How iPhone 13 Pro became my only digital camera

I’ve been taking pictures with cell phones since August 2003, when I was dealing with the Nokia 3650, one of the first camera phones sold in the US. And Android sometimes.

But somehow, I didn’t take phone photography seriously. More often than not, I’ve thought of it as the digital equivalent of using a disposable camera: something more about quick and dirty convenience than ingenuity. If I take pictures, I truly Cared about that, I used an improved digital camera to take pictures and nothing else. Since 2019, this has been the Fujifilm X-T30 Mirrorless Camera.

The arrival of the iPhone 13 last September seemed like an occasion to reconsider my hunch. Much of the online feedback on Apple’s latest iPhones and their camera features have shown that it’s just audio — and noted that photos taken in decent light don’t necessarily look much different than those taken with previous iPhones. However, I was intrigued by the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max’s photography upgrades. It included macro capability, a new 3X zoom, and improved sensors that let in more light.

In other words, the 13 Pro phones are designed to be better at photographing subjects that are near, far away, or obstructed by murky lighting — precisely the kinds of limitations that would lead me to shoot with my X-T30 instead of my iPhone 11 Pro. (I’ve shot all my videos on smartphones for years, so the iPhone 13 Pro’s video upgrades, while welcome, didn’t herald any major shift in my habits.)

[Photo: Harry McCracken]

When I bought the iPhone 13 Pro a few weeks after its launch, I decided to go for it. Since then, I’ve been on an overseas business trip, traveled for Thanksgiving, went on Christmas weekend, socialized (cautiously!) in the Bay Area, and took work photos. And I did it all with my new iPhone as my only digital camera.

It’s been over nine months since I took a picture with the X-T30. Herewith, some things I learned – interspersed with photos from my iPhone 13 Pro.

[Photo: Harry McCracken]

1. The basics of photography are always the most important

If your hand shakes when taking a photo, the photo will likely appear blurry. Well, this is one of the most straightforward shooting tips ever, and it is applicable to every camera that has ever been made. But when I took pictures with a smartphone, I rarely stopped to remember them, because I wasn’t in a serious state of mind for photography. Now that I have that, I install the phone more carefully, put more consideration into the configuration, and generally do all the little things that add up to better visuals. they are working!

[Photo: Harry McCracken]

2. It is useful to search the settings of the Apple camera

When it comes to its own apps, Apple has a representative for being the opposite of personalization. It also switches Settings to the iPhone Settings app, listing its apps in a really vague order. (All I know is that there are two sections, and neither of them are arranged alphabetically.)

I found more pleasure in imposing discipline on photography, even if technology did not.

For these reasons, it’s easy to forget that the Camera app has settings at all. But it is – and gives you an amazing degree of control over your shooting experience. You can ditch Apple’s HEIC file format for a more compatible JPEG, set the default portrait mode to 2X zoom instead of 3X, and even tell the Camera app to keep settings until you tell it otherwise – so it always opens in black- and white mode, for example .

The Settings app is where you can select one of Apple’s Photographic Styles, such as Rich, Vibrant, or Warm. These presets remind me of the X-T30’s ability to emulate a variety of FujiFilm film stock.

Of course, if you’re the type who enjoys advanced features, you might gravitate toward a powerful third-party iPhone camera app, like Halide or ProCamera. I’m glad they have them, but I haven’t been associated with any of them. For one thing, Apple doesn’t let you set a third-party camera app as the default, so it’s hard to avoid their own entirely. On the other hand, while many of the camera apps outperform Apple in terms of features and manual options, I haven’t found one that I like their interface with as Apple.

[Photo: Harry McCracken]

3. You should take (or at least keep) fewer photos

For anyone who grew up shooting 36-wide rolls of 35mm film — and pays to process them — the essentially unlimited image capacity of a smartphone is incredibly liberating. Or at least, he was feeling that way. These days, the fact that I have 93,970 photos in iCloud seems like a burden; Gems outnumber non-exceptional shots or simple shots. And there are many cases where I have 47 different types of the same scene, because, well, there’s no reason not to hold the shutter button.

But lately, I’ve found more pleasure in imposing discipline on photography, even if technology doesn’t. If I’m documenting a lackluster outing with friends, I’d rather have dozens of great photos than 300 that comprehensively document the meal. So I take fewer photos – then try to remember to go back and delete all the photos I don’t like.

[Photo: Harry McCracken]

4. Taking too many pictures is draining the battery

One of Apple’s most welcome upgrades in current iPhones is improved battery life. When taking photos in moderation, you’re not likely to run out of juice. But on the days when I gave up on shooting, the 13 Pro’s battery got a workout — and on a few occasions, it got dangerously close to the zero mark. Unlike the traditional camera, the iPhone and all its direct competitors do not allow you to exchange a new battery; The best thing you can do is carry an external battery. (I bought one from Anker with support for MagSafe wireless charging built into the iPhone.)

[Photo: Harry McCracken]

5. Camera phones still have health problems

If “the best camera is the one you have with you”, smartphones are hard to beat: due to their portability and versatility, an act Always keep it with us. But even though photography is among the most important functions of a phone, phones still feel like they were designed to be cameras first and foremost. (There were occasional exceptions.)

Pressing the on-screen shutter button of the iPhone can annoy the phone and blur the photo you’re taking, and while you can use the actual volume up button instead, it’s not well placed for this. I also miss my FujiFilm grip when I hold my iPhone. And because the iPhone’s camera bump is located on the edge of the phone, I still took the occasional shot with my fingertips visible in the shot.

[Photo: Harry McCracken]

Overall, it’s easy to understand why so many companies have invented mechanical shutter button cases for iPhones, turning the phone into something like a classic camera.

6. I miss the “real” camera less than I expected

Smartphone cameras have not reached absolute parity with conventional cameras. The FujiFilm X-T30 has a lot more megapixels than the iPhone, which comes in handy when I want to crop an image without ending up with something that looks too fuzzy. It accepts interchangeable lenses, such as the zoom lenses, that go beyond the 3X range of the iPhone 13 Pro. If I carry a camera bag full of lenses and futz with the manual settings, I can still get results that the iPhone can’t match.

And since the iPhone relies so much on advanced computer science like fancy optics to render images, there are times when I feel images are overprocessed. I’m afraid future phone photos will look more artificial – and I hope that Apple and other smartphone companies won’t hide their camera phones in the future with more AI.

[Photo: Harry McCracken]

Bottom line: I don’t argue the fact that I haven’t used my X-T30 in months means the iPhone 13 Pro has made it out of date. However, I have never felt so much pain of regret leaving him at home. Between the capabilities of the iPhone and my newly thoughtful approach to how I shoot with it, I had all the camera I needed.

Will I ever shoot my FujiFilm again? Almost sure – hey, I’m still taking Polaroids. There is a certain pleasure in using a device that does a good job; Smartphones, by definition, are not this type of device.

However, I came out of this experience with a new favorite camera. The fact that it also happens to be a phone, game console, e-book reader, voice recorder, and more is just a bonus.

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