Mobile phones have had a profound affect on our society but perhaps no more so than cameras. There was a time when you didn’t have a camera on you 24 hrs a day – we know, hard to imagine now.
In the early 2000’s ‘Pocket cameras’ were some of the best selling. Big names like Panasonic, Olympus and Canon all produced millions of cameras each year. It was a fierce territory with lots of experimentation in size and storage solutions. Remember Apple trying their hand with the bizarre ‘Apple Quicktake 100’? It failed and was quickly killed off. Yet it wasn’t long before the game was up for even the big players. Enter, mobile phones – the new kids on the block that gave you more than a ‘pocket camera’.
So what can Mobile phone cameras do? Currently, a surprising amount. Although it’s fair to say that with our impatient demands for better tech ‘now’ the sophistication is only going to increase, and quickly.
In 2019 Apple launched the iPhone 11 with its three separate cameras. Cleverly, they gave it to ‘The Last Jedi’ director Rhian Johnson and to George Nolfi, director of ‘The Adjustment Bureau’. Both produced short films which you can see below:
The image both directors managed to produce out of the phone is quite startling – both in quality and character. Although don’t expect anyone to be shooting the next Hollywood blockbuster on an iPhone anytime soon ( yes it has been tried…)There are big technological and physical reasons why an iPhone will never quite compare to a dedicated cinema camera, like the ones we us. Not to mention that when you attempt to make an iPhone into a cinema camera its main attributes are quickly knocked off – lightness and accessibility. The sensors on iPhones are tiny and the current trend is working in the opposite direction.
So – should we simply discount and ignore all the work being done on phone cameras? No, not entirely. Rather, we should recognise that perhaps phones are to this generation what super 8 was to the last, a means to make quick and cheap movies with virtually no budget or technical know-how. Yes, the image quality will never compete with dedicated cinema cameras, but for a new generation of film makers mobile phones give them access to a bounty of possibilities, and that’s the important element…access.
At the end of day, yes the camera matters. But the most single important element is still, as ever, the person or people behind it.