Why the iPhone 8 Plus is a better camera than a real camera
I never thought that it would happen. And then it did.
On a recent two-week vacation to Japan (my first time, and, yes, it was amazing if you must know), I finally ditched my “real” camera, a Sony A6300 interchangeable lens camera I bought about two years ago, a replaced it with the iPhone 8 Plus.
And my trip was infinitely better because I left the Sony in my suitcase.
Since the launch of the iPhone, smartphones have slowly murdered cameras. The point-and-shoot has all but died at the hands of the glass slabs we now hold so near and dear.
Mirrorless cameras and professional DSLRs have survived only because they still provide features that phones don’t, but their days are extremely numbered for non-professional use.
Smartphone cameras are just so excellent now and some of the accessories, like Moment’s screw-on lenses are so versatile, that they’re actually better shooting gear than dedicated cameras in many ways.
It seemed like a no-brainer to bring my Sony camera and extra-wide angle lens. I wanted high-resolution pictures to remember my travels. Of course, I’d take it with me. So into my suitcase the Sony went along with three spare batteries.
And that’s where it stayed for just about the entire trip. I took it out exactly once in Kyoto and regretted it after a full day.
The iPhone 8 Plus is now my favorite camera to shoot with.
Don’t get me wrong. My Sony camera is like my baby. I love it to death. It takes incredible photos and shoots excellent 4K videos. I use it for both work and personal shooting and nothing beats a robust interchangeable lens camera. I’m a camera nerd now and forever. (Fun fact: I started at Mashable reviewing cameras just because I wanted to test the latest ones.)
But it turns out the iPhone — more specifically, the iPhone 8 Plus — is more than just a “good enough” camera.
Apple’s team of a 1,000+ working on the iPhone’s cameras have finally made a photo and video powerhouse that convinced me to leave my real camera and its superior image quality in my luggage.
By the end of the trip, I had taken about 700 distinct photos and videos with my iPhone 8 Plus over 11 days compared to the 30-or-so I did with my Sony. One thing became very clear as I soaked in Japan: The iPhone 8 Plus is now my favorite camera to shoot with.
It’s so much smaller and lighter. When you’re walking 10+ miles a day like I did because you want to see as much as you can, the last thing you want is extra weight in your backpack. The iPhone 8 Plus weighs 5.22 ounces and the Sony A6300’s body without a lens is 18.3 ounces. Needless to say, the 8 Plus was just easier to carry around. My back thanks me every day for not killing it.
Image quality finally looks great in nearly all conditions. The iPhone 8 Plus comes with a 12-megapixel sensor (the same as on the iPhone 7), but don’t be fooled. Image quality is tops. By default, the camera now shoots in HDR (High Dynamic Range) when it detects certain scenes need it (like backlit shots) and I was continuously impressed by what I ended up with.
It also really helps that the 8 Plus’ A11 Bionic chip is so fast that it can process HDR photos instantly, shoot hundreds of photos in burst mode, and reduce image noise thanks to some intelligent AI.
However, it’s the camera’s low-light capabilities that really sealed the deal. I’ve been able to make do with previous iPhone cameras just fine, but low-light photography has always left something to be desired.
Bustling wards like Tokyo’s Shinjuku and Shibuya or Osaka’s Denden Town are alive in the day as they are at night and it was important that for me to experience and capture both. On so many occasions, the iPhone 8 Plus simply took such great night shots that I couldn’t believe they were shot with a phone.
It’s so much better for shooting video. Lately, I’ve been a little obsessed with shooting video. In addition to 30 frames per second, iPhone 8 Plus can capture tack-sharp 4K resolution video at 24 and 60 fps, which puts it on par with my Sony.
But more important to me was shooting slow-motion and timelapses, and doing so quickly before the moment was gone.
It’s a simple swipe to change modes on the iPhone and a complete mess of convoluted settings and on real cameras. On one particular bridge with a view of the Tokyo Skytree, I watched as several tourists fumbled around with their tripods and waited to shoot a timelapse. With the iPhone 8 Plus, I shot several timelapses and shared them to Instagram before they were even close to finishing.
Attachable lenses take your photos and videos to the next level. The 8 Plus’s second 2x telephoto lens is great and I loved toying around with Portrait mode (Portrait lighting is still in beta and the results were pretty rough so I didn’t use it very often), but I loved the ease of clipping on lenses to get even wider angles.
I brought Moment’s Battery Photo Case and a wide-angle (18mm) and fisheye (170-degree) with me and they proved to be so useful for pulling into frame Japan’s beautiful neon signage and the throngs of people the flood the streets. These tiny lenses aren’t the cheapest ones you can buy, but damn it if the image quality isn’t the best for the iPhone (Moment also makes them for Google’s Pixels).
Wide-angle and fisheye lenses for my Sony would’ve killed my back and taken forever to swap on. But that’s not the case with the iPhone 8 Plus. I frequently clipped on the fisheye as needed and my photos and videos are better because I did.
Google Photos makes backups stupid easy. It’s easy to shoot a ridiculous amount of photos and videos, but backing them up and sorting through them all is a pain in the ass.
Thanks to the magic of Google Photos, this once-annoying task happened in the background. As soon as I got back to my Airbnb at the of the day, I’d connect to Wi-Fi and then let Google Photos back everything up overnight. It was all so effortless and the very thought of going back to downloading photos from an SD card to a computer and then uploading them into the cloud seemed downright stupid.
Google Photos also made sharing all my footage with friends and family easier at the end of trip. All I had to do was select the pics and videos and then toss them into an album and invite them to access the high-res files.
And a bunch of other reasons. I could go on and on in detail about all the small ways the iPhone 8 Plus is a more convenient camera — like how it fits in places regular cameras can’t, or how much better battery life is, or how great it is to be able to edit photos on the go — but I’ll spare you. I think you get the point.
Being the camera nerd that I am, I always thought that my trusty camera would be by my side wherever I traveled. I convinced myself that I could get the best photos shooting with my Sony.
But after two weeks of shooting exclusively on an iPhone 8 Plus (anyone who followed my Instagram Stories will know I was literally sharing non-stop all day long), I can tell you it’s such an incredible camera… if you know how to make it work for you.
Not only did is it more convenient because it’s connected to the internet, but its size and limitations also pushed me to think outside the box more than ever before. I spared no expense to get the shot.
I found better angles. I didn’t just lazily shoot from the waist up. I literally got a deer’s face at Nara Park and the result were photos and videos that are more raw and genuinely memorable to look at now that the vacation’s over.
But maybe you’re not convinced. Perhaps, these photos and videos (all unedited) I shot might change your mind. And it gives me an excuse to post photos from my Japan trip. ¯_(ツ)_/¯