Modern smartphones are getting incredibly good at taking pictures. So good, in fact, that I recently sold my Canon 5D Mark ii and all my lenses. Amazing lenses like the Canon 85mm f/1.2L and the Canon 35mm f/1.4L. Was that kit capable of great images? You bet it was. It shoots full frame, low noise, and 21 megapixel pictures. By selling my gear, I forced myself to answer this question: can smartphones replace DSLR cameras? The answer may surprise you.
See, I was a professional photographer for years. I’ve taken thousands of images, but I live by two classic (and true) photography sayings:
- The best camera is the one you have with you.
- The camera doesn’t take great pictures, the person behind it does.
My DSLR kit was great at capturing light, processing photographic information, and producing images, but that kind of technological prowess doesn’t always make a good image. If you think about it, some smartphone technology dramatically outpaces DSLRs. On top of that, I never carried my DSLR kit with me unless I was on a job. I found myself using it less and less, so I sold it. I am now almost exclusively a smartphone photographer.
Selling my DSLR has led me to create some of my all-time favorite images. I capture moments I couldn’t capture previously. Editing and sharing those images is almost instant. The limitations imposed by a technologically inferior system (compared to a $3000 DSLR kit) force me to stop caring about specs, megapixels, sharpness, dynamic range, noise, and all that mumbo jumbo and just take pictures I think are cool.
Can Smartphones Replace DSLR Cameras?
So, can smartphones replace DSLR cameras? In my opinion, yes, but I still carry some extras to enhance the experience. Without further ado, I want to share my mobile setup and workflow. It’s not necessarily just point-and-shoot with a smartphone; it requires some pocketsize gear and certain amount of finesse.
- Smartphone: Apple iPhone 6 — Sure, the Samsung Galaxy takes fine images, too. If I’m being honest, the aesthetic quality of an iPhone image (from the 4S and on, in my opinion) simply doesn’t exist with other manufacturers. This has nothing to do with specs and everything to do with a more artistic feel that the iPhone sensor and Apple’s camera software produces.
- Case: Incipio NGP for the iPhone 6 — Generally speaking, I hate cases, but this one works well when I’m outside snapping photos and want to avoid damaging my device.
- Tripod: Joby JM3-01WW GripTight GorillaPod — It fits easily in my jeans pocket or my messenger bag, and is perfect for longer shutter times, nighttime photos, or… sigh, selfies. Don’t even get me started on the selfie stick.
- Lenses: Moment Tele and Moment Wide — Yes, lenses. At the risk of contradicting my first paragraph, I’m smitten with Moment lenses. These small, pocketsize, DSLR-style lenses ingeniously twist onto my iPhone and give me fields of view that have been a boon. How are these different from my DSLR lenses? I always carry these in my messenger bag because they only weigh a few ounces.
- Apps: VSCO Cam, Slow Shutter, Snapseed, Photogene, and Instagram — Editing on the iPhone is extremely powerful at this point. I can’t remember the last time I imported an image into Adobe Lightroom on my MacBook Pro. My go-to apps each do something different — often an image runs its way through 2-3 editing apps before I post it online.
There you have it. A photography kit you can carry comfortably in one hand and goes with you everywhere. Does your DSLR photography kit take great pictures? No! You do. Can smartphones replace DSLR cameras? Yes! By utilizing the available software and a few extra pieces of gear, you’ll love taking pictures with your smartphone. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll sell your DSLR. Now get out there and start shooting!