Smart phones have, at this point in time, replaced simple point and shoot(non-optical zoom) cameras among the general public.
As this article in PC World points out, though smart phone cameras aren’t quite up to traditional point and shoot standards in some ways (though some smart phones are rapidly narrowing the gap), the convenience, weight and versatility have made a smart phone the preferred device to take vacation photos, share a child’s birthday party or the latest restaurant meal.
And, increasingly, smart devices are being used more and more for outdoor photography.
So, how good are these cameras for outdoor photography?
What I find is that smart phones are wonderful to keep on hand for photos in general. As the old adage goes, the best camera is the one you have available.
With a smart phone camera, I’ve been able to take some good (I think) photos on the fly when a last-minute trip presented itself.
The megapixels have steadily increased..but far more importantly, the lens quality has increased and the size and quality of the sensor has increased well. For example, my Samsung Galaxy S6 has a CMOS sensor size of 1/2.6″ compared to a 1/2.3” sensor for many point and shoot cameras.
What does all this mean?
For the average person who wants to share photos with friends and family and perhaps the occasional 8×10 photo, I can see why a smart phone camera is such a popular item. Convenient, easy to use, easy to share photos.
Add in some basic manual controls and the smart phone camera even works at times for someone like myself who fancies themselves an ardent amateur. 😉
What I have found is that the overall quality of the camera on mobile devices have increased to the point that I don’t think I’d buy another basic point and shoot camera again.
I found the overall quality of my new phone’s camera to be surprisingly good on a recent trip.
It did well on landscape photos and medium shots.
So…will my Android replace my DSLR or my long-drooled after mirrorless camera setup?
Because here is what I found for me… As always, your results may vary.
- As with many point and shoots, the depth of field control is limited. Macro shots (wildflowers) and portrait type shots or similar do not come out as well.
- Lack of optical zoom means the photos becomes pixelated and noisy when I zoom in
- The smaller sensor, even with a high mega-pixel count, means that the details in the photos will not be as high
- Low light conditions are difficult for the camera as well vs one with a larger sensor
- Battery power will be limited unless I carry something like an Anker box(which, to be fair, does weigh less than my DSLR rig!)
There are ways around these limitations, but still not quite as good versus the dedicated cameras in my humble opinion.
Still, for convenience and having a camera on me, the latest generation of mobile device cameras are quite good.
And, who knows, new technology in the pipeline. New technology that will presumably get better with each year.
However, I think camera gear is much like backpakcking gear. The lightest and better gear can help with backpacking but will not take you up the trail. Having a high-end camera will not mean a person will necessarily take good photos.
Knowing how to use your tools and knowing the limitations of them is what will ultimately let a person take the good photos.
And, again to be fair, if I were not into photography as an adjunct hobby to my outdoor trips, I suspect a smart device camera would be just fine.
A DSLR will take better photos than my current phone…but in the right conditions, my phone can still take good photos when I do not have my DSLR camera on me.
And having a camera on me is the best way to take a good photo. 🙂