I used to be snobbish about smartphone cameras, but not any more. The days of hauling 4kg of metal up a mountain are over.
To be fair, there was a time when camera phones didn’t compare to a good SLR. But at the moment I have a Nikon D1000, which is no slouch, and a Blackberry DTEK50. It’s all in the lens, I used to say. You can have three million megapixels, but if your lens is made out of the base of a milk bottle you’ll only get three million blurred pixels.
Imagine the scene. I arrive in the Lake District for a ten day stay. I’m not going to take the Nikon with me everywhere every day. There’ll be one Nikon day and then it’s back to the compact camera for aide memoires.
That day is Crummock Water day. When I arrive at the river that flows out of Crummock I deploy the Nikon, take two photos and put it back in the rucksack. It doesn’t compare to the phone. Then it rains.
The phone is five or six millimetres thick, about the thickness of a Penguin chocolate bar. How can the lens be any good? But it keeps on taking shot after shot. I try the vignette filter and it adds a bit of atmosphere, a bit of drama.
For the next week or so it’s the phone alone and when I discover the ‘vivid’ filter it all goes through the roof and I eventually take this photo…
… which seems like the photo I’ve been trying to take for years. Typical autumn Lakeland shot, distant Skiddaw, St. John’s in the Vale opening out. Half an hour later it rained so I went down to the Lodge in the Vale and had coffee and cake amazed by my discovery. No more heavy cameras, no more tripods, no more fiddling with filters that didn’t fit my wide angle lens.
Don’t get me wrong. I still think SLRs and medium format cameras have their place in high end photography, but when you can carry a phone that weighs less than a handkerchief up a mountain and get ‘snaps’ as good as this it comes as a relief. A problem solved, the best of both worlds.
And in case you’re wondering, Photoshop was used, but no more than I would normally use on an image that came out of the Nikon. In fact, there might have been even less fettling with the phone photos.