Shooting Street Photography with the iPhone 6 Plus
Following on from my first impressions post the other day, I spent a bit more time shooting with my new iPhone on Friday. I headed into the city to do some street photography, armed with my Fuji X-E1 and my iPhone 6. I had been intending to shoot mostly with the Fuji and get some sample shots with the iPhone, but after a while I ended up putting the X-E1 away and just using the iPhone. I was simply having too much fun with it.
The biggest thing I learned from the experience, was that shooting with the phone is incredibly fun. I've shot with iPhones before when I didn't have a camera present, but with the large screen and much improved quality of the iPhone 6 plus, it's a very different feeling. Even before you ever see the finished shot, just using the big screen makes for a great experience shooting. You can see what your shots are going to look like before even taking them. For the most part I was shooting using the built in camera app. The main reason for this was simply that it's easier to get to, because you can just swipe up to it. I used a couple of the filters in the app, mostly "Chrome" and "Noir". The good thing about these is that they're "live" so you can see them on the screen as you're shooting, so it helps you not over-expose if the filter is pushing the levels too high. I know some people don't like filters in general, but the Chrome one is quite nice, and not too intense, and Noir makes for some great black and white shots.
There were a couple of non technical things I noticed about the experience. I was quite cautious with the phone when shooting. I'm sure part of this is because it's brand new, and I was afraid of anything happening to it. I felt quite conspicuous with it though, which is silly, because there were people all over the place shooting with phones. The fact that I have a bright red case on it was probably not helping matters. I think that I'll probably have to find something a little less obvious for future shooting with it.
The quality of the shots is pretty good. Its a huge leap over my iPhone 5. When looking at the images on my retina MacBook Pro they look amazing. You would think that they were from a dedicated camera. Well, until you zoom in. Funnily enough, when I look at them on my Mac Pro screen they don't look nearly as impressive, and you can easily tell that they were from a phone. Even so, I'd be happy to use it as a camera for shooting images for my own projects. I'm curious to see what they would look like printed.
The biggest hurdle I had was getting the pictures off the phone. There are lots of ways to do this but they all have issues. You can connect it to your computer and load the images in to something like Lightroom or iPhoto, but doing this doesn't keep any edits you may have made on the phone, including any of the filters you may have used in the camera app while shooting. I also tried using Aperture and iCloud to get the images down but that had the same problem. Another option is to use Dropbox, the iPhone app of which lets you automatically upload images from your camera roll, but again, it too has the same problem.
In the end, I used the Photos app beta. I know this is the solution that will be the default soon, but at the moment, it too has issues. For a start, syncing took ages. I'm talking hours in some cases, and it was very idiosyncratic. Secondly, not all the images synced properly that way either. Despite the promise of the App to be able to sync your images and edits across all devices, I found that many of the filter and edit settings were lost in the sync this way too. The only advantage was that because the controls are the same and the filters are the same, it was easy for me to re-create what I did.
I should point out that I'm not judging the Photos app at this stage because it's still in beta, so hopefully these bugs will be ironed out by the time it's released fully.
Overall, I really enjoyed shooting with the iPhone as a primary camera. I think it's come a long way, but I still think that the image quality needs to improve a bit more before I would start leaving my mirrorless cameras at home altogether. Even so, when looking at the images on a retina screen, they look really good. My one wish is that Apple would let you shoot in Raw. Most of the image quality issues are down to the noise reduction used (I'm guessing) and if you could use other techniques and process the images in a different fashion, I'd be willing to bet they would look even better. Perhaps with the current marketing push for the iPhone as a camera, it's something they may consider in the future, although I'm not sure it's a very Apple thing to do. Still one can hope!
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