Creator’s Sunday: Shooting With a Smartphone: The Main Problems. Part I.
Well, well… Sorry for kept you waiting. It was quite a busy time launching a great short video contest in Russia and at the same time starting our own stores on Amazon Australia (while being preparing the same stores on Amazon UK and Canada). I keep my fingers crossed to have all DREAMGRIP products available in the countries with prompt delivery very soon. Will keep you posted.
Now, having the great job done after these weeks, finally, it is the very time, as we have promised, to spot out a spoon of tar in the honey barrel, which has been filled by the sweetness of the above posts. So what the particular weaknesses have your smartphone comparing to a camcorder or DSLR?
Probably the main technical problem you definitely come across while shooting with your phone is that the phone lens has no optical zoom at all. Even being that powerful and equipped with professional grade digital matrix the phone still primarily targeted for use of an amateur phoneographer on auto mode to make lazy shots easy and simple. Indeed, the camera will help to enjoy vividly coloured photos and decent videos with well-balanced illumination for almost any user regardless if he or she has any previous shooting experience, or even has an idea where the settings control is, and what parameters could be adjusted. Even my daughter was able to take a couple nice pictures of me being just 3 years old. I’m glad to have them really but, of course, we know it is the sign of simple and intuitive phone interface rather than of a genius photographer kid. Meanwhile, after accumulating more experience of shooting different objects, scenes, and people an advanced videographer will certainly face a few unpleasant limitations to be considered.
It is remarkable that these problems to deal with and limitations to get over will be caused by your own wish to get a certain image in the frame, and getting it exactly the same way as you would like it to appear on the shot. You may need to show a face close-up, then a sophisticated perspective in another frame and, maybe, for the next production something like an ant in a full screen carrying a dead body of a butterfly… The picture as you imagine it comes in a form of the content, which fills the frame of the shot. So to have it so you need to shoot with the same angle as imagined and from the appropriate distance to fill the frame with just the scene but nothing distractive. And here the quality and the attraction of each photo or video greatly depends on your skills and abilities to do so. The frame filling is one of the most recognizable operator’s signatures. It is, to say so, – the final image that will appear before the eyes of your audience.
And while embodying your imaginary pictures on the real frames or trying to find the best frame filling for the next shot, – the first thing to consider will be the well-known view angle or the field of view. It is, in other words, how wide or narrow is the actual view angle from your camera and what you can have in your frame accordingly from the particular distance. This field of view can be measured in degrees, but operators basically call the same thing a “focal length” and measure it in millimeters. Later we will compare the camera specs of particular phones from Apple, Samsung, Sony, and other vendors to spot out the differences. But for now, let’s take for an example a hypothetical 35mm view angle camera, which has been the golden standard for several generations of movie makers. Even nowadays, by the way, the most of the phones will provide you exactly the same or very similar view angle on the default/auto video shooting mode.
This 35mm camera, in fact, has the view angle equivalent of 63° and very likely is what you have on your phone camera in default video mode. The same time, do not forget photo mode default angle settings are different and considerably wider for the majority of phone models. iPhone has main photo camera 28mm, which is more than 20% wider than 35mm. And Xperia from Sony even comes with 21mm focal length in default photo mode that is about 90° field of view that is yet 30% wider than iPhone.
But let’s get back to the default 35mm focal length of our hypothetical camera. To shoot a close-up or a portrait with this angle you need to approach the object to have it very close to the camera. In the most of cases, it will be inconvenient and often even impossible. The other pole of the same problem can be displayed in a very common case, which you probably have been through. Imagine yourself trying to take a picture of a group of people, let’s say 10 or even more. You need to get the camera as far from them as needed to have everyone fitting in the frame of the shot. So you see everyone now from the distance but it is already too far to see the faces on the picture from here. And yet there are too much of the destructive environmental details you do not need. Sounds familiar, does it not?
So how do we deal with the problem?
The first case could be solved by zooming that is literally nothing but lessening the actual focal length to magnify the object. And the closer it gets by zooming in – the more space object will take by decreasing the actual size of the frame. For doing this you need a Zooming or so-called Telephoto lens and it is the only solution for zooming with any of DSLR cameras. But for a phone, there is another way – the digital zoom, which definitely could not bring the objects closer but will enlarge the selected part of the image. It is like if you are using a magnifying glass to enlarge a part of a printed photo or a program viewer enlarging an image on your laptop or phone. And while the frame filling result at the first glance will be the same for both ways – the actual quality of the picture will be very different for each of them.
Unfortunately, the bad news is not only that the image quality will suffer from the digital zoom due to the proportional decrease in the final resolution. The worse news is – the second referred problem when you need to get a wider view angle has no other solution but to apply the wider angle optics.
But it does not mean we are giving up on our phoneography ambitions. Let me remind you we were about to study just a spoon of tar, and so we have been zooming in to let it fill the frame for the very purpose. The barrel of honey is still where it was, and we will be zooming out soon to witness it.
See you then!