Checking iPhone exuberance

Did you catch the Brian Williams interview of Annie Leibovitz a week or so ago? When the NBC anchor asked Leibovitz what camera she would recommend, she promptly reached into her purse, pulled out her iPhone and snapped a spiffy portrait of her interviewer. Along the way she extoled the advantages of the iPhone:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcb4JOW3DXQ

One should notice that with nice studio lighting, Annie and her iPhone only had to worry about nice composition. The shooting distance also fell in the iPhone's sweet spot, and there was little need for the dreamy shallow DOF Annie might use in some of her portraits.

Still, I was not surprised by her pronouncement. It seems that lately many high end photographers are more than glad to proclaim the virtues of the iPhone. And so it was that when the teaser said Leibovitz would make a camera recommendation, I turned to my wife and said, "iPhone."

In many ways, it's not surprising the iPhone is garnering so much support among high end photographers. Aside from its artistically minded user interface and the practical fact that it is the camera that always goes with you, it also offers the advantages Leibovitz mentioned: "It's a pencil, it's a pen, it's a notebook... the wallet with the family pictures... it's accessible." Thom Hogan also rightly points out how the iPhone is a camera fully integrated into the online infrastructure through which we share our photos today, an important paradigm shift.

This is all well and good, but noticing how the pluses tend to stray from considerations of what consititutes a well-rounded, complete photographic solution, it all still begs the question of whether the iPhone makes an acceptable camera. We should rightly ask how well a 12x18 print of Brian Williams' portrait would look, how well Annie would have done in poorer lighting, and how many action sequences a pro photographer might be able to catch with an iPhone, say, during a super bowl game -- just to mention a few situations where the snappy iPhone might fall short. The "it's the photographer, not the camera" cliche only goes so far. When money's down and getting the shot is mission critical, I doubt any sane pro would rely solely on his/her iPhone.

In fairness to Leibovitz, she did use the key, loaded phrase "snapshot camera" when referring to the iPhone. That amounts to a wink a nod that it's good for the masses, but not so much for pro usage. That's okay, because most of what everyday folk usually need is just that, a "snapshot camera," and that's perfectly acceptable for situations where high quality demands on the resultant photo are not in play.

Still, I am getting a little weary seeing pro photographers showing off with their iPhones. While on the one hand I don't fault them for liking and even advocating their iPhones, we would all benefit from a little more sober, less toyish exuberance when making across-the-board recommendations for the iPhone as an acceptable camera. Too much exuberance can lead to the expectation by the public that indeed all anyone ever needed was an iPhone, so why hire a wedding photographer (or pay her fees), or why buy a fine print when we can just snap away with an iPhone and get it for free? Yes, the iPhone promises to make photography accessible for and distributable by all. Take it too far, though, and it may devalue the very profession of those who with giddy enthusiam wave their iPhones with a bit too much glee.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 13
Mach Schnell
By Mach Schnell (Dec 1, 2011)

Since when does eveyone have an iPhone? Last I checked, Android was outselling iPhone by a pretty large margin. There are 550,000 new Android devices being activated every day. (No, I don't work for Google)

1 upvote
eNo
By eNo (Dec 1, 2011)

I'm not sure I claimed everyone has an iPhone, but if people like Leibovitz and other respected photographers keep pushing them, maybe we'll get there?

0 upvotes
ovrebekk
By ovrebekk (Dec 2, 2011)

I am sure your article was more about "smart phones vs real cameras" than "iPhone vs Android" ;)

0 upvotes
eNo
By eNo (Dec 2, 2011)

Yes, but I wouldn't call a smart phone an "unreal" camera. It is indeed a real camera, just not a very good one if one must handle an array of situations. As a "snap shot" camera, it may be adequate, but even for that I'd like something different. That's just me, though. I like Apple, but I don't have the fever. :)

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
John M Roberts
By John M Roberts (Nov 30, 2011)

"Too much exuberance can lead to the expectation by the public that indeed all anyone ever needed was an iPhone, so why hire a wedding photographer..." in the final part of you article seems overly concerned to me. If that were the case then point and shoots would have already established your concerns. Pros shooting with an iphone only along side the guests at a wedding will still greatly outshine in their results and that doesn't take much to realize.

"It isn't just the tool" does apply here. Not to worry.

I did enjoy your article though.

0 upvotes
eNo
By eNo (Dec 1, 2011)

:) You haven't tried shooting in the wedding market, where the very young people enamored with their cellphones and Facebook can't quite understand why a photographer costs so much, when their whole wedding party, armed with P&S, could probably, just by sheer force of probability yield a few decent shots. Yeah, a pro could try outshining the guests with an iPhone. I'd just like to see them try and get paid for the effort. :)

0 upvotes
webrunner5
By webrunner5 (Nov 30, 2011)

I would bet that a lot of us that come to this website are 40 and older as is I. 64 years and counting for me. Young people these days are really not going to print anything. They just upload to Facebook or Twitter and that is pretty much it, or just show their friends pictures on the phone.

So "us" oldtimers are pretty much behind the times thinking that people really need a Nikon DX3, and to print photos the size of a house. Those days are over for the vast majority of young people all over the world.

0 upvotes
Lea5
By Lea5 (Nov 30, 2011)

photographing a magazine cover with an IPhone

http://www.peterbelanger.com/posts/73-macworld-iphone-4-cover

0 upvotes
exifnotfound
By exifnotfound (Nov 29, 2011)

Perhaps the question to pros on television should be rephrased to, "What do you think is the best high end camera", or ,"...best pro camera".
You have to remember that the camera enthusiast willing to spend a lot on gear is a mere fraction of the population.
To me, pros banging on about their iFad during an interview is just another paid for add.
Also remember that all these major TV networks are owned by a few ultra wealthy people that always see their own agendas come to fruition.

0 upvotes
260684
By 260684 (Nov 29, 2011)

Well written, I also heard loud and clear on the video "snapshot camera" because lets face it; that's all it is really...

0 upvotes
eNo
By eNo (Nov 29, 2011)

Discussion going on on a separate thread as well:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1021&message=39950073

0 upvotes
Faintandfuzzy
By Faintandfuzzy (Nov 28, 2011)

Well written!

0 upvotes
eNo
By eNo (Nov 29, 2011)

Thanks for the kind feedback.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 13