Jack Hollingsworth: “iPhone photography is as good as a DSLR”

Yours truly has long been an advocate that the notion, “It’s not the hammer, it’s the carpenter”, applies to photography big time.

I’ve gone months where the only shooting I’ve done was with my iPhone and was pleased with the results. Sure, there are limitations; in low light, with fast motion, quality will suffer, as is the case with many “real cameras”. But under many, many situations, it simply works.

Professional photographer Jack Hollingsworth has been an iphoneography apostle for some time, and shows us why in this video.

But the purpose of this post is not to sing the praises of the iPhone as a camera. Rather, it’s to emphasize the point that it’s your skills and motivation that have far more to do with delivering a great photo, than the gear.

Boca Raton with an iPhone 4

Boca Raton, Florida, iPhone 4, November, 2012 (C) Ed Spadoni

“Your most valuable photo gear is what’s under your hat.” ES

About Ed Spadoni

www.2GuysPhoto.com "Thoughts and opinions, resources and experiences… for emerging photographers everywhere."
This entry was posted in Images, iPhone/cell phone, Learning and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Jack Hollingsworth: “iPhone photography is as good as a DSLR”

  1. Ed,

    I always look forward to your posts. Frequently, they are thought-provoking, cogent examples of the state of the art vis-a-vis digital photography.

    Here, however, I have to disagree in principle with the statement, “iPhone Photography is as good as a DSLR”. I have an iPhone 4s…and I will often use it to take photographs. And I will agree that the qualifying factor in most photographs is the photographer, NOT the camera. Nevertheless, the image quality of an iPhone camera vs (virtually) any DSLR is simply not in question: the DSLR simply outclasses the iPhone with regards to IQ almost EVERY time.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t a number of artists out there making GREAT images with their iphone. But when was the last time a Stephen Wilkes, Rick Sammon, Nigel Barker, David Nightingale, or [insert your favorite contemporary photographer here] published an image (or images) with an iPhone? I would venture to guess, not very often (if at all).

    Again, I would agree that the photographer makes the great image, NOT the camera…still, if IQ is the deciding factor, a DSLR trumps an iPhone every time (at least for now). I’m currently shooting for a number of clients: you can bet I’m using my DSLR (currently, a Nikon D600) for those images.

    My iPhone is primarily a phone, that also happens to take pictures. My DSLR is a precision instrument that does only one thing: produce images of outstanding quality.

  2. roythoman says:

    I have made some really great images with my iPhone. The great thing is that I have it with me all of the time! I’m using it now to make this comment. When you look at an image you don’t think about the camera that made that image, you think about the photographer, what they were seeing and how they were seeing it, the way they used the light and composition. So no, the camera doesn’t make a great image the photographer makes a great image. I would never replace my DSLR with my iPhone, but I would never pass up a good image because all I had with me was my iPhone. I still use my Yashica 35mm rangefinder for instance. So go out and create great images no matter what camera you have in your hand, it’s you that’s creating the image not the camera!

  3. Prentis says:

    It is very significant to me that Mr. Hollingsworth chose to make his little video look like an old well-used movie film. It is clearly his style in his iPhone shots as well. They sort of come off as nostalgic travels in a bygone era which apparently appeal to his customers. There are folks that really like the patina and color rendering of Polaroid film too. Some add noise to their shots for “the look.” There are also many classic photographs that have terrible IQ.

    I believe choosing the iPhone over the DSLR is a matter of artistic preference in his case. His statement of the iPhone camera closing in on the IQ of a DSLR is tempered with “in certain light conditions.” Well of course.

    All that said the adages of, “The best camera is the one that you have with you,” and, “It’s the photographer not the camera,” are most certainly true. But while the iPhone appears to be a pretty amazing camera, it ain’t no DSLR (or recent mirrorless camera for that matter).

    Disclaimer: I don’t own an iPhone.

  4. JAG says:

    Whenever this topic comes up, I think it is important not to lose sight of the significant benefits the shooter has when shooting with an iPhone vs. a DSLR. If the only factor for comparison is image quality (only as it relates to pixels and quality of details to be captured by the camera sensor), then anyone would be hard pressed to argue a mobile phone camera can match or exceed the quality of a DSLR. It is simple matter of technology and its limitations. If one were to compare the iPhone to a DSLR in terms of the accessibility of a capture device, the instant quality editing features built right in the capture device, and the instant sharing features through social media, then one begins to see the great advantage that an iPhone has to the traditional DSLR. The mobile phone camera has improved so much in quality that our conversation about photography has simply changed. The gap between the benefits of the DSLR vs. iPhone has diminished so much that it makes sense to shoot with an iPhone for many occasions, and in my case, most occasions. This new tool (mobile capture device) will only continue to improve and DSLRs should begin to incorporate editing features and sharing features built right into the camera, OR someday, DSLRs will only be used by some high end Ansel Adams million $ artists, while the rest of the world just … well, mobile photography will continue to dominate.

  5. Ed Spadoni says:

    And a lively debate ensued…! Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. Based on the views you’ve shared here, it’s clear that there are differing opinions on the value of an iPhone camera vs. a DSLR, as there should be. Variety is the spice of life and that’s nowhere more evident than here, and in photography in general.

    Let me respond to some of your points. Frank – as a professional photog, you’d be nuts to shoot with anything less than a professional rig. That’s what your clients are paying for and you need to be able to shoot in all lighting conditions, vary the DOF, fire remote strobes, and deliver maximum IQ. Hello DSLR. And as a pro, you can plan in advance for your shoots, and bring the gear that’s best suited for the job. So I couldn’t agree with you more. But for the unplanned, non-paying shoots when you don’t have the big rig with you, you use what you have. I’m on my third iPhone now (3G, 4, 5) and the cameras keep getting better and sharper. Interestingly, there have actually been pro photogs who have shot weddings with an iPhone, and the results are darn impressive, (check this out: http://jerryghionisblog.com/2012/05/the-wedding-of-josh-amber-select-shots-taken-with-the-iphone.html). But every Uncle Bob at a wedding with an iPhone is not going to get these results, bringing us back to the point of the post.

    Prentis is right in that a lot of people who intentionally shoot with an iPhone do it for the artistic effects one can achieve. Take a look at Instagram and you will find countless images to which artistic filters have been applied to create some interesting/unusual images. In the earlier versions of the iPhone, the IQ was deficient and so filters, while “artistic”, were also “remedial” as they hid a plethora of image flaws. I went through an Instagram phase myself and became a master at this. But again, as the in-phone cameras improve, I’ve found better and better results coming right out of the iPhone, good enough to share or post as is.

    JAG picks up on a key benefit of the iPhone as camera: the ability to shoot, edit and share all from the palm of your hand and in minutes. Admittedly, the original definition of photography, (“painting with light”), said nothing about sharing digital images over wi-fi, but that’s the direction that we’re going, and “convergence” is the new buzzword. In fact, my new Sony NEX 6 allows you to download apps from the Sony website and upload via wi-fi, right from the camera. The apps are nothing to right home about now, and the uploading process is primitive, but it’s a start. Makes you wonder what cameras will look like and be capable of in a mere 5 years.

    And Roy does a nice job of echoing the point that I think we all agree on, and was the main message of the post — whether you believe in the iPhone or not, it’s the photographer, not the camera, that matters.

    Thank you all for your thoughtful input, and please let’s keep it going, whether on this post or another. Variety is the spice!

  6. Prentis says:

    Drives photo gear-heads crazy doesn’t it? You no sooner think you have the cats pajamas of photo gear and the next big thing comes out. I guess that ’twas ever thus, as evidence my collection of antique and not so antique cameras posted much earlier on this blog. But the span of development of those cameras covers a century. What is going on now is a quantum acceleration of development…sort of an arms race of offerings by the camera manufacturers. D70, wow, the future of photography is here. No, the D90 is a must have with its big LCD and all those pixels. Well maybe it is too big to carry around all the time so a Fuji X camera or a Sony is the answer and the IQ is pretty much equivalent. But wait! Maybe you can do all that stuff with the phone in your pocket. My head hurts. At some point you have to stop poring over the reviews on DPreview, get off that train, and just go shoot some pictures.

    And then there are things that still bother me about the cellphone camera thing and instant sharing. I know a lot of people that are big on doing it and I’m sure it is fun and OK for what it is. I think I have mentioned this before but the images exist in the phone’s memory or in that of the recipient, or possibly in the cloud and are never rendered in hard copy. That means they are never viewed in anything more pixel dense than another cell phone display or at best a computer monitor. You don’t need a whole lot of IQ to make an image look good at that resolution. The other thing that concerns me is the images shot with cellphones could become significant family heirlooms down the line and unless the user is diligent with backups and/or making prints they are easily lost forever with a service provider screw-up or destructive virus. So with the exception of the chance shot opportunity when all you have with you is the phone camera, if you are at all serious about your images, why not shoot with the best gear you have?

    • Ed Spadoni says:

      “Get off that train, and just go shoot some pictures.” Love that Prentis. Somehow, I’ve managed to avoid G.A.S. (Gear acquisition Syndrome), but I know it afflicts many a photog. A certain brother of mine is in the advanced stages of it. Your point about printing and preserving is very true. I’ll be honest, even if I’m shooting my DSLR or mirrorless, I’m still unlikely to print. Well, it’s rare anyway. The world has gone digital and while it’s convenient and fast, it’s also fleeting. But some would argue that a digitized image stands a better chance of surviving into the future than a print, due to the proliferation and redundancy of data on the web and the ease of backing up to a cloud database. But either way, it requires effort and a plan as opposed to leaving it to chance.


  7. JAG says:

    The consumer is demanding more function in everything we buy, from our TVs, to our computers, to our tablet devices, to our phones. We even want programmable thermostats, streaming web cams for security systems and now have applications to remote dim the lights and lock and unlock the door from our cell phones. The camera in our phone was a genius idea, as well as integrating the iPod within the iPhone. This trend will continue as manufacturers figure out ways to give us instant control over many more things that we didn’t know we needed or wanted. The camera in a phone is just one example that continues to develop and improve. Perhaps someday there will be a contact lens with bluetooth connection to an external device embedded into our iWatch that instantly shares to selected persons who can instantly see it in their bluetooth contact lenses. Well, we’ll see what comes around in the next few years. Can’t wait to see what happens. Perhaps smart phones will be a small chip embedded behind the ear…ok, now that’s just crazy talk! For now, I just want an iPhone with 1TB memory, a 24mp camera with a 64,000 ISO. I don’t ask for much… Maybe next year.

  8. Pingback: Food for thought – What is your photography all about? | 2 Guys Photo

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