In this day and age, most of us have a smartphone in our pocket that is capable of taking amazing photos. There is no doubt that they are fully capable cameras in their own right, but we need to be realistic as to where people are viewing those photos.
In most cases, when you take a photo on your phone you are posting it to one (if not all) of the Big three: Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. In this case, only Facebook has an actual browser that people use on a regular basis on their computer. Which means most of the photos you take on your phone are viewed by people on a phone too.
This leads me into how you want to preserve your images. Is Facebook or Instagram enough? Or are you one who likes to have things offline on a hard drive? For me, I prefer to have things on a hard drive locally. Having the ability to edit then upload to photography websites like Flickr, ViewBug, and PhotoGuru (not just facebook and instagram). That doesn’t mean I don’t like the cloud (I use Google Drive every day), I just prefer having images right there when I want them. Also, I shoot in RAW format which makes storage online much more difficult due to the larger size and lack of RAW support from many (most) sites. Plus, RAW is an unaltered image, essentially the digital negative of what your sensor sees. Its not a format (or image) that you would want to upload for people to see.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, lets get into quality of images.
I have a Google Pixel 2 (quite the upgrade from my S5 Mini) that takes some really nice images even in low light. Since I got it, I have found myself taking more images with my phone than I did before. We need to remember that there is a MUCH larger population that still have phones like my S5 mini (There is nothing wrong with that phone by the way. I got my new phone through work and who wouldn’t use a pixel 2 over a S5 mini?) than the ones that buy the most recent “flagship” phones.
I also have a Nikon D610, Nikon’s “entry level” full frame camera.
There is a versatility that DSLRs offer that phones just are not able to compete with (yet). I find that using my Pixel 2 can be disappointing at times. The biggest issue is I don’t like the idea of a software engineer telling me what a “good” photo is when it comes to editing. Their idea of a good photo is everything in focus, high dynamic range, low noise, etc. That is one of the big benefits that people see that their phones have over DSLRs. The image comes out ready to post as soon as you take it. While helpful, I find that I am often going into Polarr on my phone and changing some settings before a final post. Again, this goes back to not liking how the phone software “renders” the image.
Keep in mind too that Nikon and Canon are CAMERA companies. They exist to develop cameras and only cameras (okay lenses too, but you get my point) They don’t need to worry about anything else, just the quality of the images their products produce. When you compare that to phones, they need to do everything and do it well enough so you don’t get another one. In a phone, the camera is just part of the whole design instead of being the design in the case of a dedicated camera. In my opinion that is what is holding camera phones back from being the new standard. Not everyone wants (or needs) the capabilities that a DSLR provides.
Having said that, take a look at these two pictures that I took to illustrate my point:
The first image is a jpeg straight from my D610, the second is a jpeg straight from my Pixel 2. Both photos were taking 30 seconds apart and neither were edited nor did the flash fire when shooting my phone image. What I was trying to do was capture the people at the other end of the tunnel as a silhouette. Clearly my D610 was the much better choice. This is a perfect example of how software in the phone judge how the photo will be taken. If there were a manual mode I’m sure it would be a much better outcome, but the problem is that most phones don’t have a manual mode.
In the end it all comes down to what you want people to see and how you want to capture that image. Today’s phone cameras are really good and they are only going to get better. If you are not the type of person that likes or wants to carry around a DSLR (or mirrorless) camera, stick to your phone camera. They are more than good enough for day to day use. If you find yourself disappointed in the quality of your phone images, and are looking to venture down the proverbial photography rabbit hole it might be time to look into getting a mirrorless or DSLR that will fit your needs.
For those of you that laugh and wonder why people still even have a DSLR, remember, a DSLR (and now mirrorless) camera is still the industry standard. You don’t see pro photographers going around photographing weddings with their S8+. Are there photographers out there that have done it? Yes, but it’s not a very common occurrence. Again though, how many people are looking to edit their photos? Not many I would gather. For most of the photo taking public, the filters on their Instagram and Snapchat posts are the closest they will get to “editing”.
So, in conclusion, if you don’t want to lug around a dedicated camera, you really don’t need to. The camera purists (like me) will laugh when others ask “why are you carrying around that huge camera?” We will simply direct you to an image from our camera online that people keep saying “wow, that looks so sharp! What phone do you have?” We will just smile and shake our heads.
For me, I have always found that there is some respect that comes with using a DSLR too. It indicates that you are more invested in the composition of a photo more than point and shooting. You see the benefit of having high quality images to remember a moment.
Hope this helps!