Monday, February 3, 2014

Take a picture...It'll last longer.

I'm a member of a number of photography communities on Google+. There's a wealth of talent within these groups using a smorgasbord of devices and editing software. It's a great way to see how your talent stacks up with others that have more (or less) experience gear. It's also a good way to compare your work with
that of professionals and casual photographers alike.  

"Future Home" Nexus 5. No post edits. 
GalaxyS3. Edited with Pixlr on a Chromebook. 
The photos that you see here I captured using various Android devices and when applicable, various Android apps to edit them. As with the illustrations and video editing of earlier entries in this blog, I like to focus on the capabilities of Android. Of course, there's no mobile device that's going to replace a dedicated DSLR and there's no mobile app that can replace Photoshop CC or any other robust desktop editing solutions. But the reality is some people only have their mobile device(s) and whichever apps they can afford. Even if resources and technology are limited, that doesn't mean quality captures are impossible. Throughout this post are a number of photos I took using various Android devices. For a select few, I used an assortment of apps to manipulate them to show my progression from one device to another.

The pros of mobile photography are pretty straight
 forward. The first being it's portable and convenient. It's very easy to pull out a smartphone, open a camera app or use whatever shortcut to the camera your device supports, point and shoot. Browse any social media site and you'll find thousands of photos that were taken almost exactly as I just described. Images can be tweaked afterward using a vast assortment of apps both free and paid. Filters and adjustments can be applied before the shot is even taken. Sepia, HDR, Lowlight, Daylight, Sunset, Indoor, Fluorescent  etc. Mobile photographers have many options at their disposal including a good range of supported megapixel (MP, micron pixels and optical formats will be discussed later), features (such as OIS Optical Image Stabilization) and lens quality depending on which device they choose. These images can then be easily shared with individuals, communities, social sites...all with the touch of a screen.

For those that are a bit more savvy, images can be further manipulated using apps such as PhotoShop Touch or ArtFlow. Retouch, recomposition, layer adjustments, blemish removal, combining images, all of this can be done without ever leaving your smartphone. At the highest levels it can become a challenge to tell the difference between a smartphone manipulated image from a desktop manipulated image. Those fun projects will be discussed in more depth in the next part of the photography portion of this blog. For now, I'll just focus on basic photographs.

GSM Galaxy Nexus. No post edits. 
GSM Galaxy Nexus. No post edits.

GalaxyS3. Edited with G+. 
GalaxyS3. No post edits.

GalaxyS3. Edited with Pixlr on a Chromebook
GSM Galaxy Nexus. Edited with the Android Gallery app. 
 The negatives start with the fact that we're using smartphones instead of DSLRs. Because they're not dedicated cameras, there's the issue of Jack-of-all-trades, master of none in capabilities. This is improving as smartphone technology improves but you can see the problems with certain captures across the internet. As an example, some Android devices have a problem with Auto Focus. Sometimes, even on the Nexus 5, the lens will constantly focus, refocus, refocus again with the slightest movement causing shots to be out of focus. This can be particularly annoying when you have only a few seconds to get the perfect shot but the lens fights you. But even with this issue, it's very easy (In my opinion at least) to get the Nexus 5 camera to perform better than the spec sheet indicates. The Galaxy Nexus was notorious for auto focus problems as well as having a 5MP back camera that didn't support HDR or OIS, shots lacked detail and the camera has poor low light performance. With patience and a bit of skill, quality shots could be captured with the Galaxy Nexus. But for many, it was more trouble than it's worth. I included a few shots from that specific device as an example of what's possible with it in addition to more capable devices for comparison. The Android Photography community on G+ has a few members that have also captured some great shots with the Galaxy Nexus.

In the next post, I'll talk about the specifics of the devices I use in more detail as well as post processing.