The most important camera
We’ve all come a long way over the last 15 years or so. I say we, companies such as Apple, Google and Samsung have created phenomenal products for us to use, and we, as consumers have learnt how to use these tools to stunning effects. I remember using a huge Nokia phone which was one of the first to have a camera, it was, by today’s standards truely awful. In contrast I now have an iPhone 11, which in some circumstances rivals my _real camera_ - a Fuji XT20. We're also in a really exciting era where computational photography is being pushed to the forefront. The result of this, while it may raise other questions about 'what is a photo', bears fantastic pictures that most of us would struggle to recreate without significant efforts within photoshop.
The combination of these advances has led us all to take stunning photos whenever and wherever we like. So, yes, the best camera is very often the one we have with us, but what about it makes it important.
A multi lens lifestyle
The advancement of mobile photography has in turn pushed the mobile phone hardware to keep pace with the demand of users, the more recent developments in this space have come from having multiple lenses. Phones now tend to have at least two lenses on the rear, quite often more; and at least one on the front, and again quite often more. The initial trend was to add a telephoto lens to the rear, which allowed for a ‘zoomed in’ picture but I think I prefer the more recent addition of a wide angle, I just think it’s more fun to capture an image with a little intentional warping. The latest bunch of phones have even added wide angle to the from and the rear.
This got me thinking, let’s assume that both front and back cameras use the same setup, they both produce the same quality of image at the same focal length. Which is more important?
Front or back?
Now we get to the heart of the question, well at least my question.
If you could only have a front or a rear camera in your phone, which would it be?
I think the instant answer most would give might the rear camera. This is probably because we're all used to that one being the 'best' in terms of quality. But when you stop and think about it, the most important pictures are not always the ones of highest quality but the ones that capture a memory or a moment.
I have many pictures that I truely treasure of my family, most of them I've taken with the rear camera of a smart phone, but they don't have me in it. It sounds egotistical to say that I prefer pictures with me in it, but I probably do. At least they are typically the fun pictures, the ones with me or the kids pulling a face or doing something silly. These quite often are the ones that display more emotion.
The flip side of this is the awesome posed or candid pictures I've taken of others. I have captured things like birthday parties, holidays, weddings etc, the same pictures as we all have I guess; and maybe that's my point, with the rear facing camera other people have that same picture. This is because I can only influence the image from the view finder not the actual scene.
So, if my phone only had one camera would it be front or back? Probably the front, but luckily I don't have to decide!