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Photography Tips

Camera verses Smartphones - The right tool for the job

Timothy Farmer
November 2, 2023

There is a saying we have in the photo industry; the best camera is the one you have with you. Today with smartphones having high pixel counts and multiple lenses you may think that cameras are a thing of the past.That could not be farther from the truth. Yes, a smartphone is great when you’re out with family or friends and you want to grab a quick photo for memory’s sake or if you want to take a photo to remember which kind of food product your wife wants you to get. Grab your phone. But if you want great looking photos, ones that you will cherish for years to come, a camera is your best tool for the job and here is why:


1.    Image quality. When you take a photo with your phone it looks good or even great on your phone. This does not mean it will look great even as a 4x6 print. First your phone processes the image.Increasing colors, contrast, and exposure all out of your control. Sometimes it hits the mark, other times they fail, and you can’t change it after the fact.Phones also have much smaller sensors and lenses. Light is the key to great photos and small lenses and sensors just can’t gather the light like a camera.

2.    They are not ergonomically designed for taking a photo. A phone is small and slim. Great for putting in your pocked but not so great for holding it steady and up in front. How many times have you fumbled with your phone? A camera has a grip, a shutter button right under your finger.They have been developed for almost two hundred years to make it easy to take a photo.

3.    A phone screen is not ideal for taking photos. A camera has a view finder where you put your eye up to it blocking out other light, so you see the image best without glare. Yes, cameras also have flat screens on the back, so you really have two options. The LCD display on a lot of cameras even rotate or angle so you can view from different heights.

4.    Smartphone flashes are just bad. It’s the same light as the phone’s flashlight. A cameras flash has more power and more control. You have options to shut off camera flashes, so your photos don’t make everyone look like a surprised deer in the headlights.

5.    Shallow depth of field or if you like, bokeh! Depth of field is where your subject is in focus and the background is out of focus. You will hear the word Bokeh used a lot. It is a Japanese word meaning the quality of the out of focus blur.  Your phone can fake this by doing select area blurring and sometimes it gets it wrong, but areal lens does this by physics and looks great. One day your cell phone may get closer to a real lens, but for today, a lens is king!

I have never seen a Smartphone do bokeh like this!

6.    Cameras take superior selfies. Come on, admit it, we all take selfies. At the Grand Canyon, Taylor Swift concerts, with the family. We want to be in the picture and sharing it with our family and friends(and maybe on social media to show what a fabulous time we’re having.) The front camera people use on their smartphones to take selfies are not the high megapixel multi sensor and lens they advertise, it’s a small one on front usually wide angle which is not the most flattering. It’s a little more of a hassle to transfer your photo form the camera to the phone to share, but it’s with eye-detecting auto focus, high resolution, great optics…

7.    Let’s talk about lenses. First, the quality of a camera lens has been refined for a long time. They are the highest quality optical glass in their lenses, and they are large to allow as much light in as possible. A smartphone has a small lens. It’s like looking through squinted eyes. Cameras gives you lots of lenses to choose from for your camera making sure you have the optimal optics for the subject you are photographing. Be it an85mm f/2.8 for portraits to a 15mm f/22 for landscapes, or a fast 150-600mm for wildlife and sports.

8.    The right tool for the job. Swiss army pocketknives can do it all, but not well. They have scissors that are impossible to use, a saw that can cut a twig, and a tooth pick I lost the second day I had my knife. Your smartphone can do a lot and is great in a pinch. But like the Swiss Army knife, if I want to cut some wood, I’m grabbing a chainsaw. If you want to capture your vacation, special moments, or go out and take photos of wildlife, the camera is the tool for the job.

There are some draw backs cameras have compared to smartphones. You can’t surf the internet or call a friend on your camera. You will have to download your images from the camera to get them printed (see our blog “The Importance of Making Prints”), and it is extra stuff you need to take with you. There are small light cameras that will not take a lot of room and still give you the advantages of a dedicated camera from Fuji, Olympus, and Lumix (even Canon and Nikon have some small compact cameras). Smartphones also process your image as I talked above, where you can process your camera photos to get the most out of them and that can make a world of difference.

In the end, the camera you have in your hands is the best camera to take photos with. But if you’re hoping to capture high quality photos to share and keep treasured memories with, using the best tool is always the best option.