Camera Choice: DSLR or Smartphone?

Which DSLR camera should you get? Which are best for marine photos, portraits, or landscape? I heard tripods are great for night shots. A better question: who wants to carry a DSLR camera while hiking or beach going? Then again, if you invest thousands planning an exotic trip to the most scenic destinations, you will want to capture the moment for your Facebook and Instagram fandom’s envy. However, that powerful, under-exploited phone camera you carry in your pocket could do the trick. Yes or no? Which brings us to the on-going argument: “DSLR or smartphone camera?”

A camera for convenience sake

They say the best camera is the one you always have with you. Can you really enjoy your trip when you drag with you a huge camera and its accessory bag? DSLR snaps have the best quality. That is undeniable. Still, it takes more than point-and-shoot skills. Oftentimes, a good sense of shutter speed, aperture, and other camera notions are necessary in order to take pictures like a pro. If you do not have the time nor the will to learn the basics, stick to your smartphone cam. It fits in your pocket and has what it takes for basic photographic needs.

Camera apps: performance enhancers

Upgrade and customization options are infinite and fun. From camera-enhancing apps (Camera+, f/8 DoF Calculator or Pocket Light Meter) to lens simulators and other effects. Do you want to invest in extra lenses and add-on flashes without be able to use them to their full capabilities? The iPhone 5S, the Nokia Lumia 920 or the Samsung Galaxy S5 have been built and promoted for their camera specs and they will do far more than an suitable job at a noticeably lower price point than a DLSR.

The Quick and the Dead Camera

Quirky bits and the most picturesque places highlight trips. You will need to be quick on the draw to capture those Kodak moments. It takes time to get settings right with a DSLR cam. Even when set on automatic, by time you reach out to your bag and turn on the device, that candid instant is long past. Inevitably, news networks are now arming reporters with smartphones instead of camera crews: a single man can shoot, edit and share in blazing fast speed.

Lights, camera, action

If you have ever tried shooting at night with your smartphone, then you know they lack the DSLR efficacy. The built-in flash is always too strong; my subjects are often overexposed. The result? Creepy red eyes or funny frowns of people blinded by a sudden burst of light. Without flash in low light conditions, well… do not waste your time and your battery life. DSLR cameras give absolute freedom over the shutter behavior and the quantity of light it should ideally capture. Even my lower end Sony Cyber-shot has great features that allow steady and detailed night shots. Yes, I have low expectations.

The lack of control on shutter speed is even more harmful when it comes to “Action shots”. Sports events are the worst. I am a huge football (I mean soccer) fan and I always have to shoot videos or rely on apps with burst mode in order to perfect capture a dribble or a key moment of our street games. That is one problem I do not have with my trusty Cyber-shot.

Going deep

Visit flickr, Photobucket or Instagram. See how breath-taking portraits always have a point of focus and separate foreground and background. Depth of field is not the strong suit of a smartphone, at least not one as realistic as it should be. Please, do not even mention that horrible Instagram blur effect or the tilt-shift feature on other apps. Although, to be fair, Google Camera has an excellent Photo Blur option and good news for iPhone users, they roll it out as an independent app.

Photo manipulation

Smartphones handle compressed formats such as jpeg, png, etc. These are not lossless like RAW images that offer greater color depth, less noise, more details thus more freedom for better photo manipulation. The trade-off: longer time to save or process images for, albeit, a quality difference unnoticed by the untrained eye.

Final word

If you are truly a photography enthusiast and you can use professional solutions for editing, go RAW, you cannot go wrong. However, for the social sharers, stick to your phones. With an 8-megapixel sensor size, you are ready for your next exotic vacation to face the heat. Be trigger-happy and the quickest to draw under the sun. However, I should leave you with a piece of wisdom. The worst thing about shooting all day with your phone when traveling is that you will run out of battery soon enough. Imagine being in uncharted territory with no means to access Google Maps.

Which side of the debate are you on? Which camera do you depend on the most? Shoot me a reply in the comment box or share some of your best work with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ using #travefoto. I will be on the lookout.