The Best Camera Is the One You Have with You

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

What do you carry with you daily?

I don’t know who the first person to coin the phrase was, but it is one that I’ve seen and heard a lot since I started with photography; the best camera is the one you have with you.

And to be honest, it’s a very accurate statement. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of dollars/pounds (or other currency) you have invested in camera gear. What good is it if you don’t have it with you when a photo opportunity presents itself?

Now, this is where a lot of the small, pocket-sized cameras came in. Easy to carry…well, easier. Some of these smaller cameras aren’t that small in comparison. Plus, some people view the current crop of DSLR cameras as small. Which, if you usually shoot on large or medium formats, they are.

Whatever you view as to size and weight, there will always be different opinions. That and you’ll have to make compromises, as a “pocket” camera will not have the flexibility of a full DSLR kit. The choice comes down to where and on what you make your compromise.

While on this topic, I’d be completely remiss if I didn’t mention the elephant in the room; cell phones. While they are not a threat to the user base of higher-end DSLR cameras and the ilk, they are certainly knocking out the lower-end compact digital cameras. They are easy pocket-ability, always with you, and (especially the newer generation) excellent image quality in both stills and video. Mobile photography is a booming market. Just look at the explosive growth of platforms like Instagram as a marker of its popularity and growth.

A Story to Learn From

Where am I going with this? Well, to give a little backstory, on a recent trip to South Dakota, I took my DSLR kit and tripod in a backpack. I didn’t even have everything with me, but clearly, it was still too much. At the end of the trips to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, I was hating life because of the weight of my gear. I no longer think that “bigger is better” and plan to reduce the “bulk” on my camera outfit. Not sure what or how yet, but as time and finances allow, I foresee changes ahead.

And while I do have a small Sony compact digital camera, and it produces some good images and video, there is a “but.” For some reason, Sony saw fit to “overcook” the in-camera image processing. So, when you view the images on a computer screen, especially at full resolution, they are smeary and smudged. Add to this the lack of any adjustment in this processing. You get what the techs at Sony feel is suitable for all situations.

What I’ve been leaning more towards, at least for the time being, has been my phone camera. Yes, I know I’m limited on the lens angle of view, aperture, small-ish ISO range, and the inevitable in-phone image processing (luckily, not very harsh). But the thing is, it’s always there, in my pocket or my hand. I don’t have to consciously decide to carry a larger or bulkier camera. It’s a compromise and one, at least for now, I’m happy to make.

Originally published Jan 22, 2018

Ian Mildon

Ian Mildon spends his days working as a software application developer. When not doing this he is a keen photographer, working with various formats; digital (full frame, APS-C), film (35mm, 6x4.5, 6x7), mobile (phone), instant. Ian is also a fairly prolific writer, mainly on subjects pertaining to photography, although he does not limit himself to just this subject matter.

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