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Camera buying advice please

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hairy

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My wife has a Pixel 3a which she chose purely because of the reviews of the camera and it not being silly money compared to many smart phones. It takes really good pics.
I also have an Olympus Tough camera which with the suitable wrist lanyard floats. The zoom could be a bit limiting but it doesn't care about sand or water which is very handy. It can be in a pocket and forgotten about whatever the weather, so I can take a photo when I wouldn't otherwise have done either with a not so tough phone or posh camera gear.
 

pe2dave

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Decent slr/micro 4/3 vs smartphone. Fine comparison in decent lighting. Now try them in low light, high contrast or other 'edge' situations, where your 5D can cope, with care. That's where the difference is.
Your phone is an everyday carry. The 5D is a means of getting the photo you want.
 

thetyreman

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Just always remember it is the person BEHIND the camera who makes the picture! We are inundated with happy-snaps, the brainless selfies, and silly group photos. But the cameras seem to master situations in such minima light that one who used film is still amazed. And it seems like the art of composition in photography is mostly something of the past. So when my Samsung Note 3 packed it in as a phoene, it remains a damned good camera. So much so that all my Nikon equipment is mostly collecting dust. Very sad indeed ☹
yes it is who is behind the camera, no need to shout please, I will still keep using my DSLR.
 

sploo

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Decent slr/micro 4/3 vs smartphone. Fine comparison in decent lighting. Now try them in low light, high contrast or other 'edge' situations, where your 5D can cope, with care. That's where the difference is.
Your phone is an everyday carry. The 5D is a means of getting the photo you want.
Good summary.

I take way more photos with my phone than a DSLR these days (as it's always with me). However, the difference in the sharpness, definition, and ability to capture subtle colour details is very evident between the two as soon as you start to look closer at an image.

That said, in reasonable light and non-challenging conditions, would the DSLR produce an image that's noticeably better when viewed at a webpage resolution, or even an A4 print (seen at an arm's length distance)? Quite possibly not.
 

jonn

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Good summary.

I take way more photos with my phone than a DSLR these days (as it's always with me). However, the difference in the sharpness, definition, and ability to capture subtle colour details is very evident between the two as soon as you start to look closer at an image.

That said, in reasonable light and non-challenging conditions, would the DSLR produce an image that's noticeably better when viewed at a webpage resolution, or even an A4 print (seen at an arm's length distance)? Quite possibly not.
Look at the pixel count on some of the phones. Just incredible, and most likely the reason for the very good technical quality of the pictures.
Like this one:
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
SPECIFICATIONS
Release date: January 2021
Rear cameras: 108MP f/1.8, 10MP f/2.4, 10MP f/4.9, 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide
Front camera: 40MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 227 g
Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm
Storage: 128/256/512GB
 

sploo

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Pixel count is useful (sampling the sensor more finely), but the big difference with phones vs "proper" cameras is simply the size of the sensor (or film plane). Ultimately it's all about magnification - if you project a scene onto a sensor the size of your fingernail then produce an A4 print it's got to be magnified by a significantly larger ratio than the same scene projected onto a much larger (e.g. 36x24mm) sensor.

To put it another way - if you had lens glass that could resolve 1 line pair per mm, then you could project 36 pairs with reasonable sharpness on a 36mm wide sensor. Even a relatively large phone sensor (Google tells me the S21 Ultra has a 9.6mm wide main sensor) would only be able to capture ~9 line pairs across the image. Basically you need a lens ~3x "better" to project the same level of detail onto the smaller sensor.

I expect there will also be physical issues with the area of each pixel cell itself vs the (probably fixed by the level of technology) width of tracks on the silicon; as the sensor gets smaller the pixel area reduces (for the same resolution); so each pixel captures less light.
 

Chris152

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Look at the pixel count on some of the phones. Just incredible, and most likely the reason for the very good technical quality of the pictures.
Like this one:
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
SPECIFICATIONS
Release date: January 2021
Rear cameras: 108MP f/1.8, 10MP f/2.4, 10MP f/4.9, 12MP f/2.2 ultrawide
Front camera: 40MP
OIS: Yes
Weight: 227 g
Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm
Storage: 128/256/512GB
But is it really producing high quality images? As I understand it, that many pixels/ photosites on a tiny sensor won't be producing high image quality, the phone will be artificially compensating for distortion, especially if there's limited light.
The truth is, it all depends what you want from a camera, what you plan to photograph. I used to like to photograph action in the sea - any camera/ phone with significant shutter lag was completely useless for that. Horses for courses.
 

akirk

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The biggest issue with sensor size is interference between micro sites on the sensor - if a camera is 40Mb then there are well over 40million photo sites and logically they are quite close to each other… handling lower light levels is done by increasing the sensitivity of those photo sites- and they will interfere creating noise… various solutions have been tried - Nikon put individual lenses on each photo site to remove interference and in particular software gets rid of much of the issues

phones are worse because they have smaller sensors, but they are overall better at softwares so their overall results have improved hugely…
 

thetyreman

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what is being overlooked here is sensor SIZE and quality, if you want to get serious, lets compare a full format digital camera by hasselblad ideally with a zeiss lens or something of similar optical quality to the latest i-phone side by size and analyse them.
 

Spectric

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A really simple comparison is that photography is all about capturing light, a phone camera only has a small diameter lens and so cannot possibly capture the amount of light that a camera can and therefore you will not get the detail, especially in a landscape shot. I would agree with the many comments and say the phone is useful for happy snappy shots to capture a moment in time but you will not have sufficient data to produce a high quality printed image, don't forget it is not all about the number of pixels but their quality and the sensor layout.
 

Phil Pascoe

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The reality in photography is what it's always been: A top photographer can take good, interesting pictures with pretty well any camera, even a pinhole one.
Many years ago one of the photographic magazines gave a dozen or so pro photographers disposable cameras and told them to come back with a photo worthy of publication - only one didn't.
 

bp122

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Size is king when it comes to sensors.

That's why a 12 MP dslr sensor still produces superb results compared to a 20 MP phone camera.

Extrapolate the same concept with medium and large format sensors and NO phone can match it, at least now.

It's the volume of light pummelling the sensor that matters. So the a large aperture lens on a large sensor wins, hands down.

That is the technical side of photography, but the artistic side is a whole other thing.

I loved a line I had heard, don't know who said it or where, but it went something like this, " every great photo taken ever was taken on an inferior camera to what we can get today!"
 

akirk

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however, most photography is now consumed digitally- how many people still print photos and put them into albums? so does all that extra quality actually matter?

I remember in the early days of dslr cameras printing a crop from a 6Mb D70 at about 1.5m wide and it was okay, c. 25dpi but on the right media and viewed from the right distance, not an issue… how much better than that is a modern mobile?

yes at a conceptual level a dslr is better, but for the vast majority of uses a modern mobile is pretty good…
 

gcusick

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Standard answer to the question “What’s the best camera?” is “The one you have with you.” And it’s true.

I’ve been taking photographs for donkey’s years, on film cameras, SLRs, various digital compacts, DSLRs, and mobile phones. I’ve taken lots of rubbish pictures on expensive DSLRs with even more expensive lenses, and some great pictures on an iPhone.

For photographing ‘normal’ subjects, from a couple of metres or more away in decent light, a modern mobile phone will generally produce better than adequate results. But if you want to take good close-ups, or perhaps birds in flight, or the proverbial black cat in the coal cellar at midnight, then you’ll need something better.

Don’t ignore the digital compact cameras (eg from Lumix). They are versatile, produce good still pictures and decent video, and, best of all, they are small and light enough to carry with you most of the time.
 

petermillard

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however, most photography is now consumed digitally- how many people still print photos and put them into albums? so does all that extra quality actually matter?

I remember in the early days of dslr cameras printing a crop from a 6Mb D70 at about 1.5m wide and it was okay, c. 25dpi but on the right media and viewed from the right distance, not an issue… how much better than that is a modern mobile?

yes at a conceptual level a dslr is better, but for the vast majority of uses a modern mobile is pretty good…
Have to agree. I like a nice camera - I have a few - and I’d always use them for anything serious, like shooting video. But if I’m just taking photos I prefer my phone - nice big hi-res screen, superfast previewing, and in-camera image processing that make most cameras look like they have the computing power of a birthday card. For edge cases like long and ultra-wide lenses, then sure a camera with interchangeable lenses is the best thing. But for almost everything else - and especially in the hands of a relative novice - a current smartphone will produce a more pleasing image, with a lot less effort.
 

kinverkid

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I have always had a healthy interest with cameras from my moms Kodak brownie for my school cruise in 1970, 110 pocket camera and then my Russian Zenit SLR camera before getting a little more serious with an Olympus OM1. My job that I retired from required me to use a Nikon FM2 SLR 35mm camera to record evidence for the Police before we went digital with the Nikon D200 which I used up until my retirement. I now almost exclusively use a Lumix DMC-GX80 4/3, with a 12-32 lens as my city/holiday camera. I also have a 45-150 lens which I rarely use. I say all this before agreeing that for almost all the photographs and video that I take, most people will take adequate photographs with their telephones to record similar memories and scenes that I do. Most people I find do not require the high quality that these cameras and lenses produce. When training others to take photographs for forensic evidence I would have to emphasize that the jury would not be made up of David Baileys' criticizing the quality but they will all be looking for what is included or missing from the photographs which is what I understand you are requiring. In fact, I don't even use 4K either. This, I know, does not answer your original question and maybe confuses the query more. But, I would sit and look back at how you want to view the end photographs. How much you may need to edit them afterwards. Then who is going to see them and maybe take the pee out of them (which you will find is almost nobody unless you do actually know David Bailey).
 

hairy

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We have an older version of those little sony ones, pretty decent and certainly better than a phone.

Ollie
Me too, lovely little thing, but a few grains of sand requiring an expensive fix to the zoom and lens cover mechanisms shortly after purchase is what made me buy the Olympus tough camera i mentioned before. That then allows me to have a camera with me that doesn't mind where I am or what I'm doing. I managed to bend an Iphone in an otterbox before that so I'm not too keen on relying on a smartphone outside either.
 
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