I was having this debate with myself last week as I got ready for a party. Should I take my camera with me or should I trust that if anything worth documenting did happen my phone would be up to the task?
A smartphone camera has a lot of benefits; it can upload and share instantly so you don’t have to fiddle around with a computer, many models have shooting filters and scene modes like a regular camera, and it doesn’t take up too much space.
On the other hand my camera is an Olympus OM-D. While it is smaller than my DSLR it is still a lot bigger than my phone (which I would be taking with me anyway). Having said that, with great size comes great processing power and my camera has that in spades. In general terms a dedicated camera has a larger image sensor than a smart phone. This means that your camera will take better pictures in low light, because it doesn’t have to work as hard to capture the same amount of light.
A dedicated camera also has larger lenses which zoom optically as opposed to digitally, which leads to fuzzy pictures. These lenses also let in more light. In the end this is what you need: the ability to capture MORE LIGHT. It doesn’t matter how high the resolution is and how many pixels they cram in, if the cameras sensor isn’t getting enough light it won’t make as good a picture. This generally isn’t as much of an issue in perfect conditions (ie: broad daylight), but what happens when it gets dark suddenly? Ted’s head office is in Melbourne; outside my window today it went from clear blue sky to steely storm clouds in about twenty minutes. Another ten and we have a sunny day again.
My point is, lighting conditions change and they can change quickly – can your phone keep up?
“But my phone has a flash!” I hear you say. Yes, and this is a good thing up to a point, but the flash isn’t overly versatile on most phones. They tend to leave people’s faces looking washed out, and highlight all those little imperfections you might not want to see. Camera flashes have a tendency to do the same thing however you do have more control over them if you know where to look. Having a dedicated camera can also negate the need for a flash in the first place (for the reasons outlined above).
On the flip side of the coin, smartphones are constantly developing and updating. The new Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom has an actual camera zoom lens which magnifies the image optically, rather than digitally like most smartphones. Sony is also set to release the Xperia Z1, a smart phone with the internals of a camera and an f2 lens aperture.
Cameras are constantly developing too. You can now get cameras which are compact but carry the internal sensor of a professional camera, such as the Sony RX1 and the just-announced Sony A7 compact system camera. That’s the photographic equivalent of Superman masquerading as Clark Kent; lots of power in an innocuous form. So where do we go from here? In the end it boils down to choice – convenience or quality? If you are looking for something to capture a moment for the sake of capturing a moment then your smartphone camera is a very handy thing to have. If you want pictures that impress, capture detail and will shoot in a variety of conditions… well let’s say I packed the camera.