Smartphones vs digital cameras

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Just as digital cameras changed the photographic world, so did smartphones 20 years later. In fact, smartphones have all but killed the low end of the compact camera market.

The first good point with smartphones is you are likely to have one in your pocket at all times – unless it is too big and you keep it in your handbag (or manbag). Those ‘once in a lifetime’ shots are yours for the taking, provided you remember to shoot it!

Another plus for smartphones is the ability to see your photos instantly, and then upload the image to other smartphone users, or people who can access your electronic images. The exchange of images is quite fantastic when you think about it.

However, there are several bad points associated with smartphone “photography”. The bad points have to begin with the almost universal fascination of looking at the small screen while walking along, not seeing anyone in front of you, in fact not seeing anyone else at all.

Smartphones may have killed the compact camera, but also killed personal communication. Look at couples in a restaurant, flicking through their messages and not talking to each other. I particularly like the cartoon of a notice board saying “Sorry. No Wi-Fi. Try talking to each other.”

The third demerit, as far as I am concerned is an acceptance of the mediocre. Smartphones just give you ‘record’ shots. An ability to change the depth of field has been lost. Stopping motion has been lost. In fact, any creative instinct is not transferred by smartphones. And if you really want something dreadful, try using one of those aftermarket “wide angle” lenses for your smartphone!

What should you do about it? In my mind, get a proper digital camera. Use the smartphone to ring people up, and use a camera for images.

There are many cameras available, but I believe choose a camera with electronics from an electronics manufacturer and the lens from a lens manufacturer. This has given you the best of both worlds. If you are going the electro-trickery route, use a manufacturer who knows and understands all the subtleties of LCDs and pixels and all of that stuff which I don’t really want to know, but why then get that manufacturer to make optical glass lenses? Surely a recognized lens manufacturer would be better? The end result was my purchasing a camera made by Panasonic with a lens from Leica. Both of these firms being accepted as in the top of their respective leagues.

Another stumbling block for the novice photographer is the menu system which needs much fiddling. Granted, the umpteen drop-down menus seems to cover everything a photographer might want, but I still find it fiddly, pushing buttons to go from one menu screen to another, just to change some aspect.

Having said that, in my own case, after an afternoon of button pushing and scrolling down the various menus, I now have a camera that automatically takes a bracket of three images, and I dictated the half a stop difference either side of the selected exposure setting. I also set the viewfinder up with a grid system, giving me the intersection of thirds as well as indicating verticals and horizons. All good clever photographic settings, but ones that could have been done with rotary dials, rather than giving my thumb cramps getting the setting I wanted. I also worry that one day I might lose the Operating Instructions manual, all 135 pages of it, and be forced to push buttons aimlessly forever, while hoping I stumble across the settings I want!

Now the experienced digital user will probably say that all anyone has to do is practice a little more, so that the menu selection becomes easy. Perhaps so, but I am still struggling with the remote on the TV, such is the level of digital technology skills possessed by this writer.

However, despite all that, I am loving the ‘instant’ gratification with the ability to instantly review the picture just taken, and the ability to delete images within the camera, and the sheer range of functions makes the Panasonic Lumix the digital camera for me.