Thursday, January 18, 2018

Photography How To: HDSLR Cameras VS Phone & Pocket Cameras

September 8, 2011 by  
Filed under All Posts, Photography

Photography How To: Camera VS Phone – What Should You Use?

Last year we went on a vacation and brought along our Canon T2i. I was happily snapping away during a particularly spectacular sunset when I overheard someone behind me telling her friend, “Why do people want to bring those big hulking cameras on a vacation?” She was implying that I was a dinosaur for using a “real” camera instead of a cell phone or pocket camera, like everyone else around me.

That gave me a lot to stew about. I guess I’m still stewing.

I seriously got  into filmmaking and photography over 40 years ago, so I am pretty sure I have a little deeper perspective on the subject than she does, and I’ve spent some time thinking about this issue.

I’ll tell you why I think there is a time and place for a “real camera” and a point-and-shoot or even a cell phone camera.

Shortly after that vacation experience I uploaded my photos to Facebook and received all kinds of praise and positive comments about my sunset photos. I’m really enjoying using my T2i and posting photos to Facebook, Trip Advisor and various blogs and websites, and I always get great feedback.

To me, there’s just no comparison between the quality of a snapshot taken on a cell phone and a photo from an 18 megapixel dedicated camera with a high quality lens, coupled with the knowledge of how to creatively use exposure, depth of field and composition to create a professional image.

Now I recognize the convenience of a pocket camera.

I get that.

But that lady apparently didn’t appreciate that there are tradeoffs when you take your photos on a device also shoots videos, plays games, checks email, surfs the web, sends and receives texts, is a GPS and, oh yes… is a phone. There’s a reason you don’t see professional photographers shooting weddings, ads, magazine covers, wildlife photos, sports, news, etc. with a cell phone.

In my opinion, I wouldn’t dream of taking a trip or hard earned vacation WITHOUT my HDSLR.

Here’s a quick comparison of the pros and cons of using a dedicated camera and a smartphone or pocket camera:

Pros Of Using An HDSLR Camera

Besides the fact that you can shoot beautiful, film-like video footage, there’s a lot to like about these types of cameras.

High Definition Single Lens Reflex (HDSLR) cameras are incredibly low priced for what you get. People are shooting movies with $2,000 HDSLR cameras that look like they were shot on Panavision film cameras costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This is partly because of the large image sensors these cameras have. Some have sensors equal to 35mm film, the same as professional movie cameras. Whether used to shoot still images or videos, these large sensors create very high resolution images with a wide dynamic range and lots of data that can be creatively manipulated in post production.

These large sensors also mean they are better in low light. Most come with a powerful built in flash. I use fill flash almost all the time, even when shooting outdoors. You can also add accessories to them such as an accessory flash.

HDSLRs offer control over shutter speed, aperture and film speed, the essential components photographers have been using creatively to create stunning images since the dawn of photography. You can choose from a wide range of high quality lenses for any situation. Most of these cameras are mini-computers with very sophisticated processing options that far eclipse what you can do with a cell phone.

All of the above points were referring to digital SLR cameras. I have friends who still love to shoot film and slides. I’ve shot tens of thousands of photos and slides myself. I love the look of film. Kodak stopped making my beloved Kodachrome and most photographers are going digital, but whether film or digital, a dedicated camera offers more creative control, hands-down.

Cons Of HDSLR Cameras

I’ll admit it. I have a little pocket camera that I use when I don’t want to carry around a large camera. It is convenient, while an HDSLR is bulky and conspicuous. Carry a few lenses with you and you’ll need a gadget bag, lens cleaning brush, extra batteries, etc. That can be a pain.

You can’t upload your images directly to Facebook, Twitter or Flickr directly from it. All it does is take a photo or video. Because the photos are so large, you probably have to resize them before sharing on the internet, and you’ll need a computer to do that.

Worst of all, you can’t make a phone call or send a text from it.

Pros of Smart Phones & Pocket Cameras

See a UFO or Sasquatch? Use your cellphone, by all means.

Most everyone carries their cell phones with them, so you always have a camera handy. Because of this you may be able to capture that once-in-a-lifetime photo that you can’t get any other way. Definitely an advantage.

Also, you can email and upload your photos and videos and share them immediately. There’s a great deal of power and convenience in that, no argument.

Cons of Smart Phones & Pocket Cameras

As I’ve mentioned, they generally lack the creative control over depth of field and motion that you get with shutter speed and aperture, and the smaller sensors are less sensitive in low light. They also don’t have the onboard image processing power that the HDSLRs offer. Most do not have a flash or only have a weak flash, at best.

My suggestion if you’re serious about taking outstanding photos and getting those once-in-a-lifetime shots is to invest and carry both!

Recommended Resources

Canon T3i – Kit (with lens) retails for $849.

Canon T2i – Kit (with lens) retails for $748. This camera comes with a higher resolution than its newer brother but doesn’t have the flip out LCD screen.

Canon EOS 7D – At $1,789 (with lens), this is a powerful, professional camera. It is one of the more popular cameras among filmmakers. If your budget can justify it, this is the one I’d get.

(As you can see, I’m a Canon fan. Nothing against any other brand, I’ve just worked with Canon equipment most of my career.)

The Glif iPhone Tripod Stand – At $20, a must-have, in my opinion, if you want to do serious video and photography with your iPhone.

So, I’m curious.

Any other “dinosaurs” out there who carry around an HDSLR?



2 Responses to “Photography How To: HDSLR Cameras VS Phone & Pocket Cameras”
  1. Bert says:


    John Cooksey of Elite Video and a Bmyers forum member did a comparison between the Zi8 and the 7D, I assume the 7D is not as good as a T2i but it is an interesting video to watch:

    • Rick Smith says:

      Hi Bert! Yes, I saw that comparison. The topic of my article was really about still photos, not video, and I don’t know about the quality of still photos from the Zi8. Because of the sensor size of the 7D, it would stand up better in enlargements, plus it has the capability to take a very wide range of professional lenses, so for a professional shoot I would choose the 7D. However, John Cooksey’s footage with the Zi8 was good. I have also seen some impressive shots (both stills and video) from an iPhone, but I wouldn’t choose one for a professional shoot. As I said, it’s a tradeoff between convenience and creative control.

      No, the 7D is a superior camera to the T2i. Larger sensor (I think) and better build. I like the T2i because of the “bang for the buck.” For the price it offers a lot of value and if you aren’t going to drive nails with it, it should last until the “next best thing” comes along. I’ve been using mine for over a year and still love it. I’l also like to have a 7D, 60D, a Ferrari, a Cessna 182, a villa in Provence, but… for now I’m enjoying the simple pleasures of the T2i.

      BTW, are you going to DV Expo? We’re going to be there.


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