Leaving my DSLR at home: An iPhone experiment
1 What's to like?
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Dirt Hose by poppyjk|
|European bee-eaters by drvanger|
from A Big Year - birds
|Fat Is Beautiful Guinea 2008 DP by MarioSS|
from - Fat is Beautiful - (Woman's Portrait n Black and White+ A Border)
As summer really gets going over here in the Northern hemisphere, the team at Imaging Resource has put together a list of the best cameras for backpacking.
The Ukrainian Parliament banned statues of Lenin in 2015. Two years later, the monuments no longer adorn public buildings or stand watch over town squares, but they're still there.
If you had to choose one camera to bring along for the ultimate West coast road trip, what would it be? DPR's Sam Spencer choose the X100F. Read more
The a9 boasts impressive capability. As more examples of it in practice pour in, Sony's claims hold up. Watch the a9 track and maintain focus on a rapidly approaching basketball.
Last week, more than a million tonnes of Californian coastline slid into the ocean, taking part of Highway 1 with it. Check out the remodeling in photos taken before and after the landslide.
Even after eighteen months of reviewing the latest, greatest, shiniest and must-buy-me-est new gear, DPReview staffer Carey Rose has continued to use older DSLR cameras for his freelance work. But now, that might be changing. Read more
Sony is the world's leading mirrorless camera brand but remains third for ILCs overall, it's said in a presentation to investors. A focus on high value cameras and lenses should boost operating income, it says. Read more
It's nicknamed the 'Cycloptic Mustard Monster,' and is a 3D printed medium format camera. Read more
The new NanGuang LED lights are battery powered and come with accessories including filters and diffusers.
Have you been telling yourself, "Hey, I really need one of those 8K displays?" A video about Dell's new 8K monitor shows you what to expect. Is it really that much better?
Tamara Lackey, a Nikon ambassador USA and pro shooter, discusses embracing self-consciousness as a means of connecting with subjects.
There's a new Spiderman movie coming out and the poster been generating a lot of online chatter. Mostly about how it looks like the creation of a fevered teenager that just discovered Photoshop.
An honest defense of the system's merits, with photos as proof.
Copyright disputes are no fun at all. 'Binded' is a new startup that aims to simplify the process of registering - and enforcing - copyright for photographers. Read more
Not everyone wants to pay a premium for a long zoom camera. Thankfully, there are many reasonably priced cameras available, though they won't offer the same image quality as enthusiast models. In this updated roundup we look at big zoom cameras with more consumer-friendly price tags. Read more
Think Tank Photo has updated two of its popular bag lines with improvements to functionality. Read more
We’ve all seen Bob Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo, but there's another.
The sample footage looks good.
It will automatically pick the best camera settings depending on shooting conditions. It even promises enhanced functionality for your camera, like exposure and focus stacking. It already supports many cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. Read more
As if $13,950 wasn’t enough to pay for a special edition lens, the Leica Store in San Francisco is offering a prototype of said lens for $24,995. Read more
Make those old photos disappear without deleting them forever.
Firmware updates enable 10 fps shooting with adapted A-mount lenses, and faster startup times and better compatibility for 20 fps shooting when using native lenses on the a9.
Fujifilm has released firmware updates for its camera models X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX 50s, X-T20, X100F and X-T1 and updates to three of its software products.
A 22 year-old Romanian photographer uses his DJI Phantom 4 drone to capture unique perspectives of the city where he now lives.
What's it like to ride the waves with champion surfer Kelly Slater? This VR video from Teton Gravity Research gives you a taste.
When Nikon released the full-frame D3 in 2007, it changed the professional photography industry. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers a legend. Read more
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more