Cyclophone photography

It’s been a month since my last post.

And yes, I admit, I’m a bit disconnected. The main reason being that my attention now is fully focused on cycling. The same powered obsession I had towards everything photography related had now shifted to these two-wheel devices called bicycles.

It does not mean that I’m no longer interested in photography — it’s just that all my spare time is geared towards something else. See, I used to dedicate myself to Measuring Light every morning from 5:30am to 7:30am. Things changed and this spare time now is used for cycling as previously reported here.

The irony in all this is that the number of visitors is climbing up steadily. A couple of my followers started posting links from Measuring Light in Flipboard and other photography related sites and platforms. In the current cyber-connected world this is all it takes to flip the narrative. I’m getting very consistent hits now.

iPhone photography

When you cycle competitively the way I do, you want to make sure you go as light as possible, you want to make sure your gear is as efficient as possible. Less is more. For my daily 1 hour training, I never fill up entirely my drinks bottle — half is enough for my needs and thus it makes no sense to carry any extra weight that will make me slower. And this is just one tiny example. Everything counts and, in cycling jargon, we call this the marginal gains.

Early in the morning when I cycle, the photographer in me keeps scrutinising the light and the surroundings, searching for photo ops — can’t help it. It’s peaceful out there and how many times I had those “I wish I had a camera here with me” moments. However, with the aforementioned marginal gains discipline in control, a camera is obviously not an option.

And this is basically where my iPhone comes in. As crazy as I am about cycling performance, I do carry my phone with me. So for the first time I started using my camera phone seriously and, damn, am I surprised with the results. Annie Leibovitz once said that the iPhone is the best snapshot camera, and she was right about it. And when she made this quote, phone photography was nowhere near the current capabilities.

I recently acquired an iPhone 11 — I know there’s a 12 now but couldn’t care less — and I made sure to get the Pro that comes with the 3 lenses.

I must say, I’m pretty sold on the quality of the output. My previous iPhone was an X, so definitely there’s an improvement especially on low light performance. It all comes down to whatever hocus pocus these guys are now able to pour into the in-camera (or shall I say in-phone) processing of the files. The so-called computational photography stuff. Which is a bit sad because it is no longer about light hitting the film negative and chemicals used in processing. No more analogue, just rows of 1 and 0 digital data.

I’m particularly impressed by the efficiency of the ultra-wide angle lens, which is the equivalent of 14mm in full-frame standard. Having a lens on hand able to fit in so many things inside the frame is a very useful feature. Furthermore, ultra-wide angle lenses when used properly can offer very dynamic and unique images.

The quality of the 14mm lens is below par though and clearly not on the same level as the more common 28mm and 50mm lenses on the phone. Outputs of the ultra-wide are mushy and not sharp, there’s a clear low-res / low resolving power issue. And not to mention the distortion. And colour fringing. Ok, let’s stop here — it’s a phone, not a camera. But I just hope Apple could digitally apply some magical corrections to the file, just like most digital cameras do now.

Having said that, there’s no denying the commodity of the whole thing. So it’s like you carry this Tri-Elmar in your pocket all the time: 14mm, 28mm and 50mm. All in one, in your phone. Shoot, edit, upload to social media seamlessly.

So there you go. My cameras are resting at home now — I’m just shooting with my iPhone nowadays. It’s good for what it is and not meant to overperform my APS-C, full-frame or medium format cameras.

But it’s the lightest setup one can get. And for someone like me looking for marginal gains, this is as good as it gets.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.