The iPhone 3GS Has Become My Compact Camera

It's official -- the iPhone is now my compact camera. This dawned on me yesterday while I was documenting my garage clean-up project with my iPhone 3GS, then actually uploading a picture of the completed work to my Flickr and Facebook pages. It's the image capture device that's always in my pocket.

A few things have led to this change:

  • Tap Focus: This has been the single biggest improvement for me with the iPhone camera. Being able to control the area of the composition where the camera focuses -- and sets the exposure -- is huge. I now feel like I have the essential control that was lacking in previous versions.
  • Improved Low Light Performance: Let's face it, most of the shots we take on the fly are not in full sunlight. I've found that if I steady the iPhone and use my "hold the finger on the shutter button then softly release it" method for shooting, I can work in low light environments surprisingly well.
  • Video: I was just showing a movie to a friend that would have been far less illustrative as a still photograph. The video feature is huge for telling a story.

And then you have all of the connectivity options that you don't have with most cameras. Using an application such as Pixelpipe or Flickr Mobile, I can post images for others almost immediately. Add the variety of image editing tools available on the iPhone itself, and the options grow even more.

This doesn't mean that I'm shooting less with the Olympus E-P1, Canon 5D Mark II, or Canon T1i. What the iPhone means to me is that I'm capturing more of my life, images that I would have missed otherwise. And I'm just thrilled about that.

More on the iPhone 3GS

DIY Copy Stand for the iPhone 3GS

iPhone 3GS Movie Making Basics - Video for All

"iPhone 3G S from Photographer's POV" - Digital Photography Podcast 180

Flickr and iPhone 3GS are Great Companions

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I also recently upgraded to the 3GS from the original iPhone. After a few weeks, I stopped searching for a G9/G10 as my next compact -- not only for the reasons above, but also for the value of learning how to compose video in the same way the digital camera 10 years ago taught me photography. There's nothing like being able to immediately review what you've done and try different ideas on the fly.

(All I need now is a tripod mount and external mic, and I'll be set!)

I hear that external mic is coming, and the tripod mount is here now, though not very convenient.

One important note about the iPhone as a camera: keep in mind that the iPhone geotags images whenever possible. So if you upload pictures directly from it to a service that translates those coordinates into a map display, such as Flickr, make sure you have your Flickr Permissions set the way you want (geotags on or off). Thanks to TDS member Edward for this reminder.

I was just in a Bed Bath & Beyond in California, and they're having a clearance on an iPod version of a gorillapod for $5. I unscrewed the top part from the cheesy tripod, put the iPhone in it, screwed it on my gorillapod, and it's looking good! Can't do landscape videos easily, but it's still a compact holder to pop on a tripod. Can't beat the price, either.

Next: plugging in a wireless mic into the headphone jack and seeing what happens...