“I’ll Just Use My Phone”

I must have said these words a thousand times. No need to buy a camera, I have one. I have a smart phone, it can do everything. It has a camera and if I want, I can even edit my photos on it. I was determined to use my phone, and not get a proper camera. I mean, really, how different can a real camera be? How far behind a modern camera, is a phone camera? Turns out, there’s a reason I write in a word processor, and not on my phone, even if there is an app for it. The same reason applies to the camera.

Now, be forewarned. I have taken no classes in photography, and it shows.  Along with my reliance on my phone for hardware, I have been depending on my phone to make all photographic decisions for me.  I just ran in automatic mode. From what I have read, it is possible to take excellent pictures with the right phone camera. These phones seem to cost more than an entry level DSLR camera. The hardware used in  this article, are a Samsung Galaxy Express 3 and a Canon EOS Rebel T5 wearing a 75-300mm lens. The editing software was MS paint, chosen for the utter lack of useful tools.  Phone pics are on the left, Canon pics are on the right.

Spanish moss growing in a holly tree. Riveting, I know. But this shows the selective difference between the autofocus on the phone, versus the autofocus on the camera. This was close for the Canon lens, but still workable to give me an image that can be adapted to background use. The focal point on the phone was close, less than eighteen inches. The Canon, with the lens set to 75mm, still has a minimal focal point of about five feet. I do have another lens for closer work, but today I wanted to use the longer reach of the 75-300 to bring the outdoors a little closer to me. Which brings us to the next image.

For those of you familiar with the azalea, yes, I got stung. In order to get a clear macro shot with the Samsung, I had to get down there, right on top of the flowers. You know what else is there? Bees. I tried to get roughly the same shot with the Canon zoomed in to set about 135mm. This placed me about four and a half feet from the bees. The bees and I were both happier with this arrangement. Now, on this shot, the phone tried to focus on every leaf and flower, while the camera simply blew out the focus on everything but the flowers. This does not have to happen, but it is what I prefer. I picked those two flowers for a reason, and wanted to share those two flowers with the world. The Canon also captured the color much better. The Samsung seems to have over-saturated the pinks. I could fix this in photoshop, of course, but that is just adding more work. Now, that blur effect in the back there?

This picture shows it better. It is called “Bokeh” and it is pronounced like a cartoon ogre shouting “Donkey!” Basically, it means “blur” and can be used to describe this effect, or a certain state of mind. These pictures were captured from similar angles, but I was a touch lower on the Canon shot. As above, the point was to draw the eye to the flowers I had chosen. In this case, however, I was trying to get the background filled in better. The clarity of the background on the Samsung picture shows the limitation of the phone camera. I set the main focus on the flowers, but you can still make out the trees across the street, and the light variance draws the eye. The Canon, however, limited the field of view, as well as the depth of field. This gave me a more light balanced image, with a more colorful bouquet of bokeh.

The chicken shot. This entire area is in the shade, which was nice and uniform by this time in the afternoon. The phone image washed out, as it tried to focus on everything within the field at the same time.  I could have tried to get closer, but chicks are skittish, and would run. Again, with fauna as with flora, the Canon’s 75mm lens allowed me to reach out and pull the chick in. Two, actually. The birds were curious yet not spooked, which is a clear advantage when trying to get a photo of them. Notice the difference, also, in the lighting and focus. The Samsung grabbed everything it possibly could. The Canon did grab a bit more, but stayed focused on the birds, rather than getting the sharp detail of the dirt or cinder block. Sometimes, there can be things you want to exclude from an image but have no choice but to include from the right angle. By managing the zoom and focus, you can get the shot. With the camera on the phone, the only option for this would be cropping.

A more social creature for this one. At least, I expected so, but it turned out to be the wrong kitten, and did not wish to be a compliant model. The point for this one, is to show that I could not get close enough to get the shot I wanted with the phone. The Samsung phone camera has the advantage of being silent, with no flash on, the kitten was free to lick her own face, then attack my hand holding the phone. The Canon shot, shows the kitten clearing my blood from her lip. As I am limited by the distance of the 75-300mm lens’ focal length, this kept me clear of the claws when getting the shot. I was also able to properly fill the frame with kitten without any cropping. Something not possible with the phone, as it would have made attacks easier for the feline.

The final reason I have for switching to a DSLR, is this. Zoom. The zoom and field of view on the Samsung is about equal to the Canon with a 22mm lens. But the only zoom option is digital. Digital zoom is worthless for my needs. In the images above, we have the phone at normal, with a 4x digital zoom below it. The Canon, at 75mm, and 300mm below that. I considered switching the lens on the Canon for this shot, as I could replicate the shots from the Samsung perfectly, as far as distance. But I was wrapping up the photo taking for the day, and wanted to keep the same limitations on the camera and the phone. The Canon clearly outperforms the phone camera, but this is to be expected. The phone camera was never intended to capture a zoomed shot from fifty yards.

My conclusion here is that while you can get away with a multi-tool for some things, the proper tool will always be better. The Canon EOS Rebel T5 is an entry level DSLR camera, that in pretty much every way dominates a phone camera. Ok, fine, the phone fits in my pocket and the DSLR does not. But that little con is outweighed by the vast number of pros. And fair is fair here. The Canon doesn’t function as a computer, messenger, calculator, or phone at all. 


(Neither product was provided for review. No chickens were harmed. No kittens were harmed, though one really did earn it. 

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