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Leaving my DSLR at home: An iPhone experiment

171
A buffalo combs the beach at Hoi An, Vietnam. Taken with an iPhone 4S using Pro HDR, and processed with Snapseed (which also increased the grain). All images by Dean Holland.

An iPhone, a second honeymoon and photography: Can they mix? 

I'm a professional photographer, and I recently spent two weeks in Vietnam shooting just with an iPhone. Nothing else. Just the phone.

"You'll never survive!" suggested my darling wife. "You'll be going cold-turkey from your big camera ... it'll be like travelling with someone in rehab!”

She had a point. I was already getting twitchy at the prospect of missing golden photos while I stabbed in frustration at apps. I knew the iPhone could get good results in the right conditions, but I also knew that there would be some photos that it simply couldn't take.

But this trip was to be our first time alone together in eight years since the children came along, and I’d built-up a rather optimistic picture of a second honeymoon with a twist of photographic expedition thrown in. The big camera would have to stay at home (Sue calls it my “mistress”), so the iPhone it would be. We’d booked four nights in Hanoi, and nothing beyond that -- we thought we'd make it up as we went along. 

Surely a little iPhone wouldn't get in the way of a second honeymoon? Surely I'd get some nice pictures?

As we headed to the airport, we had that "Something missing" feeling. The bags seemed tiny for a two-week trip. No children, no camera, no lenses. I'd packed pretty much every accessory that I could find for an iPhone, and it still took up no space in the luggage. I had the iPhone 4S (I've since upgraded to the iPhone 5) with loads of apps, a small lightweight tripod with a Glif adaptor to mount the phone, a phone case with a built-in battery as backup, and a new Olloclip lens that clips over the phone's camera to give different perspectives to pictures. I also packed an iPad (which I barely used). 

So can you have a holiday AND take pleasing photos with an iPhone? I’ll split the answer between the things that I liked and the things that I didn’t.

What's to like?

Less gear means more eye

Using a phone camera freed-up my head. No settings to fuss over, no gear to shepherd. It became about seeing pictures, rather than creating pictures. When I saw good things, I got good pictures. When I didn’t, there was no technical wizardry to save the day.

Silhouette on the Japanese Bridge, Hoi An, Vietnam, shot with iPhone 4S using Camera+ app, edited with Snapseed.

I thought I'd be lost without settings to change, but it wasn't like shooting a camera on auto,  not knowing what the camera will give you. I knew exactly what it was going to give me: unlike a camera, the phone has only one combination of settings for any given level of light, so I quickly learned its style. It became about finding things that suited its style of picture.

This made me realise two things: first, I saw how much I normally lean on my technical skills to make photographs rather than my (weaker) skills to see photos. Using the phone was like doing a visual "workout" by exercising my "seeing" muscle.

But it was my second realisation that really changed things: the more I looked, the more I saw. It sounds obvious, but because I had the phone with me all the time, I started looking at things differently. Silhouettes of people, patterns in water, big things next to small things. Little visual treats everywhere.

Stairwell in a Hanoi restaurant, Vietnam. Shot with iPhone 4S native camera app and processed with Snapseed, filterstorm and Photogene2.

Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager in love? You could take pleasure from the sunlight on a coffee cup or the curve of a shoulder. I found myself LOOKING for those things more than ever before. Finding pleasure in little things. I’ve never used a camera that encourages this as much as the iPhone. I was smitten. Free with every iPhone: more nice stuff in every day! How good is that?

For a stronger man than I, it could have made me a more attentive and fun travel partner. Instead, it gave me all the self-awareness of that teenager in love. I had a new mistress. But more on that in the drawbacks below. On with the positives ...

Good quality in good light 

In good light, the quality of the photos was good. Not “good for a phone”, but actually good.

Tourist boats meet a fishing junk at Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. Shot with iPhone 4S, taken with Bracket Mode app, and processed with Snapseed and Image Blender.

When I made 36-inch (90cm) enlargements of the pictures back home, I was surprised just how good they were. No, they’re not as crisp and detailed as from a big DSLR camera, and they’re more speckly too. But they’re certainly good enough for me to blow-up and put on a canvas for the wall. They’re better than from many cheap compact cameras. I’d suggest that they’re easily good enough for most uses.

Comments

Total comments: 171
12
Pierre Daigneault
By Pierre Daigneault (Oct 13, 2012)

Great pics. I think that the author could take great pics with a pinhole camera. The tool appears very capable (without pixel peeping) to the less fussy, and attest more to the photographic skill than to the camera. I find phone camera awkward to use and without adequate controls. What controls they do have are cumbersome.....but each to his own. A good photographer (like this one) will take better photos with his phone than I could with my SLR. .......well done.....

0 upvotes
satureyes
By satureyes (Oct 13, 2012)

The photos are great - but I dont see the point of trying to squeeze every inch of quality from what is essentially a small lens, average sensor and a phone.

There's some incredible compact cameras on the market now that would outperform the iphone my a mile.. think the Sony RX100. It seems like you're finding an end to justify the means.

I dont see why you'd not take a pocketable compact with you and use that. Apart from torturing yourself about shots you may have missed or the ability to print nice works of art on your return.

Why the need to edit in the field? I can see the benefit if you're shooting news stories - but not sure why you'd put yourself through this for the sake of a camera for 400 quid which you can pick up anywhere and be just as
as the iPhone.

1 upvote
alfredo_tomato
By alfredo_tomato (Oct 13, 2012)

You can't make a call, or play Angry Birds on your Sony RX100.

It is fun to go low fi from time to time to remind a person it is the photographer, not the camera.

2 upvotes
satureyes
By satureyes (Oct 13, 2012)

Then shoot with a basic film camera? I don't think the point of the article was to discover the photographer not the camera makes the pic - but actually - with a compact or film camera there would be no 'apps'.. not in the field anyway. The point is - yes of course you can get good shots from an iphone.. and yes of course it's the photographer that makes the shot happen - but you have a once in a lifetime trip and i'd not put it all in the hands of an iPhone..

0 upvotes
PhotoPoet
By PhotoPoet (Oct 13, 2012)

Fantastic article. Love the photos. The waterfall shot... unreal... not sure I could get that shot/edit... thank you for the info it will improve my instagram feed... thanks again
Travelpoet

0 upvotes
kox
By kox (Oct 13, 2012)

Hmm, unreal, indeed...

0 upvotes
jimread
By jimread (Oct 13, 2012)

I'm getting there slowly, my 5D is in the loft, as are my 4/3 lenses, I just use a Panny G2 and 20mm now.

Jim

0 upvotes
aardvark7
By aardvark7 (Oct 13, 2012)

You have discovered (and laid before everyone) that it is the state of mind more than anything else which impacts upon the initial picture.
However, that 'freedom' is entirely relative and the limitations of such devices soon shackle what initially would seem so liberating.

Of course, as you also point out, the more capable but entirely 'obvious' kit can provide their own handicap in terms of portability and the reaction of the subjects.

Ultimately, there is no right and wrong. It is better to have any camera than none and it is better to have the small unobtrusive camera where a full DSLR would prevent the shot.

Neither would make a cent of difference if you didn't have the eye, though, and there is no denying your skill in that regard!

2 upvotes
Ken Chin
By Ken Chin (Oct 13, 2012)

Interested in olympus xz1 or fuji xf1, but after viewing your video of blurring the background and watching a similar video on youtube using gimp, i've decided to stick with my fuji t300 and kodak p880. This software stuff is great. Thanks again!

gimp
photoscape
http://pixlr.com/o-matic/

0 upvotes
Alpha Whiskey Photography
By Alpha Whiskey Photography (Oct 13, 2012)

Agree with this article. Many a time I've left my cumbersome gear behind and simply used my phone (Nokia N8) to shoot with. It offers enough control over exposure , white balance and ISO but doesn't get in the way, so that most of the time it's really about composition and framing something.

Lots of examples:

http://www.slickpic.com/u/AlphaWhiskey/photoblog/post/TheBestCamera

http://www.slickpic.com/u/AlphaWhiskey/photoblog/post/EveningAroundStPauls

0 upvotes
Heyckendorff
By Heyckendorff (Oct 13, 2012)

Hi Dean

Inspiring photographs and it proves that the impact of an image relays more on the photographer than on the equipment.

I wonder how people can read the article and still talk about how much better IQ and P&S would have given you.

Isn't the whole point, that what´s most important in any photograph, is what it's a photograph OF, rather than how sharp it is or how noisy it is or how blown the highlights are?

Some Danish film makers made an manifesto called Dogme 95 in the mid nineties. It was a set of 10 rules by which all Dogme film should be made. The idea was to put up strict technical limitations to be able to focus entirely on the story.

I think the idea of technical limitations as a way to pay more attention to the motives, would be beneficial to a lot of amateur photographers.

To all:
Ask your self this question:
If you from now on could only use your mobile phone to make images would you then quit photography?

1 upvote
electrophoto
By electrophoto (Oct 13, 2012)

Heyckendorff,

With all due respect, but what made you the final instance in what defines "the whole point"?

it's an honest question from someone who's not actually into pixel-peeping but has been part time photographing (read: earning money) for over two decades.
As mentioned earlier, I understand the need / wish to down size quite well and have - besides the DSLR stuff - an R100 and had other "higher end" compacts before. They are ideal when you want to downsize, and get GOOD photographs which leave you all the options you may want - from PP to printing, to monitor-only viewing aso.

Dean has taken some good shots - but most look excessively overprocessed (espeically the HDRpro stuff and the "big-lens" background blur (that one just looks "fake"))... without those filters though the original shot would probably be nothing to talk about either.
Image Quality (like the ability to get good high iso results, good DR, some control over DOF, sharpening, etc.) is important to most of us

1 upvote
electrophoto
By electrophoto (Oct 13, 2012)

Heyckendorff,
Also consider speed (focusing - and focus accuracy), framing, proper zooming... all areas where even a modern but cheap compact camera for half the price of an iPhone utterly outruns the smartphone by leagues.

And what kills "iPhone"-Photography for me entirely as a "tool" is the quite poor (personal opinion / experience) Ergonomics/Handling/Control during "Camera use"...

In some posts further down, even the original Author (Dean) agrees, that he would not consider the iPhone/smart phone a proper compact camera replacement and will take the later along again.

0 upvotes
Heyckendorff
By Heyckendorff (Oct 14, 2012)

Hi electrophoto

My comment about "the whole point" was worded as a question. I could have written "as I see the whole point" as well.

You write that you understand the need/wish to downsize. But as I read Deans article it´s not as much a question of carrying lesser equipment as it is a question of setting up limitations for him self.

Or maybe it wasn't his first intention but he realized that those very limitations with the phone was the thing that made him focus entirely on the motives.

Of course...if you need to take a close up picture of a Hummingbird at 30 meters your badly equipped with a camera phone. But sometimes it's just good to test and experience how much you can achieve with very limiting equipment.

If you can't change any settings, eg. on a camera phone you can only do one thing to make a photograph better...make a better framing or simply find a better motive.

1 upvote
HubertChen
By HubertChen (Oct 14, 2012)

@ electrophoto: I have by chance a quite similar picture taken with DSLR and high quality f/2.8 lens and the bokeh looks pretty darn identical. I can not agree that it looks fake.

0 upvotes
electrophoto
By electrophoto (Oct 21, 2012)

HubertChen

Sorry for the late reply... ;)

About the bokeh - it's not the actual "bokeh" that looks very much Fake to me, but rather how it is being applied to the image:
- there's a clear line around the subject which is odd and rather unnatural
- The bokeh isn't gradual.. ... I mean most lenses I have used over the past twenty-odd years have always created some sort of transition from in-focus to out-of-focus areas... basically something like gradual layers .
Doing this in any kind of post-production setup is a chore. It can be done, and it can look "good", but the result from the app is appalling at best.

=====

Heyckendorff
I stand by my point - all of that, including keeping the focus on the motives (something a pro photographer with enough experience should be able to do in complete disregard of any type of tool) - downsize, limit yourself to something could have just as well been achieved with just about ANY compact camera - without the not so nice limitations of the iphone.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
capteneo
By capteneo (Oct 13, 2012)

DPReview needs to get its hyphens under control. There's no hyphen in "built up," "blown up," or "freed up" when used as verbs. Hyphens are most commonly used to clarify what's going on in an adjectival phrase: the built-up vacation, the blown-up print, or the freed-up mind. This problem is endemic on DPReview, and is super weird (super-weird?). I used to wonder if it was a British thing; now I'm pretty sure it's just an editor with an itchy hyphen finger. In any case, it makes my eyeballs bleed, so please grammar up and leave your poor preposition-and-verb combinations alone.

4 upvotes
makofoto
By makofoto (Oct 13, 2012)

I think I've learned more about grammar from the Net then I did in school :-)

2 upvotes
jedinstvo
By jedinstvo (Oct 13, 2012)

Copy editors shouldn't read other people's newspapers.

0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 14, 2012)

The hyphens were all mine, I'm afraid, and your theory still stands - I'm English. My eyes have been opened-up ;)
The editor actually spared eveyone from my avalanche of commas.

0 upvotes
JohnFredC
By JohnFredC (Oct 13, 2012)

The point here is how convenience engenders creativity. I carry a tiny Sony (folded optics) everywhere I go, hidden in my pocket, an enormously more capable camera than any smartphone has. The camera itself is smaller than my Lumia phone. With such a device on ones person at all times, options for creative photography explode. Prints @ 11x14 @ 300 dpi are sharp as a tack and the DOF available without jumping through hoops is freeing. Suddenly, if you see a picture, you take it, and the camera will have gotten it, it goes back in your pocket, you move on. This method will change your photographic life, away from equipment fetishism (SLR enthusiasts take note) toward the best pictures you ever made.

This is great article. Let's have more like it.

Comment edited 53 seconds after posting
1 upvote
mosswings
By mosswings (Oct 13, 2012)

Dean, a very insightful article. It troubles me that many of the comments pertain to the technical aspects of your shots, but the whole point of the article is that you needed to free yourself from the tyranny of capturing the technically excellent photo to get the more meaningful one - and in the process created some technically very nice photos with what we would consider highly restrictive tools.
I'm on a trip right now with my relatively light weight dslr kit, and i've been doing whatever i can to carry the absolute minimum, realizing that i'm spending far more time setting up the tool than composing the scene. Slrs are very purposeful, agressive tools for a specific purpose: capturing a technically excellent image. The brilliance of the iphone is that it is a tool for promoting social interaction. its use is nonthreatening, and draws the photog and the subject together by getting the photog out from behind a gunsight and into interaction with the subject while shooting.

2 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 14, 2012)

Thanks mosswings. But you give me too much credit. I'm disappointed in myself that in the middle of all those wonderful interactions, one part of me still kept wanting to put people in the sights of the big gun! I'm always trying to keep in my head the comment from Eliott Erwitt... "It's about time we took photography seriously and treated it as a hobby." Helps me keep my cravings under control.

0 upvotes
David H Dennis
By David H Dennis (Oct 13, 2012)

It seems like you spent much less time dedicated to operating your gear, but much more time processing them in various apps. Is that an accurate impression?

Your pictures are beautiful, but their composition makes me think you really did miss having your telephoto lenses, and that's probably why the DSLR is going on the next trip :).

D

0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 14, 2012)

Yes, both true. Although editing with apps is quick. The waterfall shot was the longest at about 15 min total. I'll be careful to keep the DSLR under control though, having felt its drawbacks, and very happy to leave it alone for days on end.

0 upvotes
jorg14
By jorg14 (Oct 13, 2012)

To me the point is that it's mostly the photographer and not the camera. I recently went on a trip to Central Europe and took about 1200 pictures with a Nex 7 and Samsung TL350. On picking out the 100 or so best ones, I found about 30% of them were shot on my Samsung, with a lowly 1/2.4" sensor. One can always pick technical holes in a particular picture, but remember, it's the content most people look at, and not if the sky is perfectly rendered.

0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Oct 13, 2012)

Hi,

I've never heard of a Samsung TL350 and it doesn't show up in an internet search. However the Samsung TL500 (aka EX1) is a really good camera with a really good lens; a lens that easily bests most of the Sony Nex system lenses.

So if you're using a TL500 below say ISO 400, taking better pictures than with the Nex system aint a surprise--particularly if shooting raw with the Samsung.

Comment edited 37 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
HowaboutRAW
By HowaboutRAW (Oct 13, 2012)

Never mind I found the TL360, though good that it often beats the Nex system for you. Samsung makes some very very good lenses. Sony not so much for the Nex system. (Yes, I get that it's changed in the last month, perhaps.)

0 upvotes
Tilted Plane
By Tilted Plane (Oct 13, 2012)

A superb piece, smart, detailed, great examples, and a topic we are all wondering (or worrying) about! Thanks. Have to appreciate these labors of love.

0 upvotes
kevindar
By kevindar (Oct 13, 2012)

Nice article and nice images, though even at this very small web size, the sky falls apart in a bunch of them. also, the sony rx100 is very small, with an amazing image quality, much better battery life, shoots raw, has zoom, etc etc. it has all the advantages of iphone, and many of a dslr. why not come back with amazing quality pictures from an amazing trip like this?

0 upvotes
sean000
By sean000 (Oct 13, 2012)

Nice article and great photos. However, I would add that there are many options in between an iPhone and a DSLR: High quality compacts that are not much larger than an iPhone (up to large sensor compacts), as well as interchangeable lens cameras like m4/3 and Sony NEX. You don't have to choose one extreme or the other. I get that you didn't want to make this honeymoon trip all about photography, but it looks like you still did. No you weren't hauling or fiddling with as much gear, but you still couldn't escape the fact that you are a photographer who obviously spent some time thinking about and capturing photos on this trip. In fact the apps can make the iPhone even more fiddly than a DSLR. I do take photos with my iPhone sometimes, but I can get the job done much faster with my DSLR or my Olympus OM-D (which fits in a much smaller bag and goes on all my family outings). Photographing the kids with an iPhone is just too frustrating ;-)

0 upvotes
Felipe Rodríguez
By Felipe Rodríguez (Oct 13, 2012)

Agreed!

I have a Fuji X100 for such purpose. But, you know what? I'm barely using it since I have my iPhone...

:)

0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 14, 2012)

Yup - agreed. I found that the iPhone did go a bit further though than just small cameras in helping interactions. Small cameras get in the way less, while handing over the iPhone actually HELPED interactions.

0 upvotes
mauro paillex
By mauro paillex (Oct 13, 2012)

I agree!! Just stupid people need a Leica to take great pictures!! I use my iphone 4s also for my professional works and i'm a professional photographer!! No one has never been disappointed!!
Mauro from Italy!

0 upvotes
abolit
By abolit (Oct 13, 2012)

"stupid" people need to buy a Leica to take great pictures because "stupid" people can tell the difference between iphone & M9. If you don't - keep your 4s as a professional tool and good luck with your "photo" business. Just trying to imagine your "clients"

3 upvotes
makofoto
By makofoto (Oct 13, 2012)

hmmm ... in my mind one needs to be creative and Open Minded to be a successful photographer. Dean is certainly not going to abandon his regular gear after this trip, but it's great that he's willing to experiment. If you've visited the great museums you will see that not all Art has to be BIG. There are wonderful small prints, paintings and sculptures. Sometimes LARGE size is the only thing going for what is suppose to pass itself off as Art. :-)

0 upvotes
Bob Tewksbury
By Bob Tewksbury (Oct 13, 2012)

Great article !!....... and I agree ........ I feel the same way, can't tell you how much fun it is to produce a great image and then say....."that was from my i-phone" . It does not matter what you shoot with, you have to "see" the shot first.

2 upvotes
Bhiromography
By Bhiromography (Oct 13, 2012)

It was the time that Nokia 808 PureView not out.

:D

Cheers,

0 upvotes
kaxi85
By kaxi85 (Oct 13, 2012)

Nice Article, but i would never do that - the pictures look good in small size, but i bet they are very grainy and look artificial in prints larger than 8x13cm.
And - i bet you missed a lot of got shots, especially in bad light situation.

3 upvotes
makofoto
By makofoto (Oct 13, 2012)

"Artificial" ... what ... they're suppose to mimic "real" life? Is that what Art is suppose to be. "Bad Light," well in Hollywood we carry truck loads of lighting gear to make things look lovely and "natural." I've got bad shoulders from carrying around loads of pro gear around the world. There are times I wish I had experienced situations and locations more rather then trying to capture them for "later on" with pro gear. I've got an iPhone5 ... and am loving it, and my FujiFilm X10, and GoPros and CamOne Infinities ... besides my Pro gear

Comment edited 41 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 14, 2012)

I've printed some to 1m wide, and they do look grainy, sure. Partly, that's my processing: I'm happy to go a long way to spend grain to buy contrast and colour, and while I know the exchange rate on my other cameras, I'm still finding it on the iPhone.

I realised though that I've always worried about the shots that 'got away' because I didn't have the right gear with me. They're the obvious shots (and low-light is such a challenge for smartphones). This trip brought home to me the number of shots, interactions, smiles and opportunities I miss when I DO have the right gear with me!

0 upvotes
RoelHendrickx
By RoelHendrickx (Oct 13, 2012)

Enjoyed this article a lot.
It roughly confirms what I had been thinking.
Not that I would leave all cameras home.
But it can be done.
Roel

0 upvotes
Shamael
By Shamael (Oct 13, 2012)

Good article, the shots in small size look good. If we go back in time, many film cameras did similar quality too and nobody was complaining. Despite that, Dean, when the day comes they have a phone sim and a dialer in a future generation of NEX or PEN cameras, I will travel with a cellphone only too.

An Asian photographer has shot a full series of the Olympic games on London, using add on lenses and filters and made a great job with an I-phone. I will not buy one, I am too old fashion to use those touch phones where I never get what I want and dials what I don't want every movement of my hands. I was so happy to see NEX-6 without this crap. But, all in all, starting at the computer, passing by the car, and ending at the camera, we buy so much things that contain a lot of things we don't need or ever use.

0 upvotes
dcphotokat
By dcphotokat (Oct 12, 2012)

Great article! Thanks for sharing!

0 upvotes
egelb
By egelb (Oct 11, 2012)

The video you posted demonstrating how to add blur is excellent. I would love to see you take on Aperture 3.0 as a course.

1 upvote
HubertChen
By HubertChen (Oct 11, 2012)

Thanks for this fantastic Article.
I am a big fan of blurring the background to focus on the subject. I am really surprised at the natural look of your "Lady in Hoi An" picture. I have two questions for you, I hope it is OK:
1) Does this look hold up when printed in A4 or does it break apart?
2) How long did it took to apply this blur ?

0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 11, 2012)

The blur looks fine when printed. I did it the wrong-way around on this image, and sharpened AFTER blurring (doh!), so the edges aren't as natural as they could have been.

Took 3 min, and I've got a video of how the blur was done here:

http://www.takebetterphotos.com.au/video1/blur-background1.html

3 upvotes
HubertChen
By HubertChen (Oct 11, 2012)

Great video. Thanks.

1 upvote
Hector1980
By Hector1980 (Oct 11, 2012)

I see you used Filterstorm a lot. I have several photo apps, including most you mentioned like Snapseed, PhotoForge2, Photogene2, Luminance and others. Would you recommend me Filterstom in addition to all of those?

0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 11, 2012)

You've got everything covered with that mix already, and don't NEED Filterstorm at all. But I prefer it for speed/ease with a handful of things that I do regularly: applying curves with a gradient mask, watermarking images, and pseudo-actions.

0 upvotes
electrophoto
By electrophoto (Oct 11, 2012)

addendum:
I'm not saying that the iPhone / smartphone cams aren't capable at all.. but there are so many disadvantages still over a good compact cam, that any "advantage" is being put out of the picture quite quickly.

Also I do have an iphone and have used the camera for an occasional snapshot, sometimes even with pleasing results... but I would never want it as a main camera on a trip... it's too limited.

Last but not least: SD card (or any other type) are amazing on a trip (I always carry at least 4 -8 cards in my pack,... none over 8GB... that the photos are a lot better protected than in an internal, device dependent memory such as built into the iPhone.

0 upvotes
HubertChen
By HubertChen (Oct 11, 2012)

Ah, that would be another benefit of using an Android phone. I have no idea about phones sold in the US, but here in china all phones have an easily accessible Micro SD slot. It is always under the battery ( which is also replaceable ). I fully agree the strategy of many smaller SD cards for safety, thus being able to quickly change SD cards, say twice a day gives you the assurance you would never loose more than half day worth of shooting.

0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 11, 2012)

Yup, I wish it had micro SD too. I worried about backup, but found every hotel had wi-fi, so all the images automatically backed-up to the cloud every night. The automatic backup gives slightly lower-quality copies, so the best ones I put in the Dropbox too.

0 upvotes
HubertChen
By HubertChen (Oct 11, 2012)

Right. Backing up in the cloud. Catching up :-)

0 upvotes
electrophoto
By electrophoto (Oct 11, 2012)

Dan,

Honestly I have some mixed feelings about your article...
I've been photographing privately and sometimes as a paid work for over two decades and yes - there were times (and still are) where I prefer to leave the big kit at home.
However - and mind you, this is personal - I simply don't see ANY adavantage an iPhone (or any other modern smartphone) would give you in that situation.
besides my big dslr kit I have an R100 compact I carry when I want to leave the big one at home.
Compared to any smartphone it has so many advantages:
- IQ
- able to handle almost all situations
- better battery life
- faster focusing, shooting, shot-to-shot time
- battery can be replaced
- zoom... (whilst I often like shooting with a single prime - but then with a decent aperture)
- much improved DR, shutter speeds, exposure control, shooting control, framing, handling (ergonomics),...
- no need for "apps".
- the list could be a lot longer...

1 upvote
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 11, 2012)

I agree with all your points electrophoto, and that's why I'll take a dedicated camera too next time.

The iPhone does have advantages, but they're more social than technical. When I was photographing people, especially with little language in common, I found that these social advantages could sometimes become more important than technical advantages. I've never before used a camera that actually made for better interactions with local people. More fun, more laughing, more priceless moments that are worth recording. So I got worse pictures of a much better holiday!

I realised how just having a dedicated camera can sometimes close the door to getting genuine interactions and experiences (and photos). Having now tasted this alternative, on family holidays I'll be happier proritising the experiences over the image quality.
It was frustrating to miss quality photos, but on balance, for me it was worth it.

3 upvotes
HubertChen
By HubertChen (Oct 11, 2012)

Thanks so much for this idea. I am trying to shoot portraits in China in small towns that see no tourism. With a DSLR I was never able to get a shot of a person which is happy her / his picture to be taken. A sharp picture of an uncomfortable person is just no use. I will try this mobile phone approach. Either their IQ will have to be good enough or the phone could be the ice breaker to use the DSLR as follow up. I found your technique of blurring the background particularly useful. Thanks a million!

0 upvotes
electrophoto
By electrophoto (Oct 11, 2012)

Dean,

thanks for your reply!
I can see the line of thought here... even though I have to add, that I'd be mighty unconfortable with the thought of using my smartphone as a "ice-breaker"... . But in todays mobile-phone-aware world I do think that people are probably so much more used to being photographed with a mobile phone...and I know that many are "intimidated" when they are being photographed with a large-lens DSLR. Others immediatly think "PRO" - "he's going to get money for my face"... "no."...

I've had often had similar results or "open / friendly" experiences when I used the compact insatead of the large SLR

0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 11, 2012)

Yes - size is the big factor, and a compact might do the social stuff just as well. I think we'll need to field-test this extensively on lengthy, tax-deductible holidays...

1 upvote
windmillgolfer
By windmillgolfer (Oct 11, 2012)

First, all the images are very good, at least, and the waterfall image is superb.

Marriage saving, yes, fully recognise/understand. Carrying even just a pocketable LX5 sometimes causes 'issues'. I can see that an iPhone (probably the 4S) might kill several birds with one stone :)

0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 11, 2012)

My LX5 has had little love from me since the iPhone 4s. I do still carry it around, though! Thanks very much for your comments on the images!

2 upvotes
sfa1966
By sfa1966 (Oct 15, 2012)

A very telling comment from a working pro photographer. What is the future even of high-end P+S cameras if phone cameras continue their strides forward?

And, oh yes, the images are truly excellent!

0 upvotes
Nismo350Z
By Nismo350Z (Oct 11, 2012)

It's a good experiment however since you had planned this trip, then a compact camera would have made more sense with less limitations and less post-processing. Of course, for spontaneous moments the camera phone is always with you.

0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 11, 2012)

Absolutely true. All of the shots would have had better technical quality with a compact, less post, and definitely fewer limitations.
Funnily enough, I still think that it was those very limitations that forced me to be more creative!
It's a bit like when I'm shooting for work I use nice zooms and create a picture. When I'm shooting for pleasure, I like choosing just one of my battered old prime lenses, and setting off to find pictures. Personally I get more pleasure from the photos that I can find when I'm restricted to one angle of view. It forces me to be creative. Don't know if that makes sense.
This trip was partly an experiment to go one step further, and deliberately put even more limitations on me!

1 upvote
HubertChen
By HubertChen (Oct 11, 2012)

Dear Dean,
Your explanation makes sense. I particular was impressed about the front camera breaking the ice when shooting portraits. I have another question for you. How was the difference in feeling of using the LCD screen at hand held difference where you see the screen but everything else versus having a viewfinder which only shows you the image ?

Most importantly: Amazing Article. Thanks!

Comment edited 32 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 11, 2012)

With an SLR, I shoot by seeing the composition in my head, then lifting the camera up to place the frame around that composition. With the iPhone, it was different and a bit more iterative - I'd look and frame and re-frame and re-look. Not sure which I prefer, just a different approach.
Thanks for the feedback.

1 upvote
HubertChen
By HubertChen (Oct 11, 2012)

Makes sense. Thanks for sharing. I will try that. I had a similar experience of changing the "viewfinder" which had a profound impact on how I composed. I attached a ridiculously cheap viewfinder to the LCD screen of my camera. The effect blew me away. I had a very sharp, extremely large viewfinder image. This made a Full Format DSLR viewfinder look like tunnel vision in comparison. Plus I could really preview shallow depth of field. I was able to keep the camera "glued" to my eye for long periods of time with no need to put down the camera to review a shot and go back to shooting. I felt much more immersed and my pictures improved greatly. I saw you shot a lot in bright light and I wonder if such device would help you to compose more relaxed and less distracted. In case you are interested, here is a online shop link. It costs the ridiculous amount of 8 USD but is of good build quality.

http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?spm=a230r.1.10.11.4040a5&id=13311273600

Comment edited 12 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 11, 2012)

Thanks for the tip, Hubert. It would look SO wierd on an iPhone!

0 upvotes
HubertChen
By HubertChen (Oct 12, 2012)

Yep, it would. Not the thing to be used to get candid portraits. But great for anything else. However, you would appear no different to using a DSLR, the gesture is the same. When I am using it I frequently get many requests from strangers if they could look through the viewfinder, is it expensive, where can they buy it, why I use it. People were very curious about it. Mind you in 10 years of photographing in china I was never asked anything before. In short reaction was positive, not negative.

0 upvotes
gwales
By gwales (Oct 10, 2012)

Wow! They're great photos. The last one is a bit too heavily processed for my taste, but it shows again that the mind behind the lens is more important than the gear being used.

0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 10, 2012)

Does anyone else feel a guilty pleasure when shooting with a phone, coming from just thinking about the vision and the message, and not worrying too much about grain and sharpness? Or is it just me? It still feels "naughty" to me. Perhaps that's why I enjoy it so much!

1 upvote
HansN46
By HansN46 (Oct 10, 2012)

Dean, that's the reason I once sold the whole lot of my Asahi Pentax photo equipement and purchased an Olympus 35 RC. Nothing to worry about anymore, was what I thought, and I showed up with the Olympus wherever I went.
But after all it didn't work out that way.
So good for you you didn't sell but only took a break with your iPhone and your wife around.

0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 10, 2012)

That's a good point, HansN46 - thanks for the words of warning! I'm curious to know when you started to feel that it wasn't working out. Was it soon after selling or months or years later?
I'm asking to help 'calibrate' my own enthusiasm.
Perhaps the refreshing change of medium by itself contributes a fair proportion to my fun of shooting with the phone.

0 upvotes
murksch
By murksch (Oct 11, 2012)

Great article, thnx! It confirms my idea of the iPhone: it will have a great place in photography, also in professional world. I use it when I don't have a camera with me. I'm even thinking of only using the iPhone (4s) instead of my Canon S95, when I don't have my 5D with me. It gives great pictures.

0 upvotes
HansN46
By HansN46 (Oct 11, 2012)

Well, I'm not afraid you will sell your gear, but if: don't!
I started to realize that I was limiting myself within about a year or so. And I re-supplied my gear (with Nikon this time). Nevertheless, it was also a reviving period because limited photographic means often increase your photographic creativity. So you're right and as way say: "changing the food will let you eat".
I now have a p&s beside my Nikon gear if I wanna go the simple way for a while.

0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 11, 2012)

Wow... it took a year! That means many of us could still be in the honeymoon phase with our smartphone cameras!
I wonder if it means that there'll be mass 'divorces'' from smartphones later? I agree with different cameras for different purposes. I think of them as different brushes for painting different types of picture. I just can't be a camera monogamist!

0 upvotes
HubertChen
By HubertChen (Oct 14, 2012)

I share a similar experience. I switched recently from my ( older ) Pentax DSLR to a Sony NEX with Pentax lens adapter. Since then I am using Auto White Balance, Auto ISO and Auto exposure. Even after a month I feel guilty to leave these function to the camera and not do it myself. But bottom line is that I come back with better pictures because I stay more focused on the subjects than on playing with buttons. Yet the guilt is still there. Guess it will take some time getting used to.

0 upvotes
graison
By graison (Oct 10, 2012)

You prefer pro HDR as opposed to the built-in HDR setting?

0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 10, 2012)

Yes - very much so. I don't like the time that pro HDR takes to shoot, and it's not as good at masking around peoples' heads, but I quickly fell in love with the look for landscapes. The built-in HDR is more natural and realistic, and pro HDR more bold and brash with visible edges, so it's not for everyone. But I love it!

0 upvotes
graison
By graison (Oct 11, 2012)

Good to know. So after snapseed would filterstorm be your next recommendation?
Great article btw.

Comment edited 48 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Dean Holland
By Dean Holland (Oct 11, 2012)

Thanks, and yes if you're familiar with Photoshop and/or Lightroom, you'll feel at home with Filterstorm. It's better on the iPad, with a bigger screen.

0 upvotes
sheescobar
By sheescobar (Oct 10, 2012)

Fantastic article and equally great photos!

0 upvotes
ericinho
By ericinho (Oct 10, 2012)

Great article and this breeze of positiveness within the DPreview realm is refreshing :-)

5 upvotes
HubertChen
By HubertChen (Oct 11, 2012)

Yep!

0 upvotes
Max Ander
By Max Ander (Oct 10, 2012)

Great article - going to give it a go!

0 upvotes
vlad0
By vlad0 (Oct 10, 2012)

My phone replaced my P&S in 2010, when Nokia started selling the Nokia N8.. since then I've done most of my photography with the N8.

After they announced the 808 and I got one ... even my DSLR stays at home more often then before. I am not saying that a phone can replace a DSLR.. at least not for professionals, or certain conditions, but I don't feel like i've missed a moment because I didn't have my DSLR with me..

Comment edited 20 seconds after posting
4 upvotes
cluening
By cluening (Oct 10, 2012)

Totally agree. Have a A900, a Nex and a N8.
Find myself leaving the bigger cams at home more often. Only used when I need DOF or Tele...

The N8 still beats recent phone cams big time, as there is plenty of PP headroom. Have also an ipad3 to compare with - in the end, no comparison...

Comment edited 19 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
kalpeshmodi
By kalpeshmodi (Oct 10, 2012)

Very well explained.

0 upvotes
liquid stereo
By liquid stereo (Oct 9, 2012)

Excellent article.
• The camera is always with you.
• Its small, discreet, and it doesn't become the subject of your vacation/trip.
• Good times!

0 upvotes
Total comments: 171
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