I have finally hung up my DSLR and mirrorless cameras; they are sitting unused as I travel around Italy. The scary part, to me at least, is that I don’t miss them.
I have been a champion of a traditional camera since I first ventured into journalism and photography. I looked down my nose at cell phones and considered them nothing more than toys with a few gimmicks. But, as you have probably guessed, that has all changed.
A few days before this trip I upgraded to a new smartphone. I’m not going to mention the brand because, like cameras, I don’t really feel the brand makes a big difference—the latests models from any of the major manufacturers are amazing. Mine isn’t the latest and greatest but it is only one generation old, so it is current.
I’m going to sound like an old man here but, these latest phones are amazing. I really mean this. The cameras are really quite astounding. You can now shoot RAW files and have substantial manual control over what the camera does. The low light performance is better than what most of the cameras I have worked with professionally can do. And, this is all in a device that contains your entire life yet fits in your pocket.
Not only are the phone and their cameras amazing but add in the power of apps from developers like Adobe and you have a fully mobile editing system. It doesn’t compare to what you can do on a laptop or desktop but for the average consumer or mobile journalist, these devices have really changed the game (I’m just a little late to the party). In fact, I am writing this right now on a folding bluetooth keyboard while looking out over vineyards on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. To me, that is a pretty powerful device.
But, let's get back to the camera.
I don’t miss my big camera, or even my mirrorless, at all. This is a personal trip so I’m not working or in need of any features that a professional camera offers. Even if I were working on an article for a publication, I’m confident I could get by with just my phone.
When I travel, I like to shoot street life and the occasional tourist-type landscape photo. The big cameras have become a liability. They are a siren call to thieves, take up a lot of room and are heavy to pack around all day. They also draw attention from the people you may be trying to photograph in a more candid manner. Phones have become so commonplace that no one takes notice when you raise it for a photo. Everyone has one in their hands and are snapping pictures so vigorously that the act almost seems a natural part of life. With just my phone I can flow through a crowded town square and capture candid moments without so much as a glance in my direction. Not to mention that I am forced to get close to my subject with the fixed wide lens, but that only adds to the impact of the photo. Then I can edit and post the photo in minutes, if not seconds.
One drawback is the fixed lens. I can’t put my nice nifty fifty on and shoot wide open at f1.4 for that oh-so trendy bokeh. But in reality, who gives a crap? These photos aren’t for a client, they are for me and it forces me to be more conscious of composition and moment rather than relying on the features of a lens to make my photograph interesting. Besides, if I really want to, I can download my photos from my bigger camera to my phone and edit them right then and there in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop Express.
As I use my phone more and more on this trip, the more I am taken with the simplicity and, dare I say it, purity of it. Only two weeks ago I would have kicked my own ass for saying that. I can honestly say that I am rethinking my entire approach to my personal photography and even some of the journalism work that I do.
I’m still learning how to best shoot with a phone, it’s like learning how to use a camera all over again. You can follow me on Instagram at @mattlawphoto to see how I’m doing.