I dabble in photography, but I’d hesitate to call myself a photographer. Nevertheless, I invested in a Canon EOS 300D back in 2005, and replaced it with a Canon EOS 450D in 2008. Along with the cameras came investment in four lenses to cover a range of situations. I’ve been very satisfied with the equipment, despite having to spend 145 euros on a repair to the electronics in one of the lenses that failed during a shoot.
However, having to lug the camera bag with a selection of lenses around means that I have to make a deliberate decision whether to take the camera with me if I’m going somewhere. That’s the advantage of point-and-shoot cameras; they are portable enough to slip into a pocket and be available at all times. Of course, the quality is not comparable with a DSLR. Martin has a Canon IXUS 300 HS, and I sometimes find that I borrow that rather than have the hassle of lugging around the Canon EOS and lenses.
Meanwhile, smartphones have been in a race to improve the quality of the photos they made. I entered the race two years ago when I bought a Nokia Lumia 800. The quality and resolution of the Lumia was not quite up to that of the IXUS, but at least I had it with me at all times. Then, last July, Nokia introduced the Lumia 1020, which has a staggering 41 Megapixel image sensor. To be fair, Nokia had also introduced the Nokia PureView 808 smartphone 18 months previously, which had a similar specification. However that smartphone runs the Symbian operating system, and represents an ecosystem that I have no interest in. The imaging technology that had been introduced in the PureView 808 was further tweaked for the Lumia 1020 to produce image quality that far outstrips any other smartphone. So the Lumia 1020 was the flagship phone at the time of introduction, and it commanded a flagship price – too rich for me. But six months is a long time in the smartphone market, the prices started to fall to the point where I became tempted. In the dying days of 2013, I purchased my own Lumia 1020.
The Nokia Lumia 1020, like the Lumia 800 before it, is a Windows Phone, so I was able to move all my information and applications across without issue. The prime differentiator for me is the camera. It’s clearly not at DSLR quality, but it’s good enough for me for most occasions. If you want a comparison, then this article: Smartphones versus DSLRs versus film: A look at how far we’ve come, is highly recommended. A few choice quotes:
When I first saw the images from the Nokia Lumia 1020, I did a double take. Clear and crisp, lots of detail and super strong colors that you’ll either love or wince at. I loved them. And did I mention the detail? After years of seeing bigger cameras perform better, I couldn’t believe that a tiny plastic and glass Zeiss lens could resolve so much from the center to the edge of the image. It was close to the Nikon D800. I was stunned. I’ll list the shortcomings of the Nokia below, but first, some more stand-out results.
How many years are smartphones behind the best $2,000 DSLRs? Comparing detail resolved, I’ll say the iPhone 5S currently sits 8-9 years behind the DLSRs in bright light, while the Nokia trails by less than 6 years — probably nearer to 3. This is even when you allow the DSLRs the luxury of a $1,700 lens, and shooting in raw. In bright light, the Nokia came close to competing with the detail from the best DLSR yet made.
The Nokia 1020 has redefined what I thought possible from a phone. I used to think of smartphones as a separate branch of ‘wannabe’ cameras, doomed to forever play catch-up with real cameras. I used to think like Takafumi Hongo, a Canon spokesperson who told the Wall Street Journal “Taking photos with smartphones and editing them with apps is like cooking with cheap ingredients and a lot of artificial flavoring. Using interchangeable [lens] cameras is like slow food cooked with natural, genuine ingredients.” He has a point. With a smartphone you’ll miss a lot of the joy of learning to cook traditionally. But in photography, the important ingredients come from you. Smartphones are now good enough not to need artificial flavoring from apps.
I look forward to wielding my new camera that happens to have a phone attached to it. It will always be in my pocket, ready to hand.