Tag Archives: iPhone 7 plus

Film vs Digital Photos – May 2017

About five years ago I started shooting film again after going with digital only for about 7-8 years.  Now in May 2017 it seems like film is back in a big way.  I have been writing this blog and one other with most of the posts being about photography.  My most popular posts are when I write about film and film cameras.  Recently I saw a post that was in Photoblographer on 5 great but unknown film cameras.  The Minolta 600si was in the five.  Within a few days I had a bunch of hits on most two 600si posts.  Same with my post on Kodak Gold 200.  Few have written about these items and all of a sudden my posts on them have been looked up and read.

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Shot with Minolta 600si with 50mm f2.8 macro Quantaray lens and Kodak Portra 160

For me personally I have settled into using both digital and film.  I have a number of both types of cameras and just pick what I think will give the best images.  The exception to this rule is that I carry an iPhone 7+ with me constantly and take a lot of images with it.  My most recent camera purchase is a Sony pocket camera.  It is a DSC HX80.  This is a very new model of super zoom.  I have had several Sony pocket cameras over the last 15 years and this one takes the best pictures of any I have had.  This is not the highly rated $1,000 one, but looks very similar.  I got it as I was trying to find something a bit better than the iPhone 7+ that had a long lens on it.  I like shooting wildlife and volunteer at the San Diego Zoo so there are times when a long optical lens is helpful.  I have to say the little Sony is a very good camera when you consider what it cost.  It even has an electronic viewfinder (the same one as the $1,000 Sony) that is absolutely essential in bright sun.  I recently took it with me to Arizona and the camera is a very good bridge between a large SLR or DSLR and a cell phone camera.

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Sony DSC HX80
AZ trip with Cathy & Jeff-53
Sony DSC HX80 at about 500mm a little tweaking in Lrightroom

On this trip I took my iPhone, the DSC HX80, and my Nikon D5500.  So no film cameras.  Why, I knew I would be bouncing around between outdoor and indoor, plus back and forth between landscape and people.  We did not plan to go to any epic landscape places like the Grand Canyon or Bryce.  So I spent several days trying to decide on what gear to take and just left the film at home.  I really wanted to take my old Voightlander, but it is just more limited than some of the newer cameras.  I got some very good shots with the gear I took.

The cactus is with the Sony, Casa Grande Nikon, and Route 66 with the iPhone.  All three were easy to edit and organize with Lightroom and Apple Photos.  I pretty much edited the pictures when sitting in the hotel and they organized easily as dates and times were already embedded in them.

Would the images have been better with film?  Maybe.  I would have needed two bodies for both 100 speed and 400 speed.  The 100 would have been Ektar or Velvia, and the 400 Kodak Ultramax or Fuji Superia.  I picked these films as I just have not been happy with my landscape shots using Portra 160 or 400.  I just don’t like the desert look I get from this film.  My two Minolta 600si bodies are just as easy to use as the digitals so I would have taken them.  I would have used my two primes a 50mm and 24mm both with macro.  The long shots could have been with the 70-205 Minolta zoom I have.  Absolutely the 50mm macro is better at close ups than any of the digital cameras I have.  The new Sony super zoom really has a long reach.  So a couple of the animal shots might not have been as close up.

The added reason I picked the digitals is that I am trying to get certain looks with them in camera and post with Lightroom.  I wanted to experiment some more to get the results I was looking for.

AZ trip with Cathy & Jeff-77

These shots of Casa Grande in Arizona I was trying to get the “Kodachrome” look.  To me this photo (from the iPhone no less) pretty much nails that.  And I could have made the same result with Velvia or Ektar in one of my film cameras.  In this case though it is a bit of a pano that is easy with the iPhone 7.

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Nikon D5500 with 18-55 P lens

The above is with my D5500 and I get the same “Kodachrome” look.  I just used the P setting and landscape mode.  I had saturation turned up +2 on the landscape mode.  Then in Lightroom I just added a small amount of additional color in the sky with the dehaze slider.  And I turned up the shadows a bit.

In summation I would have to say that I have settled into working with both film and digital for stills.  There are some things I like about each process.  As far as gear goes, I like some of my vintage film gear.  Looking at and holding cameras mostly made out of metal and not plastic is a pleasure.  And having full frame film cameras that are not heavy and relatively small is also a pleasure.  I would like to move up to a digital full frame sometime in the near future, but nobody has made the camera I want yet.  The closest is the Nikon 750, but I don’t like the fact that the camera and lens is so large.  And the Sony stuff is just too pricy for what you get.  Plus the lens cost and short battery life are additional problems.  I would really like to get up to the 30 meg area of file size too.  At this point the 750 is the same detail as my existing D5500.

Film Video vs Digital Video

While it seems I can get very good results with digital cameras I have to say I am glad that using film in movies is popular again.  I hate digital video on TV that has not been processed to look like film.  Netflix does that on their in house movies and they look terrible.  I can usually spot movies made with film or TV shows.  For instance HBO’s Westworld.  The cinematography was so gorgeous I figured it was film.  And it is.

Thats it for now.  I am going to try to get out this weekend and shoot some film.  I have some partially used rolls and I want to finish them and send them off to get them developed.

iPhone 7 Plus Camera Plagued By Poor Connectivity Choices

As I wrote two posts ago, I think the iPhone 7 plus has a brilliant camera for a cell phone.  I have taken many very good still and videos with it.  But even though you can capture very good shots and video it is a general pain in the ass to put them in an organized file system. When you turn on the Apple auto upload (which you really have to do to get the camera to work well) it sends photos to your other IOS devices and your iCloud photos automatically if you are connected to wifi.  If you are traveling and only have access to mobile data, too bad.  Apple waits till you connect to wifi.

But lets say you do connect your phone to wifi and the pictures auto go to the Apple pictures app in iCloud.  If you only want to use the Apple photo app to adjust pictures than you are set.  That is unless you want to have a regular file system like almost every good photographer does.  Then you have to export from the Apple app to your file system.  Or you can use the hard to find “Apple image capture app” and download by wire to your computer.  Apple’s photo app stores copies of your photos in places it is almost impossible to find.  And all of this works best if you have a Mac.  If you have a Windows computer, well then you have to wait for your photos to go to iCloud and then you can download them to your computer.  If you are not on wifi then you won’t be doing this until you are.  Supposedly there is a way to download photos from your iPhone to a Windows computer.  There used to be as I did it.  But sometime in the recent past that ability was deleted.

Or lets say you want to take a raw photo.  Well you have to use Lightroom or some other app that has raw ability.  To do this though you need Lightroom mobile.  And to get the Lightroom mobile camera pictures to your computer or say an iPad you have to use a wireless connection.  I have found no way to take Lightroom photos off an iPhone with a wire.  It is true you can move the Lightroom photo to the camera roll and then use Apple image capture to remove photos by wire.  But your raw pictures are converted to jpeg when you do that.  And lets say you want to move your camera roll photos to Lightroom mobile on your phone to edit or download pictures wirelessly when you don’t have wifi, well then you will end up with a giant Lightroom mobile file on your computer.  Mine got to 16 gigs before I shut it down.

Confused yet?  So while the iPhone 7 plus has a brilliant camera it is hard to live with in practice if you want to carefully file your pictures and videos, or edit them with Lightroom.  This problem could easily be solved by Apple if they made their phones like most Android phones where you just plugged them into your computer and moved the pictures off.  Easy peasy.  But I think Apple is too busy designing the next iPhone to make these kinds of changes that people like me want.  So once more, I do love the Apple iPhone 7 plus camera, but do not like (hate) the complex “Kafka-like” crap you have to go through to get the files off.

A few days ago I bought a Sony compact camera DSC-HX80, for the sole purpose of not having to putz with this issue.  So far my $400 Sony takes pictures that are a bit better than what you can get from the iPhone.  It has a zoom lens that goes from 24mm – 720mm.  It is astonishing how good the pictures come out using 720mm.  It has a lot of the same adjustments my Nikon DSLR has, meaning, it is much more adjustable than the standard Apple camera app.  And it even has a viewfinder.  Taking photos off the Sony is exactly like what you do on my Nikon DSLR, meaning very easy, and it fits with my file system.  I do not intend to not use the camera in the iPhone, but I do intend to use it a lot less.

Below are a few test shots from the Sony.  BTW the Sony has really good color rendition.

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The shot below is my first telephoto test shot.  This is amazingly good for how far away these kids were.  It froze the action and this was hand held!  You could never ever get a shot this good out of the iPhone 7 plus.

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iPhone 7 Plus Camera Review

I got my Apple iPhone 7 plus about 3 weeks after they came out.  It was a replacement for my iPhone 6S that I had for just under a year.  The camera for the 7 plus is a system unlike any I have used before.  If combines two separate cameras, one a wide angle with about a 28 mm equivalent lens with f1.8, and a second camera with about a 56mm equivalent lens with f2.8.  And these two cameras are tied together with very sophisticated Apple software in the phone to give you many extra capabilities.  In addition, the phone camera is designed to work well with Apple’s own “Photos” app on the phone, iPad, Mac or other Apple device.

This camera system using the standard (And very good) Apple camera app takes still pictures in wide or square format.  Plus it takes video in up to 4K.  In addition, to those usual modes the 7 Plus also can take Apple “live” photos, time lapse, slo mo, and excellent pano shots.  And, “portrait” photos which have software that adds bokeh when used properly.

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Taken with the iPhone 7+ and edited with Lightroom 

The Apple iPhone 7+ system for zoom is brilliant.  It is a different level of performance from any other smartphone camera I have used and is likely far better than any other smartphone camera currently sold.  I am fully away that lots of you tubes and other ratings people, and camera magazines test this system and say that several other smartphones are better, but in my opinion that is in the lab and not the field.  My ratings system is based on the images or video I get and not lab test.  If you actually want to get great work out of your smartphone this is the one to get.

I started to realize how amazing this camera system was the first few times I shot zooms where I went well beyond the optical zoom.  The first few times I looked at the result and though, “wow that looks really good for digital zoom”.  I don’t know how Apple does it but their “secret sauce” software amazingly lets you use the two cameras to zoom a lot closer than the optics of the 56mm lens and get great keepers.

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Shot with 7+ and about 8x zoom at dusk into the sun – edited in Lightroom

The above shot was at sunset at about 8x zoom, which is about 4x the optical capability.  And it is shot in low light into the sun.  The result is frigging astonishingly good for ANY camera much less one that was included with a multi use portable computer.

Then there is the pano capability.

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Shot with iPhone 7+ and edited in Apple Photos on a Mac

The image above was taken at the Painted Desert National Park in AZ a few months ago.  It was very simple to take and what you see here is about 180 degrees, maybe a little more.  The Apple software stitched the whole thing together and then made it very easy to edit in Apple Photos even though it is a lot of mega pixels.  I basically just cropped it a little and hit the enhance button.

Then there is the bokeh software.  I tried this a couple years ago with an Android phone and google’s system at the time and it did not work very well.  I am sure google has improved it but the Apple system has to be the one to beat at this point.  The Apple “portrait” mode works extremely well when you use it right.

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Taken with 7+ using portrait mode
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Also taken with 7+ using bokeh mode

The Apple iPhone 7 plus is very compatible with the Apple Photos app on the phone, and iPad, or a Mac.  For most photos the Apple app is all you need.  I use both the Apple Photos app and Lightroom.  I have the monthly charge Adobe Lightroom CC which gives you both the latest version of LR and also Photoshop.  In my opinion this is a bargain.  The Adobe software is big, complex, and takes quite a bit of effort to learn it.  Plus many things are not intuitive.  But after using it a while LR becomes relatively easy.  I have tried organizing my photos with LR and really prefer to let Apple’s system do it.  Plus I always have my master set arranged in chronological order in a standard file set up.  I also like using the Apple system because it sends slide shows to my Apple TV so I can see my latest photos on the big screen.  Generally when I edit I use my MacBook Pro 13″, but like it much better when it is hooked up to my large Apple display.  That said, both Apple and Lightroom have very good iPad and iPhone editing apps.  The LR one is far more capable, but for most photos the Apple one works fine.  One other significant advantage of using Lightroom is that you can take RAW photos with the iPhone.  If you want the most detailed image LR RAW is the way to go.  Plus when you need to make adjustments having a RAW file allows far greater latitude than a jpeg.

I don’t take a lot of videos.  When I do I almost always use the iPhone instead of my Nikon.  Why, the results from the iPhone are usually better and a lot easier.  I do not use 4K.  The files get too big.  For editing video I use the standard iMovie app that comes with the Mac.  It works well and for the amount of videos I take it is good enough.

I have and use regularly a Nikon mid range DSLR.  If used right it does give superior results on still photos than the iPhone 7 +.  Having a viewfinder is very helpful in the sun.  Plus for quick action shots the Nikon is very fast.  When you want to shoot sea gulls flying overhead the Nikon is the way to go.  It freezes the sea gulls in flight even when hand held and not in perfect light.  Plus you do get more details.  As good as the iPhone 7 plus is for longer range tele shots a Nikon with a tele lens is better.  Plus you can put filters like polarizing ones on.  I use a polarizing filter all the time when taking flower pictures.  It cuts down on unwanted reflections.  You cannot do that with the iPhone.  So no the 7 plus as good as it is does not replace an SLR or DSLR, but the two together make a great combo.  And when you are walking the dog you will likely have your smartphone and not your DSLR.

Waiting for the next iPhone?  No, get the iPhone 7+ now.  It is that good.  If you think the next iPhone will be amazing you may be right.  So get the Apple plan that lets you upgrade in a year.  That’s what I did.  But so far I have heard of nothing in the rumor posts about any feature that is completely a have-to-get item for me.  I have already had a couple of phones with OLED and while I think OLED is great for a TV, I am very happy with the excellent screen on the 7+.  Full glass covering?  Who cares.  I use a case any way.  BTW, I have both the leather and rubber case for my phone and the rubber one is better for pictures.  Easier to grip when you want a shot.  The leather one looks better though.  So what is my rating on the iPhone 7+ on a 1-10 scale with 10 being the highest, it is a 10.  The best compact camera you can buy.

iPhone 7 plus & Nikon D5500 = A Good Photo Taking Combo

My current smartphone the iPhone 7 plus is in my opinion a brilliant still & video camera.  Of course it has many other uses besides photo and video capture but that is what the topic of this post is.  When you pair the 7 plus with a mid range Nikon you really have most of the bases covered.

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Taken with iPhone 7+ inside a dark bar.  

Before I had the 7+ I used an iPhone 6S.  The 7+ is much more versatile and capable.  The above picture was taken inside a fairly dark bar during the daytime.  It took the above picture nearly perfectly.  I took a similar photo using my Minolta 600si film camera with a 50mm f2.8 lens loaded with Kodak Porta 160.  I prefer the color of the film shot, but since I did not have a fast lens, fast film, or image stabilization on that camera the image is blurred.

If I had only been carrying the 7+ I would have thought to try the secondary 56mm lens for this same subject, or maybe a short video clip.  The 7 plus gives you lots of options and fits into your pocket.  The 7+ is also the first camera I have used that can integrate the images from both it’s cameras to zoom and provide bokeh.  Using digital zoom with the 7+ is not the same as digital zoom I have used on older cameras or even last years 6S iPhone.  I have not seen an explanation in detail of how it is done, but I can tell you that the results of digital zoom with this camera are much better than I expected.  Even at 10x it is not that bad.  Plus you can get decent bokeh from this camera.  It is computer simulated, but it is good when used as intended.  And it is intended to be used to give bokeh in people shots.  The software can see people heads and bodies well but struggles sometimes with other objects.  I have had fair to good results using it on my rose blooms.

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My grand daughter using iPhone 7 plus and the portrait mode 

The bokeh in this 7+ photo is very good considering it is Apple’s first generation software. I expect there will be additional improvements as time goes on.  Apple’s color rendition is excellent.  As good as what I get from my Nikon.  Actually it is pretty similar to what I get from the Nikon.  I have noticed my Nikon works extremely well with Apple’s Photo software.  It could be there is some collaboration between the two companies.

I have had my Nikon D5500 for just over 1 1/2 years.  It has so far worked perfectly with no need for repairs.  I did add the newer 18-55mm zoom lens that Nikon introduced last year as a replacement for the older one I got with the D5500.  The reasons were that the new lens came with the fast stepper motor instead of the old autofocus.  And several testers rated it as having significantly superior optics to my older version.  To use it properly I had to update the firmware on the D5500, which was free and fairly easy.  The other feature I like on this lens is instant manual focus over ride instead of having to flip a switch.

The quick auto focus stepper motor is very helpful in taking videos with the Nikon.  You can still hear a very slight noise in the video when focusing, but it is maybe 1/5th as loud as before.  Plus the focus time is greatly reduced.  One negative is that the filter size on this lens is 55mm and not the standard 52mm of the older lens.

Nikon has recently come out with a replacement for the D5500, the D5600.  The major difference in the new camera is that it can transfer photos to your iPhone (or other smartphone) via bluetooth.  Since I prefer physical transfer I don’t need to upgrade right now.  If I was to upgrade the Nikon one of my main motivations would be for a more useful viewfinder.  The viewfinder in this camera is not nearly as large and bright as either my old Olympus OM2n or my Minolta 600si.  And the Minolta in addition to being much bigger and brighter also have much easier to read information in it than the Nikon.  For manual focus I find the D5500 very hard to use on many subjects.  And I find all auto focus to be not perfect and in need of some fine tuning.  You do that by having a clear easy to use viewfinder.

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Nikon D5600 with the 18-140mm lens.

I find the Nikon D5500 very easy to switch out to the Minolta 600si film camera.  The 600si is very similar to the Nikon in size, weight, and operation.  Since the Minolta is also auto focus you do not need to switch back to thinking about getting the focus right.

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Minolta 600si 

The D5500 is very lightweight.  It is under 20 oz.  The Minolta runs just about 20 oz.  They are both about the same size and look.

So that is my usual setup, iPhone 7 plus and Nikon D5500.  If I was short of money the Nikon D3400 would give me pictures as good at the 5500, but would be slower to adjust.  The D5500 also has a pretty slick facial recognition setting in addition to having a subject lock on setting.  If I won the lottery and did not care how much money I spent I don’t think I would change my set up.  To me the Nikon D5500 is the best you can get at this time.  I would rather shoot with a full frame 35mm sensor.  But to switch to a full frame sensor I would have to carry around a camera from Nikon, Canon, or Pentax that weighs twice what my D5500 weights.  And Sony makes you live without a mirror, and I don’t like EVF.  Leica is a great camera but still manual focus and a rangefinder.  I don’t like either of those as well as auto focus and SLR.  I like the look of the Fuji XT2 quite a bit, but do not think the image quality is as good as Nikon.  And Olympus makes you live with a tiny sensor.  If I could add a camera and not have to give up the D5500 I would take a Nikon 750 (or it’s replacement due out soon) and three lenses.