Should Your iPhone Be Your Only Camera?

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

Are point-and-shoot cameras, especially ones at the low end of the price range, reaching the end of their useful life? Is it time to declare that, for the majority of iPhone 4S owners, the phone’s camera is all they need? Should you be readying to sell your old point-and-shoot on eBay?

In brief: Yes. But not without a few important caveats.

The first caveat is that “majority of users” does not equal “all users.” Clearly, there are professional photographers and dedicated amateurs for whom nothing but a digital SLR, or something close to it, will do. These users may be content with a smartphone camera on occasion — but will never want their smartphone as their only camera. They may be a minority, but they are a sizable one. This column is not for such people.

At the other extreme, there are those who are already using a mobile phone as their only camera — and have done so for years, even when the phone’s photo quality was worse than that of a pinhole camera. For these users, there is no decision to be made. It’s already done. Again, such people need not read further.

My focus today is on the broad middle group. These are the mostly casual photographers who own a point-and-shoot camera but have never considered their smartphone to be adequate for all their photography. Their point-and-shoot cameras range in quality and price, coming from companies such as Canon and Nikon. The demands of such users vary accordingly. While many of them place their cameras in Automatic mode and shoot away, some take advantage of the options available in the semi-automatic Program mode. Regardless, these users depend on their point-and-shoot when quality matters most — such as on a vacation or at an important family event. Count me in this group.

Times change. For iPhone users, Apple upped the ante considerably with the release of the iPhone 4S. Apple’s latest smartphone features an 8 megapixel (MP) camera with improved optics and significantly better low-light capability than its iPhone 4 predecessor. This is (or should be) getting those middle group photographers to reconsider the merits of an iPhone 4S as their only camera.

To help you come to your own decision on this matter, here’s what you need to know:

Everything but picture quality

For the moment, let’s leave picture quality out of the picture. Are their any non-picture-quality reasons to prefer a point-and-shoot camera? No. Not really.

Price. If we assume that you intend to own an iPhone whether or not you also have a separate camera (a reasonable assumption for most iPhone owners), you save significant money by going just with the iPhone. Whatever you would have otherwise spent on a camera and its accessories is now money in your pocket.

Advantage, iPhone.

Carry convenience. If you have an iPhone, chances are that you have it with you all the time. Your iPhone will thus be the camera you depend on for any unexpected photo opportunity. It also means that, if and when you decide and remember to take your point-and-shoot camera with you, you’ll be carrying around the extra weight and bulk of two devices instead of one.

One minor exception: If you are on a trip outside the U.S., rates for using your iPhone (as a phone or Internet device) are often so high that you might leave the phone in your room, taking just a camera instead.

Advantage, iPhone.

Import photo convenience. If you use iCloud’s Photo Stream, getting your photos from the iPhone to your iPad or Mac is automatic and (when you have a network connection) nearly instantaneous. Unlike with a point-and-shoot, there’s no need to connect the camera to your computer via a cable, or use a card reader, or anything. Yes, you can get an Eye-Fi card for Wi-Fi transfers from a camera; but that’s an extra expense and still not as convenient or reliable as Photo Stream.

Advantage, iPhone.

Internet access. Do you want to share photos with family and friends, on the fly, almost immediately after you snap the shutter? If so, you’ll want to take pictures with your iPhone rather than a separate camera. For posting to social media such as Flickr, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, the ubiquitous Internet access of the iPhone can’t be matched by any point-and-shoot camera.

Advantage, iPhone. Yet again.

Editing. For those users who regularly edit their photos (crop, adjust contrast, etc.), I expect most will do so on their Macs. However, if you want the option to edit photos directly on your camera, you’ll want the iPhone. Especially with Apple’s iPhoto app, there isn’t any point-and-shoot camera (or other smartphone for that matter) that comes close to what you can do with the iPhone.

Advantage, iPhone.

Third-party apps. Manipulating photos on the iPhone doesn’t stop with the apps that come from Apple. Via dozens of apps from third-party developers, there are more ways to take and edit photos than you can count. For starters, with TourWrist or PhotoSynth, you can create panoramic shots that exceed, in terms of ease and options, anything possible with a standard camera. With apps such as Snapseed and CameraBag, you can select from a host of filters and other cool effects. Again, while  point-and-shoot cameras may offer a smattering of these options, they don’t come close to the iPhone.

Guess what? Advantage, iPhone.

Displaying photos. Do you want to display a slideshow of your photos right on your camera or phone? If so, the iPhone is the better choice. With its 3.5 inch Retina display, photos look better on the iPhone than on any point-and-shoot camera’s LCD. Plus, with the iPhone, you can sync photos from your Mac’s iPhoto library; you aren’t limited to just the photos you recently took.

This is getting too predictable, but once again…Advantage, iPhone.

Storing photos. I’m guessing that most point-and-shoot users have a digital card that is 8GB or less. Why? Because this can typically hold more than 1000 photos, which should be adequate for just about everyone. Still, if you want more storage, you can get a 16GB or 32GB card for less than $30. If you have a 32GB or 64GB iPhone, you may have a similar amount of free space left for photos. However, with a point-and-shoot, you can carry around more than one digital card. If one fills up or goes bad, you can easily swap it out for another. You can’t do that with the iPhone.

Surprise! Advantage point-and-shoot.

Batteries. If you’re a wise point-and-shoot camera owner, you keep a charged spare battery in your camera’s case. This means if the battery in your camera runs out while you’re “in the field,” you can replace it with a fresh one.

With an iPhone, if the battery dies and you are not near an electrical outlet or don’t have a Dock connector cable with you, you are out-of-luck. Even if you can charge the iPhone, it will take awhile (at least 30 minutes, more likely an hour) before it is sufficiently charged that you are ready to use it again. Yes, there are battery boosters you can buy for an iPhone, but they add bulk and expense. And most iPhone users don’t have one.

Advantage, point-and-shoot.

Summing up. If the above criteria were all that mattered in making a decision, there would be no contest. The iPhone would be the winner by a knock-out. Point-and-shoot cameras would be on the canvas, waiting to be carted away. But there is more to consider…

Picture quality specs

For most photographers, the quality of their photos is a critical, perhaps paramount, concern. When you print or display a photo, it doesn’t matter what device was used to take it, what the camera’s settings were, how much storage space you had left at the time, or anything else. All that matters is how good the picture now looks.

One way to anticipate the potential quality of your photographs is by assessing a camera’s technical specifications:

Optics. More than anything else, a camera’s lens quality determines the overall sharpness and accuracy of its images. Although the lens quality of iPhone cameras keep improving (the 4S is especially good for a smartphone), it can’t compare to the better point-and-shoot cameras. Why? Because point-and-shoot cameras don’t have to make as many compromises as an iPhone must, in terms of overall size and sharing the device’s insides with non-camera components.

Megapixels come into play here, but are not necessarily a significant factor. Today’s point-and-shoot cameras have MP values in the double-digits. While it may seem that more pixels are better, giving point-and-shoots an edge, the iPhone 4S’s 8 MP should be more than sufficient in most situations — unless you plan to enlarge an image to poster size or crop it down to a very small portion of the image.

Advantage: Point-and-shoot.

Sensor size. A camera’s sensor affects how much light the camera can absorb when taking a photo. With a bigger sensor, the camera picks up more light, ultimately leading to better quality pictures — especially in dim illumination. David Pogue nicely covers the details of this somewhat obscure topic.

Apple claims that the iPhone 4S’s “camera captures low-light…moods beautifully.” Still, similar to the situation with optics, limitations of design prevent smartphones from having sensors as large as in the better point-and-shoot cameras. At least in theory, point-and-shoot cameras should exceed iPhones here. On the other hand, both iPhones and most point-and-shoot cameras pale in comparison to the the larger sensors in SLR cameras.

Advantage: Uncertain, but probably point-and-shoot.

Zoom. Surely, the biggest disadvantage of the iPhone’s camera is that it has no zoom capability. Yes, there is a zoom feature…but this is a digital zoom. This means that you are simply blowing up the image on the display, similar to what you would do if you enlarged the photo in iPhoto. The more you “zoom” in with an iPhone, the greater the loss of resolution, which means reduced picture quality.

In contrast, point-and-shoot cameras have true optical zoom. This means you can zoom in on an image while maintaining the same overall resolution and quality. The range of optical zoom varies depending on the camera, with at least 5X quite common today. While you can get bigger optical zooms, you may not want them for casual use. A magnification greater than 5X requires increased stabilization of the camera to prevent a blurry image. Even with a camera’s image stabilizer in effect, a tripod may be required.

Point-and-shoot cameras not only have better zoom but also typically have a wider wide-angle than does the iPhone’s camera.

While there are add-on lenses that provide wide-angle and telephoto options to the iPhone, they are not cheap. They also require that you remember to carry them with you and attach them to your iPhone when needed. Overall, I don’t see these becoming widely popular.

Advantage: Point-and-shoot.

Program options. With a point-and-shoot camera, if you are willing to stray from Automatic and shift to Program mode, you are rewarded with a range of options that go far beyond what the iPhone can do. With most point-and-shoot cameras, you can separately set the “film” speed (ASA), aperture (f-stop), shutter speed, white balance and more. This can allow you to, for example, capture a moving subject without blur or obtain a depth-of-field that just brings a desired portion of an image into focus.

In contrast, the iPhone’s camera is, at best, the equivalent of a point-and-shoot camera’s Automatic mode. The iPhone offers some of these controls via its focus option, but it remains limited.

Advantage: Point-and-shoot

Summing up. When it comes to picture quality specs, point-and-shoot cameras are the clear winner, a reversal of the prior situation with non-picture quality features. [Update: An important point, that I mostly overlooked here, came up in the Comments section below: how you intend to use your photos. For example, if all you ever do with your photos is post them to Facebook, then image quality will matter a lot less than if you regularly print out 8X10s to frame and mount on your wall.]

Photo comparisons

Tech specs tell you what to expect in terms of picture quality. But there’s no substitute for real world testing. So I grabbed my point-and-shoot camera (Canon SD3500 IS) and my iPhone 4S. I placed the Canon in Automatic mode and snapped pictures, followed by taking similar shots with the iPhone 4S. I then compared the photos (with no editing) on a 24” Apple Cinema Display. If I had used a different point-and-shoot camera, used Program mode or compared printed rather than digitally displayed output, results may have been different. But this offered a good approximation of the differences I could expect based on how I take and view photos. Your mileage may vary.

Outdoors. The two photos shown below, admittedly taken at different angles, were shot outside Pixar’s headquarters in Emeryville CA. The details are a bit sharper in the Canon, while the iPhone has richer color (some may say it is too warm). Still, as a memory of my visit, I would be happy with the results from either camera.

Outside Pixar

A similar scene taken with my Canon camera (left) and iPhone 4S (right). Click to see enlarged images.

Indoors. These next two shots were taken inside the Pixar building, both without a flash (the light coming in from the windows was more than sufficient). Once again, given my limited demands, I was more than satisfied with the results from both cameras.

Inside Pixar

A similar scene taken with my Canon camera (left) and iPhone 4S (right). Click to see enlarged images.

Outdoors again. These two shots were taken in front of my home. In both cases, I was standing at the exact same spot, attempting to duplicate the scene as much as possible. Both cameras were set to their widest possible view. Right off, you can see that the Canon is capable of a wider wide-angle than the iPhone. As for color, I slightly preferred the richer more vibrant colors on the iPhone shot. The sharpness of the two shots seemed about equal. I was satisfied with the iPhone photo here, although I preferred the Canon shot overall.

Outside my home

The same shot taken with my Canon camera (left) and iPhone 4S (right). Click to see enlarged images.

Zoom. Next, I zoomed in on the fountain seen in the previous photo for two more shots. With the Canon, the photo was taken at its maximal 5X optical zoom. I matched about the same degree of zoom with the iPhone’s digital zoom. The Canon’s photo was by far superior, as expected. You can see that the details are sharper and the colors more accurate (although even the enlarged view doesn’t show the differences as well as the original images).

Zoom in on fountain

The same shot taken with my Canon camera (left) and iPhone 4S (right). Click to see enlarged images.

More indoors. I took several additional comparison shots, with and without flash, in relatively dark locations inside my house. Overall, the iPhone was adequate in low light without flash, sometimes even seeming to exceed the capabilities of the Canon. This appeared to be because the Canon defaulted to such a slow shutter speed that I could not avoid significant blurring with a hand-held shot. If I had shifted to Program mode, I might have been able to work around that. On the other hand, the iPhone’s photos were noticeably more grainy, even though they were less blurry. You can see these differences somewhat better in the enlarged view of the photos below. With flash, photos were more similar to each other, but the Canon’s shots were again noticeably sharper, with crisper details (text was more readable, for example).

Inside my home

Identical shots, no flash, taken with my Canon camera (left) and iPhone 4S (right). Click to see enlarged images.

Summing up. For the widest possible wide-angle, for any time when I want zoom, for indoor shots in dim illumination, or when shooting moving objects…the Canon is clearly the preferred choice for picture quality. Those situations account for a lot of the photos I take.

Video

In all of the above discussions, I restricted myself to the cameras’ still photography. However, iPhones and point-and-shoot cameras both take video as well. For my limited video needs, the quality from either device was very good. However, with its 1080P capability together with apps for editing video and Internet sharing, the iPhone 4S gets a slight edge overall. One thing is certain: dedicated video cameras are dead to me. I will never buy another one.

Bottom line

There’s no doubt about it. Going just with a smartphone, even one as good as an iPhone 4S, requires a sacrifice in picture quality compared to a good point-and-shoot camera. That’s not to say the iPhone’s picture quality is bad, just that it is not as good. In almost every other way, however, the iPhone 4S is superior.

So…should you abandon a point-and-shoot camera altogether if you have an iPhone 4S? Ultimately, it boils down to a subjective question: Even though the iPhone’s picture quality is discernibly inferior, is it good enough to satisfy your needs? If the answer is yes, the time has come to toss your point-and-shoot aside.

For more and more users, I believe the answer is yes. That’s why I expect camera makers to gradually abandon the low-end point-and-shoot market, ceding it to smartphones. 

For me, I remain on the edge. I’ll be going on a travel vacation in a few weeks. I know there will be times when I will want my Canon. There are just too many situations where the Canon does a better job. Still, it may not matter enough. I am seriously thinking of leaving my point-and-shoot camera at home, trusting my iPhone 4S to handle the job, so as not to have another device to carry around and worry about. Convenience means a lot to me when I’m a tourist. I’m willing to make some sacrifice in picture quality to get it.

As Apple continues to improve the iPhone’s camera, user preferences (including mine) will surely tilt more and more towards the iPhone. For me, if Apple ever finds a way to fit an optical zoom in the iPhone, it will be game over for sure.

Comments

Garion

Your iPhone should be your only compact point & shoot camera, yes. The camera you always have with you. It fits that role just fine.

But for real photo shoots use a SLR camera for best image quality. It’s that simple, really.

Lee Dronick

No it shouldn’t. Well compared to most point and shoot cameras, then yes. However, as Garion said an SLR is better for image quality, plus shutter speeds, depth of field, and such.

FlipFriddle

If “good enough” is your mantra then sure, it can be your only camera. If you care one whit about quality and making images that will stand the test of time, then no it shouldn’t be. Nearly any point and shoot with even a 3x zoom sold nowadays is far superior to a cell phone camera and much more versatile. I pity people I see taking all of the photos of their children with a crappy cell phone; in 20 years they’ll wonder why the photos of their kids are worse than the photos of themselves as kids.
Photographers say the best camera is the one you have with you, and your iPhone can fit that bill. But if you are going out to take pictures, bring a camera, not a phone.

Ted Landau

But for real photo shoots use a SLR camera for best image quality. It?s that simple, really.

You get no argument from me on this point. I said as much in the column (see third paragraph). My overall point, however, is that many many many people do not own an SLR and will never own one. The question posed by my article is: For THESE USERS, can/should the iPhone be your only camera?

I might add that, while image quality is obviously critical, if you find the iPhone a least acceptable in that regard, the iPhone is actually better than a point-and-shoot in almost every other way, as I covered in the column.

Ted Landau

I pity people I see taking all of the photos of their children with a crappy cell phone

I wouldn’t argue (and didn’t argue in the column) that point-and-shoot quality is superior to smartphone cameras. Quite the contrary. I distinctly said: “When it comes to picture quality specs, point-and-shoot cameras are the clear winner.”

Still, I think you are selling the iPhone 4S camera (which is superior to most other smartphones) a bit short with your quote above. The photos you get with the iPhone 4S, in many situations, are far from “crappy” and I believe will hold up over time for many people.

Lee Dronick

One downside to iPhone photography is the grip, they can be uncomfortable to hold when taking more than a few photos or a video.

But a plus, a big plus, is that is almost always with me and I can catch that interesting photo.

I have been using the Image Capture app on my Macs to import photos from my iPhone. I put them in a folder and then decide which ones are worth bringing into Aperture. I turned off PhotoStream to Aperture, getting too much junk photos.

Editing. One of the writers here at The MacObserver recommended the iMovie iOS app and I concur. It certainly isn’t as easy to use on the iPhone as an app on a Mac, or even an iPad, but it is handy. From what I can deduce video sent to Facebook needs to be less than a minute in length. So when you want to post something there you may need to put some footage on the cutting room floor. See this 5 minute video taken with and edited on my iPhone. There was more footage, I cut most of it, but was still able to tell the story. From that web page click on the link Toss 2.0 to see examples of toss photography taken with my iPhone.

I want to do more such stuff, but I said to my friends “Muse killers are running amok in the forests of my mind.”

geoduck

The camera you have is always better than the one at home in the drawer.

I am a bit uncomfortable with the “only” part. I’d give you “primary” but only seems a bit absolute. I use my iPod Touch Camera regularly because I have it with me. It’s lousy but for quick shots to e-mail, good enough. I also have a good Canon at home for when we know we’re going to want to take pictures. Different tools for different circumstances.

Oh and I have no trouble holding my Canon steady without a tripod at 20x zoom. Modern image stabilization is amazing.

JonGl

One factor that needs consideration is speed of operation, both from off to the first shot, but also between shot, and changing settings, etc. In other words, you don’t want to miss photos due to fiddling with settings, etc. Ergonomics, as one other poster commented, also plays a part. I fear that the iPhone would lose in this respect, but I’d like to see this covered in some detail as well.

-Jon

barryotoole

I’m not a pro, but an advanced amateur, if you will.

On a recent trip to Hawai’i, I did an experiment. I had my Oly PEN with a 40-150 zoom, and for closer shots, I used my 4S. Once, I was in a mall without my PEN, and took video of a Hawai’ian dance with the 4S. I must say that I was very satisfied with the results.

I’m inclined to buy a long range zoom point and shoot, like the Fuji F770 EXR, for my travels, because even a smaller, SLR-like camera like the PEN, is too much to carry during hikes and walks.

webjprgm

On my Cannon point-and-shoot, I really like the optical zoom, but also the ability to look through a viewfinder when I’m in bright light.  I never can see the iPhone screen outside on a sunny day taking pictures, so I’m never sure what I took a picture of.  I compensate by taking more pictures and editing in iPhoto later.

Even though I like the Cannon better, though, I usually forget it.  I bring it with me on vacation but when I step outside and go somewhere I realize the camera is still in my suitcase.  Thus I’ve used it extremely rarely these last few years.

I’m also really bad at trying to set camera settings manually, and I can never figure out how to make image stabilization work for me.  Maybe I just have a really shaky hand. (Good thing I’m not a surgeon, right?)  Because of this, I tend to get better photos on my iPhone than on my Cannon anyway, unless I stabilize the Cannon against something (wall, rock, etc.).  I guess it could also be due to amplification of movement when zooming on the Cannon.

webjprgm

FlipFriddle said: “I pity people I see taking all of the photos of their children with a crappy cell phone.”

Ted Landau said: “I wouldn?t argue (and didn?t argue in the column) that point-and-shoot quality is superior to smartphone cameras. Quite the contrary. I distinctly said: ‘When it comes to picture quality specs, point-and-shoot cameras are the clear winner.’ Still, I think you are selling the iPhone 4S camera (which is superior to most other smartphones) a bit short with your quote above. The photos you get with the iPhone 4S, in many situations, are far from ?crappy? and I believe will hold up over time for many people.”

One more thing about photo quality: a generation ago people only had film, not digital, so some of the oldest photos from early childhood show quality loss due to fading.  Digital pictures will remain at the same quality forever (barring repeated encoding, of course). One generation further back, photos were smaller and lower quality anyway.  So “low quality” phone pictures will hold up just fine against photos 2 generations ago, and even against some of the older photos from one generation ago. 

We have a blip of higher quality in there with later film cameras, a dip to early point-and-shoot, then up again to better point-and-shoot, now down again to early smart phones.  It will probably go up again as smart phones get better and better cameras.  It will actually be quite fun to look back over a hundred years of family photos and see the quality and size differences in addition to the styles of clothing and family faces.  A hundred years ago we couldn’t do that at all!

(Most people do not take pictures of their kids with an SLR, btw.  Just camera enthusiasts.  I know a few, but just a few.)

Lancashire-Witch

I’ve been using my iPhone 4S instead of my 7.1MP Canon IXUS for several months and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results, especially when I’ve used the HDR feature.  That’s a real bonus.

charles waugh

Lee wrote: “One downside to iPhone photography is the grip, they can be uncomfortable to hold when taking more than a few photos or a video.”

Agreed! 

That’s why I invented the SlingShot that holds your phone while shooting video or stills. See it here: http://kck.st/H7NbML (Hey! It’s only $14!)

I love my iPhone 4S for what it works well for: great video and ‘OK’ photos IN MY HAND WHEN I NEED IT.

I’m a professional photographer and specialize in portraiture up to 40"x60” so I need great quality for that.  But when my granddaughter is rolling in the mud? My iPhone is out in a flash.

And the video is fantastic!  You can see some I’ve shot at http://vimeo.com/woxom/videos

I love this camera - for what it does well.

Cheers!

Charles

charles waugh

Rats!
the URL’s didn’t take:
SlingShot on Kickcstarter

Vimeo Videos shot with iPhone 4S

Sorry about that!

Charles

zewazir

I’d say the bottom line is which is most important?  If convenience is the bottom line, then by all means, use your phone camera as your primary imaging device.  OTOH, if photo quality is more important, then even an average point-and-shoot dedicated camera will easily outperform the iPhone 4S or any other phone camera.

Everyone has a different way of stacking priorities which will result in differing determinations of whether convenience or quality is the bottom line.

Ted Landau

If convenience is the bottom line, then by all means, use your phone camera as your primary imaging device.?OTOH, if photo quality is more important, then even an average point-and-shoot dedicated camera will easily outperform the iPhone 4S or any other phone camera.

Yes. This was an overriding point of the column. However, how the decision comes down is not just a matter of how you stack these priorities but also their relative differences.

For example, if the print quality of the average point-and-shoot camera is 1000X greater than the smartphone, and the convenience of the phone is just 1.5X greater, then, even if you place a somewhat higher value on convenience, you would almost certainly go with the point-and-shoot. As the advantage numbers shift, the attractiveness of the iPhone would increase.

I believe, with the iPhone 4S, that the convenience advantage is so great and the quality deficit sufficiently small that even users who value image quality over convenience will be tempted to go with the iPhone. And I believe this temptation will likely increase with each new generation of iPhone.

Richard

Ted,

Thom Hogan has long written about the threat to camera companies which cell phone cameras represent. For the Facebook crowd there is certainly no better integration of image capture, processing and uploading to Facebook than a cell phone. Only now are the camera companies beginning to address the issue.

Picture quality aside…gosh, what a terrible thing to say. It is fair, however, to ask the question “what is ‘good enough’ image quality?” in the instance of Facebook, the requirements are simply not that great. 36 MP are not required and would actually be detrimental to you wallet when your data plan bill arrived.

Even in the world of photography, the overwhelming majority of prints are 5x7 inches or smaller. If the user NEVER intends to do anything larger, the answer to the question what is good enough is fairly simple. The trend in cameras is to smaller formats for that very reason and it allows the camera and lenses to be smaller and lighter which is what the discussion really centers around. Taking a Micro 4/3rds camera along does not take the effort that dragging a DSLR around does. (This sounds a lot like a laptop/tablet discussion, doesn’t it.)

You should not blame Canon for your unfamiliarity with the camera which resulted in a poor photograph because of the shutter speed being slow. Photography still requires some effort on the part of the user.

To answer your question, should the cell phone camera be your only camera, of course not. If you enjoy photography, the cell phone is just another tool, albeit one which most people always have with them. That factor alone has changed the face of news, and even law enforcement. Almost everything that happens these days is recorded on a camera of some sort. In that regard, the number of people engaging in photography has grown beyond what anyone could have imagined not that long ago.

Cheers

zewazir

For example, if the print quality of the average point-and-shoot camera is 1000X greater than the smartphone, and the convenience of the phone is just 1.5X greater, then, even if you place a somewhat higher value on convenience, you would almost certainly go with the point-and-shoot.

Not necessarily.  It depends on how much individual value is placed on the “1000X higher quality” compared to the individual value placed on the “1.5X more convenient.” The pure numbers do not matter, because each individual is going to alter those numbers by placing differing priorities on them.

Of course, if the quality camera in a phone comes closer to the quality of a point-and-shoot, then those priorities may shift.  But the thing is, as technology increases the quality of phone cameras, the same technology also increases the quality of point-and-shoot cameras, so that gap will probably never be truly closed.  What WILL eventually close is the gap between phone cameras and what casual photographers consider “good enough”.

For us hard core photographers, nothing will ever be “good enough” - even digital SLRs. We are always looking to improve photo quality.  Were it not for the ENORMOUS cost difference of taking pictures and getting them developed, I would still be using film in my Olympus OM-1. (Gosh, I miss that little beast! Were there only a way to put a digital back on it….)

Ted Landau

You should not blame Canon for your unfamiliarity with the camera which resulted in a poor photograph because of the shutter speed being slow. Photography still requires some effort on the part of the user.

To answer your question, should the cell phone camera be your only camera, of course not.

1. I am hardly unfamiliar with the camera. I was simply trying to take two comparison shots under similar and common conditions. Further, based on reviews of this particular camera, it is more susceptible to this sort of problem than other similar models. And that has been my experience, compared to other cameras I have owned.

2. Not sure how you came to your “of course not” answer, based on what you had just previously written. If all a person wants to do is post photos to Facebook and Flickr, and they are satisfied with what the iPhone does for that purpose, why would they need another camera?

Ted Landau

Not necessarily.? It depends on how much individual value is placed on the ?1000X higher quality? compared to the individual value placed on the ?1.5X more convenient.? The pure numbers do not matter, because each individual is going to alter those numbers by placing differing priorities on them.

As I see it, you are actually agreeing with what I wrote. Both relative value and absolute quality matter. If I were to put it in math terms, a person’s preference for a camera might be based on:

Q*R + C*D, where Q equals quality of camera image and C equals convenience of camera (and other related factors), with a maximum of say 30 for each factor. R and D represent the respective values/priorities an individual places on these two factors, where R and D add up to 1.

So for example, my personal values might be R = .6 and D = .4.

My point-and-shoot might have a Q of 20 and and C of 4. If so, my rating of the camera would be 20(.6) + 4(.4) = 13.6.

For my iPhone, Q might be 10 and C = 25, giving 10(.6) + 25(.4) = 16

In this case, as 16 is bigger than 13.6, I should prefer using my iPhone over my point-and-shoot, even though the point-and-shoot gives better quality images. The bigger the difference in the two ratings, the more extreme the preference.

geoduck

My point-and-shoot might have a Q of 20 and and C of 4. If so, my rating of the camera would be 20(.6) + 4(.4) = 13.6.
For my iPhone, Q might be 10 and C = 25, giving 10(.6) + 25(.4) = 16

My Brain Hurts

Ted Landau

My Brain Hurts

Take two aspirin and call me in the morning. smile

Ronin

Ted,

I can only say that what you say now, “I am hardly unfamiliar with the camera”, does compare well with what you said initially. You said you got a poor image because you were using the wrong setting…that’s unfair to the camera.

You are looking for a “one size fits all” answer. There is no such thing. A camera is a tool like any other. Choosing the right tool for the job is what matters. The photographic demands of Facebook simply are not that great. If that is all that a person ever wants to do, a cell phone camera will probably suffice. That doesn’t mean that applies to everyone. There are a lot more people taking photographs of one sort or another today than there were before cell phone cameras. Any attempt to create a profile of a “typical” photographer is no longer useful because of this. There really is no such thing any more.

Use what suits you. That is all that matters.

Ted Landau

You said you got a poor image because you were using the wrong setting?that?s unfair to the camera.

You are looking for a ?one size fits all? answer.

I never said that I was using the wrong setting. I said I was using the “automatic” setting, which is what many many (probably most) point-and-shoot camera users do. In any case, this only referred to a couple of the indoor shots I took. The rest of the Canon images were very good, as I stated. And I clearly concluded that the Canon took better photos than the iPhone overall.

As to “one-size fits-all,” I never said that either. I said quite the opposite in several places, as in “The first caveat is that ?majority of users? does not equal ?all users.?”

You seem to want to read things into my column that are not what I wrote. Not sure why.

Finally, yes, a camera is a tool. Some people have 6 different types of pliers in their toolbox. Others only have one. It’s similar for cameras. Many people would prefer to have only one camera if they could be happy with it. This article tried to answer the questions such people would have.

Ronin

For all the things you claim not to have said, it is difficult to draw any other conclusion, most especially when the article is a blatant example of a provocative premise, most likely to draw “hits”. Well, don’t be surprised if you take some hits of a different kind. I’m not buying it and I doubt many others are either.

“Are point-and-shoot cameras, especially ones at the low end of the price range, reaching the end of their useful life? Is it time to declare that, for the majority of iPhone 4S owners, the phone?s camera is all they need? Should you be readying to sell your old point-and-shoot on eBay?

In brief: Yes. But not without a few important caveats.”

That just shows your lack of appreciation of photography. No wonder the Canon gave you poor results. You misused it, no matter how many times you protest that you are quite familiar with it.

Let’s move on. This has already had more attention than warranted.

Ted Landau

Ah, now I understand. You’re annoyed.

And I have to add that, when you make statements like “No wonder the Canon gave you poor results,” I have to wonder about your ability to understand what I wrote. I never said the Canon gave me poor results. The only place I said anything negative was about a couple of indoor shots. Overall I concluded “when it comes to picture quality specs, point-and-shoot cameras are the clear winner” and “the Canon is clearly the preferred choice for picture quality.”

Let?s move on. This has already had more attention than warranted.

I agree. We’ve both made it clear how and why we disagree with the other. End of story.

zewazir

Q*R + C*D, where Q equals quality of camera image and C equals convenience of camera (and other related factors), with a maximum of say 30 for each factor. R and D represent the respective values/priorities an individual places on these two factors, where R and D add up to 1.

So for example, my personal values might be R = .6 and D = .4.

My point-and-shoot might have a Q of 20 and and C of 4. If so, my rating of the camera would be 20(.6) + 4(.4) = 13.6.

For my iPhone, Q might be 10 and C = 25, giving 10(.6) + 25(.4) = 16

I see where you’re going with this. With the added caveat that as D approaches G, then R will drop to zero, where G represents the value “Good enough for me” and is a constant with the value of 1.

Isn’t quantitative analysis fun?

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