Ten cameras for five days shooting - How did each perform?

Ten cameras for five days shooting - How did each perform?
'I took ten cameras with me for a 5 day shoot in Somerset last week. Deliberately. I still have too many cameras, so I decided I'd give each of them a tryout in a real world situation on a stock photography trip and decide what to get rid of. Here's how they turned out. '
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The Smartphone Aesthetic continued....

The Smartphone Aesthetic continued....

If anyone has assumed that because of my adventures with the Nikon Df, Leica T et al, I'm not shooting my 'Art of point and shoot' 'Smartphone Aesthetic' images and processing them with stacks of filters, then that is far from the case. Since I carry my Nokia 1020 and Blackberry Q10 phones with me whenever I'm out shooting.

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Picture making choices - Fuji X100s, Nokia 1020, Blackberry Q10 - HDR documentary photography








The above images were taken yesterday using three cameras. Fuji X100S + teleconverter, Nokia 1020 and Blackberry Q10 smartphones. Now I wasn't planning to use the last one, but the battery on my Fuji ran out of power, as it does quicker than it should and I wanted to keep on shooting square images and see that square when I took the picture, which the Nokia doesn't allow me to do. 

Since I now carry both phones with me all the time I'm out, the Blackberry for phone calls and emails and the Nokia for the web, I've usually got three picture making devices with me. The size of the phones makes that possible. (Though I wonder whether I can describe the Nokia as a phone. I have now actually made one call on it, but I'm essentially using it as a 'mini tablet when I'm out with it.) It also allows me the opportunity to work with the cameras and lenses I have left.

The Sony A7 has gone (again!) as have the Panasonic GX7 and GM1, plus a few lenses. There's more to go when I get round to it, but as per usual, I don't like to sell stuff, even though I may not use it much. Because different camera / lens combinations offer different things and for me at the picture taking end that means something. Where I've ceased to see any meaningful use in discussing the gear I use is when the images become a reality. (If a digital images consisting of 0's and 1's can be considered 'real'.) Consequently I haven't said which camera took with pictures.

Many of you will be able to work out what I took the above images with anyway, but ultimately it's unimportant. I've never subscribed to the 'best camera you have is the one you have with you' philosophy, because I see it used too often as an excuse for poor images and I make sure that the 'best camera(s) I have is (are) the one(s) I choose to take with me. And at the moment I'm very happy with my options. 

Finally I thought you might like to see how I've processed the above images for some (not all) picture libraries. i.e. the ones who are keen to put together 'smartphone stock.'








This is a look that I've been working towards for a while and it's one I like very much. It's also proving popular with the aforementioned libraries who are trying to promote that 'smartphone aesthetic.' It has to be said the people who buy pictures seem to be able to take it or leave it currently (mostly leave it!) But since I've got tens of thousands of images sitting on library sites with a more 'conventional' look, I like shooting editorial or non released documentary images and at present the market for that is in it's early stages via microstock, I'm prepared to give it a go for a while. 

I've got an article in preparation about this and the processing choices I'm making and that should be ready in a few days. But the shorthand version is I wanted to shoot some documentary or 'street photography' (god I hate that term with a passion and can hardly bring myself to write it) images and I wanted them to look different. And I'm not that bothered about their commercial potential (or otherwise) at the moment. So that's why I'm doing it. 

Anyway, after a period of time when I was working non-stop because of the weather, I'll have some time to post on the blog a bit more now, since the weather has reverted to type and today (a national holiday of course) it's raining and actually quite cold. So in between hours of editing I should be able to fit in some more regular posting, instead of the 'bus' type nature of what's been going on lately. The 'You wait ages for one then lot's come at once' scenario. 

http://www.bigstockphoto.com/search/?contributor=david+martyn&safesearch=n&order=new


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Smartphone 'workflow'











I got some new software for both my Blackberry and Nokia phones which means that I can get the images onto my computer quicker and easier. I took a few test shots in the garden to check that out. I'm also uploading images to a new microstock editorial library which looks interesting. From taking the pictures to them sitting on the website, captioned, keyworded and ready for sale took about 1/2 hour. A lot faster than with my other cameras and me processing raw files very carefully.

Because these smartphone files are much more 'finished' out of the camera. In many cases there is nothing to edit. And that very much seems to be typical of the two cameras I'm using. I guess it's part of the design ethic. Since these images are in many cases going to be uploaded to Social Media with minimal or no editing, it seems to be the case that they require less of that anyway. I've already mentioned how my Blackberry has almost perfect colour rendition and the Nokia is pretty similar. Levels are pretty close to spot on as well.

This is in contrast to all my mirrorless / CSC cameras, which all have 'off' colour in some way and all need levels adjustment, not just the raw files. I can't say why this is, but it seems to be the case. Add this to the website I'm uploading to being very fast at getting the images on sale and my whole workflow is incredibly fast for these smartphone images, which suits me. This is even allowing for the fact that the site is phone / tablet upload only, which means I have to email the files to my iPad. If I had an Android camera or iPhone, I could in fact have uploaded the images straight to the site. However, I did prefer that I could do some basic editing. 

All of these operational advantages are proving irresistible to me. I really appeciate the time saving and the fact that I don't have unedited raw files sitting around for months. Because, say what you will about the image quality differences, if a picture is sitting on my computer waiting for me to put the time in to get it looking it's best, it's of less use to me that a file that looks good out of the camera and is available for sale in a very short space of time. One in the bush is worth two in the hand.


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To Boldly Go..............


This is a shameless piece of self-promotion about another piece of shameless self-promotion I posted on my social media shameless self-promotion sites.


Old school? New school? Retro? Modern? The past? The future? The death or rebirth of photography? Answers to all these questions won't be answered at http://soundimageplus.blogspot.co.uk/ because I'm just as confused as everybody else. However if you enjoy the confusion as much as I do, you might like to follow one man's journey into the photographic unknown. To boldly go.................


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Mirrorless / CSC or Smartphone? A journey into downsizing - Part 3




Some photogaphers, generally male, like to strut around with the biggest camera and lens they can carry. If it wasn't in such bad taste, they would happily wear a t-shirt with a big arrow pointing to it with the price clearly written showing just exactly what they have paid for their pride and joy. Others, including myself, like to work with a degree of anonymity. There is also the fact that we seem to be in the middle of a photographic revolution, with what seems to be the entire population of the world documenting their lives and what they see and we have what amounts to a explosion of picture taking. 

You may have noticed that articles describing how people taking pictures being persecuted by 'jobsworths' and 'rent-a-cops' have declined significantly. Because what can they do? The public at large seems inclined to photograph what they want, when they want and would be somewhat incredulous and probably offended if someone told them 'You can't take photographs here!'

This is clearly due to the rise of the smartphone and certainly here in the UK, people snapping away at whatever they please has become so commonplace that it's almost become invisible. Smartphones also have the 'benefit' that it's difficult to tell what their owner is doing with them. They could be checking their emails, texting somebody or taking a picture. All actions looking remarkably similar. In other words, a photojournalists dream scenario. 

The 'instagrammed' depiction of everyday life in shared images has also become just as prolific as the people taking the images and the media happily publishes examples of this on a daily basis. Hardly a TV news bulletin goes by without some pretty awful footage of something happening somewhere in the world. It seems to be used on the basis of 'It looks terrible, but it's 'real' (Man!)

And I have to say that all of this social acceptance of constant picture taking is something I find gratifying and useful. I've been trying to photograph everyday life in some form or another for years and sometimes it's been very difficult. In recent years using a camera in certain places was liable to get the 'perpetrator' branded as a terrorist or a paedophile. The notion somehow grew up that anyone using a 'decent camera' was to be treated with suspicion, since they probably had sinister motives. 

But now, since everybody seems to own a smartphone and is only too willing to use it at every possible opportunity, those suspicions seem to be evaporating. Because how can we be suspicious of somebody engaging in the very same activity that we are? And since we seem to be inclined to share every moment of our lives and every detail of what we are up to with anyone who might be interested, notions of privacy are not what they were.  

And you can see all of this reflected in what people photograph and the way in which they present those images to the world. Old-school, analogue, hipster retro may seem cheesy to those of who who have been trying to avoid our images looking like they were taken on a camera in serious need of repair, but everybody else seems to like them. And as a friend said to me when I told him about what I was planning to buy 'So it's if you can't beat them join them then.' And I guess there is an element of that in my using a smartphone as a serious photographic tool to earn a living with. Plus my ability not to write the word Instagram without spitting any more!!


I'd finished taking pictures yesterday and was walking back to my car, when I realised I had no bag on my shoulder and nothing in my hands. In one pocket I had my Blackberry and in the other my newly acquired Nokia 1020, both of which I had used to take pictures with. I suddenly felt very odd and somewhat 'naked.' I've become so used to carrying cameras that it was strange to not have one visible to passers by. I have to say that once I got used to it, I actually quite liked it. It was surprisingly refreshing to realise that though I am a photographer and that's how I earn my living, I didn't look like one. It felt different and more than that it was an enjoyable experience. 

It wasn't just the fact that I was carrying virtually no extra weight than I usually do, an extra phone being the only difference, but that I was going about my job without appearing to do so. I don't know why but there was something really satisfying about that. Something to do with the fact that I think I've finally accepted that I have nothing to prove. I have no need any more to justify calling myself a photographer. It's what I do, I do it reasonably successfully but I really don't need to carry a piece of gear that demonstrates that to anyone I pass. 

And I thought to myself it's not just the size and weight of what I've been using for the past few days that's liberating, it's the way I can be who I am and do what I do with confidence and without the need to demonstrate my abilities. Now that may not mean much to the DSLR toting camera buffs I pass from time to time, but it's a nice fringe benefit as far as I'm concerned. And the last thing I expected to get from using a smartphone was a sense of relaxed satisfaction about what I do, but it seems that is exactly what has happened.




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Mirrorless / CSC or Smartphone? A journey into downsizing - Part 2

My Blackberry Q10 (Q stands for Qwerty keyboard)


It's certainly small

Colour Balance is spot on. Panasonic GM1 isn't.

Basic Functions.
Some filters.


Image quality with a low pixel count is surprisingly good. Very reminiscent of 35mm film scans.

Some 'interesting' old school renditions. Despite myself I actually like these.


So it's an OK camera. IQ similar to the 6MP digital SLR's and compacts I was shooting with 10 years ago. Colour is probably the most accurate I've ever seen, which is surprising, but very welcome. It has a shutter button, so its not just tap the screen. I like using it. It's simple and has pretty consistent and accurate metering and given enough time accurate focusing. I'm not about to shoot Formula 1 with it anytime soon, but it produces decent enough images.

But then I arrived back home with this earlier today and it's somewhat different.









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Mirrorless / CSC or Smartphone? A journey into downsizing - Part 1

View / plate large format film cameras > Medium Format film cameras  > Rangefinder film cameras > 35mm SLR film cameras > DSLR's > Mirrorless / CSC > Smartphones. The history of photography and cameras is littered with 'format wars' with the owners and users of the larger format stating catergorically that the newer, smaller upstart can't possibly compete. And yet, in time, the smaller / newer format gains overwhelming acceptance with the picture-taking public and it's predecessors are left calling out in vain as the marketplace winner runs off with the spoils of victory. i.e. the hard-earned cash of those who want to take pictures. From 1983 to 2001 I used Medium-Format and 35mm film cameras. Yesterday I didn't even take a camera out with me to take pictures for my stock photography business. I used a smartphone instead. 










 All images - Blackberry Q10

I've been 'DSLR free' for some time now. I have eight mirrorless / CSC cameras ranging from a Panasonic GM1 to a Sony A7r, with more lenses than I dare to count. And yet yesterday I left them all on the shelf and went out, quite deliberately, with my Blackberry Q10 6MP, fixed lens, micro sensor camera phone. Which is, lets be honest, a not particularly well-regarded camera phone at that. This is far from an iPhone in terms of specification and options and 'coolness'. 

And yet I loved every minute of the picture creating experience and for the first time that I can remember I returned home, edited, captioned, keyworded, stored and uploaded the images to the picture libraries that sell my work in less time that I actually took to go out and take them. I was also pleased aesthetically with the images I created and satisfied technically with the quality of the files. No, they aren't as good as my Sony A7r can produce and my Blackberry Q10 is certainly the worst camera I own in terms of image quality, but I did it just the same. And what's more I'm planning to do it again.

So why this complete turnaround from a died-in-the wool 'real' camera user to an advocate for the picture-taking devices that I've gone to great lengths to criticise, castigate and take every opportunity to denigrate? Well, crazy as it might seem, because to me this is what photography is all about. An interaction between my eyes, my brain and the device that captures what I want it to in the simplest way possible. Where composition is more important than technique, lens choice is eliminated, options are restricted and I can focus on what's important, what area of the reality unfolding before me I want to preserve, record and place before the people who are possibly looking to buy an image that I've created. 

For some time now I've been disenchanted with the whole gear centric nature of the photographic internet. The creation and appreciation of well crafted images is definitely secondary to the brand loyalty and the abuse showered on those who don't share that, the exaggeration of marginal differences and the worship of the cliched dogma that I've seen and heard repeated again and again ever since I decided to take photography seriously and take pictures for the sake of it rather than as a pictorial document of my life's experiences. I've had enough. I've had enough of the endless obsessing about test results, the arguments about which is better when pixel-peeped at 100% and the proliferation of the banal, the ordinary and the unoriginal as justification for spending vast sums of money on minimal improvements to what we own. And yes I'm guilty as charged on all those counts. 

So, my journey into downsizing has begun. And I'm not going to badger you with some kind of 'road to Damascus' conversion and attempt to persuade you that my phone is just as good as my other cameras.....really. It's not, I know that and you know that, so let's not pretend it is. It is however something that I want to use at the moment in preference to everything else I currently own. These articles will document why I feel that way and what I'm gaining from the experience. And also about what I'm prepared to loose as well. 

It's not going to be a manifesto for how I'm going to proceed in the future and it shouldn't be taken as something that will be what I will be doing in perpetuity. In practical terms it probably means that I will shed even more readers than I've shed already by taking smartphones seriously. But this is something I want to do and in many ways need to do as well, since I've been dissatisfied by how I'm working and what I'm using to earn my living for some time now. 

And I've realised that just throwing money at some new lens or camera isn't really helping. Judging from the smile on my face and the satisfaction I'm getting when I'm out making pictures with the most minimalist piece of gear I can remember using since the Kodak Instamatic I had in my teens, I know that I'm making the right choice at this time in my photographic life. It's small, it's cheap and I can order a pizza as well. But my camera phone is doing more than that, it's letting me reconnect with what made me want to be a photographer in the first place, the joy I get from taking pictures and looking at them.



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Blackberry Q10 + camera phone image filtering and panoramas.


It's not really that surprising that filtering and the digital simulation of retro processes has become popular with camera phone users. It helps to disguise some of the 'quality challenged' results that these small sensors produce. And somewhat strangely, old-fashioned has become 'modern' and 'hip'. 

But then anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with Photoshop can also produce their own variations. Here's just a few ideas I came up with pretty quickly for my Blackberry Q10 files.





 
 
 
 










 

Fun? Sure. But Creative? Well I'll leave that up to you, but lets just say I'm not sure that messing around with the contrast and colour to produce effects that look like faded prints or converting to black and white doesn't strike me as adding much to the rich history of photography. And just like the 'horrors' of Cokin filters in the 1980's and 1990's the longevity of these 'looks' is somewhat open to question. How appealing the content of our facebook pages with heavily filtered 'selfies' will be in years to come remains to be seen. Let's just say I'm keen to retain my unfiltered originals for long-term storage.

But if we are talking about filtering and so-called 'creative options' what about these?
















Instagram and Hipstamatic actual filtering and Photoshop work to make them look like that. Are they 'artistic?' No of course they aren't. Are they 'creative?' Don't make me laugh. Are they fashionable?' Unfortunately yes they are, though for the life of me I can't see why. 

The point is this stuff is easy, commonplace, been around for years and yet somehow millions of people feel inclined to do it. The shot above with the boats is an Instagram creation. Below is the original. Unfiltered, untouched and straight as it came off the phone.


I know which I prefer.

And now back to photography.



I've no reservations about creating panoramic compositions with my phone. It strikes me that's a very useful and aesthetically pleasing way to increase resolution from a limiting set of options.








My Blackberry has no in built Panorama function, so these were created using multi images 'stitched together' in either Photoshop's Photomerge or PTGui. Readers who've been following this blog for a while will know that I'm quite keen on Panoramas, though I've shot very few recently. I've started again out of a desire to get higher resolution images from my phone and also because I've discovered that using the small jpg. files from the Q10 I can create these panoramas very quickly and easily.

I've always liked this extended framing and the way it distorts reality but in a pleasing way. I like the way I can create what appear to be natural looking images but which are in fact optical illusions in that it's impossible to actually see views like this with our eyes. 

So I guess I'm somewhat unusual in that I use my basic camera in my phone to create 'straight' shots. And it does work for that. Obviously far too 'old-hat' for many of the phone photographer fraternity, but I like them and more to the point others do too and pay me to use them. 

Crazy filtering will of course pass and as I've written before I think the better camera phone pictures get, the less inclined people will be to ruin them. However there may be some time before that happens and in the meantime I suspect we will have to get used to photo trash insulting our visual sensitivities. 



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More jpgs. and squares with Panasonic GX7 and Blackberry Q10


I almost cracked yesterday. A first time visit to an impressive country estate with hills behind on a warm sunny day made me consider setting my Panasonic GX7 to raw and 4:3 ratio, but thinking about all those other raw files languishing on my laptop waiting to be processed and uploaded persuaded me otherwise. I stuck with jpgs. and the 1:1 ratio and was glad I did, since a fair amount of what I shot is already uploaded to a picture library.

I took the 12-32mm and Olympus 45mm f/1.8 and my Blackberry Q10 with me.






Some of the above is from the Panasonic, some from my Blackberry. It says something that I enjoyed using the Blackberry more. This gear 'ennui' seems to be getting worse. 

I guess some are questioning why I'm doing this. Well, the simple reason is that currently I'm out every day, walking and taking pictures. I think I've had about three days this month when I haven't been doing that. In fact the last year has seen an incredible number of good days for photography and I'm taking advantage of it. And the benefits of small light cameras and / or using a phone with all this walking are pretty obvious. 

There is also the fact that I can actually see what I'm taking with the phone. The GX7 EVF isn't OLED and the screen is way too reflective. I know that all phone screens aren't that great, but the Q10 has a good one, It's not perfect but it's better than most cameras. 

It's just a more enjoyable and more productive shooting experience. No faffing about with lenses and camera settings. Point. Shoot. Fast edit. Quick upload. Done. Next.
No obsessing about lenses, camera settings, focusing, ISO etc. because I simply don't have any choice. Point. Shoot.

So 'pure photography' from a smartphone? Well yes, because photography is about photographs and despite the number of times I write that it still doesn't register with many. I'm finally coming full circle to when I shot film. In those days I kept the same camera and lenses for years. My ISO setting was locked in the same place for years and I 'messed about' with my cameras a lot less. All my attention was getting in the right place at the right time and pressing the shutter. 

Digital photography has it's advantages, but it also has a lot of baggage come with it. And I'm seriously fed up with all that baggage. I'm enjoying taking pictures more than I have done for some time. Are they better or worse? Well aesthetically they are about the same. Technically worse but not by enough to make me worry about it. The point being that all the 'superior' stuff is sitting on my computer waiting for me to steel myself to spend several weeks of my life editing it. The phone stuff gets handled much quicker and is sitting on websites available for sale. 

And I've finally realised that I do value my pictures more than my gear. I always have, I've just been a bit sidetracked recently. 

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More smartphone experimentation











I'm not sure how long this disenchantment with the whole camera / lens comparing and photographic internet gear chatter will last, but yesterday was the first time I've ever gone out to take pictures without taking what I might call a 'real' camera with me. I only took my Blackberry and quite deliberately intended to concentrate on creating pictures without all the BS involved with worrying about lens choice and achieving optimum image quality. I knew I wouldn't be getting the same sharpness, low noise and resolution that I normally strive so hard to achieve, but the idea was to make sure I got something interesting in the squares that my Blackberry produces. I was also using far from the best smartphone available. My Q10 pictures are OK and in fact look very like 35mm film scans but they aren't really that great, I know that. I do however like those squares, I like the colour and above all I like the simplicity, the limited choices and the fact that for the first time in a long while I'm actually concentrating totally on the images I'm creating.

Because my creative choices are VERY limited. I can frame the picture, make sure it's in focus and press the button. That's it. It's so pared down to the bare essentials it's liberating. This 'camera' has none of the sophistication of many smartphones in terms of picture taking, but it does what it needs to. Exposure is 100% spot on and for a 4.1mm lens with no real pedigree it's actually relatively distortion free. I've been thinking about the Samsung K Zoom but I might just stick with this. 

I'm not really sure why, but I've been getting slowly but surely more and more disinterested in the gear and brand focused irrelevance of the photographic internet. And yes I know this is nothing new, but the whole process of constant new product launches, disappointing upgrades, irrelevant tech. gadgetry and the whole tone of the review sites, the rumour sites and the forums has made me want to take a step back from it all, forget about the fact that every camera I've owned has been a disappointment in some way and go back to the reason that I became a photographer in the first place. To create pictures from what I see in the world around me.

And you can't get more basic than a 6MP image creating device that shoots squares. 

Now next week I could well be back doing what I've done for years, but at the moment this gear de-tox is what I need. I'm also playing around with the images as well. Converting to black and white here, adding some vignetting there, pretty much whatever takes my fancy. And sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but the idea is get it done, get the pictures uploaded, move on. 

And I have to say, it's a pleasure to do this. And very satisfying. It's eye, brain and hand. The technicalities, such as they are, are taken care of. All I have to do is make sure my batteries charged and that's pretty much the end of my non-artistic, aesthetic choice input. Everything else is down to me. What I see, what I want to record, what I want to create. 

It's an experiment sure and I'm doing it in places that I know well and have photographed extensively, but again that's the beauty of this. It's an attempt to see beyond what I've seen before. Can I produce something fresh from environments that I've photographed time and time again? And sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. The real interest is in seeing if I can. 

I've written recently about wanting to stop being a photographer for a while, but still wanting to make pictures and also that I've been 'playing it safe' to a large extent for some time. Now of course a lack of sales of what I'm shooting may make me decide enough is enough, but at the moment I'm having a great time going back to basics. And whether this is just a passing fancy or whether it leads to any kind of a 'new direction', it's something I needed to do. And whether or not it leads to some interesting pictures or a load of embarrassing c**p, at least it's all down to me and not the complex technological achievements of an electronics corporation halfway across the world.

And for most people, a basic, not that great camera function on a mobile phone made by a company who are on the verge of going bust may not be their first choice to create photographs with, but for me at this moment in time, it will do just fine.  

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Are smartphones impacting on the professional photography environment? - Part 2

All above Blackberry Q10 smartphone

So I went out yesterday for the first time ever and deliberately shot over 50 images for my stock photography portfolio using a smartphone. My Blackberry Q10. And I'm pretty sure I never anticipated ever writing that. As you can see, in terms of web reproduction, there's really not a lot of difference in terms of how the images look compared to what I shoot normally and if I had said they were shot on any of my other cameras would anyone have queried that? I doubt it. 

There is a certain kind of 'smartphone aesthetic' that involves naff filters and a kind of artsy desaturated old faded print look that emanates from Instagram and the like, but I've avoided that. Apart from anything else, stock libraries hate it. They figure, quite rightly, that if the people who buy the pictures want that kind of image they can add the filtering themselves. The quality of these images is pretty similar to early digital camera files I have and also very close to some 35mm transparency scans I have. Colour I like very much and the dynamic range isn't bad. A few quick edits in Photoshop however and they are ready to go. 

So what's the point of walking around taking images on a picture taking device that is OK but only usable in good light and pretty much the worst camera I currently have? Well a clue can be found in one of the links I posted yesterday. http://blog.eyeem.com/2013/02/qa-with-ben-lowy/

'As for shooting in conflict zones – As I grew more and more comfortable using the phone, I realized it had certain advantages – it was anonymous, it wasn’t particularly heavy, it didn’t get in the way of being intimate with a potential subject. And it was fast, I could just pull the phone out of my pocket and take a picture as things were happening in front of me.

More than that, it produced images in a visual style that people weren’t used to seeing. That is important to me. There is so much information out there these days, and its very hard to capture the attention of a – for the most part – apathetic public. By showing important images of a war or social issue to people using a unique aesthetic, I believe I can capture their attention and shine a light on some of these stories.'

OK. I'm no war zone photographer. But anonymity is useful to me. As is the ability to walk long distances carrying only what I would carry with me normally. Any impression that I'm a 'photographer' either professional or a hobbyist just disappears with the phone. I like the extraordinary depth of field, I like the simplicity, I like the spontaneous almost 'throwaway' feel of the whole thing. I like the size and weight, I like the square format of the Blackberry sensor and yes I like the slightly grainy look of the images. I've also been surprised by just how 'photographic' the images are. The above shots are pretty close to how the pictures come out of the camera.

And then there's this.


http://gizmodo.com/samsung-galaxy-k-zoom-a-crazy-phone-camera-hybrid-with-1568917049

Samsung seem to have come up with a different approach. Instead of taking a phone and adding a camera to it, why not add a phone to a camera? And that's pretty much what they have done. There are some picture samples HERE. Unlike the Nokia Lumia 1020 with it's 41MP of pretty nasty pixels that only creates decent images when significantly downsized, the Samsung gives pretty standard compact camera, micro sensor results and justify the 20MP's the camera has. (At least in good light.) Now the review with the samples seems to be from a tech. head phone user and not from a photographers perspective, so I ignored most of that. And I have decided that I'm going to be getting one of these. It's far from expensive and a camera with 4G phone and internet capabilities is something that's really useful to me. And not just because I'll always have a decent backup camera with me.

I've always liked to explore different picture taking options. I am after all shooting every day. (If the weather's not great then I'm testing.) Using the same camera / lens combination every day would have driven me to another career years ago. I like trying odd combinations also. The APS-C 10-18mm zoom and Voigtlander 90mm on my Sony A7r that I've been using recently being a prime example. While I do demand a minimum quality for the images I produce, I'm not a 'pixel snob.' Last summer I was having a great time with a Nikon 1 V1 and lenses and loved the whole feel of that system. While I've never been interested in what most phone photographers produce, because of the ridiculous 'effects' people add, (Something that slightly puts me off Ben Lowy's work in the link above. Great photographs, shame about the cheap and nasty filtering) I do like the freedom a 'non-camera' can produce and I also like the fact that it is different. 

I see no reason however to move away from taking pretty conventional looking pictures. I'll not be 'instagramming' my images anytime soon. And in most ways I won't be changing my photographic practices either. However regular readers will have noticed a slightly more 'experimental' series of images in recent weeks, though I'm not likely to stray too far from what might be described as my 'house style'. 

And to me that's the essence of the impact of smartphones on the photographic experience. Shake things up a bit, loosen attitudes up somewhat, persuade us to take a few more chances and try something a little different. I write often enough about how the photographic internet is full of rote repeated dogma, cliche and closed mind thinking and is full of people trying to put other people into neat little boxes and criticise them for daring to refuse to be constrained by this catergorisation. Now I'm no avant-garde photographic maverick, far from it, but I do like to challenge myself, approach things from a different angle and of course take a 180 degree turn and go in the opposite direction whenever I feel like it. 

It's now become clear to me that a smartphone, under the right conditions, can produce an image that satisfies my minimum technical requirements. I have had that for over a year now, but my inbuilt prejudice and desire to define myself as a 'serious photographer' prevented me from seeing that. And if pulling my head out of my you know what isn't a great reason for going out shooting with a smartphone, then I don't know what is!!

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Are smartphones impacting on the professional photography environment? - Part 1


Here's a shot taken recently I like. Below is the exif data. 


Yes it's a smartphone picture, taken on my Blackberry. And yes I'm VERY sneery about pictures taken on smartphones (and dumbphones for that matter) However, yesterday I had a long conversation with another experienced stock photographer, who happens to be my wife Ann, and we were discussing the implications of the rise of the smartphone and the general explosion of picture taking that has triggered. Plus of course the implications of what that might mean to us as photographers, if any.

We've all heard the stories. The iPhone wedding, the war zone photographers who shoot on phone cameras, plus all the other assorted examples of how these devices are replacing point and shoot compacts and becoming a form of 'artistic expression' in their own right. 

Now I've always been unimpressed by the quality of phone photography. And skeptical about claims that phones can produce anything worthwhile. But these days the picture libraries I sell my work through all have mobile phone picture options and the implication is (though never actually stated) that mobile phone photography is fresher, more spontaneous less 'old-hat' and way cooler than anything conventional cameras can produce. Now I pride myself on being able to spot the trends in stock photography and I'm wondering whether this is indeed a way to go. Much as I dislike the whole idea, I was wondering whether I could actually find a way to express what I want with the limitations of these devices and whether it's something I could see as being a part of where my photography is headed. 

Now I have actually taken a Blackberry shot that sells very well.


To be honest it's not that surprising. It's the kind of shot that would sell well no matter what it was taken on. However, it has made me think.


So to start Ann and I shot some images yesterday with the Blackberry, which are unremarkable in themselves but are now in fact sitting on a picture library website available for sale, so there doesn't seem to be an issue with them being accepted.







Now Blackberries have no reputation at all as far as I'm aware in the world of smartphone and mobile photohgraphy, but my Q10 does have a few things going for it. Firstly it shoots square pictures, which I like, it's not over pixeled (around the 6MP mark for the final result) and somewhat surprisingly it has amazingly accurate colour rendition, in fact I can't think I've ever seen anything quite so realistic. The flowers above are in our garden and the colours are absolutely spot on. I processed everything in Photoshop after transferring the images to my laptop using Bluetooth, but I have to say I was also impressed with the dynamic range. It's far better than I thought. 

There is of course the noise reduction. And the original images are dripping with it. This is after all a
1/3" (4.8 mm × 3.6 mm) sensor and the images are somewhat soft and 'smeared.' However a bit of subtle sharpening worked OK, but they are still 'grainy.' The lens is a somewhat incredible 4.1mm (equivalent / approximate to a 31mm lens on a 35mm camera) so depth of field isn't a problem!!! And the shutter speeds are high at an aperture of f/2.2.

Another advantage is that the images are also incredibly quick to process. No raw nonsense here! I guess I could have seen this coming when I wrongly set one of my Fuji's to shoot small jpg. size images only and had the whole batch edited and uploaded within an hour, which I actually really appreciated. So the other advantage of this is the speed. This is certainly not a time intensive workflow.

So where will this go? Well I have no idea. I may revert to type and never shoot another phone picture again, I may become a passionate advocate for phone photography. Who knows? I certainly don't. However, I feel that I owe it to myself to explore this and see what can be achieved both artistically and in terms of sales, as at least 50% of my images are bought for web use only. And also to check out my prejudices of course, which is always a useful thing to do. 

So expect some smart phone photography posts in the next few days and some interesting reactions I'm sure.





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Blackberry Q10 camera




All images Blackberry Q10 Smartphone

Having just upgraded my Blackberry to the Q10, I thought that I'd better try out the camera at least once. This is a new camera, apparently 8MP, though the square pictures I was taking turned out to be 6MP in size. To be honest the pictures weren't as bad as I was expecting, which isn't saying much. The 100% blowups above are just on the right side of acceptable, apart from the tulip, which is a mess with no detail in the flower whatsoever. 

Since phone cameras are supposed to be destroying the compact camera market its interesting that these images aren't even as good as those from the 2MP Olympus C-2000Z I had 13 years ago. I have some A3 prints from that camera that are surprisingly good.

These phone cameras can be useful I guess as some kind of visual notebook, but any notion that they are any kind of a photographic tool strikes me as ridiculous. However using the Q10 camera did give me an idea as to why Instagram and all those other filter options exist. To mask the awful image quality. 

Everybody says that these will get better, but of course at the same time that happens then conventional cameras will be getting better as well. Phone cameras may be an option for the visually illiterate, but for anyone with even the slightest bit of interest in producing images that will stand the test of time, they strike me as completely useless. Its a shame that people will look at family snapshots in years to come and have results that are significantly poorer than those their grandparents took.

If people are satisfied with this, then fair enough, but its sad that the words photography and mobile phone occur in the same sentence. Its even sadder however that sites like Dpreview spend so much time on this 'dumbing down' of photography. A bit like taking those out of tune idiots who audition for Pop Idol or X Factor type shows seriously as singers.