Everyone is already well versed on the new Apple devices by now I’m sure. You may have even been reading quite a bit about the fancy new cameras hiding inside the new iPhone 5s. I have been reading a fair amount and have been trying to piece together my thoughts on the matter since first hearing about some of the clever new features packed into their new phone, and that is the perfect word for them, clever.
After reading through Patrick Rhone’s writeup on the matter A few things finally started to settle into place in my mind and I thought I would share my perspective as well. What Apple has done here with their miniature camera is choose not to compete on sensor or lens design within their camera (not much room in these skinny phones for that), rather they have engineered great software and processing power as a means to synthetically render great photos based on common human error and misunderstanding of how cameras function. In other words, they have created a camera for those who honestly want nothing more than to get the camera out of the way, point, shoot, and capture a great photo.
Obviously your average consumer doesn’t need or want to know what f-stop is best for what situation. The iPhone 5s is the first step toward casual shooters realizing they don’t need to drop $1500 on a DSLR system to make great photos of their family friends. This is only the beginning.
As for Patrick’s observations on camera manufacturers not having the resources to pull off what Apple has. I’m not totally sold on this idea and only find it half true. The simple fact is that camera manufacturers are creating cameras based on their legacy and history of image making and live within the constraints of the idea that when you press the shutter button there are only a few variables that decide what it is and how an image can be captured and recorded. What Apple has done here is chucked out the entirety of photographic evolution up to this point and that is bold to say the least. I have long wondered when it would come to this and what manufacturer would be the first to introduce such forward thinking ideas because most live in fear of the backlash of the photography community but of course, Apple is not a camera manufacturer. (Not to say they haven’t dabbled here or there)
The problem in looking at photography based solely on its past is that it has evolved to be far greater than its origins are able to dictate. Photography as we witness it today is no longer a chemical experiment, it has evolved to be greater than simply mimicking or disrupting the art world, and now very clearly it has moved beyond its retro-nostalgic throwback allure. Photography has become a universal language in which to communicate and cameras are our pen and paper, as essential to us as anything else in our daily lives.
Apple has clearly been doing its homework and obviously this is just the beginning. If the camera in the iPhone 5s works as they describe I see this as a last call for camera manufacturers to fine tune their future strategies. Funny to see so many of them all but abandon the pro market only to now see things come full circle. While they desperately tried to stay relevant in the wake of mobile photography a couple of them seemed to overlook the idea that if they lost the war to get the casual user all they would have left are the pro’s and enthusiasts.
The way I see it photography as a craft and as an art form will only end up growing stronger. The approach Apple has taken in their camera technology has no place in the pro or enthusiast world of photography outside of being exactly what it is, a great snapshot camera. The essence of the craft and the art of using the fundamentals of exposure combined with great glass and continued excellence in design will have plenty of room to flourish among casual shooters in the exact same way it does today. Camera manufacturers such as Fuji, Olympus, and Sony clearly understand what their audience is looking for and who their audience is and I don’t see any reason for them to worry.
The future is as bright for photographers as it has ever been and the new ideas and technology laid in place by Apple could end up helping the pro market as far as I’m concerned. Moving forward lets ignore those who fight against such advancement and understand that there is plenty of room for casual shooters to have a software driven marvel such as the 5s as well as the humble enthusiasts such as myself to have a great classic shooter by their side. Film, digital, software, its all a a means to reach an end. To explore and to live and to capture little pieces of life’s essence to share down the line.