Everyone seems to write about switching from Canon, Nikon, or Sony to Fujifilm X cameras. But no one seems to talk about switching from the most popular camera in the world to Fuji.
- 5 MP
- 1/3.2” sensor
I started with iPhone photography in 2010 - that is, with the iPhone 4. It had a 5MP autofocus camera with an LED flash. With a tiny sensor, it had a pretty modest dynamic range, somewhat facilitated by a then-new HDR mode. It also had a touch autofocus. I loved it.
Before the iPhone 4 I had a digital point-and-shoot, but it was so crappy I never really used it. I had no interest in photography. Getting a camera that was so easy to use, always with me, was a revelation. I was also lucky enough to get it right before a road trip to the US, which I saw then like a distant wonderland that I could only dream of visiting. Needless to say, there was no shortage of inspiration.
Sure, even at the time I could see some shortcomings in it. It had no zoom, and in low light things would get blurry pretty quickly. In the good light, however, it was insanely good. Seeing my pictures on the retina screen, I couldn’t imagine why I would possibly want to view my pictures on anything else: the pictures were breathing!
Of course, viewing these photos on anything bigger than a modern iPhone screen reveals pretty terrible noise, and the colors of all of the shadowy pictures are all wrong. Did I care? Not in the slightest. I shot moving subjects at night, I shot straight into the sun, and I shot with the built-in flash. The results were hit-and-miss, but I am incredibly grateful I had that iPhone. I have so many pictures to remind me of the good times I had.
- 8 MP
- 1/3.2” sensor
- f/2.4 lens with OIS
I kept this phone around for a long, long time, until I broke the back glass for the second time in 2013. I’ve sold it and got a Nexus 5, the “value pick“ of the time. It was a flagship phone for half the price of an iPhone. Camera-wise, it was quite an upgrade, too! It sported higher resolution, HDR+, a brighter flash, and fun features, such as Photo Sphere and Lens Blur. Finally, the Auto Awesome feature created gifs, fake snow, twinkling lights and other cute effects that made me laugh and appreciate that phone even more.
iPhone 6 Plus
- 8 MP
- f/2.2 lens with OIS
- 1/3.0” sensor
Unfortunately, its cheap plastic body didn’t last long : a year later I picked up an iPhone 6 Plus. With same 8MP resolution, OIS, better autofocus and an f/2.2 lens, it was a modest improvement over my Nexus. It was a HUGE phone though - very uncomfortable to carry around with me, and thanks to a non-ergonomic slippery aluminum body, quite a nightmare to handle, even in a grippy case. Compared to iPhone 4 and Nexus 5, the noise performance seemed quite a bit better - I don’t see much noise when viewing uncropped pictures on a regular-sized iPad.
- 16 MP
- APS-C sensor
- Kit lens - 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6
Around that time, I was following Ash Furrow’s blog. He was shooting with a Fujifilm X100. I loved his pictures, and I loved his camera, so I decided to get it myself as a Christmas gift. However, after reading a few articles, I’ve convinced myself that I’d rather get an X-T10 with a kit XC 16-50 lens: I thought I’d get more flexibility with a zoom lens, and more upgradeability with an interchangeable lens camera.
I loved the camera, but I had to sacrifice tons of iPhone’s useful features, such as:
- Built-in HDR
- Touchscreen autofocus
- Instant editing/sharing
- Built-in backup
Needless to say, getting a real camera gave me some huge benefits, too:
- Improved image quality
- Interchangeable batteries and memory cards
- Optical zoom
- Viewfinder (readable in bright conditions)
- Real shutter (for long exposures)
- Real aperture (for depth-of-field control)
A real camera comes at a price, and it’s not just the money I’m talking about.
Most people take their phone with them everywhere and charge it every day. This is because it is an indispensable tool for social communication as well as a great personal computer.
A camera is huge. My X-T10 is a smaller brother of a “compact” X-T1. Here it is next to an iPhone 4. Just the plastic lightweight lens weighs 195g, vs iPhone 4 at 137g. It certainly won’t fit into your pocket, unless you detach the lens from the camera. This means you’ll need a bag to carry it around, and it is going to take a considerable part of said bag.
On the other hand, a camera gives you countless improvements in ergonomics. Any camera is more comforable to hold than any phone; and all the switches, dials, and buttons actually work in gloves, unlike your phone. You also get the interchangeable batteries and SD cards, which is great! However, this also means that you’ll have to carry a charger for your camera when travelling.
It’s tempting to say that the camera is always better than a phone. Certainly, a larger sensor of a camera and a bigger, brighter lens gather more light; the larger pixels mean give you a wider dynamic range, lower noise in high sensivity and so on.
But what the cameras are lacking in is software and CPU power, and this is when the smartphones are miles ahead. A camera manufacturer typically assumes that the user will use their computer and some high-end processing software to get the best out of their image, and this certainly gives you great results; but when it comes to straight out-of-camera capabilities, my iPhone 4 made better HDRs in-camera than my 2016 Fuji X-T2.
In my opinion, you always get better results on a camera if you take your time with post-processing. Straight out of camera though, iPhones are above and beyond. It is also worth noting that unless you print your pictures or view them on something larger than an iPad, the image quality difference isn’t that big.
Obviously, it’s not a fair comparison, because an iPhone is much more than a camera. Even in photographic department, it gives you direct printing and sharing and some high-quality post-processing tools. And thanks to downloadable apps, you’ll never have a problem of “not having a timelapse feature” on you phone.
A camera gives you interchangeable lenses, DOF control, external flashes, long exposure capabilities and many more. But in my experience, cameras are much dumber than phones when it comes to auto white balance, autofocus, and autoexposure. Sure, I can control them all myself, and I can fix some of them in post, but I’d really much rather have this done for me most of the times.
Gear doesn’t matter in most situations and for most people. I have two boxes full of lenses, bodies, tripods, brushes, filters, and batteries, and I still carry my phone with me every time. I spend considerable time processing my pictures, I have bags dedicated to carrying it around, and in many ways this gear is a burden. Thanks to two years of practice and a small fortune invested into photographic equipment, my photos are less noisy and mostly in focus. I enjoy the process of photography very much, and I evidently am willing to sacrifice a lot to practice it; yet I still love pictures taken on my iPhone 4 back when I had no idea about the rule of thrids.
I’ve learnt to be a better photographer thanks to a real camera. I had a lot of fun in the process. I’m probably not going to stop using a dedicated camera in next 5-10 years. But it’s a real shame that camera manufacturers pay so little attention to software and user experience: just imagine how awesome would it be to have iPhone-quality JPEGs from your camera appear on your phone moments after you press the shutter button.
But at the end the only camera that’s always with me is my iPhone.