When the iPhone is better than the camera

The most popular photographic subject in the Rosenlaui valley is the view from Gschwandtenmaad to the Rosenlaui glacier. If you visit when the weather is nice, there is usually a range of people up there getting their photos of the river for their Instagram accounts. The view up to the Wellhorn is quite something, to be fair, and well worth an image even if you’re not looking to “influence” anyone.

I set up my tripod at the end of an afternoon walk and added an ND filter to allow me a longer exposure, as I wanted to get some movement in the clouds and in the river. I was pleased with the shot, although the sun didn’t illuminate as much of the foreground with dappled light as I’d hoped.

However, the reason I’m writing all this is to compare the result with the hasty snapshot I took with my iPhone afterwards. The two images are included below.

I’m astounded, quite frankly. Admittedly, the colours are slightly different because of the rapid changes of light on the mountain, and the foreground rocks are slightly “scratchy” in the iPhone version. It’s quite a shock to me that when comparing the two shots side-by-side, there’s really not much difference between them. The only way I can really tell the difference is by seeing the blurred water and cloud in the long-exposure version. I’ll go as far as to say that I like the iPhone shot more, although that’s entirely down to the light and shade on the mountain.

(Note to self: be more patient and pay more attention to the light on the subject. I wrote about the effect subtle differences make on a scene when photographing Romont in 2016.)

If I do have an excuse, it’s that my “proper” camera is five years old, so the sensor isn’t up to the level of the latest tech. Given that my last upgrade in 2019 was around five years after my original purchase of an X-T1, the demon on my shoulder is nudging me to upgrade again… but a medium-format Fujifilm camera is on my wish list, and it’s some order of magnitude more than I can afford at the moment.

It’s a real eye-opener that lugging 20kg of camera gear around for a couple of hours was, in this case, hardly necessary. I greatly enjoyed the experience as a photographic afternoon in the mountains, but the heavy load weighing me down for a couple of hours outweighed the end results. (This time.)

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