If you’ve kept up with my posts, it’ll come as no surprise that I’m obsessed with photography. I’ve written at least a handful of articles on the subject, and most recently reviewed two sets of lenses for the iPhone. And that last piece got me thinking: How capable is a smartphone’s camera? It’s certainly more convenient to tote than its bulkier cousins, and I’ve speculated that smartphones and their on-board optics could eventually replace point-and-shoots, but can it really stack up against dedicated hardware? Today’s most powerful smartphones certainly have impressive spec sheets, but the proof’s in the pictures. That’s why I’ve decided to sift through the thousands of pictures I’ve taken from my iPhone 4 (yes, a nearly two-year-old phone with a measly 5-megapixel camera) and pick out the best examples. After all, if its once-great camera can produce killer shots, surely later models with better optics can go toe to toe with just about anything the entry-level camera market can throw at them.
The 10 pictures that follow were taken by my iPhone 4. The phone didn’t have any help from aftermarket hardware, nor have I cropped or adjusted the shots with anything that can’t be found in the App Store (Instagram and Camera+ were most often used).
Can smartphones truly stand in for dedicated cameras? You decide.
Location: US 101, Northern California. Story: This stretch of Northern California highway seemed to dead-end in a wall of mountains. Fortunately for me, it was also all but empty.
Location: Santa Monica. Story: These watermelon-size metallic balls hang from the Santa Monica Place mall and reflect everything that passes. If you look closely, you can make out the cables suspending each ball.
Location: Laguna Beach. Story: Beachgoers milled about as the sun set on a beautiful Southern California day.
Location: Del Mar Beach, San Diego. Story: This surfer soaked up the San Diego sunset from his board. Careful not to disturb him, I captured the scene. Afterward I offered to email him the picture. His response: “That would be rad, bro.”
Location: Hillcrest Farmers Market. Story: Organic tomatoes not only taste better, they make for better pictures, too.
Location: Scripps Pier, San Diego. Story: Standing beneath Scripps Pier, you’d swear it goes on forever.
Location: Santa Monica. Story: This Santa Monica scene caught my eye as I drove along the 101. If you couldn’t already tell, I’m pretty fond of the beach.
Location: Somewhere above San Diego. Story: As my plane descended into San Diego, capping off a cross-country flight, I was struck by the point where clouds met sky.
Location: Los Angeles. Story: The Walt Disney Concert Hall reflects the midday sun in stunning fashion.
Location: In-N-Out. Story: If you can look at this picture of the country’s best fast-food burgers (Sorry, Five Guys. It’s true) without salivating, you’re probably a vegetarian.