Celluar phone photography-boon or bane?

bykfixer

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A few years back the cel-cam began replacing the camera in most people's lives. For capturing vacation pix or birthday parties to share on social media or just view on a smart phone they were fine. Yet for prints or bill boards they were pretty lacking.

That apparently has been changing as time has passed and the cel-cam seems to be getting pretty good. They still have their limit compared to the DSLR so you won't see the Sports Illustrated photographer by third base shooting in center field with an iPhone or the press corp using Androids while photographing the President. Yet in some instances the cel-cams from 2019+ have gotten really good at portraits and landscapes.

One thing I've always disliked about smarter/faster cameras is how they try to think for you. Even my DSLR gear would have to be tweaked to my style as they seemed like algorithms were geared to produce super dynamics instead of the soft-film-esque nuances I was looking to produce and was largely able to with some not-so-smart cameras of days long gone.

I'm about to embark on a new cell phone not because the current has any issues, but because it has a camera that rivals one of my older (read 2008) DSLR cameras in fine details and photo quality. I already know it will try to think for me and is not "tweakable" with deep settings but instead of fuzzy photos all the time, should produce crisper images, much crisper than the ones I've just learned to accept as good enough in the past. Instead of one lens it has 3 so wide angle (read 25mm) normal (read 50 mm) and a slight zoom (read 125 mm). If they are as crisp as my wife's iPhone 11 pro I'll be very pleased.

I'm going with the iPhone 12 pro max for the larger sensor. The regular pro has a better macro ability and better crops so there will be a compromise there. Yet from what I have read the max should provide crops that rival my Nikon D 700 and the larger sensor provide much better bokeh than the regular pro, much like my 700 versus the 7000. Only iPhone have algorithms that rival that little extra "pop" in color that the Canon DSLR provide over the Nikon.

It's a brave new world. The cellular phone cam is here to stay. So I'm jumping into the deep end of the pool this time since Verizon is offering to pay about half of the price of the new phone.
 
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badtziscool

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Cell cams, though will probably never get to the level of quality or versatility as a dslr, lenses, and dedicated photo editing software, definitely have come a long way. I think now you can even take raw format pics on a cell cam and do some basic to moderate editing. Like with a lot of things, it’s about knowing the equipment you have, understanding its limits, and adjusting your composition to fit within those limits.

I’m not a great photographer by any means but here are a few photos I took on my iPhone 11 Pro Max that I thought were decent.
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kimloris

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First, great shots badtziscool
The best camera is the one you have with you and the convenience of a camera phone can't be argued.
With proper lighting, phone camera will yield very good results, I find the results to be lacking (compared to my DLSR) in low-light conditions but understandable due to the much smaller sensor.
There are several apps that give you back the controls and ability to shoot RAW. I personally use the Lightroom app for RAW photo capture and quick photo editing.
 

bykfixer

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Agreed, nice pix.

At first I figured eh, the 12 max has got nice colors and tried all three lenses on an object in the Verizon store. Nothing too exciting then I went about turning off a bunch of stuff apple, siri and google use and really didn't explore much. Then while having coffee this morning I thought about trying a macro capability. My best DSLR macro lens is a 60mm auto focus capable one with an anti shake feature. (Never got around to the 105 I wanted.) I took a photo of a BiC lighter about 3" away and saw a nice, crisp photo with a 1 second shutter speed. Now on my DLSR that means bluuuuuuurrrrry without a tripod and remote. Using those two items (tripod and remote) yields a super duper nice detailed photo that can be zoomed way way in so I would be able to see dust specs clearly on that BiC lighter. Not so with the iPhone, however a 1 second shutter speed, handheld was indeed impressive. My old 7+ would have had less detail in focus on the lighter at 3" than the 12 does. And cropped to the amount of the second photo? Forget about it.

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The lighter
Like I said, the detail on a photo using my 7+ would not be as nice. Add a bit more lighting and you get a really nice photo.

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Cropped where it begins to show flaws.
That's about 7mm showing.
My 7+ couldn't get anywhere near that good on a crop.


A battery was sitting about a foot away and again a 1 second shutter was used. Now being a foot away it focused a little crisper and the crop showed that the contact on the battery should be cleaned. Hmm, using a cel-cam to magnify stuff? Hmmm

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The battery in a low enough lighting that a solar calculator won't turn on.

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Wow! I need to clean it.

Now keep in mind these were all reduced to 800 resolution before posting.
I don't know if it's the stabilized sensor, the glass used for lenses, the algorithms or the combo of all three but these new cel-cams have gotten pretty good. My Nikon bags will definitely collect dust now.
 
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bykfixer

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Now here is something my Nikon would really struggle with and why I have always liked the iPhone cam going all the way back to the 5. It balances extreme lights and darks very well.

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Mrs Fixer jump starting a solar lamp lid.
No over exposure and good shadow content. My Nikon could do one or the other well. I keep the Nikon set to blink on over exposed areas. No blinky's with the iPhone 12.
Now the most modern SLR I own goes back a few years so they may handle a scene like this much better these days. Yet I cannot make a phone call or type this post using a DSLR, so the convenience thing keeps me from finding out.
 

badtziscool

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Just like kimloris said. The best cam is the one you have on you. With that said, cell cams definitely have proved their worth. Without a doubt they’ve made point and shoots obsolete for the most part. But as good as they are with making some of the more difficult shots easier, they still don’t quite allow the photographer to express themselves to the fullest extent. I think that’s the pitfalls of all of the AI and machine learning techniques used in cell cams.
 

Lynx_Arc

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I'm not an avid photographer but at one time was interested and bought an 8MP Canon digital camera long ago and even though it was a little behind the pixels of cell phone cameras at the time it was a lot more flexible. Fast forward about 10+ years and I have a digital phone camera at 13MP. It has no adjustments to speak of and no manual focus and the auto focus isn't impressive to me seems to take forever but likely because I have shaky hands that cause even cameras that have anti shake features to fail. As for MP I see a back and forth on Cell phone vs DSLR cameras and rightly so as the cost of upgrading a DLSR vs replacing a phone that often is needed such that a better camera is almost a bonus people who aren't serious photographers opt to let their current DLSRs get far enough behind that Cell phone cameras surpass them a lot in areas. With memory on cell phones likely to hit TB numbers soon larger and larger MP cell phone cameras are not an issue for them and with multiple cameras on them vs a single camera on a DLSR that you have to swap lenses out the convenience of a cell phone camera has risen even higher. I know a friend of mine got a new DLSR that supports some sort of networking with his phone so he can take pictures with it and send it to his phone immediately.
As my phone is about 4 years old but the battery is still very good and replaceable and supports 2TB memory card but as I haven't tried any other phone cameras I wonder if some have better support for people who have the problem of shaking. I've taken hundreds of blurry pictures I almost need a tripod sometimes to take a decent picture. I think for my purposes huge MP sizes are not a necessity, but anti shake support that works well is. I just checked the batteries in my Canon 8MP camera I haven't charged them for about 5 years now and they are almost discharged but good at 1.26v for duraloops I'm pleased.
The one thing that sort of irritates me about cell phone cams is they seem to default to tall pictures which look weird on landscape mode screens like TV sets. I tried an experiment and took a picture with my phone camera sideways hoping it would fill the screen of my 4K tv set when I cast to it and it looked like a Full Screen (1.33:1) format with black (pillar) bars on the sides. I guess the camera settings are more squarish and not adjustable without a photo editing program to crop them. My camera is an Android with 13MP camera that is adequate but not earth shattering likely a little better than a high performance 8MP phone camera in some ways and worse in others.
Is there a phone camera with a manual focus option out there as auto focus sucks when you are taking pictures of multiple things at widely different distances sometimes the focus varies and things you want sharper are blurrier either in the front or further away. My shakiness makes the auto focus sometimes unable to get things sharp (in focus). If I could lock in the focus then side to side shaking could be mostly defeated with either bright lighting or a flash to get a fast shutter speed.
 

Lynx_Arc

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Ok I found out a few tricks I didn't know about my android stock camera app. You can have it to focus on an area by touching and holding an area or have it adjust lighting levels based upon an area touched but not held upon and you can use zoom function as normal. I saw a flame slider on selfies that I am not sure what it is about goes from 0 to 8 I think but the slider doesn't appear on the front camera (13MP). I haven't use the focus idea yet too bright outside to see my phone screen where I want to take pictures even up on the brightest setting but I don't have a flagship phone and it is 4 years old on top of that was decent in its time and I won't be replacing it anytime soon as long as it does what I need it to. I don't think for me 5G is worth paying for a new phone and the giveaway cheap 5G phones aren't likely any better as my old phone. As I am taking more pictures now I am interested more in better cell phone cameras but not at $800 and up for a phone... no thanks for now.
 

bykfixer

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First thing I did was turn 5g off Lynx. Well, one of the first things.

I've always enjoyed the surprises a cel-cam provides regarding colors and such. The "flaws" made catching a photo that much more fun. My first Bionic was a fun little gem that actually took some of my favorite pictures at the time. It was like painting with water colors in a steam room, you never knew what you'd get and at times they'd turn out way cooler than a 'good' camera.
 

bykfixer

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Did some trial and error stuff the other day like checking how well an iPhone can shoot a distant scene at 10x digital (not optical) zoom on a late afternoon. Results were not great, certainly but were surprisingly good being from a hand held cellular phone camera.

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The tan shed is about 500 feet away.

I did some 7.5x and 5.0x and cropped, which yielded a little better detail, but nothing compared to the quality of a 300mm zoom lens. Yet just a couple of years ago a 10x optical zoom photo from a cel-cam that would be good for a thumbnail or slightly larger can now be suitable for a 5x7 print no problem.
That is no small feat.

That same day I took a photo of a flower at mid-day with the sun at my face. Man, that is a photo killer, even with an SLR without fill light. Yet the mighty little iPhone not only got the brightest parts dialed in with practically no over exposure but shadows contained details I never knew were possible without at least a little fill light.

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Amazing how well it handled the extremes.
2.5x digital zoom from about 3 feet away, hand held.
 
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bykfixer

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Here's a photo taken under a lamp using a curly fry bulb.

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Same lamp, same lights, updated phone cam a year later.
 

Chauncey Gardiner

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Boon for me. I love having a camera incorporated into my cellphone.

By experimenting with where the camera focuses, very different results can be achieved.

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SCEMan

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There's no doubt the latest cellphone cameras are great for many photographic opportunities. Always with you and easy to use with a plethora of filtering and enhancement options. I'm moving to a wildlife rich environment and will also be using my digicam's telephoto capabilities more than in the past for long distance shots.
 

alpg88

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cell phone cams are pretty good these days, as good as many consumer cameras, but DSLR's are not getting replaced in pro world. i no longer buy any cameras, phone cams are more than enough for me. but i'm no professional photographer.
 

Lynx_Arc

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Until phones get optical zooms that you can get with DSLR cams and be able to control shutter and aperture settings they aren't going away. For me however my mediocre Android phone has a 13MP cam that is decent but nothing special and takes as good of pictures as my Canon 8PM camera plus I don't have to cable it to my computer to send someone a picture, the convenience alone plus having a computer that has apps to edit photos has taken a huge bite out of the DSLRs.
First cameras went digital, next phones went camera, maybe cameras will start going cellular or there will be a merging of technologies from bluetooth, wifi, and cellular such that they are all the same you like when we went from serial and parallel and keyboard and PS/2 ports to USB and then hard drives went to SATA.
 

alpg88

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cell phones can get pretty good close ups now, like this one, i pulled this one out of my groin,
uYY052H.jpg


but there are not many ways you can play with settings, whenever i have to take a night shot, i use my 15 years old lumix fz30 that has fully manual settings,


this one i pulled out of my head, both picks taken with i phone xr

uJvDg4Y.jpg
 
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Lynx_Arc

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My main issue is at times I shake too much such that auto focus struggles on my phone. Luckily I found a way to have it lock in on a specific area of a shot which helps a lot. I was thinking about getting the clamp on wide angle lens for cell phones as you can pick one up for $1 at Dollar Tree.
 
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