DSLR? or Phone-Camera? or Both?

I am curious about “How well phone-cameras meet my primary image making needs?“. Everyone’s answer to this question will differ as it comes down to “What are your personal needs?“. This post begins a series to answer my question.

I’ll begin with two of my prize-winning DSLR images that illustrate  today’s conclusion:

  • An iPhone can meet some of my needs
  • But – not all of them

An image that an iPhone could make

CMYK Grand Prize

An image that an iPhone could NOT make

(unable to provide the required paper-thin DOF)


The place to start this series is to define my image making goals:

  • Fine-art photography
    • An emphasis on nature in all of its forms
    • I also like the occasional painterly style and abstract image
  • Images that are nearly perfect at the time of capture
    • Including composition (with no post-capture cropping)
    • Minimal post-processing – mainly tonal & color contrast adjustments

DSLR’s, together with the right lenses and accessories, meet my needs completely.

  • The question I’m asking is how well does my iPhone 6 Plus do?
    • There is no doubt that it can meet my goals in certain situations
    • There is also no doubt that, at times, it can’t even come close
      • The images above illustrate these two cases
  • Spoiler Alert – much of what I want in an image requires:
    • Changing a lens’ aperture (fine control over depth of field)
    • Ability to use different focal lengths
    • Phone camera’s lenses have fixed apertures and focal lengths
      • This “feature” makes many of my “styles” impossible to achieve
      • The 2nd image above is an example
  • Apart from the lens issue, the iPhone should meet most of my needs
    • Further, mainly because of phone apps, it may offer new possibilities
      • It’s this app potential that interests me most
    • It sure is easier to carry 😉

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6 thoughts on “DSLR? or Phone-Camera? or Both?

  1. Hi Ed, last Friday I carted my D810 and two lenses to photograph an immense floral display. After five( not a typo) hours of making images and walking miles I wished that my iPhone was in my pocket and and the DSLR was locked up in the car, not the phone. I was photographing for my own pleasure and ‘fridge photos’ via my iPhone would have been OK.

    I’ll follow you further posts on the subject with great interest. One question, do you ever cart around a point and shoot?

    • I hear you…

      What you described is the main reason I started this smartphone series. Ten years ago my “normal” walk-about photo outing (done several hours daily for nearly five years) was a DSLR mounted on a Gitzo tripod with a total weight just a little under 10#. And to balance things out – a back pack with a 2nd DSLR plus 4-5 lenses. Then of course I wore a vest with pockets full of just-in-case accessories like grad ND filters, Swiss army knife, compass,…

      In a nutshell, I was nuts – but boy did I learn a lot. Now, at 78, my bones are creaking, too, and I’ve put that behind me. BUT – when I want that special shot there’s no doubt it will be made with the D800E.

      P&S – I used to keep one in the car “just in case”. I’ll have to start doing that again. My iPhone is always in my right front pocket.

  2. Ed,
    :Have to agree that the portability of the smart phone is truly a bonus. Can’t imagine carrying my D90 for a quick trip to Home Depot. You never know where a striking image lurks, and getting it on a marginal platform is better than missing it. Hope PA is treating you well.

    • Well, the heat & humidity is much nicer. Winter? We’ll wait & see.

      We’ve finished all of the major chores in terms of getting our news digs to the point where we can say “We’re all done!!”. About all that’s left is to hang a few pictures which is what I was doing today. On the positive side, we found all sorts of things that had “gone missing” over the years at HH.

      I hope all is well with all of the Halls – family & clubhouse.

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