Tuesday, 6 September 2011

iPhone photo madness!

There is a lot of talk - crazy, inane talk if you ask me - amongst photographers, about the capabilities of the camera on an iPhone. Camera phones (in general) they say, will soon become good enough (and in fact are already good enough according to many) to obviate the need to carry a point-and-shoot around for serious photography. And while technically, with the very latest iPhone (4) and android smart phones, this may be true in principle, I hope it never actually eventuates in practice.

Why not, you ask? Well, I'm glad you asked. And I'll tell you why not. In the end, for me, it comes down to user experience - and using the appropriate tool for the job. Notice I didn't say 'the best tool', but the 'appropriate' tool. Called me old fashioned (and in some respects I'm sure I am), but when I want to take a photo - even a snap shot - I like to use an actual camera, and not my PHONE.

Removing the cast. 2MP 3G iPhone.
Now I am willing to admit that there are times when it is inconvenient to carry even a small point-and-shoot around, and you want to take a quick snap shot. Like, for example, the image here I took of my daughter having her cast removed at the hospital. I didn't have a point-and-shoot (or SLR) with me, but wanted to get a quick shot of the moment. Out came the iPhone and hey presto - got the shot.

I suppose this follows the 'best camera is the one you have with you' mantra we hear so often nowadays to justify (it seems to me) using your camera phone to take images with. But imagine, just for a second, that you were actually serious about your photography! If that were the case, wouldn't you try to make sure that the best camera you had with you was at least a dedicated point-and-shoot - and maybe even (shock horror) a digital SLR (or the new breed of micro four thirds cameras)?  Why should the best camera you have with you, by default, be your camera phone?

Shantytown. 2MP 3G iPhone + Pixlromatic App

By my own admission, I don't have the most up-to-date iPhone. Hence, my 2MP camera phone kinda sucks. Yes, the camera on the new iPhone 4 is much better, clearer, crisper, more resolution etc... So if I had one of these I'd change my mind - right?

Well no, I don't think I would. Because as I stated earlier, I really would much rather the user experience of an actual camera, rather than an add-on to a phone - even if that means having to carry around a camera and a phone! See, I told you I was old fashioned.

This is the same beef I have with digital SLR's and video. Yes, I know they can do video now. And yes, I know you can use all your supercool lenses. And yes, I know that there's no going back and all SLR's from here on out are going to have this functionality built in. But is it really any better/easier/superior to using a dedicated video camera? Again - for me personally (and believe me, I do know that I'm swimming against the tide here), if I want to shoot video, I'd rather use a video camera. A specific tool, for a specific purpose, to achieve a specific job, just makes more sense to me. Crazy, I know.

Princess Theatre, Shantytown. iPhone + Old Photo App
Finally, there's the whole app and social media sharing thing. We all know there are thousands of cool photo apps you can have on your phone that will allow you to instantly modify your masterpiece. And some of them are pretty cool. But OnOne's series of plug-ins for Photoshop are pretty cool too, and also allow you to create some really amazing images. Granted it doesn't cost $1.99 at the app store - but I would also argue that the final result is a little superior :-)

Photo apps for the iPhone have replaced the 'special effects' filters of the Photoshop era. Many a photographer has tried to 'fix' a boring image by applying a water colour filter in photoshop - and the same, I feel, is often true with iPhone camera apps. Both the images of Shantytown above are fairly ordinary - taken at the wrong time of the day under harsh sun, but whip them through an old-timey photo app on the iPhone and viola - you've got yourself some art! Really?

I'll finish my rant on social networking - the other big reason to use your internet-connected, wi-fi protected, spiffy-doo-dah smart phone to take pictures with. Cause guess what - you can share them instantly. That's right folks. Don't hold of tomorrow what you can do today - now - immediately! Snap that crappy photo and have it on your faceblog page quicker than you can say 'google'.

I don't know about you (really, I don't), but I've never taken a photo - even an amazing one that I'm super proud of - and thought "man, I've got to share this NOW or I'll simply explode!"

For photo agencies, news reporters and journalists covering breaking news I can definitely see the benefits of immediate sharing. But for the rest of us? We can probably hold off on showing the whole world pictures of our cat, or our best mate Dave throwing up at his bachelor party. I mean, seriously.

Please don't get me wrong - I love technology as much as the next gear head. Give me a fully kited out digital SLR with the biggest, baddest lens you've got and I'm happier than a pig in mud! And I LOVE my iPhone - as an iPod, email device, and phone. But I really don't subscribe to the 'fit it all in one device' swiss army knife kind of mentality that is starting to pervade the professional ranks of photography. Yes, I know the scissors on a swiss army knife can be used to cut paper - at a pinch. But seriously people... wouldn't you rather use an actual pair of scissors?

The right tool, for the right job. That's all I ask.

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