Phone Cam or Camera – That is the question

Cell phones have changed our lives for the better. Photography will never be the same. More photos are taken and shared because of cell phones … and for the most part, life is richer. I sure could do without most of the celebrity selfies and the pix of your lunch, but for the most part, those cell phone cameras have helped to make our lives richer. BUT, they might not be the best solution for all of your picture taking.


Where Cell Phone Cameras Excel


Let’s face it. Most of us just don’t leave the house without our cell phone. You walk out the door, grab the car keys, make sure you have money and your cell phone. You just always have that phone with you. If the best camera to use is the one you have with you, then cell phone cams win. But don’t stop now. Read on. A stand-alone camera fares much better in a range of situations.


Where Stand-Alone Cameras Excel


Most cameras are designed to be held steady so you don’t get blurry shots. Phone cameras are designed to be a phone first. Quite a few phone cams have built-in image stabilization that helps to compensate for this, but nothing will cure the blur of camera shake quite like a steady camera.



I’m talking about real (optical) zooming here. Digital zoom really isn’t a zoom. It simply takes a portion of the image and enlarges it (also called cropping). If you use digital zoom, you reduce the resolution (megapixels) and, possibly, the quality of your image.

Just about every phone cam has digital zoom only … no optical zoom.  Exceptions that I know of are the Samsung Galaxy K and the recently announced Zenfone Zoom from Asus).

On the other hand, just about every standalone camera has optical zoom. If you want to shoot a wider scene and get everyone at the family reunion in one shot or capture the majestic vista of the Rocky Mountains, you’ll want a ‘real’ camera. If you want to focus in on your child in the middle of a soccer game, you’ll want a stand-alone camera.


Low Light

The built in flash of your phone’s camera just isn’t as powerful or effective as the flash on a digital camera. If you’re not outside on a bright sunny day, a stand-alone camera is probably a better solution.


Creative Control

Camera Scene ModesMost smart phones have some controls on their built-in cameras. But, you’ll want a stand-alone camera if you want to easily and quickly control your camera settings like aperture and shutter speed and want to take advantage of pre-set creative shooting modes specifically designed for portraits, landscapes, sports, night, fireworks and much more.


Battery Life

For most of us, the primary function of a smart phone is to take and make phone calls. Using that phone to take photos, browse the web, check email and stream videos will quickly deplete the batter. But, a digital camera battery will last about 200 to 400 shots per charge … and you can always buy a back-up battery. Try doing that with your iPhone.



According to Consumer Reports, Images are space hogs. So unless you regularly curate the image gallery on your smart phone, you could find yourself out of storage space at a picture-perfect moment. A dedicated camera holds thousands of photos on inexpensive memory cards that don’t compete for space with apps and music. 


Large Sensors

Generally, bigger sensors = better photos. Basically, the sensor is what captures your photo. The bigger it is, the more light it can capture and the better the performance will be in low light. Sensor size digital cameras

Nigel Atherton, Group Editor of IPC photo explains that a large image sensor will give “superior image quality, more shadow and highlight detail, less image noise in low light”.

Another view from steven Wolpin from Digital Industry Reporter, “Many consumers suffer from guilty photo-taking consciences. They whip out their smartphones to snap the precious moments of their lives, knowing full well the results won’t be as picture-perfect as they would be if they’d used a digital camera.”



Where Both Cameras Excel


We know that our cell phones are pocketable and portable. An SLR camera … not so much. But wait, there are other alternatives. There are compact, stand-alone cameras. From a $89 basic point & shoot to an advanced compact camera … and even Interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras that you can put in your pocket, handbag, diaper bag or briefcase. Now these cameras are larger than your cell phone, but they’re definitely pocketable and portable.



Phone cams are great for all those images we take and upload to Facebook and Instagram. But, there are tons of compact cameras out there that can also, seamlessly and wirelessly, upload your pix. I do think that manufacturers took far too much time to incorporate these functions … and there’s probably more they can do to make it even easier.

Manufacturers will have to design more integrated solutions that experiment with new form factors and technologies to help explore previously unimagined uses and take imaging to the next level – 2015 seems like a good year to start.  –Amateur Photographer


Cell phone cameras are amazing. You can capture some fabulous images. Better yet, you’ll capture more images because you always have the phone with you. But a stand-alone camera is a better choice for those special occasions –your toddler’s first visit to the zoo, your daughter’s graduation, the family reunion, your son’s wedding, your trip to Paris … and the list goes on. Keep on using your iPhone to snap away. But, use a ‘real’ camera for special shots.


Read more about this:

“Digital Cameras Leave Smart Phones in the Dust – Consumer Reports

“How Does the iPhone hold up against a Serious Camera” – The Verge