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Pros and Cons of Smartphone Photography

Most people have a mobile phone of some sort, and thanks to your smartphone, it is now becoming easier for almost anyone to capture a great image. SNAP; and then your smartphone is able to make the captured image even more captivating then it started out. With smartphone photography, taking your image can be just the first step. Yes, you got me right, the built in filters which most smartphone cameras have, can add a certain something extra to your images. There are also some pretty cool apps with which to edit your photos as well. 

When DSLR’s seemed like an essential in the photography sector to actually capture a great image…smartphones have just proved this to be wrong. Who needs a costly DSLR to capture an image which can be done just as well with a smartphone? BUT I’ll still say that some things cannot be beaten by a mobile phone. You might think you can ace it with a phone, but is this true? Lets take a look at some of the pros and cons of using your smartphone for photography.

PROS of Smartphone Photography:


Probably the biggest plus point to using your smartphone is that your smartphone usually goes along with you wherever you go. Another big plus point where smartphones win is size. It is less practical to carry all that heavy and bulky DSLR camera kit everywhere, and there are some places where you need to be more careful…you simply cannot take care of the DSLR as well. So yes your smartphone pops in as a saviour.

Image quality is a big argument; who wins in here? Some smartphones now have 20 megapixel cameras as well which are definitely great to capture some amazing images with. Though because of the size constraints of most phones, the image sensor is a lot smaller in size than that in a similar resolution DSLR camera.

But if you have a smartphone with a high megapixel camera, you are more likely to capture some great images with it, than you would with on lower resolution smartphone camera.

Versatility. However good a digital camera is, it is only a camera. A modern smartphone is a phone, camera, music centre, calendar, browser etc. A smartphone is so much more than a camera, and with the range of apps you can install, it can be whatever you want it to be.

Cost. These days you can pick up a cheap smartphone for around £100 ($125 at time of writing). From there the prices can go up to £700+ ($850) So a smartphone is considerably cheaper than a DSLR camera, where an “entry level” camera will cost around the £300 mark ($370 or so) Prices for high end DSLR run to £2000 plus. For these prices you are usually getting the camera body, and maybe 1 or 2 kit lenses.

Most of all most people always have their mobile phone with them. This means that when an opportunity arises to capture that image, you have the means to do so with you. If you ain’t got a camera with you, you can’t capture the photo.

CONS of Smartphone Photography:


The amount of control that a DSLR camera’s settings allow, are a great plus point. A smartphone simply cannot beat a DSLR at this, for the simple reason that the camera is designed purely for taking photos.

The high degree of control that a DSLR gives is unbeatable by a smartphone, even when it is one of the entry level DSLR cameras that you have in your hand. If you are serious about your photography, you want to have complete control of such settings as shutter speed, ISO, aperture and the ability to capture images in RAW Format. And you certainly cannot get such a great range of settings in a smartphone.

Secondly, the ability to produce “bokeh” in your images. In photography, bokeh is the term used to describe the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by controlling the depth of field. It is produced by careful focusing, and using a wide aperture, to give a shallow depth of field to the image.

Yes, you can capture that through a smartphone as well but the lens, and auto focus are never going be great enough to achieve the necessary shallow depth of field. You can clearly see the difference between bokeh captured by a mobile phone and that of a DSLR. If you want the correct focus and image quality you need a quality lens, coupled with a DSLR camera.

That takes us neatly to the third thing, focus. You can more precisely focus on the main subject of the photo with a DSLR camera, than with a smartphone. You also have the benefit of being able to change lenses to suit the shooting conditions. You are also not restricted to digital zoom, which doesn’t zoom in so much as crop, and enlarge a portion of the image. This leads to a loss of information in the image captured.

Sensor size is another major plus point to using a DSLR. The actual image sensor size in a DSLR is a lot bigger than in a smartphone. This means that the sensor captures more light, and tonal information about the scene being shot. This leads to better quality images.

Smartphone photography can suffer due to much smaller image sensor.
DSLR and iPhone sensors.

The image above demonstrates how tiny the camera and sensor in a smartphone really are. The coin is used to show a sense of scale. The smartphone is an old iPhone 4s, the coin is larger than the camera and sensor combined.

Another plus of digital cameras is they offer the ability to use off camera flash. This can produce more flattering lighting, especially for portraits.

To sum up, it is possible to differentiate a smartphone image from a DSLR one, but image quality from smartphones is improving all the time. If you shoot within the limitations of your camera phone, you will produce some good quality images.

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