What if… Less Is More and Cheaper Gear Tops

Had a bit of a frustrating and at the same time enlightening experience during an assignment in Singapore. The most rewarding part was that while covering a news event, established camera crews were running around with big old camera gear plus sound guy. All I had to shoot a video was the humble Lumia 830 (with Zeiss optics it is to say), and guess what, at least three TV stations broadcasted an interview recorded with an artsy fartsy smartphone. Sound quality? No complaints. The less exhilarating part was that night shots with the Lumia turned out at least as good as comparison shots with the (including lens) eight times more expensive Nikon Dƒ.

Singapore Boat Quay -- Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Boat Quay — Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz

Not that I’m gonna dump the Dƒ. This site if full or praise for the retro-styled classic camera already. Depending though on the job at task, a much cheaper outfit might do at least as well. The power squeezed into these mobile devices these days leaves me flabbergasted. Not only is the video quality in controlled light environment on par with so-called pro gear (as long as I can live with a fixed lens tool), even stills in difficult light environment are delivered in smooth, convincing quality.

You might say that’s like comparing apples and oranges. True that. Different focal length, default format, pixel quality, etc. The Lumia’s skin tones will always look more plasticky. The creative space to play with depth of field is limited and the camera’s speed is turtle-like at best. Yet, the camera is always at one’s fingertips, some outrageously clever algorithms make the 10MP sensor shine and, to be honest, for certain stuff I by now prefer the Lumia over the Dƒ. Couldn’t be without either of them, just saying if the scope of one’s work is clearly defined (Web publishing only, large prints, paid job, for the fun of it, etc.) then also the choice of equipment is clearly defined.

Right, some photographers shoot celeb portraits with an iPhone and apply Instagram. Might look terrific. But I’d prefer to get the best possible file first and rather then work with effects and filters. But why at a party swing around the big gear. Add that people these days largely seem to ignore smartphone, because everyone has them. Yet when seeing a “real” camera they turn their face away.

Samples posted below are hardly advertising for either camera. They’re all straight out of camera using auto standard settings, handheld, no cropping or anything applied. Gosh the last Dƒ shot is even most amateurishly soft. Same shooting conditions, just a minor lapse of concentration and it was the cheapo device that delivered.

Just saying: blaming own shortcomings on gear is about the lamest excuse since the ascent of mobile digital power devices.

Singapore Marina -- Nikon Dƒ | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Marina — Nikon Dƒ | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Marina -- Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Marina — Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz

Singapore Supreme Court -- Nikon Dƒ | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Supreme Court — Nikon Dƒ | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Supreme Court -- Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Supreme Court — Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz

Singapore Downtown -- Nikon Dƒ | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Downtown — Nikon Dƒ | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Downtown -- Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Downtown — Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz

Singapore Boat Quay -- Nikon Dƒ | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Boat Quay — Nikon Dƒ | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Boat Quay -- Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Boat Quay — Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz

Singapore Boat Quay -- Nikon Dƒ | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Boat Quay — Nikon Dƒ | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Boat Quay -- Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Boat Quay — Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz

Singapore Boat Quay -- Nikon Dƒ | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Boat Quay — Nikon Dƒ | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Boat Quay -- Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz
Singapore Boat Quay — Nokia Lumia 830 | Daniel Kestenholz

Seems as if the Lumia sucks in more light, with more pleasant white balance, more evenly lit scenes and more SOOC shadow detail; this despite the Nikon Dƒ with its light-hungry D4 sensor also being called a king of low light…

No doubt that the Nikon Dƒ‘s file quality outclasses the Lumia 830‘s. Rightly handled, the Nikon renders more subdued and less dramatically with much better control of highlights. In the right hands though, with careful setup, controlled exposures and displayed on a standard screen, I bet many wouldn’t be able to tell cheap from expensive.



  • Omer

    Bingo. Sleepless nights for camera company execs.