The Best Camera

I’m not going to count this book as part of my reading challenge. It doesn’t have enough words in it for that. It’s mostly photos. I would like to respond to it, though.

Chase Jarvis has a good gig going with the Best Camera book. He’s a professional photographer, and a pretty well known one, so people listen to what he says about cameras. Nikon pays him to test new products for them. Most of the world would pay big money for the opportunity.

The fact that he is so well known means Jarvis is one of the few people in the world who could have gotten away with publishing a book of low definition photographs all taken with an iPhone. He didn’t just get away with it either. He turned it into a runaway success with a matching website and iPhone app.

The above photo is of The Best Camera book taken with my iPhone. Sorry, Chase, but I used the Camera Bag app instead of yours. No offense. I like The Best Camera app quite a bit. I just had another open and snapping before I thought about it.

This year I’ve been really caught up in learning photography. I take pictures every day with my “real” camera (Canon 60D), and I spend a lot of time looking at the lenses and camera bodies on my wish list. Since I now have the basics of getting started in photography covered with an 18-135 mm lens, a 70-300 mm lens, and a 50 mm lens, the equipment on my wish list runs toward high dollar items. That’s why they are still on the list and not in my possession. The lenses I want now cost more than $1000 each. The camera I want next costs nearly $3000 without a lens. Plus, I’m doing everything on a two-year old laptop that was not designed to handle large volumes of high resolution images, so add to the “must have” list a $3000 Mac with another $1000 worth of software (to start).

It’s a costly hobby. Really, I think I’ve already put as much money into it as someone at my income level can justify for something that is just a hobby. If I do start purchasing those high end lenses and such, I’m buying things people need if they are going to make a living with photography. I don’t make a living with my camera, and I have no plans to. I just want to become as good at it as I can. I want it to be what I do as part of my own personal art.

Part my effort to improve as a photographer has included reading a lot about how the pros do it. The pros use extraordinarily expensive equipment. It would be so easy for me to believe I can’t get any better than I am now without investing a whole lot of money that I can’t afford.

That’s why I appreciate this little book that hardly has any words in it at all. It’s a book of low definition photos taken with nothing more than an iPhone, and it’s gorgeous. It’s gorgeous and thought-provoking and highly imaginative. It’s a wonderful collection.

I want one like it of my own, and for the first time in a while, I can look at a photography collection thinking I want one of my own and know that the only thing standing in my way is just the time and effort to make it happen.

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing an iPhone photo project for a while. I’ve told myself that I needed to wait until I upgraded my phone, though. I have the iPhone 3G with only a 2 megapixel camera. The iPhone 4, the latest model out, has a 5 megapixel camera. The iPhone 5, the one rumored to be coming out later this year is rumored to have an 8 megapixel camera. I’ve been thinking I’d hold out for the 8.

Jarvis reminds me that I’m missing the point by holding out for the phone with the higher resolution camera.  In the first place, no matter now many megapixels a phone camera has, it still isn’t going to have the sensors or the glass of a “real” camera.  A 20 megapixel phone camera wouldn’t take the same level of photograph as a 5 megapixel SLR.  Megapixels just aren’t the point.

In the second place, it’s the low resolution quality that makes “iphoneography” so compelling.  The phone camera with its immense supply of camera apps is like putting an endless supply of vintage and toy cameras in your hands.  The point is not to create things with it that would compete with a brand new Hasselblad.  Phone photos are about being funky and whimsical and willing to let the camera surprise you.

With the phone camera, you can’t control anything much other than when you press the shutter.  You have to let go of technical exactness and just have fun, just remember to keep your eyes open for the fun and quirky moments in your world.

In that spirit, I give you my wind chime.

Taken with Chase Jarvis’s Best Camera app.

I have enough projects right now.  I’m not going to turn this into a project.  I’m not going to promise to take an iPhone photo every day.  I’m just going to try to remember to cultivate the habit of using the phone to chronicle the interesting moments around me.

For all my big camera envy, I do believe The Best Camera Is The One That’s With You.

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