Should you buy an iPhone 11 Pro? That’s a big question many people have had on their minds since Apple recently released their latest flagship smartphone which contains 3 different rear-facing cameras. However, a thorough answer to that question isn’t cut and dry.
I will explain further in a minute, but the simpler question, from a purely photographic perspective, comes down to what type of photo-taking individual you are.
First, let me start by saying this article is not meant to be another technical review of the new iPhones. They are, without a doubt, Apple’s best iPhones to date. Thus, the discussion here is largely geared toward people who are photographers that, for lack of a better word, already own and use a “traditional camera” on a regular basis.
So for those people who mostly use a camera for taking quick photos of family and friends, for social media purposes, or any other use where having an excellent smartphone camera in your pocket at all times is what’s needed, then, by all means, the iPhone 11 Pro probably offers the best camera array available at the moment.
Or, if you just need a new phone, one with great cameras, and can afford the price of an iPhone 11 Pro, then it’s a fantastic choice for these reasons as well.
But the confusing issue I see for the other photographers out there is that smartphone cameras, aside from some of their technical limitations in resolution and dynamic range, are getting so good that people, within the more serious picture-taking world, have begun to ask themselves “Why do I still need a traditional camera to take my pictures with at all?”
It is a fair question.
And the real reason I wrote this article is I want to discuss whether the iPhone 11 Pro is creatively a good thing for more serious photographers or not. Meaning, is it really a positive for those of us who usually use a traditional camera for most of our picture-taking? I am referring to those who are avid photo-taking hobbyists, amateur enthusiasts, or even people who derive income from photography.
So, here is the twist: As more and more people are excited by the convenience of having a great camera right in their front pocket, I, as a long-time commercial photographer, began questioning if these rapid advances (in over-simplified picture-taking technology) are really as good for us as they may seem?
Although there are some people out there doing some innovative things with smartphone cameras, there is also a lot of uninspiring imagery being created from this new medium of “camera-always-in-the-pocket”, and this is my concern. And with that said, a lot of the creative and technical principles of photography are being neglected in the process.
As I started to consider getting an iPhone 11 Pro myself, mainly because of its new triad of high-quality cameras that I mentioned, I asked myself; “If I have that new iPhone in my pocket, will I stop carrying my traditional cameras around the way I often do now?” And since the answer to that question was a very possible “Yes”, I felt it necessary to take a step back.
If I effortlessly pull something out of my pocket, can almost thoughtlessly point it at any subject (with very little contemplation of framing or even focus), and take a photo instantly, then the value of capturing an image may become about as important to me as what color socks I am wearing.
To me, that would constitute a real loss, and perhaps creativity and the quality of my work would suffer from it. And although all that technological convenience may seem like a positive thing, a poorer final outcome is still possible, even with the use of higher-level technology.
As a working photographer, a lot of thought first goes into choosing my background, controlling depth of field, and how I am going to compose and shoot something when I look through the camera’s viewfinder. These are facets of picture taking that I feel are so essential to the creative process and final outcome. They are also important steps that put me “into the zone,” open up my mind’s eye, and force me to keep challenging myself to up my game.
Thus, I decided that I don’t want to get so complacent and uninspired about the importance of capturing a fleeting-moment-in-time to where my photography becomes so effortless and maybe even humdrum. Perhaps some people will not see the thought (of diverging from this new high-quality compact smartphone camera technology) from my point of view, but that’s fair game.
And although the advances in smartphone camera technology are impressive, I would rather not succumb to becoming a snap-happy smartphone shutter-bug where very little effort is invested into what I am actually shooting. Most importantly, I want to stay sharp and continue to approach photography like an OG lensman.
I still believe that a great picture is worth a 1,000 words and I still want to tell people that the image I am sharing with them was shot with something known as a camera, not merely a convenient pocket-sized device with little lenses the size of a fingernail.
But, I am not a purist. I still support the practical argument in photography that it doesn’t quite matter how you get from point A to point B, as long as you get there. And I’m not saying that using a DSLR or mirrorless camera makes one a better photographer. Or even that someone using a smartphone camera is any less of a photographer.
I am just adding that how you approach capturing an image is equally as important to the final outcome as the method used to create it.
In conclusion, I will still carry a traditional camera, and be forced to utilize the slower methods of photography needed to capture a photo – the same ones I have always used to create my most important work. So, if you are serious about your picture-taking, and you want to give your work the conviction it deserves, then I don’t see the iPhone 11 Pro being a truly inspiring addition to the future of your photography.
Mark, I have been in the photography business for 70 years. At one time I felt the phones were simply a flash in the pan and would never replace serious photographic equipment. I was wrong just like I think you are wrong.
I have the Iphone 11 pro max and associated gear to go with it as well as mirrorless systems to work with and in reality both have their place and both are very capable of producing excellent images. A lot will depend on who good the photographer is and not what gear he or she is using. Let’s face facts. There have been motion pictures shot only on iphones. There are a great many pro photographers carrying the iphone as a secondary imaging source and some as a primary imaging source and they are all creating great images.
There is a reason the camera industry is in the downside and it because they have not kept up with the image technology employed by phone manufacturers. All signs point to the facts that the phone industry cameras are advancing by leaps and bounds. Will their products ever replace the professionals high end cameras with larger sensors, probably not. But for the average advanced photographers the phones are becoming the first creative choice.