On Photography: Camera Showdown

Jun 24, 2013 in Beginings, Philippines, Tech | No Comments

I’ve brought two cameras on this trip, neither of them remotely professional: my iPhone 4s, and a three year old Canon PowerShot SD960 IS. In Beijing, I’d left the Canon in my checked bag, so the iPhone was all I had, and I think it did a fairly good job.
The iPhone is convenient, easy to use, and has a waterproof Lifeproof case on it, which means I can take it anywhere, and I do always have it on me. The video is also high quality, and even though I’m really bad at it, the Panoramic feature is fun to play with. The downside is that the screen and/or volume photo action often results in shaky and blurry pictures (at least in my hands). Also, the zoom is pointlessly poor quality, and the iPhone tends to blow out the sky and add haze on photos under direct sun—shading the lens with my hand helps, but it’s tricky. The battery also runs out quickly, since I’m also using it for Google maps and other apps, and as a phone, and occasionally, music player. The Canon, on the other hand, is a pretty nice little point-and-shoot (I mostly just use the Auto setting, because I’m lazy). It’s got 12.1 megapixels, and 4x zoom… which looks good only to a point, but better than the iPhone. I think the video quality is poor, however.
So the question arose, which should be my primary camera, and upon arrival in the Philippines, I decided to do a side-by-side test of the two cameras, and the rice terraces of Banaue and Batad seemed a perfect scenic testing ground.

I do some minimal adjustments to the photos in iPhoto—saturation, contrast, etc—and then upload them to Flickr via iPhoto. Given the combo of low speed WiFi and Flickr’s new, painful to load redesign, it’s a longer than necessary process. Without further ado, here’s a few of the comparison shots, you can click to see them bigger:

iPhone 4s

iPhone 4s

Canon PowerShot

Canon PowerShot

iPhone 4s

iPhone 4s

Canon PowerShot

Canon PowerShot

iPhone 4s

iPhone 4s

Canon PowerShot

Canon PowerShot

The most obvious difference for me is the very different color profile of each camera. Canon’s is kinda neat-looking, but the iPhone, at least in this set, is more true to life. The iPhone also feels sharper, but it’s entirely possible that’s a lens smudge problem, rather than a characteristic of the Canon. However, the sky issue on the iPhone—particularly apparent in the second set of images—is really disappointing. Also, the Canon has a much wider angle lens, which is really nice.

Conclusion: A draw. I used the iPhone photos for my post about the rice terraces because of the color issue. The iPhone will probably win in the long run based solely on convenience, with the Canon as a back up for when the battery dies. What do you think?

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