Biwi and I went for a monsoon trek in Goa yesterday and I thought of trying out my phone-camera capabilities in a real-world scenario. I got myself a new Samsung Note5 about two weeks ago. Those who want to know how many “megapixels” the phone-camera has, fuck off. Everyone else, yes, so what was I talking about? Phone-camera capabilities, right.

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I love the fact that this phone has the option to shoot photographs in DNG (equivalent of RAW mode that bigger cameras offer).

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The above photograph shows me trying out the phone-camera on the first day of receiving the phone. I showed this image to biwi today and the only thing that she had to say was – ‘how booby I look’. ‘You occupy just 20% of the frame’, I sighed.

For those who don’t know what shooting in DNG or RAW means, well, simply put, it captures a much wider range of exposures (and overall range of colours) in a single click (of course limited ultimately by what the camera’s digital sensor is capable of). Now this really is very important for most professional photographers – except may be those who work in the news industry and don’t have enough time to edit there images. Because only when you have a raw digital photograph, you can truly extract the colours and give all your images a consistent look, that pleases you. Trying doing the same with a Jpeg image is just a software gimmick (based on smart algorithms). A Jpeg file simply doesn’t have the extra information on colours and exposure (captured from reality) to rely upon. As an upside, a high resolution Jpeg image would only be around 4 to 5 Mb in size, compared to 25-35 Mb that a raw file will end up taking (or more – based on the camera type / resolution).

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A racing event started as Biwi, I and a few more trekkers waited for a bus (that would take us to the trekking start-point). I was so happy – I could begin testing my phone-camera capabilities even before the trek had commenced 🙂

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The starting point for the trek was about one and a half hours bus ride from Panjim. From there, it was a roughly two hours trek to a waterfall. There wasn’t much climbing involved – but the route was slippery at many places. And it kept raining for most part.

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A walk on a leaf is a delicate act! 😛

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All the images in this blog-post were copied from the phone to my laptop and then processed in LightRoom. Most were shot in DNG but not all. The picture above where biwi is posing in front of Santrem waterfall, was accidentally shot in Jpeg. It still is a good photograph but do you notice, compared to all the other images, it lacks that certain depth and richness and vividness of colours? If you don’t, you don’t have to shoot in DNG really! 🙂 And if you do, well, this is why having raw images is important!

Let me also talk about a small issue with Note5 that makes it very easy for you to miss storing raw images (happened a lot with me yesterday).

You can save raw picture files only when you shoot in a “Pro” mode that the default camera app offers. But “Pro” mode is not the default setting of the camera-app. You have to manually change the setting (it takes a single click though). The camera then retains the “Pro” but only as long as you don’t go for video. And this sucks. I was shooting few video clips too yesterday, using the default camera app. And every time I would go back to taking pictures after that, the “Pro” mode was deactivated – and that meant no raw files. 🙁 I didn’t realize this many a times – and ended up with several Jpeg only files 🙁 I hope that as I start using the phone-camera more often, my muscle memory grows and takes care of this issue (by making me automatically check the mode before shooting).

What is a monsoon trek without some slippages and falls? 🙂 By the way, the blur that you see in the above two images was unplanned (and though it works for these two, I lost many shots because of it). The learning is, you cannot rely upon the camera app’s default ISO and shutter speed settings (even in good light) to shoot action / fast moving stuff. This is probably more of an app issue though – or may be there is a sports mode (that I am yet to explore) that doesn’t let the shutter speed fall below say 1/200 seconds. Until then, I will stick to manually setting up my ISO and shutter speed the next time I go out shooting.

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So what are my concluding thoughts?

I think it’s a brilliant camera in the right hands. I already know it would not be very effective in low light – but the same goes for my GH4. From morning to early evening though – I don’t think I need to carry any additional camera for street photography (or when I am on a vacation). I shall try shooting with my phone more often now and see how my feelings evolve. What do you think of these photographs by the way? Still want to buy a DSLR to get better pictures? 😀

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