complete with the quality of a dedicated
...Show more

I remember being impressed by an early 3mp p&s image back as this all got started. It didn't have any grain. Even though 5x7 pretty impressive. Yes film could be capable of higher quality but you couldn't chimp and reshoot, check focus and composition, etc.

I remember reading that one guy got better prints off a 10D or other early DSLR than his pentax 6x7. It was probably possible to get higher quality off of film but probably not even close from your local minilab. Have fun getting slides printed. Even on print film no contrast control for color really unless pin registered back or something. I remember one recently retired pro saying how much better 1600 was than film. On the original 6mp rebel!!! So I can't really agree



Sep 18, 2022 at 10:55 AM
RoamingScott
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p.3 #6 · p.3 #6 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


The new iPhone has a 48mp sensor and shoots in RAW. Could you make it work for a lot of different types of photography? Of course.

The main problem you’d have is natural subject isolation without relying on fake looking AI bokeh, or having any amount of appreciable reach.

Depending on what got you interested in photography, you might find the touch interface of a phone sterile and boring. I certainly do. However, there are times where it’s just easier to take a quick, well balanced photo with the phone than it is to take along a dedicated camera. The amount of computational processing that happens seamlessly and immediately on iPhones is truly amazing.



Sep 18, 2022 at 12:01 PM
wordfool
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p.3 #7 · p.3 #7 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


smpetty wrote:
Couldn't have said it any better. I would bet that Dave's observations apply to most of us at FM.

It often seems that our hobby (not speaking for the professionals) is facing an existential threat from smartphones...

- the vast majority of images are now taken with smartphones
- the vast majority of images are now viewed on smartphones
- as a rule, smartphone photographers don't print or enlarge their images
- IQ is not a consideration that matters to most smartphone photographers
- the current smartphones take good enough images for the overwhelming majority of users
- everyone has a camera, and everyone
...Show more

IIRC no-one 30+ years ago seemed to think P&S cameras posed an existential threat to SLRs, yet most of the same points you make could similarly have been applied to P&S cameras versus SLRs.

- the vast majority of images were taken with cheap P&S cameras of various formats (35mm, 110, etc.)
- the vast majority of images were viewed on crappy 4x6 prints folks got from drugstore or mail-in processing
- as a rule most P&S users never enlarged their prints
- IQ was not a consideration that mattered to most P&S owners
- P&S cameras took good enough images for the overwhelming majority of users
- almost everyone seemed to have a P&S camera, and took pictures of everything all the time...

etc. etc.

The only difference now is the internet has made images far more shareable than they once were, which has made photography far more popular and visible. Yet the same dynamic is fundamentally true -- expensive cameras (SLR, dSLR, MILC) still are, and have always been, the domain of serious hobbyists or professionals. Not much has really changed in that sense. All that has changed is more people are taking more photographs, period.




Sep 18, 2022 at 12:02 PM
virtualrain
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p.3 #8 · p.3 #8 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


In my case, I’ve got an iPhone 13 Pro Max, so I might as well do some experimentation. One weekend after I’ve delved into the iPhone camera settings and operation, I’m going to venture out to a couple popular photographic spots and try shooting the same images with both cameras and see for myself what the outcome is. I’ll try to shoot the same I would on my travel photography outings. Maybe I’ll be happy with the iPhone results, or I’ll hate them… Dunno. I feel it’s time to test it out though.

One potential issue is that I’ve become rather fond of the 35mm focal length and my iPhone has 13, 26, and 75mm (I think) lenses. Cropping to get 35mm may be an issue.



Sep 18, 2022 at 01:06 PM
timgangloff
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p.3 #9 · p.3 #9 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


I'd suggest that if you are seriously asking this question, the answer is yes, it can replace your current setup.

For example, I know that I can't shoot high level sports with a 400 2.8 or strobed portraits with my iPhone 13 Pro Max so it can't replace my Sony cameras. However, when I'm not doing these specific things, the iPhone works great. Raw images, Prores Video, etc and a super compact format I always have with me.

If you don's have specific use case situations where only a dedicated camera will work, and only you know your needs, a newish iPhone will be more than sufficient.



Sep 18, 2022 at 01:18 PM
philip_pj
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p.3 #10 · p.3 #10 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


'Cropping to get 35mm may be an issue.'

I'm sure the quality is going to be there, enough to handle that small impost. They are APO these days, isn't that right? Very little focus breathing, low curvature, all good.

Sarcasm out of the way, for each year's phone thread I search up the best phone images for that year because it is fun and it's useful to keep up with 'progress' now that image-making is so banal and commonplace. Here is this year's page:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/gallery/2022/aug/15/best-of-the-iphone-photography-awards-2022-in-pictures

The main features of phonography have not changed much. Images have in general a sugary appeal, very heavy on well-recognised conceptual impact, plenty of postcard-like colour and contrast. Subtlety is not a strong point (but that statement holds for most citizens as well). Almost all images attempt 'visual shock' to carry the day for themselves.

But I have to say that in the main, compositions are hackneyed and tabloid and images adroitly avoid the perils of fine detail and originality, and the pitfalls of excellent colour tonality.



Sep 18, 2022 at 02:48 PM
 


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Dave Sanders
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p.3 #11 · p.3 #11 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?




philip_pj wrote:
But I have to say that in the main, compositions are hackneyed and tabloid and images adroitly avoid the perils of fine detail and originality, and the pitfalls of excellent colour tonality.


Hahah that made me chuckle, very well worded...i need to remember that last line.



Sep 18, 2022 at 04:25 PM
wordfool
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p.3 #12 · p.3 #12 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


philip_pj wrote:
'Cropping to get 35mm may be an issue.'

I'm sure the quality is going to be there, enough to handle that small impost. They are APO these days, isn't that right? Very little focus breathing, low curvature, all good.

Sarcasm out of the way, for each year's phone thread I search up the best phone images for that year because it is fun and it's useful to keep up with 'progress' now that image-making is so banal and commonplace. Here is this year's page:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/gallery/2022/aug/15/best-of-the-iphone-photography-awards-2022-in-pictures

The main features of phonography have not changed much. Images have in general a sugary appeal, very heavy
...Show more

I've always thought these "awards" are more a selection by the judges to reflect current photographic trends in the media and social media rather than actually reflecting the cutting edge visual and creative achievements that are no doubt out there. In other words, a lack of imagination by the judges not the photographers.



Sep 18, 2022 at 04:50 PM
juicer
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p.3 #13 · p.3 #13 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


For people, non professionally, I am now convinced the iPhone 14 pro is a much better solution than carrying around a sack of gear, or even the A7C. Same with cities. You can shoot raw and process in LR.
I only use my A7R4 for landscapes and nature shots where I want to view in 4k or greater. And especially for astro stacking multiple images the phone doesn't come close (yet....)



Sep 18, 2022 at 06:19 PM
Jesse Evans
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p.3 #14 · p.3 #14 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


There are a number of problems with the iPhone 14 Pro / Max.

1. The default processing settings oversharpens the results to a ridiculous amount, the only way around this is to use ProRAW or Halide Camera and process using something like Lightroom.
2. The only high quality focal length available is 24MP, the others are significantly worse.
3. If you capture images in RAW using the 48MP camera, your frame rate is going to be measured in seconds per frame instead of frames per second.
4. Even in the "RAW" images, which are actually linear RGB DNG files, you can't play with the colors the way you can with a real camera. Moving the color balance around does not really do what you want it to do. In most settings with even moderately challenging light you can't really undo what the iPhone does to the images. Waxy skin tones, muddy colors, etc.

That said, they're fine. They're definitely good. But even "affordable" solutions like a Canon RP with a 24mm f/1.8 STM Macro (similar pricing to a top end iPhone 14 Pro Max) or a Sony a7 II with Sigma 24mm f/2 DG DN will be head and shoulders above an iPhone in terms of image quality and shooting experience.

I'm still chasing the dream of having an iPhone or Pixel or Galaxy phone that is on par with using a standalone camera, and they have not gotten much closer over the last 4-5 years. They seem to have relatively tapped out what can be accomplished through computational photography, and are just applying the techniques now to video.



Sep 18, 2022 at 07:45 PM
tkbslc
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p.3 #15 · p.3 #15 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


darrellc wrote:
I’d consider something like the Ricoh GR III for stills to accompany an iPhone as a minimal solution if you’re OK with a 28 or 40mm equiv solution.

I always get excited about every new iPhone release with the sensor/lens and imaging pipeline processing advancements, but then when I start looking at the pictures on any screen larger than a iPhone (like my 12.9” iPad Pro even), the pics look horrible to my eye in anything approaching marginal conditions. And bokeh in portrait mode is super wonky at scale beyond the iPhone screen. This has been true through iPhone 13 family…
...Show more

I wish I felt the same about my GR 3.

After a trip where I used my Phone and GR3, I sold the GR3.

iPhone has so many more features and capabilities. GR3 isn't even any better in low light, because it underperforms for APS-C and it has a slower lens.

GR3 is better if you process the RAWs and it manages to hit focus, which is far from guaranteed.



Sep 18, 2022 at 09:25 PM
AmbientMike
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p.3 #16 · p.3 #16 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


Years ago Michael Reichmann compared the latest Canon point and shoot to hasselblad. After pp no one could tell the difference on 13x19 prints. Phone basically a point and shoot.

Of course he mentioned caveats like large prints, fabrics, skin tones IIRC.



Sep 18, 2022 at 10:42 PM
ilkka_nissila
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p.3 #17 · p.3 #17 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


AmbientMike wrote:
Years ago Michael Reichmann compared the latest Canon point and shoot to hasselblad. After pp no one could tell the difference on 13x19 prints. Phone basically a point and shoot.

Of course he mentioned caveats like large prints, fabrics, skin tones IIRC.


This can be for certain types of images, such as a wide angle landscape where the desire is for having everything sharp, i.e., a lot of depth of field, that under some circumstances, a print of intermediate size made from a point and shoot compares well with a print from a larger sensor camera.

However, there are a lot of subject matter which does not come out well from either a point-and-shoot or a mobile phone camera. If the light sources are in the scene, phone camera lenses often produce catastrophic flare, especially after having been in the pocket for some time, but even when the phone is relatively new. The cameras often process the images extensively and offer limited control over the process to the user. So it's less an artistic pursuit by the photographer but more about what algorithms can do to fix the shortcomings of the hardware. One can't easily use flash to control the foreground / background lighting with a mobile phone. There are no long focal length lenses, or if there is, the apertures are small. Photography is typically limited to bright light as if one photographs in low light, the images look muddy and unclear. Processing away noise doesn't compensate for the lack of information captured by the device, in fact it reduces it further, creating plastic-looking skin and artificial-looking results overall.

It is often claimed on photography forums online (paradoxically enough) that people can't see the difference between high-end cameras and camera phones, but my experience is that this is not true. I recently spoke with an old friend who regretted that she hasn't been using a camera recently as the mobile phone gets used instead, with poorer results, and she had gone back and looked at older photos which were much better according to her, but the convenience of having the phone with her has lead to its use instead of the camera, but the results are poorer. So there you go, even those who dont' photograph as a hobby but simply to document their lives, can see the difference in image quality between dedicated point-and-shoot cameras and mobile phones. When I showed my friend some mobile phone snaps I had taken of her, the reaction was silence, but when I showed a shot from my ILC, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Much as I'd like to think it's my artistic input and skill that leads to the images being good, I simply cannot exercise those in such a way with a mobile phone camera that it would translate into good results. People do see the difference and it's overwhelmingly negative towards the mobile phone camera results and typically positive with the (selected) ILC images. Keep using cameras for photography and use the mobile phones to communicate with other people.



Sep 19, 2022 at 12:31 AM
RoamingScott
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p.3 #18 · p.3 #18 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?




Lee out here getting some better shots with the iPhone than some dedicated camera photographers get with their big rigs. This is a good example of a use case where you could say the iPhone could reasonably compete with a dedicated camera. However, you can see a distinct lack of bokeh in even the close up shots.



Sep 19, 2022 at 08:44 AM
GMPhotography
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p.3 #19 · p.3 #19 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


Personally im so uncomfortable with thinking I could go out and be serious with a iPhone and secondly outside of wedding stuff clients would not like me showing up with a iPhone instead of my A1. And lastly from a Pro mindset and watched this industry slowly go iPhone it has put a lot of damage to the business of photography. I know most of that is the low lying fruit for shooters that lost those gigs but it does add up. I know as a corporate shooter for many decades you watch those dumb gigs dry up and they helped pay the bills like retirement parties and announcement stuff went to iPhones. Today even though im not advertising that much and slowly getting out of the business and after Covid. Pro work has declined a lot for many shooters and That social media mindset has hurt the business. No one can tell me any different from a Pro seat. iPhones are lovely but they are also a curse to the industry. Lowering standards is not always a good thing.


Sep 19, 2022 at 08:59 AM
pjmsj21
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p.3 #20 · p.3 #20 · Re-evaluating my photography… can an iPhone work?


GMPhotography wrote:
iPhones are lovely but they are also a curse to the industry. Lowering standards is not always a good thing.


As to lowering of standards, are yo referring to technical standards ie grain, dynamic range, focus accuracy, resolution?




Sep 19, 2022 at 09:15 AM
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