The Best Camera

by Jin, 09-29-09 // 16 comments
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Around this time last year, I was shopping for my first DSLR camera. During my research, I received numerous good advices from helpful folks in the online photography communities. Among their advices, the best one I got was “If you wait for another month to buy that latest and greatest camera, you’d wasted another month of not taking photos.”

It’s been a year since I bought my Nikon D90. What an awesome camera it is. However, lately I find myself taking more photos with the 2 megapixel camera on my iPhone 3G. Technical spec wise, 3G camera is no comparison against the Nikon. But there’s something I love about the photos I take with the iPhone. It’s always with me, and it documents my daily life.

Last week I read photographer Chase Jarvis’s blog post promoting his new iPhone App, “The Best Camera.” Chase’s photography blog has been my favorite read, ever since I discovered his tips for taking great iPhone photos. If you’re into photography, I highly recommend his blog. Chase doesn’t talk too much about the techniques, but rather the essence of photography, and the photography profession.

In his promotion video for the iPhone app, one quote really struck a cord with me.

“The best camera is the One That’s with You. Images aren’t about dynamic ranges and megapixels. They’re about stories and moments.”

~ Chase Jarvis

I cannot agree more.

As much as I love my Nikon for its superb quality, I can’t carry it with me all the time. I can’t capture the unplanned details happening in my life. I mostly use my Nikon for photo journals I put a lot of fore-thought into. However, I always have my iPhone with me.

I’d be the first to admit, the iPhone camera isn’t the greatest. I remember how disappointed I was with it when I first bought it. But the more photos I take with it, the more aware I am about its limits and how to maximize it. Also because of its limits, I’m forced to approach the subjects in a different manner from my Nikon. I can’t do long exposure, field of depth etc; most of the time I’m at the mercy of poor lighting. So I focus on the subject matter instead. I challenge myself to make inert objects interesting, to make ordinary things extraordinary, to make moving forces hold still. Most importantly, to make photos to invoke an emotional response. After all, isn’t this what good photography is all about?

Too often, we find ourselves obsessing over the tools and techniques rather than essence of what we’re trying to do. Cameras don’t take photos, Photoshop doesn’t produce great graphic design, programming languages don’t produce great software, fancy clothes don’t make the personality.

Mobile photography is this generation’s Polaroid. It’s accessible, candid, intimate, instant gratification and timeless.

Here are some iPhone photos I’ve taken of things I see daily.

p.s. Mostly during my commute to work.

p.p.s. photos are post-processed with Camerabag and Toycamera apps.

16 comments

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Bobby Borszich 09-29-09

Perfectly said and I totally agree! Thanks for sharing.

Bobby Borszich 09-29-09

Oh and I forgot to mention. You picture of the light bulb (4th up on the right side) I feel totally responsible for. And I tell that story to a lot of people that I meet. You were leaving work late that night, it was after dark. I harassed you that you won’t be able to take one of your cool iPhone commute shots because your iPhone has no flash! But low and behold you get creative and shot … light! Awesome and I love it.

David Trang 09-30-09

In two years, I have taken about 2,100 iphone photos…half of which are shots of food or beer. I don’t know what my obsession is.

Megapixels aside, having the phone everywhere with me indeed gives me the chance to create some shots that I would never normally have. I really can’t complain. And like you, I’m still using the 3G camera, the 3Gs should provide a nice boost whenever I get around to upgrading.

Nice photos you snapped too.

Jin 09-30-09

@Bobby, thanks! I think you’ve seen every photo I twitpiced. I think that’s another reason I love iPhone pics. Because of all the great apps, I can easily share them with friends.

@David, ha I’m the same way. I’m obsessed with taking photos of food. You can see check out all the iPhone photos I twitpice at http://twitpic.com/photos/jzy

Jeff 09-30-09

Your post reminds me of a photography story:

A man, just having come back from vacation, is invited to his friend’s house for dinner one night. When he arrives, he proudly shows his recent vacation photos to his host. The host says, “These photos are wonderful! You must have an amazing camera!”, and the man remains silent.

They have dinner, and afterward, the man says to his host, “That dinner was wonderful! You must have an amazing set of pots!”

It’s true that the iPhone can’t beat an SLR in tech specs, but so often, it’s the person behind the camera that makes the difference between a good photo and a bad one.

Nathan Bowers 09-30-09

Love this post and love your shots. As with drawing, “pencil mileage” counts. Take lots of shots. Work to get better.

Key thing about iPhone is that you have it with you, but also that photos are actionable. You can immediately tweet or flickr them. Too much friction in getting pics off regular cameras, then uploading.

Jin 09-30-09

@Jeff, that’s a great story! Funny how we rarely associate a chef’s cooking with the tools, but for other professions we do.

@Nathan, I think eventually all digital cameras will have the upload to cloud capability, it will have to be that way. Agreed on taking a lot of shots part. I can get maybe one decent photo out of 5-10 shots of the same scene.

Hardensoul 10-22-09

That Seafood Pho looks good. But the broth looks mix with extra condiments already, because it looks red.

Hardensoul 10-22-09

Looks really spicy just the way I like it!!

Alex Charchar 11-01-09

I often get annoyed when I hear people say “I need a new camera so I can take better photos”.. the photos you’ve taken with your iphone are far more interesting than any some of these people could take with their $1000+ cameras..

It’s about capturing a beautiful moment, not capturing a moment beautifully.. The natural grit that comes through from ‘poor’ equipment often gives far more interest and character than perfectly crisp images do

ps. sorry it’s taken so long to leave a proper comment here!

Steven Clark 11-16-09

Nice set of photos Jin, awesome work for the iPhone. Yes, just like the Lomos and the Helgas there is a lot to be said for the constraints imposed that enhance creativity.

Its interesting, have you seen the photo taken just before War broke out in Europe in the 1930′s – I forget the photographer’s name. It was of a man leaping over a puddle off a plank, the photographer took it through a crack in a fence on a typical hand held camera of its time – was said to be the best photograph from the 20th Century.

Glad to see you’re still enjoying photography. I’ve been so busy with the MBA that I’ve hardly had the D90 out of the bag in the last six months… I’m thinking about a project but not sure if I can get that together until I graduate.

I’m still stunned at the iPhone shots. Nice.

Jin 11-18-09

@Steven, thanks! I haven’t taken many photos with my D90 lately either. Need to take it out for a spin soon! Good luck on your MBA!

turisuna 12-12-09

I agree with you. For me the iPhone is the simplest gadget to capture all moments in my life, I like to take some pictures anywhere and anytime I want. Sometimes I get interesting captures of children with my iPhone, their natural expression is priceless, it can’t happen when I use normal camera, my children will aware with the camera and start to pose lol, I prefer to catch the spontaneous pictures.

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Eloise 06-18-10

Hey, great post and thanks for sharing! I have to both agree and disagree. I just bought an dslr a year ago and I think an dslr should always be with me. If I want to take something on the fly, and easily, just put it in landscape, auto or portait mode and concentrate on the composition.

I have to say though the Hipstamatic app is great!

You’ve taken some wonderful photos with your iphone, well done!