Let me get this straight. I love having an iPhone. I tried leaving the Apple ecosystem once and bought a couple of different Android phones - an HTC Desire at one point, and a Google Nexus at another. And although I did like the Nexus 5, it was hard to leave how the Apple devices I own at home and work just work well together, and the phones that weren’t iPhones just became difficult to manage. Aside from the fact that I think the iPhone user interface is well overdue for a radical refresh - it’s all a bit of a yawn - the device itself is great. Just Fine. Except for one thing.
The Camera. The iPhone camera got me hooked and I have massive buyers remorse and I can’t go back.
Let me go back a step and fill you in. I’d had a few digital cameras in the late 90s and early 2000s. The included Casio Exilims S2, S3 and V8 (the S3 is still in use - my 7 year-old daughter uses it, and she might get the V8 to play around with soon too). I also used the Minolta Dimage F200 (which was pretty good looking back on it), and then the big investment: the Canon 300D, with kit lens, and then I bought a Canon 70-200mm lens to go with it on a trip to the USA.
The Canon 300D absolutely transformed my photography. I kind of knew it but also didn’t know by how much at the time. It’s only looking back now at the photos that I made that I see how much my eye, composition and photos improved massively once I got to work with that camera. Even more so when I altered the firmware (ahem) so that it emulated the more expensive and feature-heavy Canon 10D. I loved this camera, and this Camera loved me.
I had taken photos on my cellphone too - the Orange SPV was one.
Back when I was living in the UK, I belonged to the Orange (cellphone company) advanced user group, and they would often hold focus groups and very occasionally give us advanced access to new hardware. This was one of those times. There were a variety of camera phones, but none usurped to position of ‘Camera’ - primary camera, that is.
Until the iPhone came along. I was one of the early adopters. I got the first iPhone, and I was the one of those that followed the complex instructions, spending most of the night getting the phone to boot into a state where I could hack it. Those days are long gone, but it goes to show how committed I was to making this work. It’s good to remember just how much of a game-changer the Apple iPhone was and also the whole ecosystem that was developed alongside it; the new App platform and the huge music offering too - iPods rapidly bit the dust. But it was the camera that did it for me. The fact that this was a camera in my pocket and it took the pace of my primary camera. Slowly, surely and insidiously. No longer did I turn to a specialist camera to record, document and create. I used the camera in my pocket and, looking back, I regret it immensely.
You see, I recently managed to access the digital archive I have made since before 2004. I got my first iPhone in 2005/6. Looking on a modern computer - albeit a 27” iMac with Retina screen which shows up the worst of my failings and those of the camera device in question, my decision is rendered in full, horrible detail. Lightroom has set me free to explore and eventually catalogue and perhaps even publish some of this archive. But it has also broken my heart.
When I look at the convenience gained through the iPhone in my pocket, I have to counter that with the image quality I unwittingly sacrificed in using a tiny sensor with slow lenses, showing me what I had made on a small screen with relatively low resolution, the fact that I settled for this makes me want to cry. I know, I should have known better. But I think I made myself wilfully ignorant. In terms of surface area, the one-inch sensor in a nice point-and-shoot like Sony's RX100 is more than six times bigger than any of the top smartphone camera sensors, while the sensor in a consumer-level DSLR is around 19 times bigger. Take a look at a pro-grade DSLR and the sensor is 50 times the size of that feeble thing in your iPhone 6S. And yes, there's software, and there's processing, but believe me, when I look at my archive of almost 50,000+ photographs I have made, you can tell. Big time.
So, I have owned most of the iPhone series at one point or another. The original iPhone, 3G, 3GS, 4, 5s, 6plus and now 7plus. My update cycle has become less frequent as the iPhone has matured, and It is now about once every 2-2.5 years. The fact that my current phone still serves me well and has 256GB storage space, I can seeing it lasting me another good year+ yet. But it isn't my go-to camera of choice any more - just what I use when I have nothing else to hand.
However, about a year ago, I started feeling like something was missing. A lot had happened since I got an iPhone. It correlated with a very hectic and at times torrid and turbulent phase in my life. I did travel a lot in 2005-2009 for fun, and then a lot for work from 2011-2014. But things have calmed down a lot since then as I have settled into a more domestic existence - one that I am very happy with. But as I became more accustomed to his new settled state, I realised that I was missing a creative outlet.
What did I used to do when life wasn’t hectic and mad? I asked myself. I made photographs, played cricket, and DJ’d was the answer. Leaving aside cricket and DJ’ing I managed to re-discover my old Canon 300D in London, and also the hard drive I had with all my photos on it up that that point (about two years ago). Recently, I managed to get into that, and my photography re-birth was kindled and caught alight in earnest from then.
And now we come to the second reason why I wish I had never got an iPhone: iPhotos. Why you get an iPhone, you enter an old school walled garden which is pretty hard to break down. Sure, you can jailbreak, but the security issues these days means that's a pretty risky road to go down. And until recently, it really was more hassle than it was worth to get photos out of Photos / iPhotos. And I don't live in an area of the world where Apple prints things out for you at a reasonable cost and sends you them. Until recently, not many other places did.
So, your photos are locked up in iPhotos. It's hard to get them out. So you look at them on a screen, and you very rarely print them out, if at all. I know people on photography courses here in Wellington, and I'm told they have NEVER printed any of their photographs out. Ever. That's tragic, and I have to put my hand up to that too - at least in recent years. That changes now.
So, iPhone - you're great, but I hate you. You changed my photography practice for the worse and that stops now. I'm back to shooting with real cameras - at the moment, a Fujifilm X-T1 and an X100 (original in the series). I'll tell you why I chose those in a later post
And as for your iPhotos, you're history. Lightroom is my new friend, but everything stays on my hard drive in a nice open format. And I will back you up lots, on multiple drives, I promise.