Home Tech Apple Smartphone Cameras: You cannot be serious…

Smartphone Cameras: You cannot be serious…


My first camera was a gift, a very long time ago. Back in the 1950s to be precise. Since then I have owned more than a few instruments of photographic delight. I still have a cupboard full of them and the accessories and lenses which go with them.

My love affair with cameras, particularly Leicas, has been a long and happy one. However, much to my surprise last year I started a photographic affair with a very neat young upstart — an iPhone SE 2. It’s an SE, not even an 11 or a 12 Pro Max, but I do love it.

The affair began quietly enough. Longtime followers of Macfilos or readers of my blog, The Rolling Road, will know that for at least the past ten years I have taken my little Leica X1 with me on my early morning walks.

Just blame Covid

The game changed along with Covid-19 back in March last year. The local shops went cashless: “Card only transaction, please”, became the order of the day. Back then, my late wife liked to read the Sydney Morning Herald in hard copy form every day. A digital app version with some algorithm deciding which stories she should read just wasn’t her cup of tea. So I started taking my credit card out with me every day on my walk so I could buy the SMH at the local newsagent.

A few months into the pandemic and I decided to upgrade my iPhone SE to the Mark 2 version. I soon realised that I did not have to use my credit card as I could use ApplePay on the phone and leave my credit card at home. From this, it was just a quick step to deciding that I could try leaving the X1 at home and start using the iPhone for my early morning photos.

Until that point I had snobbishly decided that phones were used only by teenage girls taking selfies, boring people posting photos of their meals on Instagram and tradespeople preparing quotes. Real photographers most definitely used only a real camera to take photos. It’s all about being real, after all…

Anyway, how could phones with their tiny sensors and plastic lenses and lack of controls take quality photos?

Snob bubble

However, I was not totally blinkered as I am aware that outside my camera snob bubble there were photographers as well as videographers doing amazing things with mobile phones. But I regarded them as outliers.

I once held similar views on electronic driving aids on cars. For many years I convinced myself that they were fripperies for people who did not know how to drive a real car. As recounted in a Macfilos story a few months ago, I bought myself a fully optioned Mini Cooper S back in December last year and this came with electronic driving aids. I very quickly became a convert. How had I got by without adaptive cruise control, parking assist, electronic emergency braking, and whatnot for so long?

My iPhone photography road to Damascus came when I started using it regularly to take photos back at the start of this year. My total conversion to iPhone photo fanboy came with one surfing photo, shown above, taken in Port Macquarie in NSW back in May.

One of the best

Over the years I have taken tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of photos. But this one is definitely one of the best. The fact is that it happened because I had my phone in my pocket on my early morning walk.

Now although I am a newly minted iPhone fanboy, I still love using my real cameras and they are not up for sale. Well, not yet anyway. But I am amazed at the quality of the photos produced by the latest smartphones. The results seem to totally contradict the basic principles of photography as I know them and I do find it strange that while there is endless discussion in the photography forums and blogs of the menus and mechanics of cameras, there seems to be little interest in what really is going on inside smartphones. And there is a lot going on, multiple demonstrations of prestidigitation that we have not before seen the like of in the annals of photography.

It’s not all lollipops and roses. I do find the haptics of my iPhone awkward. Taking a photo with a smartphone does not give me the satisfaction I experience when I hold one of my Leicas and press the shutter release. I still struggle composing a photo on the little LCD screen, but I am improving, and I have trouble keeping the horizon straight. But that is soon fixed in the edit function on the phone.

Pocket cam of choice

Despite these minor misgivings, my iPhone is definitely now my pocket camera of choice. It has changed the way I use my photographs. I can share them immediately and more people see them. I used to think this was crass and unnecessary. Now I see it as a big benefit.

Only a few days ago I took some photos of my new cat, Marvel, on my Q2. I wanted to quickly share them with my granddaughters who are stuck in lockdown in Sydney. Leica does have a file transfer app using Bluetooth—Leica Photos. Yet it is a nightmare to use. I cannot believe they are serious. So I ended up taking some more photos on the iPhone. The granddaughters were viewing them a few minutes after they were taken.

Now, if you’ll excuse, me I need to post on Instagram these photos of the chicken and leek pie I just cooked…

What’s your view? Is the smartphone taking over as the best camera for the pocket?

Read more from John Shingleton

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  1. Welcome to the wild and wacky world of unprejudiced photography, John! ..Of more choice, more variety, and more options!

    – David.

      • Just kidding John, hence the smileys! I enjoyed reading the article and you explained and illustrated with examples, your reasoning for using your phone pretty well. For me the haptics problem and not having a traditional viewfinder are reasons I absolutely hate using a phone which ( let’s be honest) was designed first as a phone with a camera included in the package ) but hey..if you’re ok with that…why not? Seems to suit your needs very well.
        I’ve always found enjoyment in photography in crafting detailed images that I can make a nice display print from and enjoy viewing like a good painting or piece of art and have little interest in sharing images with as many people as possible via the internet or digital apps. So it just depends where your interest lies.I still think if you are out wanting to take pictures you are better off with a camera that was designed to do the job, and there are plenty of options that allow you to connect to your phone, look-at-what-I-ate-today account or whatever. Personally I think living life through doing everything on digital screens sucks all the enjoyment out of it. Cashless? I wonder why when I go to the supermarket i now have to do the job the store staff used to do, by processing everything myself on a digital checkout screen.Not enjoyable or an advantage for me but definitely convenient for the store. Another example of where human communication and contact is being eroded.

        • Forgot to mention, I have the original SE which I’m still using.
          Have I taken photos with it? Yes, but only in dire emergencies when the battery has died in my camera.

  2. I can see you have convinced yourself, John. But what about those who do not possess a smartphone? And I feel more than a pang of sorrow for your once much-loved Leica X1. But I fear it is a lost cause. Laziness? It must be, because the X1 is not a burden to carry.

    • That’s a little rude.I have been carrying cameras around -some small and some not so small —for over 60 years and I do walk at least 6kms a day practically every day at dawn.I don’t feel I deserve being accused of laziness.

  3. It’s the cliche that no camera is perfect and the best camera is one that is with you. Applies here. All photos except the one in NSW look like the mobile phone photos-if that matters to you.
    I used to have a Google pixel and cameras such as these definitely are equal to micro 4/3 in my opinion. Of course you cannot achieve portrait separation and that pop with mobiles yet. It all looks toy like.
    Haptics is another thing of course..that joy of using a camera against your eyes, being able to change lenses or even have a good zoom lens is pleasurable.

    • I agree they all look like mobile phone photos-particularly since we know that they are mobile phone photos.But nowhere in the story do I claim that they are equal or better than conventional camera photos. As David B wisely comments above “more choice,more variety and more options”

    • Of course John. I was just picking up on the point posted in an earlier comment. There is nothing wrong with the medium used for a picture and no camera is perfect. That’s the point I made. It wasn’t meant to be offensive if that’s how you felt.

  4. My daughter and granddaughters live 2 hours from our Sydney prison however she sends photos and particularly videos all the time. All iphone work and she studied photography at school and University with Nikons
    My son is a high school teacher and uses his iPhone in class instead of a computer.
    It is a whole new world
    I am using my iPhone to type this.
    Search and peck but I am getting better

  5. In the end it’s what you see and compose that matters. You shoot with what you have with you. Some days I go out with just my phone, others it’s my DL-109 and others the CL with one lens only. The important thing is you’re observing what’s going on around you and thinking about it.

  6. Personally, I am unable to enjoy taking pictures without a viewfinder. I cannot see clearly a smart phone lcd in sunlight. however, that is personal preference.
    If you enjoy capturing images and memories on a phone, get out there and have fun. If someone pees on your joy, just open up an umbrella ☔️ and smile that you are having fun. I am learning to do this.

  7. You might as well use an iPhone John, your composition is so damn good that viewers can work around any shortcomings of the various cameras that are available.

    Indeed, for the last few years there has been a real craze for using compact film cameras, many of which are well over twenty years old.

    Personally, if I could manage decent compositions for more than one in fifty snaps, I would be happy to use a Kodak Instamatic and put up with any shortcomings.

    My view, yes, the camera phones are not as good as models with proper lenses and they provide less discussion for enthusiasts, but the truth is, that if one can compose competently, a pinhole is “good enough”.

  8. The great benefit of a phone instead of writing a letter is in the speed of communication although it can miss nuances of meaning.

    The mobile phone allows speedy communication of images; your last picture John being a case in point. Nuances of meaning may have been better communicated using the X1 or another such camera but would they have added anything more? I doubt it. And as these images are usually viewed on a small screen or printed at a small size would the nuances have shown up in the print anyway? Again I doubt it.

    I write from north-west Sutherland in Scotland. Yesterday’s walk to a waterfall, picnic lunch and views of Suilven were captured on my wife’s iPhone, shared with the children and commented on more or less ‘in real time’. Those taken with my X Vario looked similar on the small screen of the camera but when I get them home I will play with them in Lightroom and plan to print one at A3 or larger.

    I’m glad we have both tools. And I’m looking forward to the capabilities of the smartphone increasing regarding capture, processing and printing. It’s all good!

  9. When I wrote ‘play’ I should have written that I will process them to communicate the nuances of what I felt as I looked at the mountain, waterfall and clouds. I couldn’t do that with a smartphone to the degree I would like.

  10. Well, I just enjoy your way of taking photos, John, whatever you use. They always have a sort of spaciousness about them that I find very appealing. And although I have also discovered the possibilities of iPhone photography and been surprised by them, the itch you have really scratched is the continuing attempt to come to terms with 35mm focal length as a way of seeing. So that’s why I haven’t sold my X2 yet and keep trying……………….

  11. You will be upgrading again to a 12 Pro I suspect. Or will you buy the new Leitz 1 when it lands. Enough choices to fuel a new outbreak of GAS.

    I like the sunrise shot – any of us would be proud of that one, regardless of how we captured it.

  12. Just the comment on the Leica app – I have mixed results in use. With the C-Lux or my wife’s D-Lux it works without a fault. Connects, transfers photos over Bluetooth in a snap and everything is as it should be. With the TL2, wi-fi only, it is a complete pain. Sometimes the updates to the app help and sometimes its constantly disconnecting.

  13. Really nice images. Incredible what smartphones can do. The only thing I don’t like with mine is 4/3 ratio.


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