Smartphone photography in Africa

Posted on November 11, 2016 12:29 am

Apple’s recent offering of new tech toys includes the latest iPhone 7 available in stores around Africa and it boasts some mighty camera power.Looking at the 12-megapixel still image size and 4K video in the iPhone 7, I need to wonder if this is the only camera or video recorder I’ll ever need or not, In fact, someone in South Africa asked me for how long will we continue to call these digital pocket-size devices like iPhone 7 smartphones, since their ability to use them as a phone seems less important that other functions.But can iPhone 7 camera outsmart the more traditional digital single-lens reflex or the mirrorless camera favoured by enthusiasts and professional photographers in Africa or as the new iPhone is getting plenty of reviews in recent weeks, let’s take a deeper a look at what Apple is offering in the camera department.It’s worth examining the megapixel arms race a bit more clearly and you can see the jump from iPhone 6’s to iPhone 7’s is not that great. So before you run off to update your iPhone device, keep the pixel count in mind.So a 12MP image on the new iPhone is not that much bigger, especially when compared to some of the typical DSLRs on the market at the moment. These can take images up to 24MP and even higher, some even pushing 50MP as we have seen with images of Wildebeest migration in East Africa, spectacular images of Mount Kenya, Krueger National Park among others.

Those iPhone publicity photographs we are seeing online displayed on large billboards are a bit of a stretch. Am one of those who view billboards from great distances and they are generally printed at 50 to 150 DPI. I should be just as impressed with the actual printer quality and how it handles the data, rather than the data sent to the printer from the iPhone 7.If i were to put a two-metre-wide photographic quality print made from a good quality DSLR camera next to a print made from an 12MP iPhone in a gallery setting, the quality of the DSLR’s image would be obvious, especially when you can walk up to the print and look into the detail.So if your images need to live as print, as well as on screen, then the DSLR is still the way to go. But if your images are only going to live on a screen of some sort, then maybe you never need to use a DSLR again.Of course there are plenty of things to consider other than just the megapixels, such as image sensor size, zoom and focus options, low light conditions and other functions and options.This globally networked lens can also expose the less friendly corners of the planet via apps.Such apps permits sound, video and photo recording, locks the data so it can’t be manipulated and sends it to a secure cloud.The data can then be verified and distributed to global media.

So when it comes to deciding which camera to use while on a Safari in Africa, I feel it’s about intent. Most of the time photographers in Africa will go for the device that gives then the ability to best craft an image.Control of light, depth of field, quality of focus, focal length, framing and that crucial capturing of the moment in time and space are all second nature to many photographers.A photographer will also make good use of a smartphone when needed like we have seen with images being shared online and photo apps like Instagram and Flickr. One thing new smartphones like iPhone 7 have yet to address is the issue of batteries.Many years ago traditional cameras did not have batteries, so they never suffered from a flat battery. Today’s digital cameras do need batteries but their life can far exceed that of a smartphone, lasting many weeks compared to about a day on a iPhone 7.In Africa, there was a time when cameras were purchases for life and they were handed down from generation to generation.I know of several families who have cameras and binoculars dating back to 1950s.There was no need for a megapixel count back then because they were resolution-independent. Photographers of Safari back then just relied on good film and quality lenses.Today’s smart devices like iPhone 7 and digital cameras will never be handed down to a new generation, unless as one of my friend likes telling me, as digital archaeologists.In the end, it doesn’t matter what device you choose to use while on a Safari adventure in Africa, it’s who’s behind the technology that counts.

Contador Harrison