New phones have amazing cameras

New phones have amazing cameras

If you’ve ever seen me on a Zoom call or on TV from my home office, you may have noticed that my background includes a shelf full of vintage cameras, ranging from the Kodak Brownie Hawkeye I had as a kid to the Sony RX-100 that I paid $1,000 for a few years ago.

Larry's cameras over the years, from a 1950s Brownie to a high-end modern digital camera.
Larry’s cameras over the years, from a 1950s Brownie to a high-end modern digital camera.

That Sony is a great camera, and unlike the big DSRL (digital single lens reflex) cameras, it fits in my pocket, so it’s easy to carry around. For years, I tried to remember to take it or an older generation small digital camera with me for important events and trips. He always wore it during trade shows to take pictures of the products. But, for the past few years, that camera has been sitting on that shelf because it’s even too big to bother putting in my pocket now that modern smartphones have such great cameras.

Before I continue, there is still a market for high-end digital cameras among professional photographers and serious hobbyists. Higher-end digital cameras have better lenses, the ability to handle an excellent big zoom lens, and larger sensors that let in more light. They’re also easier to point at your subject, especially if they have a viewfinder you can hold up to your eye, and there’s something about the feel of a good DSLR camera that makes them more satisfying to use.

Charlie Kaye, a professional photographer based in New York (charliekayphoto.myportfolio.com) and retired executive producer of CBS News, uses high-end cameras and lenses in his work due to larger sensors, higher-quality lenses, and “differences like the ability to shoot raw,” which makes it possible to fine-tune his image in a photo editing program, as well as the ability to manually control many of the camera’s functions. He said high-end cameras are essential if you’re making big prints, but agree modern smartphones are more than enough for typical snaps, including family events or anything you plan to post on social media.

And even Kaye uses her cell phone camera from time to time because it’s always within easy reach. As the saying goes, “the best camera is the one you have with you”.

I rarely print photos these days – most of mine are for social media or emailing or texting friends and family – but even reasonably sized copies of photos I take with my phone look pretty right.

Many phones have good cameras.

Apple, Samsung, and Google are among the smartphone makers touting their cameras. If you watched the phone ads this fall, a lot of the time was spent on the virtues of their cameras.

iPhone 14 Pro

I’m very impressed with the quality of photos I’ve been able to get from my iPhone 13, but with its new iPhone 14 and 14 Plus, Apple has upped the ante, especially the 14 Pro, which adds a physically larger 48-megapixel display. sensor that gives you more detail and better compensates for low light. There is also the newphoton engineImage processing technology that Apple says will “dramatically improve low-light photos.”

I’m no expert when it comes to the fine details of digital photography, but CNET’s Lexy Savvides, who wrote a post titled “iPhone 14 Pro vs. 13 Pro: 4 significant ways the cameras are different”, found that with the photonic engine, “combined with the larger sensor, I can see the difference compared to the iPhone 13 Pro in all the photos I took at dusk”.

There are plenty of other details for those who care about the finer points of smartphone cameras but unsurprisingly the newer iPhone takes better photos than the older model but from what I’ve seen the differences they are relatively subtle. and it might not even be noticeable in most of the photos you’re likely to take with your phone.

New Google Pixel 7 Pro

The same can be said for Google’s new Pixel 7 Pro that I was testing last week.

Google says its Tensor G2’s advanced image processors “and Google’s cutting-edge computational photography…can instantly fuse images together to further enhance features like Super Res Zoom.” The most obvious difference between the Pixel 7 Pro and its predecessor is that the new Pixel has 5x optical zoom and the ability to take wider-angle photos at 0.5 zoom, meaning it zooms out to give you a wider shot.

If you see this column online, (bayareane.ws/3DRHJiC) you can see a photo I took with the 5X optical zoom. You’ll notice there are no license plates on the cars in the photo because I used Pixel’s Magic Eraser feature to erase them without erasing the paint behind the license plates. This can be done with photo editing software, but it’s extremely easy to do directly on the phone.

5x zoom
Pixel 7 Pro 5X zoom. License plates erased with Pixel’s “Magic Eraser”

Less expensive phones also have good cameras.

I have written about two high-end phones. The iPhone 14 Pro starts at $1,000 and the Pixel 7 Pro starts at $900, though AT&T and Verizon have very generous trade-in options that could drop the price by as much as $800. But if you’re on the market for a new phone, there’s a good and very understandable chance that you’ll opt for a less expensive phone that may not have the latest and greatest features, or maybe you’ll stick with the phone you want. I have already. Do not despair. I’ve tried phones at almost every price point and have phones that are several years old and still take great photos. To prove this to myself, I reached into a drawer and pulled out a five-year-old iPhone 8 and a 4-year-old Pixel 3 XL and snapped some photos. On closer inspection, they weren’t quite as good as the two high-end phones I covered in this column, but snapshot-wise they were still impressive. Unless you shoot in low light, plan to enlarge your photo, or want some of the special features on very new phone models, you’ll have a hard time telling the difference.

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