One of the keys to this nimble system is making the right choices for your camera and smartphone, then deciding ahead of time which tool you're going to use for specific situations.
Let's start with your digital camera of choice.
Types of Cameras that Work Well for Nimble Photography
1) High End Ultra Compacts - Sony, Canon, Ricoh, and Panasonic are terrific choices for this type of work. Get a 1" sensor (or larger) if you can. If it has a zoom lens, go for the largest maximum aperture that's available. If prime lens, then choose you favorite focal length. This is a camera that you want to take a lot of pictures with.
2) Premium Compact Fixed Lens - Fujifilm X100V is a great example. APS-C sensor or full frame, fast maximum aperture (f/2.0), tilting LCD, built-in flash preferred, lots of creative options. This is your choice for the best image quality in your kit and plenty of creative options as well.
3) Mirrorless with Compact Lens - Micro Four Thirds, Fujifilm APS-C, Sony Full Frame. These cameras provide excellent image quality, high ISO performance, depth of field versatility because of larger sensor and lens options. But beware of putting a big, heavy zoom on these compact bodies. You will defeat the purpose of traveling light.
4) Small DSLRs can work if you put compact lenses on them. Consumer bodies tend to be lighter and more packable. And there are some excellent pancake primes available for these cameras.
Benefits of Digital Cameras
- Controlling Depth of Field, such as for portraits.
- Flash Photography.
- Macro/Close Up Photography.
- Film Simulations.
- Landscape and Situations that Benefit from More Megapixels.
- Uninterrupted Shooting Experience (no text messages on your camera).
- Photography that Requires Filters (Polarizer, ND, Infrared).
- Easy to Tripod Mount.
- Bright Sunlight Photography that Requires an EVF or Optical VF.
- Removable Storage.
- RAW Files are More Editable.
How Smartphones Round Out Your Kit
I've experimented with substituting an iPhone for my digital camera, and it didn't work for the reasons listed above. But, even though the device won't replace my camera, it does allow me to leave my camera bag at home.
Here are some of the features augment my camera and allow me to leave the bag at home.
- 3 Additional lenses. My iPhone 12 Pro Max includes Ultra Wide: 13mm ƒ/2.4 aperture and 120° field of view; Wide: 26mm ƒ/1.6 aperture; and Telephoto: 65mm ƒ/2.0 aperture (iPhone 12 Pro); ƒ/2.2 aperture (iPhone 12 Pro Max).
- Night mode portraits enabled by LiDAR Scanner.
- Portrait Lighting with six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, High‑Key Mono).
- Dual optical image stabilization (Wide and Telephoto) and Sensor-shift optical image stabilization (iPhone 12 Pro Max Wide).
- Easy to capture panoramas.
- Automatic geotagging.
- 3 File Formats: ProRAW, Jpeg, HEIF.
- Live Photos (and some of the amazing effects that it can be used for).
- Wide variety of software available.
- Internet connected.
One device that slips in your pocket fills a lot of gaps in your kit. So many, in fact, that I don't need to bring a bag for my casual photo shoots anymore.
Figuring Out Ahead of Time When to Use What
Working out your system ahead of time is important, however. And an exercise that I'd like you to work on is deciding which device that you will use for your common photo opportunities.
Make a list of 5 common shots that you take and assign a camera to them. Here's an example:
Derrick's Gear Choices
- Ultrawide Landscapes and Urban - iPhone 12 Pro Max
- Infrared Photography - Olympus E-M10 Mark III
- Portraits - Spontaneous (iPhone) Planned (Olympus)
- Street Photography - Conspicuous (Olympus) Inconspicuous (iPhone)
- Bright Sunlight and Unusual Angles - Olympus
Capture two images in one location. One image with your digital camera and the second with the iPhone. Then be prepared to discuss why you chose one over the other for each shot.