Probably the most impressive development in smartphone technology in recent years is the camera technology. I look at pictures that I took on my decent phone a few years ago, and they look absolutely horrible compared to the ones my decent phone can take now.That is before you compare them to the heavyweights of the phone world. This advanced raises an interesting question: is it worth spending the money to buy a big camera when you have a good one on your phone?
That is before you compare them to the heavyweights of the phone world. This advanced raises an interesting question: is it worth spending the money to buy a big camera when you have a good one on your phone?
The short answer is, it depends. That’s always the answer, isn’t it? For the long answer, keep reading.
I am not trying to pass myself off as an expert on cameras and photography. I can only talk from personal experience, as a photography enthusiast who had to answer this question a couple of years ago. At about this time in 2015, I was considering buying myself a new phone. I was looking at something like the LG G4 due to the impressive camera. Then I wondered, as the camera was the only reason I would pay a premium for the phone, why not buy an actual camera? I found a good deal on a Fujifilm X-A1 interchangeable lens mirror-less camera, and I had enough change to buy a decent mid-range smartphone from the money I would have used to buy the LG.
In this post, I will make the case for why you should buy a camera. I will make the counter-argument in a future post.
Reasons why you might buy a camera
If you are considering buying a camera, it is probably a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera. That refers to those big cameras that you will typically see being used by journalists and on the sidelines of sporting events, often with a big lens attached.
The lens, big or otherwise, is the first reason why you might want a DSLR. Photographers invest a lot of money in lenses, typically more than the cameras. Different lenses are ideal for different situations. Lenses differ in 2 important metrics, the focal length and the aperture size. A long lens, say a focal length of 400mm, allows you to capture distant objects in high detail while a shorter lens, say 16mm, allows you to capture a wide view. Aperture refers to the size of the opening in the lens which lets the light through to the sensor, and this is expressed as a fraction of the focal length.
If you have a zoom lens, you can adjust both the focal length and the aperture on your camera to capture the image just the way you want it. Or you can change the lens when the situation calls for it. If you are using a smartphone, both are fixed. Sure there are phones with dual lenses, but that’s still only 2 options.
The other reason is the sensor. In photography, a bigger sensor allows for better detail and quality. The sensor on any smartphone is tiny compared to even the smallest interchangeable lens cameras. The pictures you can get from a DSLR are typically better than ones that you can get from your smartphone, even in automatic mode.
I say ‘even’ in automatic mode because the option to shoot in manual mode is the third big advantage a DSLR will have over a smartphone. You might be wondering why you would want to use manual mode when your phone or camera takes perfectly fine pictures in automatic mode most of the time.
When I bought my Fujifilm, I used it exclusively in automatic mode for a couple of months. I got good pictures most of the time, certainly better than I could have got with any smartphone. Sometimes I got terrible pictures, and I had no idea why. At other times I even stumbled upon great pictures, again with no idea why. the camera decided. Then I started venturing into the semi-automatic modes and eventually shooting exclusively in manual. I started figuring out the reasons some pictures were great and others were not based on the lighting conditions and the settings the camera chose.
There are times when you are shooting an object in motion and you want your shutter to be at least a certain speed to avoid motion blur. Then there are times when you are shooting a landscape and you want a slow shutter. Sometimes you want only the subject in focus, so you want a wide open aperture. Other times you want everything in focus. Shooting in manual gives you absolute control over how your camera captures images. Sure, its a skill that has to be learnt, and getting the settings right is only the first step in mastering photography, but having the right tool for the job makes it possible.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.