The Best Camera

…is, according to Chase Jarvis, the one you have with you. By that, he means that if you don’t have your beautiful Leica or professional Nikon with you, but you have your iPhone, then the iPhone is the best camera to grab the shot that you would otherwise have missed.

There’s always been a lot of talk about which is the “best” camera around and despite the fact that it’s a senseless discussion, it will always continue. But there is a camera most ideally suited to you and to your requirements for picture-taking. It’s the one which allows you to get the shots that you want, whether they’re discreet street photos, long-lens shots of animals in nature, or fish-eye, wide-angle shots of water-skiers. The geek who tries to convince you that you need a big Nikon with a 30-odd megapixel sensor and a range of lenses is often mistaken: you probably don’t need half of the equipment – or even half the number of megapixels – that he does. That doesn’t make him wrong: for him, the many kilos of equipment in his bag is the best photo kit… but for him. Not for everyone.

I’ve hardly used my Nikon so far this year. I bought a small and light Fujifilm X100 a while back and am supremely pleased with the results I get from it. It has a fixed, slight wide-angle lens on it, which means that I can’t zoom in to take detailed shots of buildings, or take standard, complimentary portrait shots with a narrow depth-of-field. But that’s fine: I know the limitations of the camera and so when I go out to take photos with it, I adjust my shooting style accordingly. Through the limitation, I take less photos, and therefore have less to sort through and edit when I get home. That’s a boon, as it ensures that I take a moment to make sure that the shot I take is correct, instead of taking a dozen views with a dozen levels of zoom.

I wrote a while back about “travelling light” with this camera, so when you’re done here, the previous blog post may interest you.

After nearly four years with an iPhone 3GS, the latest software has become so advanced that the old thing can’t keep up any more, so I dug into my pockets and scraped together some cash to buy a newer model. The latest iPhone 5 – or upcoming 5S – is out of my price range: even with a comfortable deal on a mobile phone contract it costs upwards of Fr.200. For just Fr.49 and a new phone contract, its predecessor, the iPhone 4S, offers much of what the newest version has. The biggest improvement for me – aside from the much increased speed over the older phone – is the camera.

The 4S isn’t new, so I won’t bother going into details about it but rather stick to the photographic aspects. The 8 megapixel sensor and built-in HDR and panorama functions are fantastic in comparison to the predecessor’s photographic tools and I’ve quickly become re-enamoured of using a mobile phone camera to take “proper” photos when I don’t have an alternative with me. While I’m sure that the camera in the iPhone 5 is even better, this one will do me just fine for the foreseeable future.

The shots in this blog post were taken with the newer iPhone: compare them with other shots in the most recent additions to my Flickr photo stream and you’ll be hard-pushed to notice the difference between those taken with the iPhone and those taken with the X100. That’s not to say that the cameras are on a par: not by any means. But for taking a photo when wandering around and putting it online in a low to moderate resolution, the iPhone is terrific. It’s certainly good enough for prints too: a quick test print of the main photo on this page at A4-size is just as good as one from a dedicated compact camera would be.

The built-in panorama function blows me away and is the best automated solution I’ve come across to date. Click, slide the camera across the view, and click to stop whenever you want (if you don’t want a full 240° view). The gyroscope in the phone automatically tweaks minor variations whilst building the image so that there are no jagged edges mid-photo. This is vastly better than pretty much any of the other third-party apps I tried with the old phone. The end result needs little adjustment and can usually be cropped slightly and uploaded or printed with no further fuss.

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