Have a smartphone camera, Why buy a Digital Camera?

November 19, 2015

I’m pretty sure that almost every person who reads this article has a smartphone with a built-in camera, at least most people do. So you might asked yourself if there is a reason to buy a conventional digital camera?

Mobile phone cameras have many advantages, but probably the most obvious ones are:

  • The camera goes every where you go because it’s part of your mobile phone
  • You have an Internet connection which you can use to share, upload and backup your images in the cloud or in social networks
  • There are tons of downloadable apps that extends its functionality and use

So portability, downloadable apps and wireless availability are the main reasons why many people use cell phone cameras more than a conventional camera. That being said, digital cameras have some advantages over cell phone cameras. Cell phone cameras continue to improve though, and there already are smartphones cameras carrying a large sensor (e.g. Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1) and some with an optical zoom (e.g. Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom). The sensor size and optical zoom are two important factors, but on mobile phones they become a disadvantage. Large sensor phones are much more expensive, and phones with an optical zoom like the S4 Zoom are thicker compared to other mobile phones that lack an optical zoom.

iPhone 6 sensor size comparison

Furthermore,  people who buy a phone usually pay attention to the whole package, and not just the camera. The most popular phones on the market don’t have a 1″ sensor nor an optical zoom lens. That being said, conventional digital cameras have several important advantages, depends on its type.

DSLR and Mirrorless (ILC) cameras usually have a sensor which is relatively much larger than what you find on most camera phones. A large sensor means. in most part, better image quality and better control over the depth of field (being able to achieve shallow depth of field effect). Furthermore, you have the option to choose between different lenses. Each lens has its own unique specs, some that you wouldn’t find on any fixed lens on a smartphone device, including ultra wide-angle, 1:1 macro, telephoto (>100mm equivalent), super fast prime lenses (> f/1.4), tilt and shift lenses, etc. You can also use and attach filters and extenders with many of those lenses.

Olloclip telephoto wide angle lensWith mobile phones you also have the option to use clip-on lenses like the ones from olloclip that change the field of view, including a macro lens, telephoto and wide-angle lenses. For example, there is a clip-on lens kit for the iPhone 6/ 6S and 6S Plus that offers a macro 10x, wide-angle, 2x telephoto and a screw-on circular polarizing lens attachments  for around $120. You might won’t believe it at first, but there is even a 80x optical zoom lens  (~2500mm to 3000mm 35mm equivalent focal length), but it’s 15.55 inches long. This is obviously isn’t a portable solution.   So consumers have the option to extend on the phone camera’s lens functionality without needing to carry a second camera.

These clip-on lenses are a good solution for the casual photographer, but if you need better lens selection, autofocus and optical performance, manual control and faster aperture, you’ll be better off with an interchange-able lens camera.

Interchangeable lens cameras doesn’t limit you as phone camera do. You can choose from a wide variety of unique lenses, you have access to many compatible accessories (e.g. using a powerful external flash) and you get better image quality and high ISO performance, faster access to frequently used cameras settings without using the device’s display, etc.  On the downside, interchangeable lens cameras are bulkier and heavier, so you give up on portability in favor of  better overall functionality and features.

Of course you don’t have to buy an interchangeable-lens camera. In fact, many consumers prefer buying a large-sensor compact camera or a superzoom bridge camera. Large-sensor compact camera like the Sony RX100 IV or a superzoom bridge camera like the Nikon P900 are a very good alternative to an ILC. There isn’t any phone on the market (without a clip-on lens) that can give you a 2000mm equivalent focal length. In fact the P900 is relatively small considering its very long focal length range (24-2000mm equivalent). This is why these type of cameras are amazing travel cameras, because they are relatively compact but have big zoom which is useful for taking pictures of subjects which are far away from you.

There are also digital cameras which are the combination of both, they have large zoom (not as bis as the ultrazooms though) and a large sensor. The Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 and Sony RX10 are two good examples. They both use a 1-inch sensor (13.2×8.8mm) and have a versatile zoom lens (25-400mm and 24-200mm respectively). In fact, these are the type of cameras that continue to evolve and prosper, because they offer something that mobile phone camera do not offer (at least not as a whole): big optical zoom, large sensor, superb optical design, lots of manual controls, excellent OIS, fast variable aperture and very good ergonomics.

As you can see, digital cameras aren’t dead yet. In fact, some of these cameras will allow you to be even more creative with your camera. There are many reasons why experience and passionate photographers pick up a DSLR or an ILC camera. A superzoom camera is much more versatile and proficient as a travel camera, and if you need a hybrid solution, you can always go with a large-sensor compact or a large-sensor superzoom digital camera. You can find an excellent coverage of the latest cameras on our blog and see which one is better for your particular needs.

Christmas 2015 is here, and it’s a great time to buy a digital camera at the lowest price. If you have a limited budget, you can also check out amazon.com certified and refurbished cameras, that have a large selection of popular digital cameras of all types. Thanks for reading, and please don’t forget to LIKE our Facebook page to be among the firsts to know when we publish a new buying guide.



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