What do you need to know when buying a photo phone? Is it worth to buy a photo smartphone? Can the phone replace the camera? In this maniacal guide, I am going to give you a brief overview of the fundamentals of mobile photography – this knowledge will help you decide which model to buy and what to look out for.


Is it worth to buy a photo smartphone?

Camera is one of the most important features of the phone. I have no doubt that even the best smartphones on the market are not able to win with the SLRs, but they dominate them in one aspect – they fit in their pockets. And as you know, the best camera is one that is always with you. It's not everything. The smartphone's photo capabilities are already big enough that the vast majority of users are happy with their performance. It is perfectly visible even after the sale of compact cameras, which is decreasing year by year and many indicate that it will soon be symbolic. Another example is Samsung, which completely abandoned the production of classic cameras just by smartphones. I am far from convinced that the smartphone can replace the camera, but I have no doubt that it could be a sensible replacement – especially in non-professional applications. So if you are wondering whether it is worth buying a phone for taking pictures, then my answer is worth it. As far as you know what the equipment should offer to be a really good photosmartphone.

What to look for when buying a smartphone?

Resolution: do not be fooled

At the very beginning I want to point out that it's not megapixels doing photos . In spite of the years, we are still able to deal with the situation when the smartphone is judged on the basis of the number of megapixels. In the meantime, in fact, the smartphone dies are so small that the higher the resolution, the smaller the pixels. Some producers have rightly noticed that larger pixels are more light and less noise in difficult lighting conditions. This is particularly important in evening and night conditions.

Lumia 1020 - takich fotosmartfonów już nie ma / fot. gsmManiaK.pl

Lumia 1020 – takich fotosmartfonów już nie ma / fot. gsmManiaK.pl

What resolution is optimal? Much depends on the optics, but roughly we can assume that manufacturers should not exceed the 16 megapixel threshold. It is also worth noting that the best photosmartphones on the market are 12/13-megapixel cameras , and after all the photos made by them do not lack the details.

Optical and digital stabilization: useful!

In smartphones we can meet two types of stabilization – Optical (OIS) and Digital (EIS). This is the first one that works especially for shooting and allows you to make unshielded photos from your hand (ie without a tripod). In the case of smartphones this is particularly important, because we rarely can sustain the equipment or hand steadily. This solution works for night shots, because optical image stabilization allows longer exposure time, without worrying about blurry pictures (if OIS works properly). Optical stabilization is standard in most flaggers, but in the mid-shelf no longer necessarily.

OIS dba o to, by zdjęcie nie było poruszone / fot. gsmManiaK.pl

OIS dba o to, by zdjęcie nie było poruszone / fot. gsmManiaK.pl

Electronic image stabilization is the best way to make good-looking videos, much more important than optical stabilization. It works during movie recording but before it is saved. Special algorithms analyze the received material and, when recording undesired vibrations, correct the image. This stabilized video has a slightly smaller field of vision, but thanks to that, the image does not shake like jelly.

Effective autofocus is the foundation

Autofocus, or focus mechanism, is one of the most important elements in assessing your smartphone's photo capabilities. Mobile equipment must deal with sharpening as quickly as possible and as efficiently as possible . In this case, I think that vague explanations are not needed for anything, as the performance of this element should be judged on each smartphone individually.

Samsung Galaxy S7 - pierwszy smartfon z Dual Pixel AF / fot. gsmManiaK.pl

Samsung Galaxy S7 – pierwszy smartfon z Dual Pixel AF / fot. gsmManiaK.pl

In smartphones, you can find several different ways to focus: based on phase detection or contrast, laser technology or Dual Pixel. If I were to point theoretically the best technology, then it would be a Dual Pixel option, where each pixel serves to measure the focus, making it all work instantly. As the first to smartphones introduced this solution Samsung.

Brightness of the lens is important

Once the manufacturers have fought for the resolution of the cameras, and now more and more often focus on the brightness of the lens. This is the right way, because it is another factor that makes it possible to make meaningful pictures in unfavorable conditions. Currently, the brightest lenses in smartphones are f / 1.7-f / 1.8 . Another advantage of a bright lens is the ability to make a nicer photo with a blurry background, which is a very desirable attribute – especially in portraits.

Exposure light and physical shutter release button

In 2017 it is difficult to imagine a smartphone without a diode, even among the cheapest proportions. Their task is simple – brightening the dark scenery. We can roughly say that the brighter the diode, the better . Often we will also meet with a double diode of warm and cold color, so that the color and white balance is natural. We also know examples of using even more diodes, even ten. More and more often we can find them also on the front camera. In the meantime, manufacturers have been able to implement a xenon lamp in their smartphones, which can and does work better when taking photos, but it is far less practical than a regular LED . Xenon occupies more space, is less resistant to the passage of time, and in addition can not shine with constant light, so it will not serve as a flashlight. By the way, I am curious whether the LEDs in your phones more often illuminate your photos, or maybe they lighten the darkness of the night?

Smartfony Sony jako nieliczne oferują fizyczny spust migawki / fot. gsmManiaK.pl

Smartfony Sony jako nieliczne oferują fizyczny spust migawki / fot. gsmManiaK.pl

Another interesting addition is the physical shutter of the camera , which has basically gone away. Perhaps only Sony regularly puts this convenient solution. For this reason, it is difficult to recognize his presence as one of the most important criteria when selecting a smartphone, as the choice is very limited. What additive is worth paying attention to? First and foremost, the material that protects the camera . Its scratching or damage significantly deteriorates the quality of the photograph so it is best to protect it against some resistant glass such as Gorilla Glass or Sapphire.

The best camera application?

In the Google Play store we can find many camera applications, but most often we use the one provided by the manufacturer itself. In most cases, this is an original program, and each one looks a bit different. Here I also recommend rating them individually and recommend focusing on the two most important features – functionality and ease of use. The vast majority of apps are based on several different modes. Most often, you will encounter automatic mode, panorama, HDR (not always separated), manual mode, video mode, etc. More advanced users should pay attention to the presence of a professional mode, which can be squeezed a lot if you can. I strongly encourage you to read the entry of Dominic, who in one article collected the top 10 smartphone photo apps.

Specification is not everything!

Practice has proved me once more that the sensational on photosmarfon paper does not necessarily guarantee superior image quality. It is worth remembering that a technically great camera is not able to work without well written software. It is good to see that even in the case of the Moto G5 Plus, whose camera is very similar to the Galaxy S7, and in fact there is no chance with him. In this case, I also recommend individual evaluation of each model, and the task will make it easier for you to test our smartphones.

Double camera – necessity or whim?

Już od dwóch lat Huawei stawia na podwójne kaparaty / fot. gsmManiaK

Już od dwóch lat Huawei stawia na podwójne kaparaty / fot. gsmManiaK

I would like to dedicate an even smaller paragraph to dual cameras, which are currently very fashionable. Manufacturers have found several different methods for its use:
  • RGB + monochrome – the combination of images from both cameras is designed to provide better color reproduction, more detail and more light,
  • Standard lens + telephoto lens – taking portrait shots with a narrow-angle lens; This is incorrectly called optical zoom,
  • Standard lens + wide angle lens – wide viewing angle allows you to capture more landscape.

My favorite dual camera application is the wide angle you know with the LG G5 and LG G6. However, I am far from claiming that one camera is not enough, because the flagship of Samsung or HTC show that and without it you can be the leader of mobile photography. In fact, much depends on your taste and if one of the methods to use two lenses you like, you can call his presence an advantage.

Best photo and video phones

You already know what to look for when buying a new smartphone for your photos, now it's time to get to know our TOP best photo phones. You will find only reliable models that we think are worth recommending. It's not just top-level proposals – we also have something for the frugal. http://www.gsmmaniak.pl/633542/najlepsze-smartfony-fotograficzne/

Principles of shooting with a smartphone

This topic is out of the scope of my tutorial, but I have good news: the fotoManiaKa team has prepared a series of specific entries devoted to photographing a smartphone. Well worth a look: you will learn not only the framing and composition principles, but you will also learn how to record good phone videos and, more importantly, how to avoid the most common mistakes. I encourage you to read!