The Best Camera …

Episode 294 of The Accidental Tech Podcast featured a question from a listener that really piqued my interest. Listener Matt Taylor asked:

Should I buy an XS for the camera or a $1,000 ‘actual’ camera. Use case: we have a new born

The emphasis was my own, but this was one of the key parts of the question for me. On the show, 2/3 of the presenters (John and Casey) suggested, quite unequivocally, that the real camera was the only real way forward and that there would be nothing but regrets if this wasn’t the choice taken. Marco, on the other hand, went the other way. I’m not writing this article to argue any of these guys were wrong, but I do feel quite strongly about what I personally would both suggest, and have experienced, so I wanted to at least share my thoughts. To me, the answer to this question is, without a doubt, go for the XS (though any smartphone with a good camera would also win my vote). I should caveat this article at this point to say that I’m writing this as a parent, of a young child, so much of what I’m going to say is to specifically address the part the listener said about having a new born. I should say, however, that even without this fact the iPhone would still get my vote.

For me, having an iPhone as a primary camera brings with it a multitude of benefits. A real camera will always win in terms of the physical quality of image, but will lose out in other, very important ways, which I will detail below.

Convenience

There’s a saying (coined by Chase Jarvis, and also the name of his book, that says:

The best camera is the one you have with you

This is a statement I believe wholeheartedly. For me, and for many, people, this is generally a smartphone (and quite often an iPhone) and while the pure quality of a photo from an SLR or even a micro 4/3 will undoubtedly be better, there is far more to making a good photograph than just pure binary qualities.

I would guess (based on zero facts!) that 99% of the photographs taken in the world each day are taken by amateur photographers. For these people, the key part of the photograph is the memory and feeling it conveys when you look at it later, not the number of megapixels in the image, or how well exposed it is. There has been untold moments in my life when I’ve grabbed my phone from pocket to take a quick picture of something happening completely unplanned or unexpected. A picture that I’d never have been in a position to take if I had to unpack a large, unwieldy camera from a backpack or the like.

Without going into too much detail, the birth of my daughter wasn’t the smoothest of times, and her first week of life took place in an intensive care ward (she was, and is, all fine though thank goodness). It was at this time that I took one of the most important pictures I’ve ever taken.

Now, this picture isn’t good from a technical standpoint, but the emotion it provided at the time when I could share it with my wife and family to show them the new member of the family was doing well is absolutely priceless and it’s something I’m sure I wouldn’t have been able to get with a real camera. This I just one example of the benefits I’ve seen to having a thin device that’s always charged and in my pocket, ready when I am.

Live Photos

Live Photos were introduced to the iPhone range with the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus range. From the moment this feature was introduced I was in love. Apple should call this the ‘parent mode’ because it feels just perfect with people with kids. Children are, as you’d imagine, often fast moving and / or unwilling (or able) to sit still for more than 5 seconds at a time, so the chances of capturing a really nice picture (with an SLR or and iPhone) are quite low. This is were Live Photo’s have, again just for me, come into their own. The result of a Live Photo are three fold. Firstly, obviously, you get the photo you were after. Secondly, you get a great little video clip either side of the main photo to get some insight into what was happening at the time. The cherry on the cake is then also the sound clip that accompanies this which instantly adds 100% more context and vibrancy to scene you were taking a picture of. I, again, have many photos that technically don’t look very good, but thanks to Live Photo’s I still have access to some audio, at the least, which makes a dull picture once again become priceless.

Storage

This isn’t the most exciting point, so I won’t labour it too much, but the Integration between iOS and the iCloud Photo Library infrastructure makes managing and maintaining a possibly large photo database such a breeze. Yes, you have to pay for it, but what don’t you have to pay for these days that’s worth having?

All in all, as long as you care about the subject matter, any photos you take, regardless of the device that takes them, will always be important to you. If, however, you think you have your hands full with a newborn, you just wait. Having hands, bag space, and time free for taking real photos will only get harder and harder from here.

Anyone reading this article will continue to use whether phone or device they want (and so you should!)-, but for me my iPhone is my best friend when it comes to compiling some amazing memories of my single ride around this carousel we call life.