Point-and-Shoot Digital vs. iPhone: A Week Long Experiment with a Modern Point and Click

This year on vacation, I didn’t want to carry my phone around. Northern Ontario now has solid cell reception, and my plan covers it, but I decided that I didn’t want to be reached while I was away this year. The initial plan (in fact I had a whole post related to this that I wound up canceling) was to turn the phone off, stick it in the glove box for a week, and just walk away from everything. I tend to be way too attached to things, and I wanted to just go cold turkey and walk away. While I didn’t go quite that extreme, I did however leave my phone behind when we went (most) places. Getting the alerts from the Security cameras and such was nice to have.

Knowing that I was going to do this, before we left I decided to purchase a new digital Point-and-Shoot camera. Since I was about 12 years old, I’ve almost always had some form of camera on me all the time. I purchased my first camera at that age, a Canon Powershot A520. I loved the thing, and it’s awesome 4mp shots…. if you were only printing little 3×5/4×6 shots, or viewing them on a TV they were awesome at least. I used this camera for about 3 years, wound up with an Olympus shockproof/waterproof 8mp camera afterwards, and then steadily moved into the smartphone camera world… or iPhone camera world rather. While I moved over to Android, and the Moto Z line for about a year and a half, the camera of the iPhone was just something I had to come back to. While it’s not the top rated camera of a smartphone on the market right now, the ease of the features, and editing capabilities on iOS (and iPadOS when it spins off that is) are just second to none in the mobile computing landscape.

When it came time to move forward here, I knew that I would need a camera if I was going to do this – I initially picked up a Sony Cybershot, however after about 45 mins to an hour of playing with settings and taking pictures, absolutely every single one came out blurry. I returned that quicker than I’ve ever returned anything in my life. My original camera was a Canon, and that’s a brand I have always been happy with, so I went and swapped that out for a Powershot ELPH 180.

The specs on this camera are pretty standard, 20mp photos, 720p HD video recording, has a nice 8x optical zoom (something you just don’t get on a phone), adjustable ISO settings, and shutter speeds, and other various options that are pretty much standard with any modern digital camera.

When it came to high light situations, such as outdoors on the beach, out on the boat, or even inside during the day, the photographs were identical – in fact I think that with the exception of some of the focusing options that you’re allotted with an iPhone, the Canon out performed the phone, however when it came to low-light, this is where the iPhone has its advantages. It’s much more user friendly when adjusting these options – on the camera you have to adjust numerous settings, and while the Auto is good, it just isn’t that good. The flash helps significantly when you’re photographing people, however you need a much longer shutter speed in order to collect enough light to get a clear photograph of landscapes at night, and with a longer shutter speed, comes the issue of steadiness and added motion blur.

With the iPhone settings (or most modern smartphones), you’re really allotted much more simplicity with adapting to these situations. In fact it’s as easy as tapping on the screen and dragging your finger up or down. When it comes to video recording, the iPhone does a much better job – the image stabilization, as well as the resolution are just second to none – being able to record at 4K 60fps on a pocket sized device is still something I still marvel at, especially at the $600 price point you can get an entry level iPhone at now.

After two weeks of having this camera, I’m not sure if I’ll keep it. It’s still well within the return period from the vendor I purchased from, and I never throw out boxes. The idea of being able to simply carry around a camera and nothing else is something I like, however if the simple, single function device cannot keep up with the multifunction device, why would I bother? The optical zoom is great to have, but the software behind the digital zoom has greatly improved on the image smoothing side to a point where a 3x shot using digital zoom is going to be almost as good as what you’d get from an optical.

Has anybody else had this experience? What are your thoughts when it comes to modern pocket cameras? Are they worth they money, or are you just better off taking that $100-300 you’d spend on the camera, and investing in the next tier phone? I’ll post a few side-by-sides when I have a chance to really sit down and put them together so others can help be the judge.

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