Apple iPhone 7 and smartphone implications

I guess sticking your head in the sand like an ostrich is becoming the norm for many photographic gear enthusiasts. Reading some comments in forums about the new iPhone 7's camera tech. and seeing many of the same attitudes that characterised the 35mm v Medium Format and Film v Digital debates only serves to remind me that the majority of the photographic internet is all about gear ownership and the gratification and approval that comes by making the 'right' purchasing decisions. 

The thing I really like about smartphone photography is it's a case of pick it up, frame the picture, take the picture. The art of point and shoot.  Precisely the reasons why photography has become an integral part of most peoples lives and not just the preserve of 'camera nerds' who love the detail, the tech., the specs. and seem to demonstrate on a daily basis that is more important to them than taking pictures. I often visit British tourist attractions shooting stock and there is a pattern of behaviour that is becoming more and more apparent. There are lots of well-heeled, presumably retired, older men who walk around with Canons. Nikons and BIG lenses. And they carry them around but never take any pictures. And then there is everybody else (NOT retired older men who walk around with Canons. Nikons and BIG lenses) who are snapping away on their smartphones, totally unimpressed by said Canons and Nikons.

So what am I saying? That the people who glorify DSLR's and advanced mirrorless cameras are ageing male tossers whose only attachment to photography is to buy the biggest, best and newest 'F**K YOU' camera they can and 'wear' it around their neck like a symbol of virility that their appearance and demeanour would suggest has long gone? Well yes, I probably am. I know that I would rather use a smartphone than most of the combined total of mirrorless and DSLR cameras. 

Now you might make the accusation that I qualify for the above category with my Leicas. But that misses two points. Firstly I'm taking a lot of pictures when I'm out and about with my red dots and secondly the entire world apart from a few camera enthusiasts have no idea what a Leica is. A point I've had reinforced again and again by conversations with 'Canikon Man' who doesn't have a clue what a Leica is. And I can assure you nobody even notices my Leicas, whereas I got very self-conscious carrying around my Canon 5Ds, which was one reason I sold it. But my main point here is that just like those aforementioned 35mm v MF and Film v Digital debates, these posts rubbishing smartphones are the last desperate whinings of said 'Canikon Man' about to become an endangered species. (Though one nobody will make any attempt to preserve.)

In a article (link above) that for them is quite decent for a change, Dpreview start with this sentence. 'Ok, most DSLRs and high-end compacts offer 20MP+ but if we're being honest, 2MP is good enough for Facebook, 3MP is good enough for a magazine cover, 6-8MP is good enough for a large-ish wall print and anything more than that is a bonus, most of the time. In short, the chances are that 12MP is good enough for you.' And I can testify that they are not making that up. I've had cropped 6MP images printed as front covers on glossy, high end travel magazines, a 5MP image printed as a 48 sheet advertising hoarding, 4-8MP images printed A3 in magazines and on calendars and a 10MP image used as part of a national advertising campaign and printed 30' x 20' (thats feet not inches) on the walls of the London Underground network. I sold my 42.5MP Sony A7r II and 50MP Canon 5Ds for the 24MP Leica SL (Typ 601) and the images from that camera are still way too big for the vast majority of the sites who sell my images and the people who buy them.. I sell as many smartphone images as those taken on stand alone cameras these days and my best selling image of all time (over 2000 sales and counting) was shot on a 10MP Pentax K10. So certainly 12MP is good enough for me.

OK, smartphones with their micro sensors aren't that great in low light at high ISO's, bit then I (and every other photographer) spent years shooting on film where anything over ISO 400 was so grainy it was almost unusable, unless you had a preference for that sort of thing. We managed then and we'll manage now. 

I'm buying an iPhone 7 Plus and I'm looking forward to using a small, light yet powerful photographic tool. (And of course a phone, an internet browser, a map, a newsfeed, a torch, an iPod etc. etc......) Plus anybody who thinks that this isn't the future of photography is simply denying the inevitable. And I don't just mean for 'happy snappers.' For example, the fastest camera I have in terms of focus speed and lock (100%) and speed of capture is my iPod touch. It also has brilliant out of camera results in terms of colour and exposure. In fact all my smartphones have that spot on colour and exposure, including my ageing Blackberry. And of course there are those screens which are almost all significantly better than those small bits of nonsense most manufacturers put on their 'proper' cameras. (Though the Panasonic CM1 and Leica T (Typ 701) are exceptions to that, the first in a negative way and the second in a positive way) So with an improved iPhone 7 just what will that give me. 

What Apple (and the other smartphone manufacturers as well) have decided is something that should be a lesson for many camera manufacturers. That a modern digital camera should be able first and foremost to deliver an image with colours and exposure that under most circumstances need no further editing. After all we have access to software to make any alterations we want. A modern digital camera should also autofocus without an image disappearing delay, should be fast, responsive and simple to use, without having to plough through a badly written manual to find out what button I have pressed that has triggered some complicated and unnecessary function. And yes, OK, there are some smartphones that are not immune to those faults, but Apple have also been refreshingly simple in their approach to camera options, partly due to their 'philosophy.'

And I would finish off by making the point that Apple have their faults too. Some aspects of the iPhone 7 launch keynote were laughable and in the case of the education segment, actually offensive. Their marketing with it's emphasis on beautiful, healthy, fit people deliriously happy 'living the iLife' is as nauseating and offensive as it is unrealistic. And why they all insist on dressing like Steve Jobs is beyond me. But unlike the ridiculous, ill informed and plain wrong analysis by the news and tech. media, who have focused on the least important part of the iPhone7, loosing the headphone jack, (which of course allows it to waterproof). I think the camera (if it lives up to the hype) is a major step forward. Because whatever you think of Apple they certainly have a lateral thinking way of solving problems and their photographic R & D dept. are to be congratulated on thinking outside the 'Lets take a film camera and digital it up' approach that will probably lead to the ultimate demise of most of the camera manufacturing industry. 

Ultimately, despite some the more unsavoury aspects of Apples practices - Child Labour, Overpricing, Corporate Greed, Self Importance and Serial Tax Evasion, they are genuine innovators producing modern devices for a modern world. And the camera module in the iPhone 7 is most definitely a modern camera. I've been at this game for over half my life and I still hate fiddling with cameras. One reason I'll never be buying a Sony, Fuji or Olympus ever again. I want something that lets me do the important bit, composing and timing my images, as easily and fuss free as I can make it. And these days that either comes from setting up my Leicas how I want them or using a smartphone. Now it seems to me it is that very complexity that attracts many who populate the photographic internet to camera ownership (I draw the line at calling it photography) but every Professional Photographer I've ever known or met agrees with me. Complexity and complication is the enemy of photography creativity. It's still all about the composition and timing and will always be so. And it strikes me that the iPhone 7's camera is on the right side of both. I look forward to getting my hands on one.