Camera Phones – The End of Traditional Photography ?

It used to be obvious when a sneaky photographer was looking to take some covert shots. The camera was there for all to see. Now, however, with the growth in smart phones offering the capability to take pictures, the wannabe photographer specializing in candid photography has been given an advantage.

Even at events that were once ruled by professionals (e.g. weddings), it’s possible to see lots of pictures being taken with mobile phones.

You might think it easier to leave your camera at home and just take photographs with a smart phone. However, how good will the return on investment be for your apparent ‘smart thinking’ ?

Time to reveal if that smartphone can cater for all of your photography needs.

Camera Phones – The End of Traditional Photography ?

Traditional photography, done correctly, is a very specialized business. Photography has very sophisticated equipment, which needs to be treated with respect. If you want a high quality output, you must use high quality equipment. However, there seems to be a growing market for smart phones and they are getting more sophisticated and specialized themselves. That leaves me asking some serious questions :

  • Is this the end for professional photographers ?
  • Are digital phones taking away the professional’s custom ?
  • For the up and coming photographers, what direction should you take ?
  • Is it even worth learning about photography skills any more, with smart phones seemingly doing everything ‘automatically’ ?
  • What about customers ? Is it possible to get the same standard of photographs with mobile devices, rather than spending higher sums of money on a professional camera or a photographer ?

Interesting questions, which are worthy of consideration.

Any professional, who has been around for a while, will always feel threatened when new technology appears on the market, and that is understandable. Television threatened the radio stations. CDs threatened the cassette manufacturers. Computers threatened…… everything. When one industry is threatened or killed off, the ‘old guard’ usually adjusts accordingly.

Should photographers be concerned about smart phones then ?

I strongly believe not (and I’m not just being biased here) – for the following reasons :

The Technology is Just Not There

Whilst I have said above that camera phone technology is improving, it is still way short of providing the same quality outputs that a camera can…… a long way short – But why ?

The Megapixel Myth

Shortly after digital camera technology started pushing traditional film aside, the manufacturers tried to convince us that the more megapixels you had the better. Costs of cameras with higher megapixels were considerably higher than the lower megapixel counterparts.

Whilst it is true that you do need a minimum number of megapixels to see the finer details of the image, the overall quality of the picture really depends on the number of megapixels in a sensor and the size of that sensor. What the manufacturers found was that adding more megapixels onto a sensor, without making it larger, produced images with ‘digital noise’ (a speckled, grainy effect).

Things have improved, with manufacturers now attempting to optimize sensor sizes with megapixel count. This is to keep cameras themselves at a reasonable size, whilst still producing top quality images.

So is that an issue for the cameras on mobile phones ?

Smart phones have ‘shrunk’ over the years and their slim casings are clearly stuffed with the very latest in communications technology. Although the camera part of the ‘phone’ is an important selling point, the technology here comes second to the phone’s need to make calls (obviously).

This results in phone cameras having small sensors, poor quality lenses and not much in the way of gadgetry to improve the quality of the pictures.

On the other side of the coin, traditional digital cameras are all about quality photos and providing you with sharp, clear pictures every single time. So whilst they might be somewhat larger than mobile phones, you do get a lot more camera technology for giving up a little space in your pocket.

Cameras

  • Technology included which automatically reduces blur and stabilizes the images to keep them sharp.
  • Smile shot and blink detection, on the latest models, to keep your subjects looking their best (no more having to take a series of shots to get everyone with their eyes open).
  • A powerful flash – plus red-eye reduction technology to improve portraits taken in low light.
  • Memory cards so you can keep shooting.
  • An engineered quality glass lens with an optical zoom.
  • Autofocus.
  • Great quality images that can be printed and enlarged with no concerns about blurring.

Mobile Phones

  • Smaller image sensors.
  • Plastic, fixed focus lenses.
  • Digital zoom lenses producing lower quality images.
  • Image quality is limited, resulting in some images being too poor to have printed.

So what exactly is the problem with mobile phone photography then ?

Seeing the Whole Picture

When you take pictures on a phone, you have to hold it in front of your face to see what you are capturing. You are therefore restricted in how you take your shots.

Some compact cameras, on the other hand, now have flip out LCD screens that allow you to shoot from awkward angles, such as above your head or down by your feet. This allows you to shoot without taking your eyes off the screen. This can come in handy when photographing concerts and other busy, or space restrictive, events.

The Samsung MV800, which is reviewed in this article Advanced Digital Camera Reviews is a classic example of this.

Image Quality

The issue of image quality shows itself with extreme close-ups. Camera phones usually have digital zooms rather than higher quality optical zooms found on compact cameras.

Digital zooms have to crop an image to ‘zoom’ and also reduce the resulting quality of the picture. An optical lens, in a digital camera, is physically moved (zoomed in and out) which preserves the details when magnifying a scene.

What about printing my pictures ?

Being able to make real prints which high-light the details of a scene; show the brilliance of the colors and are not awash with ‘digital noise’ depends on quite a few factors.

If you want to create a large canvas pint of your pictures, then a dedicated camera with a large sensor and lots of megapixels will capture the image much better than the same image caught on a camera phone with a tiny sensor.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still print images captured with mobile phones and create products with them. However, a camera with a larger sensor will be able to capture more detail – and more detail in an image means a better looking final product.

A minimum of 10 megapixels in a camera’s sensor should provide all the detail your pictures need. Photos captured on the highest quality setting can be enlarged to high measurement canvasses without any loss of detail – assuming the image is in focus to start with.

Further good news for modern day cameras

Cameras haven’t just appeared overnight – they have ‘developed’ over many years. Compare that with mobiles which are still in their infancy (and phones with on-board cameras are even younger). Modern photographic equipment is very well made with each component being precisely crafted. Lighting issues and proper framing of the subject are all taken care of automatically, or can even be manipulated where needed.

Will professionals ever accept the lower quality of a camera phone ?

Very unlikely. Okay, you can make manual adjustments of images using computer software, but that takes time and skill. Far better to take a quality shot in the first place. Fashion photography, forensic photography, or any photography work that will end in publication is not likely to be shot using a mobile phone.

Mobile phone photography – It’s so amateurish

You see people holding up mobile phones to take a ‘sneaky shot’ at a concert. Then you see the result on flicker or Facebook – just a mass of blurred lights in the distance. Was it worth it ? Then there are the shots of everyone out in a dark bar…. Lots of blurred, grainy images – “You look really good in that outfit….. I think” !!

Summary

Camera phones do have their place and they can be great fun for taking a quick ‘unplanned snap’.

However, if you are going to a planned event whereby the images will be ones that you will want to look back at again and again, then you should seriously consider investing in a proper camera. Just leave the phone for texts and making calls.

With a specialized compact camera in your bag or pocket, you will be able to capture images that can be printed, enlarged, and shared with friends and family without any quality concerns.

Recommended Camera

Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS
Colors available : Black / Blue / Green / Pink / Red / Silver

If you are searching for a camera with the sleekness of a mobile, but the functionality of a great camera, then I highly recommend the Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS.

This camera has a slim, body that’s packed with helpful features such as a 24mm Wide-Angle lens with Optical Image Stabilizer. Ideal for ensuring lots of detail into your photos. At just 0.8 inches thick, it’s not going to bulk out your pocket, but you will notice the difference in your picture quality.

  • Make / Model : Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS 16.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera with 5x Wide-Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom Lens and Full 1080p HD Video
  • Dimensions : (Width) 3.7 (Height) 2.2 (Depth) 0.8 inches
  • Weight : 4.8 oz.
  • Screen : 3 inches
  • Zoom : 5x optical
  • HD Video : yes
  • Colors available : Black / Blue / Green / Pink / Red / Silver

To read some customer reviews on this model click here.

To read more about the Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, to see the alternative colors available or to purchase, please click on the link below.

Additional Reading

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on whether camera phones are the end of traditional photography. Feel free to comment and please share, using the social medial links below.

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