Evolving in photography: from Canon EOS to a smartphone

If anything, this pandemic period has taught me that photography is more than big cameras and lenses. This is how my journey from DSLRs to smartphones began, which is now expanding in this space and in the proposed activities for 2022.

Although the pandemic continues, I am preparing to offer new photography workshops next Spring, this time focusing on smartphones as image gathering devices. It is a drastic change for someone who likes to use long focal lengths to photograph flowers, but it is a challenge I have gladly accepted, because it forces me to rethink everything I knows about photography, and to make compromises in the search for a new way of photographing.

The evolution of cameras in smartphones has reached new horizons in recent months. Although it is still necessary, in general terms, to invest a lot of money — more than a thousand dollars in many cases — to have access to the most sophisticated cameras, there are good options at more affordable prices, and we are a long way from the first models, which promised a lot but gave — really — little. The evolution of sensors together with the development of what is called computational photography has made the cell phone camera capable of rivaling compact cameras and has meant the death of most of that market segment.

Two years ago, on the last article I published here, I wrote that despite the limitations of a smartphone, the images I published then showed it pays to find ways to control a smartphone to go beyond snapshots. I also added that the evolution of smartphones “never ceases to surprise me, although I prefer my DSLR and a good lens…” Well, I’ve to update my point of view, as I am mostly shooting with a smartphone now. One good reason is practical: I moved from an old Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 to a Xiaomi Redmi Note 10 Pro. My new images, some of them published here, make me extremely happy!

Cameras with larger sensors associated with larger optical systems, such as DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, continue to make the difference when compared with cell phone cameras, but for many the cell phone is now the camera they use the most, because it is always present and snapshots are recorded in… instants, turning the device into a “notepad”, a diary of daily life like no other, allowing people to tell stories and create narratives.

It is these aspects of the cell phone that I am interested in exploring in this column and in the activities I am offering in 2022. I have always kept a close eye on the industry, and at this moment, aware that this is where the biggest revolution in terms of image capture is happening, I think it is time to cover what cell phones offer, and how this technology, especially in the imaging aspect, challenges photographers and videographers storytellers to experiment with the new models.

I am interested in exploring what you can REALLY do when you move from clicking for snapshots to using your phone as a storytelling tool. Going beyond the automatic mode requires some patience, as there are obvious limitations in these systems, but this challenge is, in my opinion, part of the pleasure you derive from the act of photography.

Although I keep my EOS system, cameras and lenses are confined to the shelf most of the time because the cell phone has become the camera I carry with me everywhere. The device and some accessories allow me to further enforce a motto that has always been mine: “less equipment, more fun”. I’ve now fully embraced it and intend to demonstrate this in a practical way in 2022 to whomever wants to discover this path within photography.

This text that serves as an introduction to 2022 in the Photography & Context site, points to new reading options and activities that start from the basics of photography to the discovery of what can be captured when we free ourselves from automatic modes. My website Fotografia & Contexto, in Portuguese, is the core of the whole project, but the workshops announced there are open to English speaking photographers who want to do more with their smartphones.

If you’re curious to know what equipment — smartphones and accessories — I am using now, check my page “Smartphones — o Meu Equipamento” at my website. And get in touch if you want to know more or book a session.

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Jose Antunes

Jose Antunes

I am a writer and photographer based on the West coast of continental Europe, a place to see the Sun die on the Sea, every day.