I’m a freelance photographer and I use high end camera equipment (if you want to check me out see here www.jackhenstridge.com and here @jackhenstridge *shameless plug over*). So this may seem weird coming from me, but for the vast majority of the people and even in most everyday cases, for me too, a camera phone is all the camera you will ever need. Here’s why:
This literally could be the one and only reason. A camera phone is so incredibly simple. Pull it out of your pocket, swipe open the camera or touch the app and, TADA, you have a high quality camera ready to take a high quality photo of almost anything in front of you. No dials to turn, no exposure settings, no aperture settings, a nice BIG view finder, multiple user-friendly modes, easy playback and instant sharing ability.
It’s so simple even my dad, who takes 15 minutes to type one paragraph and uses just the middle finger of each hand to type, can swipe open the camera and take a picture of the family dog and send it to me over 4,000 miles away. That’s simplicity.
Hell yeah, it’s light. You barely notice it in your pocket. When I’m out hiking or climbing, I know I have my DSLR with me. It’s usually swinging around my neck or adding a fair amount of bulk to my pack, but my phone just sits quietly in my pocket waiting for me to just pull it out instead of stopping to take off my pack and get out my DSLR.
Sure, there are some lighter cameras these days; the Sony Mirrorless systems are pretty rad, and you can get smaller Micro 4/3rds cameras, but they're still not as light as a phone.
I bet a lot of people have just gone, “Cheap?!?! How is a thousand bucks cheap?” Well, because not only are you getting a high quality camera, you're also getting a PHONE. And a computer, and a gaming device, and almost anything else you can’t think to download from the app store. And also, what other camera comes with its own editing software on? Yeah, none; on my phone, I have around 5 photo editing apps, and the ability to store those photos once I’ve edited them. Storage full? Well, you better use your HANDHELD COMPUTER to upload those photos to the cloud! So yeah, cheap.
Still not convinced? Let’s put it in perspective. Firstly, I’m not a huge believer in needing the best most expensive equipment to get the best photos (hence this article); good equipment doesn’t make a good photographer. Having said that, when I bought my new DSLR, I got a secondhand older model Nikon D7100 with a 17-50mm lens; that’s pretty much all I ever shoot with, and that cost me around 700 bucks. But add to that the tripods, the filters, the additional lenses, the spare batteries and memory cards, and editing software, you’re looking well north of 1,000 bucks, easily. And like I said, this isn’t even the expensive professional stuff. That phone ain’t looking so bad right now, huh?
You Always Have It
What things do you check you always have when leaving the house? Wallet? Keys? Bag? Purse? Dignity? Maybe, but you always have your phone. I know I do. That means whatever happens, you’re ready to snap a photo. Walking in the city and see a cute dog? Snap. Out for a run and want to make sure people know you’re out for a run? Snap. On a hike with an incredibly beautiful sunset? Snap. On a hike with an incredibly beautiful person? SNAP! On vacation and want to send photos to your family and friends instantly? Snap.
You’re not telling me you’re going to lug that heavy glass-filled DSLR around, take a photo, sit down immediately, import the photo, maybe edit it, upload it to your phone and then share it every time you see something you want to take a photo of? Didn’t think so.
It's Good (Like, Really Good)
Up until this point, you could be rightfully thinking, “So? It’s light, cheap, simple, and always with me? A pencil and paper is simple, light, and cheap and I could carry them around all day, doesn’t make them a good camera.” Fair enough, good point, well made. But camera phones are actually good. Really, really good.
Gone are the days of taking a photo on your phone and having to explain what it actually is before anyone gets it. Gone are the days of photos looking like they came from a potato, or that you smeared the phone with Vaseline first. The photos are super high quality, super high-res. Many camera phone pictures make it into print, and most of the photos you see on social media of people and places are likely taken with a phone, because they’re good photos.
In fact, they’re so good, I think personally, they’ve destroyed the old “point and shoot” market. Remember those crappy old small cameras you used to get? About the size of a slab of butter and about as useful? They’re gone. I don’t see why anyone would use or buy one, at all, ever. "What’s the point?" is what I say when someone tells me they’re going to buy one, followed by, “use your phone, it's way better.”
It Shoots Video
Added bonus. It shoots high quality video, too. Even now up to 4k, I mean, come on! 4K video in your hand on top of all of the above? That’s awesome. And you can also shoot slow-mo and time lapses. Which, if you wanted to do with a DSLR, you'd need to have the patience of a saint, and you guessed it, more add-on equipment (not much stuff, but still more stuff).
Not only can you shoot great photos, you can shoot awesome videos of your friends falling off stuff or those two drunk dudes fighting over a pizza. Or make really good high quality video edits and stories, the choice is yours.
It's Smart and It Works
It's crazy smart. Your camera phone has so many modes and does so many things it’s hard to list them all. It can shoot photos, video, panoramas, time-lapses, slow-mo, portraits (if you have portrait mode); you can have HDR active, on, or auto; it has low light capability, multiple flash modes, built-in filters, exposure compensation, optical and/or digital image stabilization, to name just a few. And you can even take selfies with its other camera, the front facing one. And you know what? All of these things work. They just work, right away, no fuss, without you even having to do anything more than swipe your finger. I can’t think of any other camera that works as easily and quickly every time you switch it on.
Lost Lake, Indian Peaks Wilderness, CO
Now, I'm not telling you NOT to go out and buy a DSLR if you really want to. Just to think about what you're actually taking photos of first, what your going to use that camera for, and I can safely say that most of the time, for the above reasons, your phone or any high-end smart phone will satisfy almost all of your needs. Also, having the best equipment doesn't automatically make you a better photographer, or make the photos you take any better, either. The best way to take better photos is to think about what you're taking the photo of and think about the light in the photo. Having an interesting subject and/or great light will make any photo, no matter what you take it on, a thousand times better.
Save your money — use your phone. Or don't, I'm not your mother.
Side note: all the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone 7 plus and all edited on my phone.