Why Buy a Camera? Do You Need More than a Phone?

By Edward Taylor |

Since we all have cameras in our phones, is there any reason that we should buy a dedicated camera? I am often asked, “Why buy a camera?”

It depends. Phone cameras can pretty much replace the smaller “point and shoot” type cameras that used to be the most popular digital cameras sold. That’s why the market for those smaller cameras has died over the last few years. Phone cameras are connected to the internet and therefore are much better for sharing photos to the web or in texts. That connectivity is what made most people switch to a phone camera. And, of course, we always have our phone cameras with us. If you are happy with your phone pictures, then there is nothing wrong with just sticking with your phone camera. They are pretty good these days.

But if you are interested in photography and want as much versatility as possible, there are lots of reasons to consider getting a dedicated camera. For one, bigger cameras have bigger sensors. The sensor is the digital equivalent of the film. Phone cameras have small sensors. Small sensors have some limitations. For the same number of megapixels, a small sensor has to have smaller pixels, so less light falls on each one. That makes them more prone to produce “noise” in the resulting image, and makes the sensor less sensitive to light. So, phone cameras are not as good in situations where there is not adequate light.

A dedicated camera with a bigger sensor will not only produce a better image, but will give you much more control over your images. One nice thing about a phone camera is that it will make all the adjustments for you, but that is not good if you wanted to choose specific settings for a reason. And, most phones have only one lens and one focal length. Dedicated cameras usually have zoom lenses or interchangeable lenses, or both. A dedicated camera allows you to choose the aperture, the shutter speed, the ISO or sensitivity, and the lens or focal length. Those choices make a difference in how your image looks, and that is already a good case for why buy a camera.

Choosing a wide aperture causes a shallow depth of field. That means that only what you focus on is in focus and the background and foreground will be blurred. This effect isolates your subject and produces nice out of focus areas. A shallow depth of field is almost impossible to achieve with a phone camera because the sensor is so small and because the phone may not choose a large aperture. The picture of the young man that accompanies this article shows a shallow depth of field that would be impossible to get with a phone camera.

why buy a camera

The picture of the buildings shows a somewhat compressed look (like it is squished a little). This effect is achieved by using a long telephoto lens. That also cannot be done with a camera phone because phones do not have telephoto lenses. You usually have to be pretty close to whatever you are photographing when you are using your phone.

why buy a camera

In general, camera phones are easier to carry, easier to use, and are easier to connect to the internet – and they keep getting better. Dedicated cameras produce higher quality images, allow for more customization, and can take photos that could not be taken with a phone camera. Both can create beautiful images. Why not have one of each?


Photo credits: courtesy of Edward Taylor

Edward Taylor worked as a writer and photojournalist for several Philadelphia area newspaper and did public relations and commercial photography in NYC. He was widely published. Despite switching careers, his interest in all things photographic has never diminished. He now does portraiture and scenic photography in North Carolina, is actively entrenched in both the technical and aesthetic aspects of digital photography, and runs Yellow Fin Films, a film/video production company in Wilmington, NC.

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