The iPhone is probably all the travel camera you need.
So I went to Denver for a business trip. I wasn’t really expecting to do any thing exciting and as a light traveler I figured that toting around a camera would be a giant pain in the… so I left it behind…like an idiot. As it turned out I did do some interesting things and I would have loved to have some high-resolution photos of the action. But I have previously noted a smartphone, in my case the iPhone is a great travel camera for snapshots.
Disclaimer: Yes, all of the photos in this review were taken with an old iPhone. No, they are not fabulous DSLR quality pics.
Hiked St. Mary’s glacier (WOW)
Panned for gold (Not so “wow”)
Went to Garden of the Gods (Really big red rocks…)
Crawled around the Manitou Cave Dwellings (Nifty but not all original)
Watched an idiot overdose on legal THC cola and chocolate (I had the Darwin award, ready to roll, for this one but he survived)
Went to a Speak Easy (How neat is that!?)
Thought about zip lining over a gorge… (No I didn’t do it. I suck at life and it didn’t look to be worth the cost. Yes I’m cheap.)
Considered mountain-biking down the side of a mountain (Didn’t have time)
Did the walking tour of Manitou Springs (You can try all different spring waters right from the source, delicious)
Had a Coors in Golden Colorado (It wasn’t any better in its birthplace)
Saw an old friend (A shout out to our tour guide Christa)
Went to a Casino (I don’t gamble, but I will drink free cocktails till the cows come home or I pass out from the “freeness” whichever comes first)
All of which I wished I had a nice camera to document. What I had brought instead was an IPhone. As the old adage goes “the best tool for the job is the one you have with you”. So I busted out the iPhone and did my damndest to create some memories. This, mind you, was done with an older iPhone 5s so the camera has come leaps and bounds since these photos were taken. As it turned out the old iPhone did a remarkable job as a travel camera.
The picture quality was quite good for a sensor the size of my child’s pinky nail. The phone did a magnificent job of capturing even high dynamic range scenes. For instance I was walking around Pikes Peak where the sun was shining down and causing the snow covered landscape to glow with a blinding white light. Naturally the boulders everywhere were a deep black saturated in water from the melting snow pack. This presents a dynamic range nightmare for any camera really but the phone did a great job. That said this isn’t a full frame sensor spitting out raw files. You will quickly reach the limitations in low light or in post when pulling shadows or highlights. Really, what you see is what you get when the photo is taken. And honestly it’s kind of refreshing to NOT be able to mess with it too much. But they don’t really need it. The JPEG engine in the iPhone is better than the JPEG engine in the Sony Cameras I have. It’s not as good as Canon but its really got quite nice slightly over saturated colors that I rather enjoy.
As for the ease of use it’s an iPhone. Everything is done behind the scenes for you. That said you can mess with it a bit. If you have a high dynamic range scene you can simply poke the screen on a bright or dark spot to adjust the exposure. You can digitally zoom if you so choose but things get pretty ugly pretty fast.
Pro Tip: Minimize your panorama use when moving objects in the photo otherwise you will end up with some severe artifacts. Unless you a
re into that sort of thing of course and you like to get all ‘Picasso’ with your photos.
You can edit the photos in a basic manner with cropping and mild adjustments to the exposure right in the phone. You can add creative effects if you’re into that sort of thing as well. What a great little pocket computer/ camera. The new iPhone is waterproof (resistant?) as well so it’s really great for candid photos in bad weather or at the waterpark. Additionally, the Iphone boots to the camera far faster than my Rx1rii or my a7rii so it’s great to grab quick shots.
As for the new phone iPhone 7plus I picked this one up with high hopes for the dual camera. This was an error on my part I should have done the research first. As it turns out the camera on the iPhone 7plus is a 28ish mm lens with optical image stabilization and an aperture of f/1.8 whereas the secondary camera has a smaller sensor, a 56mm lens with an f/2.8 aperture and no image stabilization. It’s so bad in low light that the iPhone digitally zooms the 23mm lens when the light is low.
In short Embrace the idiot proof nature of the iPhone use it for all it’s stress free pluses while you are traveling. From ease of use to water resistance it’s a great companion. Embrace not messing with it in post and embrace the 28mm focal length you’re stuck with. In short love it for what it is and don’t worry about what it isn’t. Honestly the smartphone is a great backup camera and a great travel camera for most anybody.