12 steps back: Why your phone is NOT a camera
I’m Tom, I am a cameraholic…
1) Teeny tiny lens. Teeny tiny sensor. Weensy entrance pupil. To perform in low light this “thing” must borrow heavily from the sensor’s firmware programming for ISO leveraging. Auto ISO is a form of photographic payday loan-sharking. See Step Four.
2) Lens is exposed to pocket dust and icky-finger-dirt and we ignore this, because we are, after all, used to crappy images, as we groove in the euphoria of instant sRGB gratification.
3) Lens location. Soo convenient for the engineers, soo annoying for consumers. We are used to lenses being in the center, off center just throws us off. This feature also enables Step Five. It is a gateway flaw for mishandling addiction.
4) Auto ISO. Sensor size is about 1/4 inch square (see feature photo for scale) Indoors and at night this leads to blurry and noisy photos. The minute you walk out of a good bright light situation, into a darker one, your iPhone will yank up your ISO, slow down your shutter and poo all over your image file. The visually illiterate do not seem to mind; Auto ISO high noise is the new opiate of the masses. Shameful abdication of details.
5) Ergonomic Nightmare. Rather difficult (and I am being kind here) to shoot with one hand and not drop it. Hold, compose, focus, and try to press. Screen replacement anyone? See Step Three.
6) Permanently fixed aperture of F/2.2. Where do I start on this photo optical mishegoss? The Holy Trinity of Photography, ISO, APERTURE, and SHUTTER is cruelly maimed here by presumptive hardware know-it-alls. With no aperture choice your depth of field options go away, forever. Camera virtuosity licks clean the plates of point-n-shoot comfort food.
7) Variable, unpredictable shutter speeds. More engineer inspired “Parent Mode” and More Trouble. That’s right. “Right here in River City!” The “smart” phone determines the exposure time, you do not; the minute you walk out of good bright light situation, your iPhone will use longer exposure times. The inherent problem here is less light = slower shutter speeds = blurry photographs. Very blurry photographs. All the time. Ad infinitum. You’re but an innocent bystander, while the Devil of Photography (unintentional blur) ravages your images. Mercy Mercy Mercy.
8) Hokus Focus. Trying to focus a camera this is predisposed to shoot slow blurry images is an uphill battle. Fortunately it is one of the few controls we have that may compensate for wholesale Depth of Field capitulation by the Apple Brainiac Genii. Smart phone focus is gnarly and capricious. Tap the screen for the yellow box, and wait…and wait…for it to hunt and lock, and change the exposure! With diligence and patience one can prevail over this Damn-Foolproof engineering.
9) Exposure override. Touchy, touchy touchy! Perhaps in an uncharacteristic occurrence of consumer compassion, one of the engineers, (probably a woman), felt it would be helpful to give the user a way to brighten or darken the image prior to shooting. Thank God. Thing is, you need to be fast. Get the yellow box, tap the sun icon, and slide to adjust. But hurry the f up, you have 2 seconds, or you start over. Back to square yellow. Again… Oh, and did I mention, try not to drop the phone?
10) Too much confluence. It is phone, it is a music player, it is a human tracking device, it is your news source, your crumbs out of the forest, your pacifier, romantic partner, tool of eternal indulgence and heroin for boredom. With the rambling shutter and aperture, you do not have a camera, you have a vacuum cleaner for your cluttered moments in a chronically distracted life.
I never really got to Step Twelve. God issues, Sharing Issues, and Popsych issues. I am a mindfulness guy and believe a proper camera will support a much better flow toward deliberately excellent photographs. Finally this all suggests that the iPhone and its ilk will help separate out the real motivated photographers who will commit to DSLR/M cameras as instruments and hopefully find their way to PhotoTrainer World Headquarters in Palo Alto. ~Amen
Note: All photos for this blog were made with the Apple iPhone 6s, the 7 is on order. 😬