I spent this weekend walking around Washington DC with my partner Heather and our British friends colloquially known as 'The Brits'. A full 11 hours on Saturday where I led them through The Capitol, Air and Space Museum, National Archives, American History Museum, Washington Monument, WWII Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, MLK Memorial, FDR Memorial, and finally the Jefferson Memorial. That was just Saturday, we did another half day on Sunday, and we walked the whole way both days. Small photographic opportunities came up and although I was carrying my Leica M4, I only ended up taking one picture with it. That's right, one single frame. Pulling out a light meter and fiddling with aperture and focus settings and soon the moment is gone. Plus the hassle and cost of processing and the time spent scanning hung over me like a shoe that would eventually drop.
I could have brought my Canon 5D2, but a prime lens would be limiting and a zoom is just too big and heavy. I just don't enjoy having a couple of pounds pulling on my neck all day long.
I did however take 30 or so photos. "With what?" you say? "With my iPhone", I answer. Seriously. Is it a great camera? Nope, but it's a decent one. Especially for an occasional shot to put on your facebook or send to my mother. The other great feature is that I carry it around with me all the time anyway, so in a sense I get something for nothing.
If you look at the 365.2011 posts from this weekend. The rainbow, the Capitol rotunda, and the grave at Arlington Cemetery were all taken with my phone. Would a good little compact like an S95 or an LX3 take better pictures? Of course, but I've never been able to justify a $400 purchase for the couple times a year I'd actually use it. I've tried small cameras over the years but they tend to sit in my closet unused. Plus, how big would I ever print one of these out anyway. Assuming enough light and good sharpness, I'm sure the 5MP of the iPhone would make a nice 8x10" print anyway. In fact let me pause here and do a test.
Ok, I'm back. Printed an 8x10 of the Capitol picture and you know what? It looks pretty darn good. Not as good as it could have looked had I used my 5D or even a better compact, but it's just fine for a travel snapshot. A extra small radius sharpening and I'd be perfectly happy. Remember that I'm a portrait photographer. So when I travel, taking pictures is not the goal. In other words I take pictures when I travel, I don't travel to take pictures.
Also, I'm sure there are a bunch of other android phones and such with great cameras too, I'm not singling out Apple, though whatever camera module they chose is pretty great. Certainly a step up from the toy in the 3G. I wish they would put a simple exposure compensation slider in the camera app though. Maybe next time.
So what does this all mean. Well I guess it means that I've proven that I'm fine with snapshots from my phone. Something I honestly never thought I'd say. It also means that I'll probably use my film cameras even less going forward. It was kind of like the moment when you realize that you've fallen out of love with someone. There's really no way to forget that you've thought it. I'm heading out west in a couple weeks to see some national parks and will most likely bring my Canon, those places deserve it. However the next time I'm taking a trip to Disney World, I'll most likely be leaving my cameras at home.