Do You Need a DSLR In 2020 To Photograph Cars?
Recently my phone contract came up for renewal, which was a blessed relief due to being relegated to a cheap, capable but technically limited phone after mine was pinched at the start of the year. Relevant and exciting to you I know, but bear with me here. As I occasionally snap pictures of cars and post them on the Instagrams (cheap plug incoming: @wingsandwheels_uk), naturally the biggest priority for me was a phone that has a very tasty camera. Naturally then, given it's big camera and my love of tinkering/breaking a phone's software, Google's Pixel 4 XL was the best choice.
The Pixel 4 XL, like most smartphones in this day and age, features a camera with two lenses: the first being a 12 megapixel, f/1.7 aperture, 28mm focal length affair with dual-pixel and autofocus, the second being a 16MP telephoto lens with an f/2.4 aperture and a 45mm focal length. Now before you burst into tears with how dreary that sentence was, let me put it this way: it has two lenses, one for close ups and one for zoom. In addition to the whizzy lenses, the 4 XL also features a range of fancy modes and features contained in the in-built software.
Now there are a multitude of phones on the market, all with very fancy cameras and all sorts of different lenses and modes and things to make that picture you took of your lunch look all artistic and Instagrammable, which begs the question: if you, like me, enjoy taking pictures/videos of cars and so on, what's the point in buying a dedicated camera?
I mean, think about it. Photography is expensive; an entry level Nikon D3500 bought from Nikon's website will set you back £239. That's just the body - to have an 18-55mm lens with the body will cost you £309. That's a lot of money for just the entry point of a hobby, and it only gets worse from there: if you were to walk into a branch of Jessops and get a high quality camera body, two lenses, a camera bag, a memory card (possibly two), a tripod and lens filters and all the rest of it, you won't be getting much change out of a grand. So why on earth would you go to all that trouble and expense when you could just get a smartphone that does the job for no extra cost?
To find out, I went to the good folks at McLaren Hatfield to snap a few of the odds and sods laying about in the car park. And by odds and sods I mean the usual array of British exotica - 600LTs, 570s' and so on. Luckily it was a lovely sunny day, which made for some half decent shots, touched up in Lightroom. Some shots I took with the phone, some I took on my trusty Canon DSLR. There appeared to be a handover of a brand new 600LT going on, so if you're reading this and you were taking delivery of your LT, apologies if I got in the way somewhat...
Anyway, this article is something of an experiment. At this stage I would like you, the reader, to look at every picture in this article and determine whether each shot was taken by the camera or the phone. I shall insert a few more pictures below, but study each one carefully and make up your own mind.
All finished? Answers below...
So, what do you think? All phone? All DSLR, or a combination? Well dear reader, you may be surprised to learned that every picture was taken on the phone. Frankly I was surprised, the 4 XL's camera is very, very capable and produces some high quality images. I am by no means a pro photographer and there are others who could get far better results, but even so - it's safe to say that the modern smartphone is capable of delivering good quality imagery.
At the risk of sounding hypocritical, I will still continue to use dedicated cameras for my photography. Why? Simple - despite the faff and expense, there are certain situations that the phone just can't perform as well in. Naturally the camera in a phone is a series of compromises, so there will always be limitations - long distance photography and video springs immediately to mind. However, for the occasional car meet, motor show or just taking a picture of your pride and joy after the monthly wash, the modern smartphone will deliver results that 10 years ago would've been absolutely unimaginable.
What do you think? Would you ever buy a dedicated camera, or stick to the one that's in your pocket? What results have you got from shooting from your phone? Will smartphones render dedicated cameras redundant in the future? Comment below!