Stock Photography, Faux Castle and Smartphone Cameras - Cropping and digital 'zooming'

This location is a stately home built in the style of a castle in the Herefordshire countryside. I was passing close by on the way back from my trip to West Wales, so I decided to drop in for a stock photography shoot.

THE BUILDING

Apple iPod Touch Pano mode

Apple iPod Touch Pano Mode

Panasonic CM1

As a stock photographer, it's important for me to provide a series of image choices for potential buyers. Above are some alternatives I created. There is a panoramic shot which shows the house and the surrounding grounds, there is an image with some slight filtration added and the bottom pair of images shows what what happens when I edit the file in Photoshop. I've corrected the converging verticals and given the image more 'punch' i.e. increased the contrast and saturation.

SPECIFIC AND GENERIC

Nokia Lumia 1020

Nokia Lumia 1020

Samsung K zoom

I've written before about the need to shoot images that are specific to a location and also to see what I can come up with in terms of generic images that can be used 'location free' and have a wider sales potential. In the grounds was a walled garden with these sunlit vines. In the top image the lush crops are shown photographed against the light with the imposing building almost in silhouette. The two below are just general shots of sunlight vines.

GEAR CHOICES

  • iPod Touch for the 100MB+ Panoramas
  • Samsung K Zoom for Telephoto images
  • Panasonic CM1 for 1" sensor 20MP quality
  • Nokia Lumia 1020 for huge 38MP files

SMARTPHONES AND CROPPING

So, as far as I'm concerned, smartphone cameras have the quality I need for my stock photography. And the Nokoia Lumia 1020 is a case in point. It's 38MP, 109MP, 4:3 images are easily good enough for any kind of publishing need, as you can see.

However, the lens is fixed - f/2.2 and so is the focal length - in 35mm terms approximately a 25mm 'equivalent.' Nokia get round this, as does the new Sony Xperia Z5 by allowing digital zooming by using fingers on the screen. These cameras then create a new file. In the case of the Nokia it's restricted to 5MP. But handily the camera creates either two jpgs. for each image 5MP and 38MP in 4:3 ratio or a 5MP jpg. and a 38MP raw .dng file.

Above I shot the full-size image. Below I 'zoomed' in on the image and the Nokia has created two separate jpgs. the smaller one being cropped.

Now that 5MP image is good quality, as it would be considering the huge size of the original. But 5MP is a bit small for the bulk of my picture library needs. I can get a larger size image cropped by simply cropping the full size image post production.

However it is very handy to see on the Nokia screen just what zooming in and cropping creates. As you might imagine this smaller size is intended for emailing and social media uploading anyway.

My Samsung K Zoom has a built in zoom lens, but other smartphone manufacturers seem to be reluctant to go this route. I suppose because of design and the look of the thing. I imagine that they think buyers don't really want an extendible zoom lens on their smartphones, though my K zoom does disappear into the body when not in use. But it seems a fixed lens is our only option for virtually all camera phones. The Nokia Lumia 1020 gets round this by making the full-size image so large and I was wondering whether any other manufacturer would follow this way of approaching the focal lens issue. However it seems Sony have decided to produce something similar, though with a 24MP sensor with the Xperia Z5. Though it does have an Android operating system which means it will certainly sell more than the Windows Nokia.

This new Sony is a very interesting smartphone (I have the Premium version on pre-order) as all the publicity is about the camera. 24MP photos, 4K video, 4K photo and a 4K display, weatherproof, longer battery life (allegedly!) and in camera software that (again allegedly) improves the quality of the zoomed crop file and low light performance. This is in fact a camera that makes phone calls and accesses the internet. It has already moved straight to the top of the DxO smartphone camera rankings, so it should produce excellent quality. I'm particularly looking forward to using the 5.5'' 4K UHD (3840x2160), 806 PPI screen, since those big screens are an important factor in my using smartphone cameras so enthusiastically.

I'll be doing a longer piece on why these devices are proving so attractive to me in a later post, but I'll conclude by saying that developments in smartphone technology are of more interest to me than where 'proper' cameras are going currently. For my particular style of photography they seem to offer more of what I want. I did the above photographic shoot with 4 cameras in a shoulder bag, with a combined weight of one of the smaller mirrorless cameras. I created huge quality panorama files and a selection of other large file size images that will easily satisfy my picture library customers and will print in a very similar way to my other cameras. In most situations I shoot at low ISO's and I have the time to cope with the comparative slowness of these smartphone cameras, but for me the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and I'm certainly pleased with the images they are able to create. Whether or not I will (or indeed can) give up my Leicas, Nikons and m4/3 cameras and go smartphone only remains to be seen. But there is no doubt in my mind that these device cameras will increasingly become an integral part of my workflow. Simply because they make it easier and I have to say a lot more enjoyable. And those two things are difficult to ignore or make light of.