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Cameras vs Smartphones - a question of quality not convenience

User_Removed Avatar
User_Removed 20 44.5k 270 England
17 Jun 2021 2:33AM
Ah the good old days when the ePhotozine forum was full of discussions, often heated, about Canon v. Nikon, Olympus v. Pentax etc. Nowadays who really cares about the brands in a shrinking camera market?

Now according to reliable sources an estimated 85% of photos are taken on smartphones. And I have begun to observe a new phenomenon. Camera-owners who say they rarely bother using their DSLR or other system camera because they find they get just as good – if not better – results from their high-end smartphone. Presumably these are the devices which have multiple lenses, including “periscope” optical telephoto lenses, ultrawides and clever software enabling blurred backgrounds for portraits (etc). Such phones may also offer 8K video recording which is not common on conventional cameras.

We know smartphones have always been convenient for uploading to social media and so forth, but as the preferred device for quality – well, that’s something new. Convenience is not the only factor, it seems... or are they just saying that?

I don’t actually have a high end smartphone – just a mid-range one. That said, I probably do take about 85% of my photos with it. If I got a top of the range smartphone (e.g. Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra , or similar) could I finally ditch my cameras? Has anyone done this – or perhaps not used their ‘proper’ camera for at least a year or more because they are happy with smartphone output?
clicknimagine Avatar
clicknimagine Plus
13 1.3k 105 India
17 Jun 2021 3:05AM
The chip of a smartphone is smaller than a camera, the construction of the lens of a smartphone can't be compared to a camera...As a result the quality will always be less than the quality a camera can produce...

I had purchased a high end smartphone Samsung S10 Plus, at that time this phone was the best smartphone of this brand...

I am taking many images with this phone even in DNG format (substitute for RAW in case of a camera), I download those images to my computer and if I compare the quality with a RAW image taken by a camera...My Camera win...

Another problem you don't have much flexibility to change the aperture if you take the shot in Pro mode, in my case it is only 1.5 or 2.4...

The only benefit I get, I can carry a smartphone everywhere even in my bathroom GrinGrinGrin...

pink Avatar
pink Plus
20 7.5k 11 England
17 Jun 2021 7:03AM
I print and sell quite a few images so I was interested in this debate a while ago.
I have the latest iphone and I went out and shot a variety of subjects with it, I then uploaded them into PS and did my usual basic processing.
I then printed them at A4, A3 and A2, the A4 prints were reasonable, go bigger and the files just fell to bits, I normally use a full frame DSLR.
Also I dont like the experience of shooting with a phone, it is not immersive, I enjoy the process of taking an image, from finding a subject to composing, setting shutter speed, aperture, ISO etc this for me is the enjoyable part, to hold a phone at arms length and click is not very satisfying, convenient yes.
I would say I use my phone for about 10% of my total photos, but then I dont contribute to social media.
hobbo Avatar
hobbo Plus
12 1.8k 4 England
17 Jun 2021 7:31AM
Just holding a mobile phone to take photographs doesn’t feel right…..there is no comparison …a camera wins hands down….. I have yet to beat my LUMIX GX9 …. …..

franken Avatar
franken Plus
21 5.8k 4 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2021 9:26AM
I've a phone and rarely use it for photography. If I'm out on a photo trip them my micro four thirds kit wins easily.
JackAllTog Avatar
JackAllTog Plus
14 6.4k 58 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2021 10:47AM
Its just a question of does the kit do what you need it to do? Camera phone produce a mid range of nice images that are well processed bright JPEGs. But pushing the phone out of its comfort zone means the images deteriorate quickly.

I once shot with professionals on a £50K Hasselblad, but to get a fast multi flash shot they needed to borrow my EOS60D. The right tool for the right job.

Also holding a phone steady is harder than a larger bodied camera. and seeing in bright sunlight is easier in a viewfinder. Depth of field; Screwing in polarizing filters, fast exposure compensation multiple fps etc - lots of reasons to use a separate camera. Even 'just looking the part' so that people will turn to you for the shot.

I'll typically take both camera and phone with me whenever I'm hoping to shoot photos. Even if from time to time other peoples smartphone images are better than mine on the camera.
martin.w Avatar
martin.w 21 620 29 United Kingdom
17 Jun 2021 7:19PM
I take snaps with my phone and photographs with my 'proper' cameras Wink
Jestertheclown Avatar
Jestertheclown 15 8.8k 255 England
17 Jun 2021 7:45PM
I only ever use my phone, in desperation, on the very rare occasions that I don't have a camera with me.
In fact, I find phones quite tricky to use (as cameras).
Railcam Avatar
Railcam 17 967 2 Scotland
17 Jun 2021 7:55PM
I use my "proper" camera for photographing moving trains. I often need 1/1600 sec shutter speed to freeze the action, an aperture of f8 to get the full length of the train sharp (9 x 23metre coaches = 207metres long, which requires an ISO of 800 on a sunny day. Not sure a smartphone could do that. The phone is useful for tracking the train to know where it is, running early, late, cancelled etc. Both have their uses but horses for courses for me.
keithh Avatar
keithh 19 25.8k 33 Wallis And Futuna
17 Jun 2021 9:01PM
iPhone 12 Pro - means I don’t have to carry a compact around with me…..and that’s where it ends.
Big Bri Avatar
Big Bri 22 16.7k United Kingdom
18 Jun 2021 8:30AM
I use my Huawei (or Chinese pocket spy as I call it) all the time for record shots of stuff, because it's just so damn convenient. Like Keith says, you don't need a compact.

But firstly, yes the quality looks great on an over saturated tiny screen with huge pixel density. Compare it on a 27" monitor or A3 print with a shot from my old 6D and it doesn't hold up. Also, shooting at long telephoto, it's impossible to hold it still and get a sharp shot.

The reason 85% of photos are now taken on phones is because people are taking 1000x more photos than 20 years ago, and mostly the people taking them don't care about the quality.
altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 24.1k United Kingdom
18 Jun 2021 10:01AM
I don't use my phone to take photos,the cord is not long enough!Sad

Seriously though, my camera does not have a phone and I do not use my phone to take photographs but I always have a small Olympus compact on me (12 mp that cost me £22 used and is waterproof and shockproof and needs no contract.)
VSS Avatar
VSS 14 19 United Kingdom
18 Jun 2021 12:17PM
I prefer to use my DSLR but will rely on my phone while out riding my bike; the DSLR doesn't quite fit in my pocket despite Lycra being very stretchy.
bornstupix2 Avatar
bornstupix2 6 131 1 France
18 Jun 2021 11:38PM
The whole thing about this debate is how you view the images......if you are happy to pass your camera phone around your friends and only upload the best shots it will no doubt satisfy many on here and you also. The real discussion should always boil down to how you view your images.....poor pc screen.....poor quality inks in a printer.....laptop or tablet badly set up to view images and the final issue is how you see colour/b&w personally.
I had a job on an insurance round some years ago and used to go into peoples houses to collect their United Friendly premiums on a weekly/monthly two colour tvs were set up the same and it convinced me that colour perception is a very varied if the camera you use satisfies on a picture to picture basis good luck.....I have shot everything from 5x4 down and use full frame high end dslrs, micro 4 thirds and a samsung s7 edge....the finished picture is hard to place without exif info in many cases.
mrswoolybill Avatar
mrswoolybill Plus
17 4.9k 2653 United Kingdom
19 Jun 2021 8:11AM
Mobile phone photography is an integral part of a much bigger cultural phenomenon, of instant accessibility, instant communication. I am one of the majority of over-70s who do not own a smart phone - precisely because I have no desire for that particular lifestyle. I like to be able to get away from people, even friends and family; I don't want to be constantly available, I want to decide where and when I connect to the world. And that means sitting comfortably at home, as I am now... I have a 20-year-old non-smart phone that I use maybe half a dozen times a year when I actually need to, and only a handful of people have the number. My annual charges amount to less than £5.

I am sometimes asked to take pictures on other people's phones however, and I hate the process. Pink used a lovely expression, it is not 'immersive'. It is mechanical rather than involving. If I am looking at a small screen on a device I am not looking at the subject - you need a viewfinder for that.

Weight has become an issue though. So after a miserable time trying to use a compact, at the beginning of the year I invested in an entry-level DSLR for random observations. It has proper controls, produces decent quality images, fits very easily into my handbag and goes everywhere with me. I save the D7500 kit for planned photography, events. Problem solved.


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