Travel Photos: DSLR or Cell Phone?

Choosing between lugging around a full sized DSLR, or relying on your cell phone, can be a daunting task. A full sized DSLR, battery charger, spare batteries and lenses certainly adds to the weight that will be carried around on a daily basis, as well as taking up a decent amount of space in any luggage. Relying on your cell phone to capture your photographic memories poses its own challenges. A cell phone, though easy to charge and lighter by far, will have a limited amount of storage space and a lower megapixel level. A cell phone also lacks the customization capability that a full size DSLR holds, to a point.

For longer trips, where I know I will be taking landscapes, city-scapes, capturing architectural elements etc., I choose to carry my Nikon D800 and a 55mm prime lens. (This is what I carried on our trip to Ireland & Scotland in 2016.) However, when going on shorter trips, where I will not be taking 1000s of images or the images will be snapshots rather than large landscapes, I often choose to carry my cell phone.

On our most recent weekend trip to Massachusetts, I chose to carry my D800 as well as my cell phone while in Salem. The quality of image that you get from a DSLR is generally going to be leaps beyond what you get with a cell phone. Besides the obvious reason of megapixels, this is also due to the ability to alter your white balance, exposure, ISO and focal point. Most of what you want to accomplish in capturing that image can be done “in camera”, in the very moment that you snap the photo.

With a cell phone camera, the capabilities seem to rely on auto settings or filters you can treat images with after the photo has already been taken. However, this is not the only way.

Here you see two sets nearly identical images. In each pair, one image was taken with my Nikon D800 on fully manual mode where I have set the ISO, White Balance, focal point and exposure to best capture the image in the setting. The other, was taken with the camera on my Samsung S8+, where I have also set the focal point, the exposure, white balance and ISO. Wait, What?!?

As you can see, it is possible to get similar images from a cell phone, if you decide not to carry a full sized DSLR. While it is true that my S8+ camera is 12MP and my Nikon D800 has 36.6MP, I am still able to get high quality, dynamic images from both cameras.

To achieve these goals with your cell phone, you will need to go into the camera settings on your cell phone. On the S8+, there is a “pro” setting, in which the ISO, white balance, exposure, focal points etc., can all be changed and set. To capture the images above, I have changed the settings in the phone’s pro mode to best balance the light sources available naturally in each location. Before you venture out on your next adventure, armed only with a cell phone, practice using the pro/manual mode at home in various types of environments and lighting.

By taking the time to practice with your cell phone as well as with your DSLR, you can ensure that the images require little to no editing to achieve your vision, regardless of the camera you use!

“Keep your heart open, a suitcase packed and wonder always, for the world is wide and adventure awaits.”

~ Emylee

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