I’ll be the first to admit to being an absolute specs snob when it comes to just about anything tech related, whether it’s my computer, my smartphone or my camera. One of the specs that I’ve always paid very close attention to was the quality of a smartphone camera. It never boiled down to the number of megapixels, per se, or what sort of camera modes were offered so much as how good the special sauce was. Let’s face it – as it currently stands, the iPhone 5s still is the best phone on the market in terms of overall image quality. Is it because it only has 8 megapixels or a faster lens? Not really. Working at Google, and alongside the folks on the Android Camera team, has given me a really interesting perspective around how important the actual code is that handles photos once the hardware has been used to create the actual image bits. There really is a special sauce – every manufacturer has their own – and this sauce determines the flavor, as it were, of your images. In my opinion, Apple just happens to do the best job with their sauce.
Of course, as the question posed in this blog post asks, does this really even matter as much anymore? The more I think about it, the less I find that the camera/image quality of my smartphone is a critical factor. Why? Simply, it no longer is used as much anymore by me. Now, that’s not to say that I don’t heavily rely on the on-the-go ability to edit and share my photos. That is something that my smartphone is still crucial for and its processing power, RAM, and storage specs still rank at the top of my list. However, I find myself shooting almost exclusively with my Sony A7 and A7r. At least one of them is with me pretty much anywhere I go and the IQ of the camera and whichever lens is on easily surpasses even the iPhone in all aspects. There is no arguing there.
So, with my camera’s built-in ability to transfer full-res jpegs (with RAW support undoubtedly coming) to my smartphone via wifi at about 2 seconds per file, I now have the benefit of using the various editing apps on my phone to stylize a muuuuuch higher quality source file and share it ’round the world in no time. It’s a workflow that I’ve really been immersing myself in over the past few months and have really come to like it. In fact, I took this image the other week while in Cairns with my A7r, transferred it to my iPad Air via WiFi and edited in Snapseed. I’ve also created this entire blog post from scratch on my iPad.
And you know what else? I’m finding myself not really even missing the indisputable convenience of carrying only one device. My Sony A7 is mirrorless, has a full frame sensor and, when coupled with Sony FE glass, is exceptionally light and easy to carry. Plus, it really is hard to find a smartphone on the market today that isn’t able to produce a ‘good quality’ image, so even in those instances when I may not have my Sony with me, my smartphone will always work in a pinch… it’s just that those instances are becoming fewer and fewer.
So with all of this said, do you think you will begin reevaluating the importance of your smartphone’s camera IQ given the trends and direction that camera tech is going?