The iPhone is Not Enough

On Labor Day, I was hiking my way back from an overnight in the backcountry.  The next morning, I was up at 5:30AM so I could get on a plane to Orlando for a work conference at Disney World.

Because our conference hotels overflowed, I was moved to The Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Having not been inside the Disney World gates since I was 9, I didn’t know that there would be an actual animal kingdom outside my window.

Had I known, I might have figured out a way to pack my camera.

Having reduced our worldly possessions by about 80% over the course of many years and moved into a small apartment with ridiculously limited storage space, one of my greatest challenges has been not to keep acquiring more stuff that won’t fit anywhere.

I make this point because I am starting to think about getting a small, point-and-shoot camera.  Something that will do a better job than my iPhone camera.  And something I can carry backpacking without getting an ache in my neck.

Now, some might argue that I should think about trading in my iPhone 4S for a phone that has a decent built-in camera.  But, I’ve had my iPhone for less than a year and I really don’t believe there is a phone with a built-in camera that’s going to suffice.

Let’s look at the camera in the iPhone 4S. Like all built-in phone cameras, all zoom capability is digital.  By this, I mean that when you are zooming, it’s enlarging the image in software, no moving glass around to magnify the image before it is captured digitally (also known as Optical Zoom).

When you look at the images in the gallery, you can see that as you move from left to right, the buffalo get bigger and the quality of the image gets worse.  This is the same thing that happens when you enlarge a low resolution photo on your computer and the pixels get spread too far apart for the image to look good.

In comparison, when optical zoom is used, the image is magnified by the glass and then captured on the sensor at that size, so there is no loss of resolution in the image.  Maybe instead of a point-and-shoot, I just need an adapter so I can use my lenses with my iPhone?  They really exist:


But, then I’d have to carry heavy lenses plus an adapter.  Besides, that little adaptor costs $250.  I’m pretty sure I can get a really good point-and-shoot for that much money.

I started investigating MILCs (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras), which are smaller and lighter.  I’m not ready to spend that much money on a new technology that’s step down in quality, although they do seem quite promising.

Maybe fuzzy animal pictures on work trips and an aching neck on backpacking trips will just have to do for now.