I want from long time to write a post analyzing the photographs taken with the smartphone. I think we’re in a really big change talking about the photography. We are now inside the real revolution of the digital image time: we now have the chance to put in our pockets a device often less thick than a centimeter that not only allows us to take great photographs in terms of exposure and colors but also gives us the ability to edit the shots working on the postproduction with powerful Apps. Even more, today we can share our pictures immediately with the world and we could have millions of users ready to “receive” and see our works.
In this context, I must say that almost all smartphones have reached a more than satisfactory overall quality. Over the last three years I had the opportunity to try out many different devices (thanks to the collaboration with androidworld.it), so I’ve seen the evolution of the hardware and software in those device. I can say without hesitation that the flagship Android devices are equal to Apple iPhone in terms of photo quality.
So why do I say at the beginning of this article that the iPhone is still the best smartphone when talking about mobile photography? I say this from a personal point of view: after been for the last two years an Android power user (and as mentioned above, I also tried most of the flagship) I decided the last November to come back home to Apple. Yes, I had before an iPhone 4s that i was selling to switch to Android. With the iPhone 6 and the operating system upgrade iOS 8, Apple has made a move that many unhappy users were waiting: a device with a larger screen, a thinner body with increased battery autonomy and an excellent camera. iOS 8 had also introduced many features requested many time to Apple’s mobile operating such as the file sharing to other apps.
From my personal point of view, the strengths of the iPhone platform, talking about the camera system are:
- Great speed in being operational immediately. With a swipe up from the lock screen the camera app starts immediately.
- Excellent automatic color and exposure balance of the scene, with value updates very quick. In this way you can shoot fast! Even the auto focus is very responsive and fast.
- The ability in the native Photos app to change the exposure by increasing or decreasing the brightness (you do so by dragging your finger up / down on the sun icon). You can also lock the exposure between successive shots (hold down for a few seconds at the point where you want to expose).
- An HDR mode that works as it should, creating a natural tone mapping.
- Theres no slowdown in the looking the pictures in photo gallery, a swiping between them, even when you have thousands of photos!
- A very good cloud system. It then became even excellent if you have other devices of the Apple family: with iCloud you can immediately see the photos synced to your iPad and Mac without having to do anything. I want to point out that all the adjustments you’ll make on the photos will be synchronized almost instantly between devices.
- Possibility of nondestructive editing on the pictures. Yes, you’ve read that right! From iOS 8 Apple introduced this amazing feature! In my opinion this is one of the killer features of the system!
Working in the native gallery App, all the effects and settings that you apply will not be “glowed” on the photo with no chance of recover, but you will be able to delete them and go back to the original photo.
Technically I think that iOS8 (and above) works a bit like Lightroom where changes to the images are written directly in the catalog or to an external .xmp text file.
I also want to point out that Snapseed, possibly the best app to edit your photos on smartphones, is one of the few App that takes advantage of this non destructive workflow! In fact, when you want to save the photos (remember, this works only from iOS 8 onwards) within Snapseed, the program asks whether to overwrite the current one, or create a new copy. If you ask to overwrite the original image, Snapseed will only writes the “metadata” of development. So when you will return to the gallery App, pressing the “edit” button you will find the “Restore” and you can return to the original unedited photo!
- Excellent video quality with stabilisation of movies almost unbelievable. I want to remember that only the iPhone 6 / 6s in the Plus version have the optical image stabilizer. In any case, even the smaller version without the optical stabilization, use a software automatic algortim that does a great job creating video without shaking. Check out down the video I record with iPhone 6 while i was skiing on the Alps. I haven’t use any steady cam: the phone was just in my hand.
Following is a gallery of photos taken only with the iPhone 6. I’ve edited the pictures on smartphone using Snapseed and VSCOcam.