At Bedford Camera Club there is going to be a photography competition next month. Not using cameras but smartphones. It will be the first in the club’s long history. Probably even a few years ago it would have seemed bizarre that the smartphone camera could replace a ‘proper camera’.
The smartphone camera has now all but replaced the point and shoot camera. This is a disruptive technology that the likes of Nikon and Canon did not see coming. You cannot take a selfie with a Canon IXUS.
Smartphone Cameras Are Good and Getting Better
DxOMark has recently published a report on the development of smartphone cameras, which demonstrates just how far image quality has improved.
The key technologies are:
- Sensor size is restricted due to space constraints. However, image quality has been improved through the use of image stabilisation and longer exposures.
- Temporal Noise Reduction (TNR) combines the data from several frames to increase detail and decrease noise.
- Scene analysis algorithms detect backlit subjects and other tricky lighting situations.
- Auto HDR lifts the detail in shadows
- Phase detection autofocus (PDAF) combines two images to find perfect focus
- Dual pixels make systems less susceptible to noise and improve IQ in low light conditions.
- Dual cameras with secondary telephoto lenses make optical zoom possible
DSLRs and mirrorless system cameras are still clearly ahead in some areas, but in terms of image processing, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and the other players in the DSC market are behind what Apple, Samsung, Google, and Huawei can do. Thanks to their hardware advantages, the larger cameras don’t actually need the same level of pixel processing as smartphones to produce great images, but there is no denying that the performance gap between smartphones and DSLRs is narrowing. DxOMark
The Smartphone Camera is One Integrated Device
The ability to shoot, edit and share photographs on one device is a big advantage to some professional photographers. I have created a selection of professional smartphone camera images here.
Why do some professional photographers prefer the smartphone to say a traditional DSLR?
helps your subject to be at ease with you. Most of the people I meet are amazed and curious that I use such a small device to capture photos instead of a DSLR or a rangefinder AikBeng Chia
not only is it the camera in my hand, but it’s the printing press in my pocket and more importantly, with the rise of social networks like Instagram, it’s become my satellite dish in order to instantly transmit, globally. I can share my vision at the touch of a button and receive instant feedback Richard ‘Koci’ Hernandez
the camera I always have in my pocket has shown me more small miracles, more tiny details, than I ever thought possible Robert-Paul Jansen
using just the iPhone and any number of great photography apps, the stranger/street portrait enters a whole new level. I love the spontaneity and the quick relationship that exists between me and the subject Jim Darling
There’s no doubt that a camera with a full-frame sensor will produce technically better images than a smartphone, but the resulting photographs depend much more on the hands that camera is resting in, and the perspective of the person hitting the shutter. And in the end, it’s the photographs – not the camera – that matter most. Carey Rose
Stephen Soderbergh whose films include Erin Brockovich, Traffic, and Ocean’s Eleven has even shot his latest film Unsane on an iPhone. See above.
People forget, this is a 4k capture. I’ve seen it 40 feet tall. It looks like velvet.This is a gamechanger to me.
The Great Divide
Soderbergh is correct, smartphone camera photography and filmmaking will be a game changer. It used to be that people took photographs on phone, point and shoot, bridge, mirrorless and DSLR cameras. Now, most people use a smartphone, and the rest a few enthusiasts, hobbyists and professionals use the expensive kit. Camera manufacturers are complacent if they think this trend will continue. Canon, have the impression that they still dominate, attempting to get away with launching a premium camera like the Canon EOS 6DMkII without even 4K video.
Innovation is being led by Apple and Samsung, and increasingly professionals and enthusiasts will follow.