Five S

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.


  1. Paul Anthony Webb - September 12, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    You are the only professional photographer I know that has good words to say about the iPhone. Even with all the new and awesome enhancements of the 5s, there will *still* be crappy photos uploaded to many social networks. The key takeaway from your article is “photography as a craft and as an art form will only end up growing stronger”.

  2. Andrey Silaev - September 13, 2013 at 2:42 am

    John, you’d say that “The iPhone 5s is the first step toward casual shooters realizing they don’t need to drop $1500 on a DSLR system” but what do you think about new Nokia Lumia 1020?
    It has 41MP lens and Nokia Pro Camera software and because of it it makes greater photos than new 5S, i think.

  3. john - September 13, 2013 at 3:20 am

    Andrey, truth is this has yet to be seen, the amount of megapixels means little outside of a catchy number to market the camera with. You can’t help but immediately wonder how and why it is that a cell phone camera for some reason has more megapixels than the most popular pro DSLR’s on the market. Its all about marketing prowess. It is a long established fact that a higher MP count means little when it comes to the actual working quality of a sensor.

    You can surely bet that there will be side by side comparisons as soon as someone is able to do so. The photos I am seeing from the Nokia may have nice big file sizes but are otherwise quite ordinary.

    My main point in writing this is to point out the fact that Apple has taken software and created intelligent , forward thinking ways to create a camera that does nearly all of the thinking for you. Most other manufacturers are left still using the same variables, f/stop, shutter speed, and ISO to control the cameras where as Apple has creatively written software to take advantage of the phones processing power to create not simply one, single image at the trip of the shutter, but take a burst of images and locate the greatest sum of what it captures to create the illusion of one, well captured moment. Not to mention that clever duo toned flash which really is pretty brilliant in a humble little camera such as this.

    In essence Apple has taken the idea of the decisive moment and extended each moment virtually. Obviously I am only speaking here based on their marketing jargon and not at all from experience. It will be interesting to see if it lives up to all their hype but as it stands Apple is poised to once again shake up another industry with its clever engineering.

    I have no doubt that the Nokia is a great phone, its simply a different approach to the concept of having a nice camera with a mobile attached to the front of it.

  4. CuJo - September 13, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Photography as we whiteness …
    should be:
    Photography as we witness …

    You cant help …
    should be:
    You can’t help … (cant is noticeably different than can’t)

    “Andrey, truth is this has yet to be seen, the amount of megapixels means little outside of a catchy number to market the camera with. ” Just like scanner resolution a decade ago. More doesn’t equal better.

  5. john - September 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    CuJo, thanks for that, I often scrape together just barely enough free time to write so editing tends to slip through at times and help such as this is valuable and welcome to me.

  6. CuJo - September 13, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    I’d be happy to proof for you before posting. No strings attached. If you’re interested, I’ll send you a better email to reach me at.

  7. Randy Murray - September 14, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Great article and insights. I find that as a completely non-professional photographer I’m growing increasingly unhappy with the cameras available to me.

    I recently sent our 1 year old Canon S100 in for manufacturer repairs and just used my iPhone 5 for photos. It’s not perfect, but then again, it works while the Canon left me high and dry. The longest I’ve had a digital camera function is under four years.

    The iPhone is rapidly becoming “good enough.” For most of us, good enough is exactly what we’re looking for.

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  9. Laurel Chavez - September 16, 2013 at 12:07 am

    I dont think the point of the 41MP sensor in the Lumia 1020 is to take 41MP photos, its mainly there to allow for lossless digital zoom (no loss in quality) and highly detailed pixels, in the form of a 5MP photo using oversampling hence the name Pureview Technology. I use a Nokia 808 Pureview with 41MP sensor and ZEISS optics and I have more options than 38, 33, and 5, but also 8, 3 and 2MP. But yes, the advancements in camera technology in the 5s is definitely a great jump forward. The iPhone is surely no slouch in this department and I still regard it as the most well put together mobile package available regardless of the fact that I’m a big Nokia fan.

  10. John Carey - September 25, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    True, it’s a creative use of a high megapixel count and of course sticking the name Zeiss on anything is a means to get street cred with photographers (yet not all Zeiss lenses are all that impressive to be honest). Cramming megapixels into a sensor is known to have its ups and downs, but using them to aid digital zoom is certainly interesting. Clearly Apple is not the only one fighting for the top spot in the mobile photo market. They are just taking an approach that I found distinctly unique in the way it merges existing ideas with forward thinking software based ones. Nice to see there is still so much room left for creative forward thinking on both accounts. Should be fun to see what happens next.

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