‘by James Wallace Harris, Thursday, February 23, 2017
How important is it to own a camera when our cell phones are cameras? Today I took pictures at the botanic gardens with my Canon Rebel Xsi and my iPhone 6s Plus. It’s not quite comparing apples with apples but I tried taking similar shots. I’ll show the test photos in pairs, with the camera on top, and the phone below.
I might have made a mistake leaving the HDR (high dynamic range) mode on the iPhone. The park does not look this lush. But here’s a comparison of two close-ups (camera/phone). It’s easy to see the Canon camera gathers more details.
The Canon sensor is a CMOS APS-C 12.2 megapixel, sized at 22.20mm x 14.80mm, at 5.20 microns per pixel pitch. The iPhone has 12 MP, f/2.2, 29mm, 1/3″, 1.22 µm pixel size sensor. So they both have the same 12-megapixel rating, but the Canon’s sensor is giant compared to the Apple’s sensor. (Bigger is better.) See “Camera sensor size: Why does it matter and exactly how big are they?” Here is a graphic from that article that shows the various sensor sizes in comparison. The iPhone is the dark blue box, and the Canon is the dark yellow. Still, the iPhone photo competes fairly well, especially if you’re only going to put your snaps on Facebook. Some cell phones do have larger sensors, like the darker of the two greens.
I’d love to have a camera with a full-frame sensor, but at over $2000 that won’t happen.
In terms of taking photos, the Canon was much easier to use, even though it’s much bulkier to carry. Ease of use was mainly due to not seeing the iPhone screen in the daylight. Peering through the camera’s eyepiece is great. There are cell phones that have brighter screens than Apple’s, meaning they’d work better outdoors. I’m not sure I’d want to switch to Android just for that, but it might be a consideration for some. But holding a phone for taking pictures is not pleasant compared to holding a camera. However, the trade-off of always having a phone, a device that fits in my pocket, is a major consideration.
Here are three more photos. They illustrate the fact that the iPhone is naturally more wide-angle than the Canon with the 50mm lens. The middle shot using the phone is zoomed in and should have less detail quality because of it. It was also not taken at the exact location of the Canon shot. Plus, the un-zoomed phone shot, with the HDR setting seeing more sky, dramatically makes the iPhone photo stand out. The sky was not that blue. The colors from the iPhone photo are completely false, but the photo is much more eye-catching.
This urges me to get a good wide-angle lens for my Canon. The field of focus is good for the camera and phone, but I much prefer the details in the camera photo. My 50mm 1.8 lens is a low-end Canon. I wonder if an expensive lens would get me a dramatically better photo?
Looking at these pictures brings up another issue – color fidelity. Our reality is not color calibrated. We all see the same scene differently because of our eyes see differently. So do our cameras. The top view, using the Canon camera is closer to how I remember seeing the colors.
Right now I’m not aiming for artistic photography. Creative photography manipulates the colors to be more appealing. People are attracted to vivid colors. At the moment I’m into photography to record what I see. In day-to-day life, when we look around we see everything in focus (if we have good eyes or proper glasses). It’s usually when we try to switch from looking around to focusing on something up close that we have trouble focusing. Cameras don’t focus that easily. That’s why I love a deep field-of-focus – it’s more like natural seeing. It’s more realistic. So are unsaturated colors. Nor do I want the weird effect we get from a too-wide angled lens or the flatness of a telephoto. (At least for now.)
Considering all of this, the camera does the job for my requirements. I could probably adjust how I use the iPhone camera to my needs, but it’s awkward to hold, even though its easier to carry around. It’s also very difficult to frame photos when shooting in daylight. When I was bracing my shots on a pylon next to the water, I worried about dropping the phone, but the camera was protected by a neck strap. Plus I had a better hold of it. All-in-all, using a camera for photography is more practical than using a phone for photography. And that overrides the fact I always have a phone with me.
Yesterday I was thinking I might want a new camera, but I think this old Rebel Xsi does fine. I just need to use it more precisely. A higher quality wide-angled lens might get me closer to what I want, but it might not be necessary.