The iPhone wasn’t the device to get me interested in photography. I’d always had a passing interest in being able to take pictures wherever I was, and I purchased the Sony Ericsson K750i for exactly that reason. It had a 2 Megapixel camera with auto-focus, and it was really freeing to be able to whip out a camera without dealing with any extra bulk.
The iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5S, and the 6S Plus served me well, and carried on in the tradition of the K750i. They were my everyday cameras and I snapped shots simply to preserve memories, and also to try and take some beautiful pictures. Every iPhone upgrade made strides towards higher overall image quality, and better low-light performance. Alongside the speed improvements, imaging was the biggest reasons I’d shell out for a new iPhone every two years.
I’d say that daytime picture quality was already quite good, even with the 3GS. However, low light photography has always been a challenge on smartphones, due to their tiny sensor sizes. It’s just hard to take a high ISO shot without it being extremely grainy. Every time I got a new iPhone, I’d take out at night and test it in tough conditions. Dimly lit bars, and tricky night-time street shots that were lit by just one lamppost.
However, as I learned in March of 2015 with my purchase of the Sony A6000, there are definitely strong arguments for bringing a dedicated camera around. With a fast lens and an APS-C sensor, I’m able to get the low light shots I’ve wanted to take for years. I’m also able to get more dramatic shallow depth of field shots, which is what most people think of when they talk about a “DSLR look”.
However, that’s not to say that the iPhone isn’t a useful camera to me anymore. It’s still a great macro camera, with a focusing distance of around 10cm. Without a dedicated macro lens, my iPhone still takes better close-up shots of products and flowers than my Sony or Fuji cameras. Then there’s the stabilized video and time lapse modes. Putting a time lapse together on my Fuji X-Pro 2 requires a tripod or a stabilized lens, and then a lot of post production to put something cool together. With my iPhone 6S Plus and its built-in optical image stabilization, all I need to do is switch to the Time Lapse mode and press a button. The results are stunning:
I do feel like I’m under-utilizing the iPhone hardware by not using it as a main camera, especially since it is such a capable machine. But this change in the iPhone’s role is changing how I see the device.
I’m approaching a year of ownership with the 6S Plus, and for once, the prospect of a new iPhone camera doesn’t really excite me much. I upgrade every two years for speed and camera boosts, but I could see myself breaking that cycle with the 6S Plus, and holding onto it for three years. This would increaseÂ the value of my investment in smartphones, since I buy my iPhones unlocked at full price. I don’t think I’ll necessarily save more money over time because that iPhone money will just turn into a lens budget, but I’m surprised at how differently I view my phone now that it isn’t my main camera.