Don't buy the phone with the 'best camera,' buy the phone you like as a phone
If your job entails giving people on the internet buying advice about photo gear, you field a lot of questions from friends who want to make a camera purchase. It sounds corny, but we at DPR actually love these questions – it's a chance to put an otherwise somewhat useless store of knowledge to work. We get something out of the transaction too: a data point about the needs and wants of people who are actually buying cameras. It's like a pop quiz we spend 40 hours a week studying for.
Lately, it's not just cameras we're asked about. Friends have seen plenty of advertising declaring this or that smartphone as having the 'best camera.' More and more, we see people treating their smartphone purchase as a camera purchase too, so it makes plenty of sense that these claims hold a lot of sway. People who seek our advice are now debating between a couple of flagship devices, sometimes within the same operating system, and sometimes not. But the question is the same – "'Such and such phone' has the best camera, should I buy it?"
Here's the short answer: Not necessarily.
The flagship phones from the major manufacturers all have pretty darn good cameras at this point. Sure, there are slight advantages in image quality in different scenarios, but overall, any minor shortcomings are going to be easier to live with than an operating system you don't like. This is especially true if you're upgrading from a phone that's several generations old. Manufacturers have been leaning hard into camera tech innovation for the past few years, so you'll probably see plenty of improvement even upgrading from a device several years old to last year's flagship.
You'll probably see plenty of improvement even upgrading from a device several years old to last year's flagship
There's a slight caveat here: while quality from most smartphone cameras is good, a few of them do offer unique hardware-based camera features. The LG V30's super-wide-angle lens is a good example – if a wider lens is something you really want, it's worth checking the V30 out because it's basically one-of-a-kind right now.
It's also worth remembering that the demands on image quality in smartphones are, in most cases, much lower than on dedicated cameras. Photos taken with phones will likely only ever be viewed at lower resolution on another device screen or in smaller printed formats, like Chatbooks. In many situations, even the image quality benefits of a dedicated camera will be negligible when images are downsized for viewing on a 5" screen.
So why even test phone cameras if they're all good enough at this point? The same reason why we test cameras: so you can make an informed buying decision. We also fully expect them to eventually challenge more traditional cameras, but that's another story for another day. Even if we could declare one traditional camera as the objective 'best camera,' that would be a pretty meaningless award. Size and cost, for example, are two huge factors to consider when buying a camera. It doesn't matter if you bought the 'best' camera of all time; if it's too heavy and you leave it at home most of the time then it wasn't the best camera for you.
How you get along with your smartphone is an important consideration since many of us spend an embarrassing amount of our waking hours using them
How you get along with your smartphone is an important consideration since many of us spend an embarrassing amount of our waking hours using them. It has taken the place of a dedicated camera for lots of folks, but it's not just our camera – it's also our communication hub, media player, notepad, grocery list, bank, travel agent, the list goes on. How you like using it and how it feels in your hand should be given as much, if not more consideration than whether the camera scored three points higher than another.
We'll keep testing smartphone cameras so we can help inform your decision and point out where there's still room for improvement. In the meantime, if you're debating upgrading to a new phone and you've got an eye on the one with the 'best camera,' consider heading to a wireless retail store and see if that's the one you like best as a phone. You'll be glad that you did.
|Swinging With The Sunflowers by Bill Bentley|
|Chureito Pagoda (Fujiyoshida) by BrentSchumer|
from -Magnificent Pagodas- (in Full Colours Only)
Sigma says its 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport lens is set to hit shelves by the end of December 2018 at a retail price of $1,499.
DxO PhotoLab 2.1 brings a collection of new features to MacOS and Windows users alike.
The new 'Elegant' lens series includes entirely manual F2.4 lenses in 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm and 90mm focal lengths.
A feature alerts pilots visually and/or verbally when their drone is approaching airspace that is unsafe or areas where drone flying is not permitted.
GoPro announced Monday morning that it plans to move production of United States-bound cameras out of China, citing tariffs concerns.
The Sigma 56mm F1.4 combines a sensible sub-$500 price tag and excellent performance, providing a portrait-friendly 85mm equiv. view on Sony's APS-C mirrorless cameras.
Azriel Knight of the YouTube channel This Old Camera explains the history of DX encoding.
The 250mm F4 is Fujifilm's longest lens for its medium-format system. It's equivalent to about 200mm on a GFX camera, and we put it to work on some portraits as well as some scenes around Seattle's waterfront – take a look.
Sony has removed the ability to download firmware version 2.0 for its a7 III and a7R III mirrorless cameras from its website.
Handing out awards for the best gear of the year is a big job, so we called in some reinforcements from Calgary to help us.
A new patent from Canon lays out the schematics for a speedbooster-style adapter for mounting Canon EF lenses onto EOS M cameras, but with a variable baffle to reduce the risk of flare.
The Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board has started a campaign asking visitors to stop geotagging their specific locations when visiting Wyoming's national parks.
Film simulation app Filmborn has been updated with new presets, features, and overall improved support on Apple's latest mobile operating system and devices.
The Colorado Tripod Company has introduced what it claims is the world’s first titanium tripod system, with a funding campaign on Kickstarter.
We've been shooting with the LX100 II both in and out of the studio, as part of our ongoing review. We're pretty impressed, so far, with the revised JPEG color and addition of a touchscreen both noticeable improvements.
An upcoming Xiaomi smartphone might use a 48MP sensor for pixel-binning, high-quality digital zooming and other algorithm-powered imaging features.
It's not cheap, but you may soon be able to get your hands on peel apart film once again thanks to ONE INSTANT.
Skylum's Luminar 3 arrives on December 18 with the long-awaited ability to manage your photo library. However, it won't be a full DAM (digital asset manager); the company plans to roll out features throughout 2019 and won't charge for updates from Luminar 2018 during that time.
Hasselblad has released an update to its Phocus post-production software that brings new and updated tools, as well as updated native lens support.
Nikon's IPTC Preset Manager, a tool for creating predetermined sets of metadata, has received an update. Version 1.1.0 no longer uses Microsoft Silverlight, sheds the network connection requirement, adds extended language support, updates support for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, and ends support for Windows Vista and Windows XP.
Insta360 has launched a software update for its One X 360-degree camera and announced a camera bundle exclusively available on Apple.com.
Xiaomi has laid out the details for its new AI-powered image processing platform DeepExposure.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset is expected to power most 2019 high-end Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S10.
Camera app developer Hipstamatic says it has found a way to use the depth data generated by the iPhone X to improve the way its TinType app works out which areas of a picture to render out of focus.
If you're looking for a high-quality camera, you don't need to spend a ton of cash, nor do you need to buy the latest and greatest new product on the market. In our latest buying guide we've selected some cameras that while they're a bit older, still offer a lot of bang for the buck.
The Verizon-owned social network platform Tumblr has announced it will be removing all adult content - including photos - from its platform starting December 17th, 2018.
Guests who would rather spend time actually enjoying their Swiss vacation can now do so while still maintaining a presence on social networks, thanks to Ibis Switzerland Hotels' new social media sitting services.
Two challenges to Apple’s claim that its iPhone X can shoot studio quality portraits have been turned down by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
We take a head-to-head look at the Apple iPhone Xs's bokeh effect versus a 58mm Nikkor lens on full-frame. The results? Well, we're pretty impressed.