If the success of a tool is measured in how often you use it, then by far the best camera I’ve ever owned is my iPhone 5S.
With Apple’s most recent announcement, my phone is now 3 (or is it 5? V??) major versions out of date, and old enough that it might be made obsolete with the next iOS version.
But it’s probably the best camera I’ve ever owned.
Being always on
For starters, it’s with me 100% of the time, meeting Chase Jarvis’s requirement of being The One You Have With You. But more than that, it means that I can create photos whenever I want. There are interesting scenes happening around us at almost every moment of the day, every day. But if we associate being in a “photographic mode” with having a “real” camera with us (as opposed to a phone, which is already with us), then we miss those moments.
If we embrace that we do in fact have a camera with us at all times, then we may start to see those photos appear in front of us at all times in our every day life, which in turn helps us develop our photographic eye.
If you wanted to practice tennis, you would have to: (1) change into gym clothes and shoes, (2) grab your racket and tennis balls, (3) drive or walk to a court, (4) play/practice for some time, and then (5) repeat 1-3 in reverse to go back home.
If you wanted to practice photography, and you used your phone as your primary camera, you could literally do it while you do any part of your normal routine. Like when you walk from the train station to your office, or from your office out to lunch, or around your house, or from your house to the grocery store, etc.
But if you only shoot “real photography” on a “real camera”, then the process of practicing photography becomes as involved as practicing tennis.
I think people generally put too much value on the technical specifications of their camera, but that’s the subject of another post. Out of curiosity, I did look up the specs for the iPhone 5S camera and they are:
- 8 megapixels
- f/2.2 aperture
- ~30mm focal length (full frame equivalent)
- 4.54mm x 3.42mm sensor
Compare those to the latest Canon 5D model and they might not look so impressive. But the fact is, I’ve taken many photos on my phone that I’m perfectly happy with, which is the only result that actually matters. But if you really do care about specs, consider the following features of the iPhone 5S.
It’s all inclusive. Not only can you take photos with it, you can easily view your photos, edit them, process them, and post them to any social media account, linked blog, group text, etc. No need to wait until you have access to a laptop to then download from the SD card, import into Lightroom, and so on. One of my favorite things to do when I’m on the train, waiting in an airport, or generally in situations where I don’t have access to data or wifi is to just look through and edit my photos on my phone.
It’s small and lightweight. Mirrorless cameras are the latest trend – in part due to their smaller size and lighter weight compared to traditional DSLRs. I guarantee the iPhone 5S is smaller and lighter than any mirrorless camera released recently.
It’s unassuming. A major part of street photography is taking photos of strangers. People will find it far less off-putting if you’re taking street photos with a small camera phone (for added benefit, wear a confused tourist look on your face) than if you’re using a large, professional-grade all-black DSLR with a giant lens.
Do you actually only use your phone?
OK – so my iPhone is not actually my go-to or ideal phone for street photography. This mostly comes down to its limitations. Probably the biggest ones for me are: you don’t have full control over exposure settings, the auto-focus is clunky and difficult to use, and it’s not super ergonomic.
However, it is indeed true that it is the camera I have used the most. Moreover, my point is that if you think you need some new equipment to start practicing photography, or to improve your photography – I’d challenge you to take a second look at the camera you already have.