In this blog, we look at the reasons why if you're a photography enthusiast you should still be using a dedicated camera rather than just your smart phone.
Smart phone cameras have come a long way in recent years, and the quality of the photos that they can produce in some circumstances can look amazing (especially on a small screen!) but there are still many reasons to hold onto your dedicated camera, as it still has many advantages over your smart phone.
Reason 1: sensor size
Your camera sensor is what captures the light and creates the photo, and when it comes to sensors, size matters. Most smart phone camera sensors are tiny; far smaller than even a cheap point and click camera, and much much smaller than the sensors in modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras. If all you do is take snaps in daylight to post on Instagram then this may not matter much, but if you want to start taking photos in poor light, or want your photos to look great printed out on your wall, then a dedicated camera is the way to go.
In the diagram below, the bottom right box represents the rough size of most camera sensors, and the top box is the size of my Sony full frame mirrorless sensor by comparison!
Reason 2: Physics is still better than software
The build of a smart phone camera in such as small space means that it is far inferior to even a basic dedicated camera in a number of ways.
Most smartphones have a fixed focal length (field of view), although some may have additional lenses which can add one or two more focal lengths. This means that most of the zooming that you do on a smart phone is simply cropping into the image, losing detail as you do so. Most dedicated cameras have a much larger lens with better optics and provide a range of focal lengths, as well as often the possibility to change lenses for even more focal lengths. This means that on a dedicated camera you can use optics to either take wide landscapes or zoom in to small details such as wildlife much more effectively than on smartphones. Try taking a photo of the moon with your smartphone and you will soon realise its limitations!
Most smartphones are also limited to a single aperture which means that you completely lose control over one of the key creative elements of photography; depth of field. This allows you to selectively blur the foreground and background of a photo (such as the photo below which was taken with my Sony mirrorless camera, where I have used a large aperture to blur the bluebells in the foreground). Smartphones cannot do this using physics, and so they use software to try and emulate the effect, but it's simply not as good. Also, smartphones can ONLY blur the background and cannot currently blur the foreground as seen in this photo.
Reason 3: Background compression
One of the additional advantages of being able to achieve a wide range of focal lengths on a dedicated camera is using telephoto zoom to compress perspective. What this means is that when you zoom into a scene, things that are in the far background of the scene look closer to you than reality. This means that you can compress the space between your subject and the background which reduces possible empty space and makes the photo more interesting. In the bluebell photo above, I have used a 200mm telephoto lens to zoom in to the hill. This means that the hill looks quite close to the bluebells, whereas in reality it was half a mile away! Your smartphone simply cannot do this.
Reason 4: Camera autofocus is simply better
If you take photos of living subjects, such as children or birds then getting the focus spot on is critical and can make or break the photo (if you main subject is out of focus, especially their eyes, then your photo is always always a dud). Whilst smart phone camera systems are pretty good, dedicated camera focus systems have taken a big leap forward in recent years with the use of AI subject recognition systems. This means on some dedicated cameras such as my Sony mirrorless (and even some entry level cameras), you can simply leave it up to the camera to identify a human (or even pet) face, and it will lock on to the eye and ensure that it is perfectly in focus. Smart phone focus is good, but not that good!
Reason 5: Fast action
Another area where dedicated cameras are still well ahead of smartphones is in the area of action photography. If you're close to the action, and in good light then your smartphone might do a fair job of capturing shots of sports or wildlife. However, if the action is not near to you (think of a bird at a distance or a football field in a stadium) then your camera phone is going to struggle to capture the action, and your photos are quite likely to be blurry due to not keeping the moving subject in focus, or pixelated due to cropping in (or both). The better lens capabilities of dedicated cameras, along with better focus and subject tracking capabilities means that you have a far better chance of capturing the ation with your dedicated camera.
Choose the right tool for the job
I'm most definitely not telling you to abandon your smart phone in favour of your camera; there are a number of areas where your phone is actually better than your camera; it wins on size, convenience and price as well as connectivity to social media, and many can now take great photos in lots of situations. But there are some situations where your dedicated camera will simply win hands down; it's about understanding which tool to use for the right job at the right time.
Want to learn more?
If you're a beginner photographer who is local to East Devon and want to learn the art of landscape photography, check out my range of local photography courses. Alternatively why not make a weekend break of it and attend one of my residential photography workshops - either my beginners landscape photography masterclass for those starting out in photography, or my intermediate photography masterclass for those who already understand the basics and want more practical help progressing their landscape photography.