When a friend tells you their lens just suffered a catastrophic failure you really feel for them. I know it’s not like they’re ill or have had a death in the family but any photographer will feel for another when this kinda bad happens. Sadly, replacing cameras / lenses is not cheap.
In the modern world it seems that the role of the camera is dead – who needs a bulky piece of expensive equipment when a mobile phone can do the same thing? And thereby hangs the first area of debate. Does the mobile phone do the same thing as the camera? You know, it’s all about what you expect when you take a photo. I have often expressed the opinion that for simple portraits and family snaps you don’t need a top range camera any more. I get tasked with award night photos at the football club each season but I’m sure that someone with an iPhone or a Galaxy could achieve perfectly acceptable results on the night.
The reason why the mobile phone camera works so well in so many scenarios is the proximity of the lens to the sensor which gives good depth of field. Additionally, the simplicity of the lens reduces weight, size and manufacturing costs – which is ideal for a pocket camera. It’s probably fair to say that the modern camera-phone merely emulates what the Kodak Box Brownie did so well a century ago. So why would you buy a ‘real’ camera? My answer is ‘I’m not sure!’ If your photographic portfolio consists of shots of friends on a night out or selfies to prove you went to the great wall I’m not sure you need one.
I think that one of the things that camera phones have taken away is the ‘seeing’ of a real photo. Let’s not kid ourselves here – the vast majority of photographers out there are family picture takers. They were the target audience for the Box Brownie and are the target of the Camera Phone. These photographers have never sought to see more than the ‘family moment’ and yet have often created something special. Occasionally their images of the kids paddling in the sea, the ramparts scaled, the punch and Judy crowd, will find favour in a local paper. Actually, that’s a bit sad because those images carry so much and deserve wider circulation.
What does a ‘real’ camera actually give you? Well – a lot of heartache as you look to understand why the settings you chose didn’t work 😉 Jokes aside, it gives you a lot more control over events before you take the photo – which is something the camera phone doesn’t. You can vary your exposure to control what is in focus or to make sure that there isn’t (or is) motion blur. These are not the normal things that camera phone users will be playing with. You can hook up a different lens to magnify the shot or widen the angle. There are now some clip-on accessories for a mobile phone to do this too but… doesn’t sound too professional does it 😉 Without those clip-on’s you’re reliant on the electronic zooms – I think we all know they are a compromise compared with a glass option. If you’re not sure why – think sensor noise.
Some areas where the ‘real’ camera stands out as the necessary choice are sports, landscape, art, nature and transport. For all of these you need a lot of control to achieve the best results. Enough of my waffling – it must be a Sunday or something… 😉