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Is the Camera an Important Factor When You Choose a New Smartphone?

Panasonic recently introduced a new SmartPhone, Lumix DMC-CM1, with a 20mb camera and Leica lens. I caught my attention because my iPhone 5 died in Nicaragua last year and I just picked up a used Android phone for now, not wanting to renew my mobile contract again.

16363054975_e772809c6b_z
Photo by Hideya HAMANO

So it got me thinking about camera phones and wondering – is this something that is important to photographers? To photography enthusiasts like yourself? The question is:

How important is the camera to you, when choosing a new Smartphone?

Having used two iPhones prior to the HTC that I have now, its camera is less than impressive. It's okay to grab a snapshot for Facebook or just to remember something, but not much more. As I contemplated what I will do when my service contract expires I thought about something like the new Panasonic. Let's see what it's all about:

Okay sounds interesting. I dug a little deeper and found this review by DPReview. Seems pricey and didn't get the raving reviews I was looking for. But it has a real lens, shoots raw files, and manual mode – that IS attractive to a photographer.

What do you carry with you?

You may have heard this phrase before:

The best camera is the one you have with you.

I can't tell you who said it, but they're right. So having said that – do you always have your big camera with you? What if a photo opportunity arises? Do you carry your DSLR, mirrorless or even point and shoot camera with you at all times? I know I don't. But I almost always have my phone.

Let's discuss it – what do you use your phone for?

2715565881_51037d3809_z
Photo by Michael Beck

So I want to open a discussion on this topic. Would you be tempted by something like this phone, just for the camera – or say the iPhone 6 plus? Or do you keep the two separate – you camera is a DSLR and your phone is well, just a phone? This is the kind of cell phone I had back in the day, one of the first available. Nice hey?! I used to call it “The Brick” as did many people who owned it. It was like holding a brick and was as heavy as one. It certainly wasn't pocket, or even purse friendly. It also cost a ton of money at the time and it only did one thing – phone calls. Go figure right. We've come a long way since those days, and pretty much everyone has a SmartPhone that allows you to do all sorts of other things like:

  • Texting
  • Takes photos
  • Capture video
  • Surf the web
  • Stay connected on all your social media accounts
  • Track your fitness and heart rate
  • Play videos
  • Play games
  • Read an eBook
  • Read and answer email
  • Check the weather
  • Check the time (I don't remember the last time I wore a watch)
  • And more . . .

Case in point – concerts, events, parties, etc.

Sometimes I honestly don't feel like bringing my “real” camera to events because then it's almost expected that I'm going to take photos and provide them to everyone. So I often just take my phone, or a little point and shoot that I put in my purse. It takes decent photos, but I shoot in JPG and if anyone wants them I just send as is – no processing, no fuss, no muss. For events that is usually plenty good enough.

But are there times you wish you had a better small camera? Or a phone that really delivered great photos?

Tell us what you use, when, and why?

Share with us in the comments below what you have for cameras:

  • DSLR
  • Mirrorless
  • Point and shoot
  • Phone

What model of each to you have, and when to you choose each? When do you leave your SLR at home, and what do you take instead? Why?

Do you use photo apps to process images on your phone? If so, which ones? I like Snapseed myself.

Do you use Instagram or Facebook to share your Smartphone images? I'm not a big Instagrammer, but I do post photos to my personal Facebook profile, especially when I'm travelling (my mom likes to see that I'm still alive/safe and what I'm doing, she also usually “likes” or comments on every single one – love you mom!) . Do you use social media? If so which ones?

Do you take photos of your food? Guilty! I used to be a food photographer so I still love a good food photo, and I appreciate when plate of food has been well presented and feel it deserved a photo.

Just for fun – can you tell which camera?

Below are several images taken with four different cameras:

  1. Canon 5D Mark III
  2. Fuji X-T1 mirrorless
  3. Panasonic Lumix LF1 point and shoot
  4. iPhone 5

Let's play a little game, do a test if you will. Can you match up which camera took which image? Put your guess in the comments. Put the photo number and which camera you think took that image, I'll let you know if you get it right. Once they've all been guessed correctly I'll edit the captions below the images so you can see the right answers. I think you might get fooled by a few!

which-camera-750px-01
#1 – taken with the Canon 5D3 (correctly guessed by Edmund)
which-camera-750px-02
#2 Taken with the Fuji (as correctly guessed by Rufine)
which-camera-750px-03
#3 taken with iPhone 5 (as correctly guessed by Carol)
which-camera-750px-04
#4 taken with Panasonic Lumix (as guess correctly by John Davenport)
ISO 12,8000, f/1.4, 1/80th - 50mm f/1.4 lens
#5 taken with the Canon at ISO 12,800 (as guessed correctly by Herb)
which-camera-750px-06
#6 taken with the Panasonic Lumix (as correctly guessed by Carol)
ISO 3200, f/4, 1/25th - 17-35mm lens at 35mm
#7 taken with the Canon 5D3 (as correctly guessed by Michael F)
which-camera-750px-08
#8 taken with iPhone5 (as guessed correctly by John Davenport)
which-camera-750px-09
#9 taken with the Canon 5D3 (as correctly guessed by Michael F)
which-camera-750px-10
#10 taken with iPhone5 (as correctly guessed by Michael F)
which-camera-750px-11
#11 Panasonic Lumix (as correctly guessed by Michael F)
which-camera-750px-12
#12 taken by the iPhone5 – anyone surprised by the level of detail and sharpness here? (as guessed correctly by Herb)
which-camera-750px-13
#13 taken with the Fuji X-T1 (as correctly guessed by Michael F)
which-camera-750px-14
#14 taken with Panasonic Lumix (as correctly guessed by Edmund)
which-camera-750px-15
#15 taken with the Fuji X-T1 (as correctly guessed by Michael F)
ISO 100, f/11, 15 seconds - 17mm lens
#16 taken with Canon 5D3 (as correctly guessed by Lenie)
which-camera-750px-17
#17 taken with iPhone5 (as correctly guessed by Carol)
which-camera-750px-18
#18 taken with Canon 5D3 (as correctly guessed by Michael F)
which-camera-750px-19
#19 taken with the Fuji X-T1 (as correctly guessed by Michael F)
which-camera-750px-20
#20 taken by the Panasonic Lumix (as guessed correctly by John Davenport)
which-camera-750px-21
#21 taken with the Fuji X-T1 and 8mm Rokinon lens (as correctly guessed by Lenie)
which-camera-750px-22
#22 taken with the Fuji (as guessed correctly by Herb)

So how did you do at guessing the camera for each image above?

The point at the end of the day is the camera really doesn't matter. Just have one that you enjoy, know how to use – and use it!

Cheers,
Darlene-1-250x130.png

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  • Bassem Sherief

    #2 is with the 5D MK III

    • Nope!! Surprised?

      • Pablo Romay Pablonia

        Hi. Nice article. It would be nice also to mention options of smartphones with good cameras/lenses
        and their advantages/prices.

        • Well the thing is I haven’t got a lot of personal experience with them. I have used an iPhone and the current HTC that I own and that’s it. I’d love to hear what other people have. If you look down the comments on the article someone did mention that Samsung phones have great cameras. Tell us what you use or have tried.

  • William Pender

    I Could pick out the photos that you took with your Canon most likley because I remember them from your articles, and maybe some of the ones you took with you fugi. You are right about not seeing the difference most of the time, but I need a DSLR to take photos with because trying to hold a small point and shoot for me is like trying to get all of the peel off of a ripe mango. I have carple tunnel in both hands and have a hard time with anything else. sometimes I use my phone just to share on Google+. My serious photos are with a serious camera seriously!

    • Good point! So it’s about knowing your own needs and choosing the best option for you – great job.

  • kaeyansinha

    This article has come just at the right time! I’ve been contemplating buying a nice camera phone to capture the everyday moments of my 2 babies instead of picking up the DSLR every time. Waiting to see what people say about the best camera phone! My top two in consideration just now are iPhone 6 and Samsung S6.

    • Julie St.John

      I love, love, love the camera on my Samsung5. And, once again, it’s the camera I always have with me. I just don’t like to pack my “big” camera around every where I go.

      • kaeyansinha

        Thank you! I’ve almost decided on Samsung but people I know keep saying I should get the iPhone. So confusing. But your comment helps!

      • thanks for adding your thoughts on this Julie!

  • walwit

    It remains me when someone take a photo with your smartphone or little camera and it looks better than the one with my big camera, how embarrased I feel.

  • walwit

    It remains me when someone take a photo with your smartphone or little camera and it looks better than the one with my big camera, how embarrased I feel.

  • David

    Except for guessing that 7 and 9 are iPhone, I haven’t a clue.

    • Nope – both incorrect! I tricked you on the car shot with the filter affect!

  • David

    Except for guessing that 7 and 9 are iPhone, I haven’t a clue.

  • Edmund

    You’re lucky, Darlene, my first moblile was like a huge battery with a handset on top example attached.

    So, #1. Great bokeh, can only be the Canon, f1.4 lens?
    #2; #3; #4 huge depth of field, I guess the Fuji or the Lumix, it’s difficult to tell unless you can look at 1:1 resolution.
    #5. Lumix
    #6. Fuji
    #7. Lumix
    #8. Lumix
    #9. iPhone (bad contrast)
    #10; 11 Fuji
    #12; 13; Canon
    #14; 15 Lumix
    # 16;17;18 Fuji
    # 19. Lumix
    # 20. iPhone
    #21; 22 Canon

    The only point I would question is using a mobile for photos. OK, you have it with you and OK it’s point and shoot. But even the best have a tiny sensor and although some go to over 40mpixels what’s the point when you still can’t blow it up over A4 without it looking terrible. Check some of the websites that people upload their photos to and cringe.

    So, you now have a tiny mobile, you share its voice function with photography, calendar, email, internet browser, texts (Whatsapp) etc. Is there no room in your purse (handbag) for a real camera? I live in Spain and foreign tourists take the bulk of their photos on an iPad, do you know how silly they look with a 9.7″ screen taking an image that is 8mp? Surely they could carry a camera?

    Rant over. The best camera is the one you have with you. No, the best camera is the one that will take a photo you can be proud of, it doesn’t have to be Canon 5D but a mirrorless with a pancake lens will take up not much more space than your mobile and will cost less than your mobile too.

    • Oh the car phone! LOL I worked for a guy that had one of those in like 1989-90 I wanna say.

      As for your rant – thanks for that. I wanted to open to discussion so thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

      As for your guesses:
      #1 – yes was the Canon but not the 50 f1/4 – just the little old f/1.8
      #2 – nope
      #3-4 not giving you either as you have to pick one camera.
      #5 – nope
      #6 – nope
      #7 – nope
      #8 – nope
      #9 – nope
      #10-11 nope, nope
      #12-13 nope, nope
      #14 yes is the Lumix
      #15 – nope – just curious why did you guess the Lumix for this one?
      #16-18 nope on all counts
      #19 – nope
      #20 nope
      #21-22 nope and nope.

      You got 2 right and I will mark those off on the captions of the images. Tougher than you thought? Surprised by any?

      • Edmund

        Wow, Darlene, this discussion is keeping you busy! Much tougher than I thought but I will still stick with the main points of my “rant”.

        You asked why I thought #15 was the Lumix and the answer is the light diffraction to the top left in the doorway. Obviously a long exposure because of the blurred tail lights so cannot have been a particularly high ISO, just thought this must have come from a small sensor.

        BTW my first car phone took up half the trunk (boot) of the car and cost £1850 (I suppose $6,000 in today’s terms) plus £1 ($2 in those days) per minute. Actually, I had an earlier one which you had to call the operator on the blue, green or red channel (depending on where you were in the country) and ask to be put through to the number you wanted – it was one way only so after talking you had to say “over” and release the talk button. To think that I threw my latest BlackBerry on the floor the other day as being a useless phone! I suppose we are spoiled for choice. I’m sure you remember the anticipation of your Kodachrome transparencies coming back to you, you couldn’t push them as you could, say Fujichrome, so you had to decide once and for all the whole reel on ASA 25 or 64. Wow, Fujichrome 200, my favourite because of its fantastic greens, I could push to ISO 800 and develop it as soon as I got home (although printing on Cibachrome never quite worked for me).

        Another rant and deep shame at getting so few correct.

        • Light defraction in the doorway, you lost me? The light inside there is so bright, many stops brighter than the street outside – that it just comes out as a glow. I also added more glow to it in LR by lowering the clarity on things around the car.

          Thanks for the rant and memory lane. I didn’t shoot a lot of Kodachrome. When I was in college we had to have our stuff in faster than we’d get it back, that and we processed our own E-6 (slides) on site.

  • Edmund

    You’re lucky, Darlene, my first moblile was like a huge battery with a handset on top example attached.

    So, #1. Great bokeh, can only be the Canon, f1.4 lens?
    #2; #3; #4 huge depth of field, I guess the Fuji or the Lumix, it’s difficult to tell unless you can look at 1:1 resolution.
    #5. Lumix
    #6. Fuji
    #7. Lumix
    #8. Lumix
    #9. iPhone (bad contrast)
    #10; 11 Fuji
    #12; 13; Canon
    #14; 15 Lumix
    # 16;17;18 Fuji
    # 19. Lumix
    # 20. iPhone
    #21; 22 Canon

    The only point I would question is using a mobile for photos. OK, you have it with you and OK it’s point and shoot. But even the best have a tiny sensor and although some go to over 40mpixels what’s the point when you still can’t blow it up over A4 without it looking terrible. Check some of the websites that people upload their photos to and cringe.

    So, you now have a tiny mobile, you share its voice function with photography, calendar, email, internet browser, texts (Whatsapp) etc. Is there no room in your purse (handbag) for a real camera? I live in Spain and foreign tourists take the bulk of their photos on an iPad, do you know how silly they look with a 9.7″ screen taking an image that is 8mp? Surely they could carry a camera?

    Rant over. The best camera is the one you have with you. No, the best camera is the one that will take a photo you can be proud of, it doesn’t have to be Canon 5D but a mirrorless with a pancake lens will take up not much more space than your mobile and will cost less than your mobile too.

  • Shilps

    My recommendation for camera in phone will be anything from samsung….at times the images have come out better than my dslr and yeah, always better than iPhone . No I am not samsung loyal….if I have ever been loyal to a brand then it was Nokia till it died.

  • Shilps

    My recommendation for camera in phone will be anything from samsung….at times the images have come out better than my dslr and yeah, always better than iPhone . No I am not samsung loyal….if I have ever been loyal to a brand then it was Nokia till it died.

  • Carol

    Here are my guesses:
    #1 Fuji
    #2 Lumix
    #3 iPhone
    #4 Canon
    #5 iPhone
    #6 Lumix
    #7 Fuji
    #8 Canon
    #9 Lumix
    #10 Fuji
    #11 iPhone
    #12 Canon
    #13 Lumix
    #14 iPhone
    #15 Canon
    #16 Fuji
    #17 iPhone
    #18 Lumix
    #19 iPhone
    #20 iPhone
    #21 iPhone
    #22 Lumix
    Hope we see the answers soon.

    • Hi Carol:

      Here are my replies to your guesses (fun game hey?):
      #1 – no that was the Canon as correctly guessed already by Edmund.
      #2 – nope
      #3 – yes correct
      #4 – nope
      #5 – nope
      #6 – yes correct
      #7 – nope
      #8 – nope
      #9 – nope
      #10 – nope
      #11 – nope
      #12 – nope
      #13 – nope
      #14 – nope was Panasonic, already guessed by Edmund
      #15 – nope
      #16 – nope
      #17 – yes correct
      #18 – nope
      #19-21 nope, nope, nope
      #22 – nope.

      3 right! It should be process of elimination for the next person to guess. 17 left without answers!

  • Some good guesses – keep it going guy until you get them all labelled.

  • #21 is the DSLR

  • Guido Gloor Modjib

    I won’t enter the guessing game because I don’t think it’s that important (though of course I love it that you made it in the first place, and really like your images) – the right tool for the job is indeed the one you have with you, and with good light, smartphones are easily good enough to shoot great images.

    I want to answer your main question though. I find that the E-M1 with a 17mm f/1.8 or 25mm f/1.8 prime are easily small enough to have them with me at all times. In fact, most of the time, I have the camera and four primes (these two, plus 45mm and 75mm f/1.8) with me indeed. They don’t take away that much space, are incredibly versatile, and cover a great range of focal lengths for high-quality images.

    Part of the motivation for that is of course my project 365 (have a look at it at https://ello.co/haslo if you like), because I want to publish an image I like every day – but then, that project is just an excuse to pursue my photography with more enthusiasm and motivation than I could probably bring up otherwise.

    For images and videos that I want to quickly share (through WhatsApp mostly) with other people who use a smartphone, I always use the smartphone. Quality doesn’t really matter when all you’re capturing is the moment itself, and the people in it.

    • The Olympus? Obviously you really like it. Some of your images are really great. My question back to you is – did you downsize from DSLR? Or just go right into mirrorless? Why did you choose this model?

      • Guido Gloor Modjib

        Thanks a lot 🙂 – I jumped right into mirrorless, back in 2011. I got an Olympus E-P3 back then because I figured that would be the right tradeoff between size and quality – I wanted something with exchangeable lenses that I could still carry around in one bag. Started out with kit lenses, slowly acquired more gear.

        I later upgraded to the E-M5, then used a Nikon D90 for a while but really didn’t like the bulk. I rarely ever had that camera with me because it was just too large and annoying for me – and I missed some of the higher-tech features of the Olympus, too (like IBIS and EVF, but also the great remote flash system and basic usability stuff like the two dials and the touch screen). The D90 felt really clunky, everything was so slow with that camera, and the APS-C image quality wasn’t better despite the larger body size.

        So after that, I downsized again to the E-M1. I nearly got a Sony A7 because of the full frame sensor, but opted for smaller lenses instead – and like that, I was able to keep all of my older Olympus gear.

        Seeing how much I enjoy unique features like Live Composite and the 2×2 dial system, I don’t expect to change away from Olympus any time soon.

        • Cool thanks for sharing. I had the opportunity to use one for a couple months and really liked it too.

  • Lenie Hulse

    #2 Lumix, #4 iPhone, #5 iPhone #7 Lum,ix, #8 Fuji. #9 iPhone, #10, lumix, #11 iPhone, #12 Fuji, #13 Lumix, #15 Cabib, #16 Canon, #18 Fuji, #19 iPhone, #20 iPhone, #21 Fuji, # 22 Lumix. (those missed have already been guessed)

    • #2 – nope. Running out of possibilities.
      #4 – nope.
      #5 – nope.
      #7 – nope.
      #8 – nope.
      #9 – nope, that was already guessed and was wrong.
      #10 – nope.
      #11 – nope.
      #12 – nope.
      #13 – nope.
      #15 – I’m going to assume you meant Canon – nope, that was also guessed once already.
      #16 – yes!
      #18 – nope
      #19 – nope
      #20 – nope
      #21 – yes! with my 8mm Rokinon fish-eye lens!
      #22 – nope.

      One right. This is proving to be tricky!

  • Michael F

    #2 – iPhone
    #4 – Lumix LF1
    #5 – Fuji
    #7 – Canon
    #8 – Fuji
    #9 – Canon
    #10 – iPhone 5
    #11 – Lumix
    #12 – Lumix
    #13 – Fuji
    #15 – Fuji
    #16 – Canon
    #18 – Canon
    #19 – Fuji
    #20 – Fuji
    #21 – Lumix
    #22 – iPhone 5

    🙂

    • #2 – nope
      #4 – nope
      #5 – nope
      #7 – YES
      #8 – nope
      #9 – yes – this one tricked people because of the effect I applied in LR and lowered the contrast and color tone.
      #10 – yes! You’re on a roll!
      #11 – Yes again
      #12 – nope
      #13 – yes!
      #15 – yes!
      #16 – yes, but Lenie just beat you on this one
      #18 – Yes
      #19 – yes again, not sure everyone thinks it was a small camera on this shot
      #20 – nope
      #21 – nope was the Fuji, guessed by Lenie
      #22 – nope.

      Well done indeed, 9 correct!!

    • Michael R Edwards

      My go to camera is a Canon Mark IV. But I bought a waterproof shockproof Nikon p&s to carry with me. When I renewed my phone contract I went with a LG because it had a better camera then the Galaxy 5. All other features were about the same.

  • Only photos left not guessed are: #2, 4, 5, 8, 12, 20, and 22.

    Use the clues of the other past guesses to help you.

  • Stephen Ray Shelton

    The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 with16 mp is my “always available ” choice of camera and the current digital workhorse. For the balance of my digital photography I use a Canon SX40 HS.

    But alas, I must confess to being a heretic. My favorite cameras are a couple of vintage 35 mm models.

  • abrianna

    I don’t always have my DSLR with me. When I go to the grocery store or run other errands I don’t want to worry about it disappearing while I am getting the items I need. I have a Sony Xperia Z1s and it is a serviceable camera at times. If I had a mirrorless system I might take that one with me at all times but because I shoot swim meets, and can’t afford the best mirrorless out there, I need to stick with my DSLR.

    I don’t do Facebook, instagram, etc….When we go on long trips my camera bag is unavailable to me so then it is nice to have the phone to shoot interesting things and yes I will shoot food if it is unusual or nicely presented. I am a Snapseed fan myself and sometimes use VSCO cam-the free options.

  • Quite the collection and it’s definitely not easy to tell the difference (especially at web resolution) but here’s my guesses for what’s left – probably all wrong :-p

    #1 Already Answered
    #2 Canon
    #3 Already Answered
    #4 Lumix
    #5 Fuji
    #6 Already Answered
    #7 Already Answered
    #8 iPhone
    #9 Already Answered
    #10 Already Answered
    #11 Already Answered
    #12 Fuji
    #13 Already Answered
    #14 Already Answered
    #15 Already Answered
    #16 Already Answered
    #17 Already Answered
    #18 Already Answered
    #19 Already Answered
    #20 Lumix
    #21 Already Answered
    #22 iPhone

    • That was kind of my point John! Most images only ever get posted online – people rarely print anything large. So why get all caught up on megapixels? Okay let’s see how you did:

      #2 – still nope. There is only one nobody has guessed for it yet.
      #4 – yes!
      #5 – nope
      #8 – yes!
      #12 – nope
      #20 – yes
      #22 – nope.

      Not bad 3 outta 7!

  • Okay these are left to be guessed:

    #2 – has been guessed by all but one – scroll the comments to see which was missed.
    #5 – also been guessed 3 of the cameras – one missing is right. Go through the other guesses.
    #12 – same thing! One is left.
    #22 – also guessed all 3 of the wrong ones.

    These ones should be process of elimination. Anyone surprised by any of the answers? Why so? Which ones had you fooled and why? I tried to pick sneaky ones – guess I did a good job.

  • Rufine

    #2 has to be Fuji!!!! Ding- Ding-ding!!!

  • Herb

    22 is the fuji

  • Herb

    5 is the Canon

  • Herb

    12 is iPhone?

  • All images have been correctly guessed and labelled now. Anyone surprised by any of them? Which ones and why?

  • I’d also love to hear what other smartphone users like. Almost time to get a new one as mine is piddling out :0( Hate to have to relearn a phone and get everything where I want it. Never used an iphone, only androids and don’t know if there would be much of a learning curve but the great pictures above might change my mind. Anyone have the Galaxy 6, according to the hype it is supposed to be great.

    • I’ve heard that too and my friend with a Samsung swears by it. I went the other way, iPhone5 to Android. The learning curve wasn’t as steep as I had expected actually.

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