I’ve never met nor read any previous work by Lee Hutchinson of Ars Technica, but I already like him.
And while I have no doubt that any planet5D reader already knows the answer – the iPhone 6 Plus does remarkably well in brightly-lit, simple stuff; rapidly falls apart otherwise; but should make Canon try much, much harder anyway — the two real gems in Lee’s article are the context he provides for the comparison.
“…a (likely apocryphal) story…tells the tale of an encounter between famous novelist Ernest Hemingway and famous photographer Ansel Adams. In the story, Hemingway is purported to have praised Adams’ photographs, saying, “You take the most amazing pictures. What kind of camera do you use?”
“Adams frowned and then replied, “You write the most amazing stories. What kind of typewriter do you use?”
We can, of course, argue about whether or not gear makes any difference (it does), but the tale is directionally correct: it's more about the artist than it is about the gear.
The second: his reference to the Dunning-Kruger Peak and his own invention — and counterpart to it, the Jon Snow Trough — in describing one’s self-assessment of photography skill vs the reality:
“The point labeled “Dunning-Kruger Peak” is that surge of self-confidence one gets when one acquires some small amount of skill in a thing and, emboldened by that skill, decides that they are awesome at that thing. However, repeated use of the skill typically disabuses one of that illusion (unless it’s a skill like rocket car racing, in which case you’ll probably just die before you get good at it). Once you’re across the peak, reality settles in, and you realize that the things you don’t know massively outweigh the things you’ve learned, entering what I’ve labeled as the “Jon Snow Trough.”
Lee, really nice work. Thank you for making us all just a little bit smarter and – perhaps – a little bit wiser.
Shootout: How does a high-end smartphone camera compare to a $3,400 DSLR?
Via Ars Technica:
But for the rest of us who aren’t pros, what do you get when you look at the output of a multi-thousand dollar camera with interchangeable lenses next to the picture from a good smartphone camera? How do the two stack up without being boosted to their maximum potential by a trained eye? What kind of images are produced when you try to shoot scenes with roughly equivalent camera settings on two wildly different devices?
It turns out that this is a really complex question to attempt to answer, but we’ve taken a crack at it, pitting our expensive 5D Mark III and fancy lenses next to the big new camera in Apple’s big new iPhone 6 Plus. The iPhone 6 Plus was picked over other smartphone cameras primarily because it's new and shoots great pictures—it's a great example of the best that smartphone cameras can be. We’ve done our best to snap some representative photography under several different lighting regimes, but there are so many variables to account for that it’s impossible to do a truly controlled test and comparison.
Rather than striving for tremendous accuracy and meticulously tweaking camera parameters, we sort of winged it, pointing and shooting with minimal settings adjustments and trusting the usually quite skilled automatic aids built in to both our smartphone camera and our DSLR. Because in real life, this is what the vast majority of casual photographers are going to do anyway.
The steep curve of learning
Learning how to take pictures is, like most skills, something that's easy to start doing, but difficult to do well. It takes time and practice—practice to understand the different parameters of a camera and how changing each affects the resulting image. As with most skills, knowledge is acquired often in fits and starts, a stair-step pattern of puzzlement and revelation. And as with most skills, a person’s subjective assessment of their skill doesn’t tend to track very well with their actual skill.
The point labeled “Dunning-Kruger peak” is that surge of self-confidence one gets when one acquires some small amount of skill in a thing and, emboldened by that skill, decides that they are awesome at that thing. However, repeated use of the skill typically disabuses one of that illusion (unless it’s a skill like rocket car racing, in which case you’ll probably just die before you get good at it). Once you’re across the peak, reality settles in, and you realize that the things you don’t know massively outweigh the things you’ve learned, entering what I’ve labeled as the “Jon Snow Trough.”
Only with a lot of time and effort can you realistically self-assess your skill. If I had to place myself on that chart, it’d be right at the second trough—I’ve learned, again, that there’s a lot I don’t know. But I am not anywhere near the same league as Ansel Adams, and I still have a fascination with gear and a reliance on technology to push me over gaps in ability. The genesis of this entire piece came from wondering what I’d do if I had to rely entirely on smartphones for product photography—and, frankly, I’m not sure I could do it. I need the extra techno-oomph to overcome lack of skill.
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(cover photo credit: snap from Ars Technica)