I did something out of character on my trip to Morocco at the start of the year – I left my digital SLR at home. Not just downsized, but completely at home – back in the UK, in it’s storage casing.
The aim of the game was to see whether my iPhone could replace my camera on my travels and how well it could capture my adventures.
By trade I’m a photographer. I graduated with a degree in Documentary Photography from the University of Wales, Newport. So it’s safe to say I could make rather an informed decision as to how well the iPhone worked as a replacement!
One of the main reasons behind this was the fact during my year in Oz pretty much all my kit came with me;
Full SPL Underwater Housing
Various batteries, grips, tripod, CF cards and what not
Yup I didn’t travel light on the camera front – in fact my camera bag (which I managed to blag on as my hand luggage) weighed in just short of 15kg…3kg lighter than my actual rucksack!
Having invested in a shiny iPhone 4 a while back (you can learn about why Apple is my top travel tip in my guest post fro Travel With A Mate) and downloaded a couple of photography apps to play with I wanted to really test it from a travel perspective. A lot of this curiosity was through how popular I could see iPhoneography becoming as hashtags on twitters and through blogger/photographers such as @kirsten_al and @lax2nrt or website posts like this one on TapTapTap.com. Even a quick hostage search on twitter for #iPhoneography brings back heaps of beautiful images.
So I headed to Morocco and produced a mini photo essay post with some of the results – My Top 10 Moroccan Shots.
But what was my verdict?
Size – By far the biggest advantage was it’s size. It lived in my pocket as usual, so no arduous camera bag to lug around – which also meant I didn’t feel vulnerable when digging out £100’s of quids worth of equipment. But the real upside in it’s size is the fact it’s very discreet. Take my shots from the souks for example – my brothers friend with his SLR was quickly told to put it away and the locals didn’t react well to being photographed. My iPhone on the other hand had no such issues – I simply shot off the hip or pretended to text!
Flexibility – The creative control through the apps I had downloaded meant I could quickly and easily change lens and film types to produce different results depending on what I wanted the shot to look like and indeed what I was shooting. Sure you can do this in Lightroom or Photoshop post shoot on an SLR but it’s lush just to get it there and then!
Social Media – The fact everything was shot on my iPhone meant I could quickly share it on the move on Facebook, Twitter or even my blog. Something I enjoyed doing as random tweets en route such as “just relaxing with a beer on the beach” suddenly became way more interesting and visual for everyone to read!
Ease of Use – Using my iPhone is dead easy. A single click to launch the photo apps and my main setting are already pre loaded ready to shoot at a single click – great for an off the cuff shot and easy than fiddling with heaps of knobs and buttons on an SLR.
Battery – My biggest gripe with using my iPhone was battery life. Using apps and taking pics isn’t the most battery efficient thing to do and coupled with the fact I was using twitter and indeed using my phone as a phone meant I was constantly aware of my battery getting lower. My iPhone generally gets charged every other day, compared to every week or so for my camera. Not having spare batteries was also a pain, but I have found an awesome battery pack case in the Apple store which could help this matter.
Durability – I bloody love my iPhone, but I’m also very aware that it can be pretty fragile (I already smashed one screen a while back!) and that it isn’t the cheapest bit of kit. I also know how much I put my other camera gear through – rain, dust, heat…it gets well used! I wasn’t as comfortable lying on the floor, resting it on walls and such like!
Professionalism – I’ve also used my iPhone as my main camera for a few articles I’ve been writing for other publications and it’s great for portraiture. It’s not however the best device for looking professional when taking them! I’ve found myself almost having to justify using it, not the best thing to have to do! A lot of people are pleasantly surprised with the results though.
Zoom – The zoom (or lack of!) can be a bit of a pain – it can work on the flip side though and force you to be more interactive with your subject. I would however love some extra zoom or a wider lens with the iPhone to give it that little bit of an extra punch. I have however recently found a great little fish eye adaptor and also zoom lens that can help take you iPhoneography to another level, something I hope to review soon.
Backup – Swopping memory cards and quickly plugging them into devices like my laptop or even iPad gives me peace of mind that my images are safe and I have copies. The iPhone on the other hand needs to be synced for my pics to be backed up, which is time consuming and means I have to have another device with me – a major downside. Hopefully the cloud function of iOS 5 (which is being released in Autumn) will remove this, but until then it’s a definite issue for me.
The Bottom Line…
iPhoneography is a great addition to travel photography and something I think will continue to grow – both in my own photography portfolio and also amongst other travellers. I’d love to be able to say that my iPhone could replace my SLR, but there are still gaps in it’s functionality which mean it can never really do that.
However there are definitely situations in which the iPhone will be my camera of choice. It’s a great little device that blends into my everyday life and means I don’t have to worry so much about having camera a kit to hand, and certainly for smaller trips it’s perfect.
At the moment though it’s just that – an addition to my main camera kit. Much like I swop between lenses or to a point and shoot for different situations. It’s very close to being able to replace my point and shoot camera though, and I suspect this will definitely be the case with the release of iPhone 5 or 6.
In the meantime enjoy iPhoneography, its here to stay and it’s just beginning…lets see where it leads.
The main apps I’ve been using for images taking have been Hipstamatic [£1.49] and Instagram [Free] – both of which are available on multiple mobile platforms, through their app stores…I shall be reviewing them both soon…