Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Buying a “real” camera is starting to look silly...

Buying a “real” camera is starting to look silly...  Debbie and I just got our new iPhone Xs.  I spent a few minutes this morning playing with the camera on mine.  The iPhone Xs are replacing our old iPhone 6+s, and there has been considerable improvement in the camera over that time.  We thought the cameras were great on the iPhone 6+, but the iPhone X just blows that away.

The two photos below were taken from the same point, roughly 18" above my Sisyphus table.  The left-hand photo was taken with the zoom set at 1x, the right-hand at 10x.  Those lines that are so close together on the right-hand photo are roughly 0.4mm apart, about a 50th of an inch.  These photos were both taken hand-held, so especially with the zoomed-in photo you can tell the optical stabilization was working great. 

The three photos below were taken from the same point with 1x, 4x, and 10x zoom settings (left to right).  With these, the graininess introduced by the digital zoom (the optical zoom is limited to 2x) is much more evident – but only if you embiggen the photo.  They're still perfectly usable, and very nicely stabilized.  I should note that these three photos were taken with quite low light; with more light they'd be sharper, of course.

Getting a “real” camera these days involves tradeoffs, and more than just cost.  Compared with the convenience of my iPhone, and the fact that it is always at hand, the “real” camera means:
  • I have an extra thing to carry (and remember)
  • It's more difficult to use, meaning many quick, spontaneous photos simply wouldn't be taken
  • The workflow for a camera is completely different (and more complex) than that of the iPhone
I currently own a really nice Fuji X-1 camera, along with a decade-old Canon system.  I haven't taken either camera from its bag for over a year.  And that's with the iPhone 6+ as the alternative!

I've been a photographer since the late '60s, when I bought (first) a used TLR from the '40s, and then my beloved Minolta SRT-101.  From then up to about five years ago, I owned a succession of improving cameras – both film and digital.  I've spent many, many hours reading camera reviews, understanding the technology, and lusting for whatever the current leading edge in cameras was.  But starting a few years ago – ironically, just as I was able to afford those leading edge cameras – I started to wonder whether I actually wanted one.  Are they worth the extra cost, hassle, and complexity for those very few occasions when I wanted to take a photo that my camera simply couldn't do? 

Now I look at the capability of the iPhone X, and consider that this continuous improvement doesn't seem likely to stop, and I conclude ... no, I don't want to buy a “real” camera.  I think I'll stick with my always-with-me, ridiculously-easy-to-use iPhone camera – and smile every time they make an improvement...

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