Flickr has quite a few groups dedicated to “iPhoneography” and I occasionally upload iPhone images to add to my photo stream and the groups.
I admit to having been a huge skeptic about many things mobile phone related over the past couple of decades. I seem to have been wrong on most counts. I did not like the idea of mobiles in the first place. Now, I find mine invaluable for staying organised and getting work done. I mocked the idea of people looking on the new fangled internet on a mobile phone screen barely 3cm across when WAP was a thing. Clearly, a career in design was not on the cards. Then, when the first cameras crept into telephones, I scoffed at the idea that it would catch on. I am obviously not an entrepreneur in the making.
At various times, I have engaged quite proactively with mobile phone photography, beyond just quick snaps. I don’t really recall the name of the first camera phone I owned, I think it was a Panasonic flip phone of some sort. Looking through the archives, I found a couple of images, less than 400 pixels square, that I think were taken on this phone and made it into my collection. There is a chance they were taken on Carolin’s very odd Nokia 7600 (Google it – the weirdest phone you ever saw).
There seemed to be a tendency, with various offers, to turn phones over quite quickly in those days. By mid 2005 I had moved on to a Nokia 6630. Uncharitably described by some as looking like it had a scrotum, I had opted for it due to an extremely competitive deal with the “3” network and the fact that it was reputed to have excellent (for the time) camera quality, with a 1.3 megapixel resolution. Whilst I only ever used it for snap shots, I did manage to get some quite lovely candid ones with the kids at times.
Clearly, colour reproduction and general quality was lacking, but often when I took the boys out I was so loaded with toys, changes of clothes etc. that lumping an SLR with me was not a priority.
The 6630 met a sad end. I had it in my top shirt pocket. It was the kids’ bath time and as I lent over to check the water temperature, the Nokia decided to check for me. No amount of towelling or storage in a Tupperware of rice (and other internet based remedies) coaxed it back to life. Disappointing. I cannot be sure what I replaced it with, but I know that my last “dumb” phone was a Nokia N73. I really liked the images on this one. It had a Carl Zeiss lens and wikipedia informs me, a 3.1 MP resolution sensor.
I must have limped on with this phone for some time, but my archive contains less than 20 images definitely shot on it. I suspect this is because by early 2006, Carolin and a decent quality instant still camera and I had purchased a Canon EOS 350D, which I carried with me obsessively to document our family activities.
I purchased my first iPhone in August 2008, the second generation device confusingly known as the 3G. The camera was rubbish. Awful. I did try to take occasional snap shots, as well as using apps that offered different ways to present the photographs. Very few were keepers, but two out of three below demonstrate on some level why sometimes the best camera is the one you have with you.
It was not until I purchased an iPhone 4S, in 2011 that I finally got into camera phones. I made extensive use of my iPhone 5 as a camera, because it coincided with my trusty Canon packing up. I even photographed an entire holiday with it and remain reasonably pleased with the results. There was a phase when I was somewhat disenchanted with photography, too, and only took iPhone snaps because I was fed up with carrying a large, bulky SLR around with me.
Since the 5, which was lost at sea by Carolin, I have had a 6 Plus, an 8 Plus, an SE and am now on a 13. The 6 Plus was a reasonable camera, the 8 was terrible and I am coming to grips with the 13. I feel like the 5 may almost have been the peak iPhone camera. I am not a fan of the multi-camera and AI/software type processing on recent iPhones. The portrait mode attempts to create bokeh are hideous at times and very poorly done. The 8 in particular had terrible processing on many images. Since buying my X-E3, which is so portable, I rarely take photographs on a phone as I am not really interested in trying to turn them into something usable during post. It is early days with the 13 Pro, but I seem to find as long as I avoid zooming in beyond the stock 26mm equivalent, the photos are pretty good. As soon as you start to zoom beyond that, artefact and processing conspires to damage the image beyond repair.
Where I find the iPhone cameras come into their own, and have done since the 4S, is video clips. Whilst I now film occasionally on the X-E3, for the first two years of ownership I didn’t even know how to access the video modes! The phones did it all.
Thanks for reading my missive. Feel free to comment if you have any observations or thoughts, or can point me in the direction of your recollections of camera phones over the last 15 years or so.