Should I buy a camera?

With computational photography, smartphone these days produces seemingly good looking photographs. Major phone brands try to convince you that their phone cameras can produce pictures that are as appealing as those coming out of cameras with professional specs.

Do we need a dedicated camera?

Given that the best camera is the one you have with you, I have been considering whether I will stick it out with just my smartphone camera (which I always have with me) or whether I should replace my dedicated camera.

I had not made up my mind completely yet, but my beloved Pentax K200D camera saw less and less action in recent years to the point that I even left it at home for recent holiday trips. So earlier this year I gave it away, along with the Sigma DC HSM 30mm/f1.4 lens that has always accompanied the K200D, to a friend who I know can make better use of them than me.

I saw pictures taken from the latest smartphone cameras and there were many cases where they were really good, but there were many other cases where they were not up to my standard. I still was not convinced I can survive with just smartphone camera.

About a couple of months ago I bought a new smartphone and last weekend I took some pictures at a dinner. I forgot about them until today as I browsed through the photographs and I thought: not bad, not bad at all.

Amongst the pictures that came out good, I knew it would be better if I work the crop factor a bit. Sure enough, after cropping, the image came out cool.

However, during the process I noticed something that people may miss, if they do not have experience shooting with dedicated camera + good optics.

The computational bokeh from the smartphone fails miserably during the transition from in-focus to out-of-focus area. Give a close attention to the boundary of the neck and the hand.

Interestingly, although not a complete surprise, the computational algorithm can fail to kick in when it got confused.

On the next picture, pay attention to the area between the hand and the neck and the small area between the thumb and the other fingers: the algorithm missed them and did not generate the bokeh effect.

I cannot compare the same scenario taken with a dedicated camera, but here is a flower taken with the Pentax+Sigma at f1.7.

Bokeh represents areas where physically, light enters the lens as out of focus, indiscriminate to the fact it is a small area or large area. And in the real world, out-of-focus is also dependent on physical distance, so the bokeh effect varies based on the location of the objects.

I am happy with my smartphone camera, but this post shows that for certain kind of images that I am accustomed to make, I should buy a camera.