My phone recently died and I had to quickly replace it. I did so with a Samsung Galaxy S5. Not the latest phone – a couple of years and a couple of generations old – but reportedly with one of the best cameras of any smartphone.
It’s definitely leaps and bounds ahead of my last phone, the Umi Touch, and it’s absolutely spot on for selfies and for general photography. It’s not a replacement for my DSLR, though, which means I’m going to be lugging that around with me still for the foreseeable future.
Years of bitter experience have taught me that if I don’t have a camera with me then I run the risk of missing either an important moment or a creative opportunity. My smartphone being what it is, I think the risk of missing an important moment is significantly diminished. My phone is always in my pocket, so it’s almost immediately available to catch anything of significance.
This week I wanted to find out if my smartphone could provide a solution for the creative moment. I took my DSLR and smartphone out to take photos, and attempted to loosely replicate one with the other. I have to say that the smartphone comes up short.
Because of the smartphone’s small sensor, it’s well suited to shooting macro photos. The sensor’s small size makes it possible to get huge depth of field, which is normally gold dust in macro photography. Of course, strictly speaking this isn’t macro, it’s close-up photography.
I was using a general purpose lens (17-55mm) to capture this shot, rather than a macro or close-up lens. The background is nicely thrown out of focus but also much of the foreground. On balance, the smartphone wins here.
Colour balance is out of whack on this photo, but I think that’s my fault rather than the smartphone’s. Again, most of the daffodils are easily in focus. Unfortunately the distant background is also almost in focus. It can be challenging to create separation between the foreground and background. This is where DSLRs excel.
The results from the DSLR are a little grungy. It wasn’t good light at all, but the white balance is better. This is because I can shoot RAW images with the DSLR but I can only shoot JPG with the smartphone. Adjusting things like white balance after the fact is a fairly simple process with RAW images, but attempting the same with JPG can easily destroy images. Nevertheless, I think the smartphone wins out in this comparison. The DSLR image just doesn’t compete.
You can tell that it wasn’t the best day, weather-wise. This was as nice a shot as you could have asked for on the day I took this shot. The result from the smartphone is admirable.
The result from the DSLR is better. Not a whole load better, but it is. And again, because I can shoot RAW images, I have a host of options available to me after I’ve taken the photo that aren’t available, or are only limitedly available, with the smartphone photo.
So far these photos have been more documentary than creative. On the creative front is where the DSLR gives significant latitude while the smartphone’s JPG file is severely constrained.
A single leaf on an otherwise bare branch. The smartphone documents it perfectly well. But where is the message? Where’s the soul? I can inject some meaning with the use of Instagram filters, I guess, or even the Adobe Photoshop freebie mobile app.
It’s really not what I was looking for, though it’s as close as I can get given the issues with the JPG format. Honestly, it looks shonky. It doesn’t convey the moment, though, and that’s the problem. But hey, it looks artsy. At least a little, anyway.
This is what I was looking for. To get it, I needed to have manual control over the camera’s settings and I needed access to the significant data behind the RAW image: A defiant Autumn colour clinging on until the following Spring.