Smartphone cameras are good enough

by Haadi Bakar
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Ten years ago, the Nikon D40 was released. This popular entry-level digital SLR camera ignited the consumer dSLR craze throughout the second half of the last decade.

It was a time when everyone wanted a dSLR camera. Prior to that, SLR cameras were mainly reserved for the professional photographers and artistic photography enthusiasts.

As SLRs got more affordable and moulded into the digital age, many would swap their point and shoot cameras for a bigger camera with interchangeable lenses so that they can take better-looking pictures anytime.

It was common seeing an entire family pulling out their Nikons and Canons to take sweet memories at a Hari Raya Aidil Fitri open house back in 2009.

For their price, the dSLRs really delivered, and most people didn’t mind their weight and complexity at that time. For a lot of people, it was the only type of camera capable of getting nice and clear photos.

Meanwhile, smartphone cameras were still an afterthought back then. The first iPhone just came out, and we had to wait several years until its camera quality could wow us.

At that time, pictures shot on phone cameras didn’t look so great, though most of us relied on them as backup cameras. It took quite some time for the megapixel count to increase and sensor improvements to crawl into newer phones.

Today, everyone carries a good camera by default, whether you have an iPhone 6s, a Samsung Galaxy S7 or a Nexus 6P. Though dSLRs, mirrorless cameras and high-end point and shoots are still around, many consumers don’t see the need for them these days. Their phone cameras are good enough.

The cameras built in today’s smartphones are impressive it’s practically good enough for almost everyone. Image courtesy of Apple.

The technological advancements on cameras over the last half decade are mind-blogging. If you compare a photo shot with a 10- year-old Nikon D40 dSLR with its 55mm kit lens and another picture from an iPhone 6s, you’ll be impressed to see how far phone cameras have come.

Coupled with the fact that you could edit your photos on the fly (with apps like Snapseed) and immediately share them on social media makes the smartphone seem more technologically superior than a standalone camera in the eyes of the general consumer.

Of course, the similarities end when you learn the craft, shoot in manual mode and mount a wide variety of lenses on a mirrorless or dSLR camera body, which phone cameras lack.

But how often do most of us need to shoot in manual mode or change lenses? None of these are important to the less experienced and casual shooters. They just take out their phone and snap away, and let the in-software processing do all the dirty work for them.

It’s obvious that the next big advancements in phone cameras is in the lenses. Optical zooms and swappable lenses are still exclusive to standalone cameras, while phone cameras are still stuck with fixed optics (digital zoom is still terrible).

We will eventually get there. Until then, there are third-party swappable lens accessories available for anyone to play with.

At this point of time, unless you really want to take photography seriously, it is hard for me to recommend any new cameras to anyone. If someone approaches me and ask which camera to get for travel or take pictures of their babies’ first steps, I would respond with “the camera on your phone is good enough”.

I was one of those who had reverted back to a smaller camera after years of carrying a dSLR, but even my Sony RX100 had been gathering dust due to the onslaught of smartphones.

It’s really sad to see these traditional cameras slowly being forgotten, but we have to accept the inevitable and embrace the technological advancements that have made our lives much easier than it was before. We live in a wonderful time indeed.

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