Is the iPhone Good Enough?

(commentary)

Right on schedule, we have some evidence to examine in the “good enough” discussion. The 2014 iPhone Photography Awards have just been made, and you now have 20 images to look at that give you some sense of what the iPhone user is managing with their low-end device. 

Sure, the images are only Web-sized, and yes, you can see the steep contrast curve of a dynamic range limited camera in some of them, and even some noise in others. But a number of these images are striking and well executed, and I regularly see plenty of DSLR images that aren’t as good. 

The problem for the camera makers is a combination of things. No one needs a camera. Thus, from the onset photography has been driven more by desire and fad than necessity. Kodak played that game well for decades, making people feel guilty if they weren’t capturing and preserving memories. To a large degree, Facebook and all the Internet content republishers have taken over that game: if you aren’t posting to your wall and getting likes then you’re no one and antisocial. (Not much beats the old fear of being an outcast ploy. ;~)

Increasingly the problem for camera makers is that they don’t have a clear message as to why you’d want one of their cameras for the job of documenting your life. I’m not even sure that they get across the message that state-of-the-art cameras are the best photography artists’ tool. 

Instead, we’re still looking at numbers. And feature lists. And for some reason video specifications in still cameras. 

So take a good look at the iPhone Photo contest winners. Which camera would you have used to take those photos? How much better would the photo be? Are you sure? These are questions that the camera makers have to address in their marketing of their products, especially as they all try to go higher-end to keep margins up with declining sales. Is high-end just “bragging rights” or does it really do something better?  

text and images © 2017 Thom Hogan
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