“Pfft, my phone can do that…” An Idiots Guide to Cameras.

If you’re an average North American male in his 30’s, then by now most of your friends are addicts and attempting to proudly display your hobbies to them results in triggered defenses of whatever product they feel like you’re attacking. As an amateur photographer, many of my (hanging on by a thread) friends can’t emotionally deal with me practicing something they’ve always wanted to do. After showing off my last batch of nature photos on my post apocalyptic wasteland of a Facebook page, four separate college dropouts pointed out that the new phone they couldn’t afford but bought anyway can do the exact same thing… and better.

It can’t, though. I have the latest iPhone (which I also probably shouldn’t be able to afford but such is the burden of the sober, educated individual) and this morning when taking a Snapchat selfie to innocently remind a married coworker that she’s attracted to me, I stumbled upon the “portrait” and “focus” features that my friends boasted about. So I tried it out…

I’m no expert on photography but I’ve taken enough classes to know what aperture, ISO, and F-stops are. My phone does have some rudimentary controls that attempt to simulate this but I don’t quite understand what it’s doing when changing these settings. For example, the “f” logo is supposedly meant to represent f-stops but as there’s no mechanical action when changing these, it appears to be an algorithm rather than an actual aperture action. This is further evidenced by the fact that dropping down to the lowest f-stop (which I believe is 1 but I can’t be bothered to open my phone to check) results in a digital approximation of what background blur would look like but very, hmm… what’s the technical term… shitty.

Similarly there’s little control over ISO. There are some lighting presets which also change aperture settings which really removes the whole creative aspect from photography. Using code to try to make a perfect photo no matter how bad of a photographer the user is equally hinders the people who know what they’re doing. I’m sure there are probably some apps out there which offer more customization but as I said above, none of these things are mechanical in nature so will likely produce some very artificial looking results.

So shut up about your phone and stop sending me blurry, distorted “macro photos” of caterpillars, David.

5 thoughts on ““Pfft, my phone can do that…” An Idiots Guide to Cameras.

  1. This reminded me of a recent Scott Manley video about cameras on spacecraft/space probes. He mentions phones use a RGB color sensor and do a ton of processing between the raw data and the displayed photograph. This isn’t very useful to anyone doing hard science. Not that any of us are using our phones cameras for this, but the processing behind what the phone “sees” and displays is interesting to think about.

    Oh, also referring to Facebook as a “post apocalyptic wasteland” is hilariously and depressingly accurate. Kudos to you for posting pictures there and subjecting yourself to the “feedback” of others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah if you take photos in CR2 format which is basically as pure of a file as a camera can make, it’s insane how much editing you can do compared to something like a jpg or whatever an iPhone saves files as. You can basically re-expose the whole photo if you want to. Nuts.


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