If you’re still determined to offer two trips full of fun and adventure for your first summer vacation after COVID-19, then maybe it’s time to assess whether your smartphone is doing the right thing against the two-year vacation memories you’re making.
I did. When we embarked on an epic island-hopping adventure in the British Virgin Islands earlier this summer, I took a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G camera with me and left my beautiful high-end digital SLR at home. And I came back happy.
I like to take good pictures. But I want the camera to do the job. So I never take the time to learn professional functions, be it my DSLR and its many lenses or smartphone. I just leave it on autofocus.
In all honesty, I only have this beautiful and state-of-the-art DSLR for shooting videos that I sometimes have to shoot for work. And since I bought it, I take it with me on vacation, because it happens that some pretty nice pictures are taken.
If you’re considering upgrading your smartphone for your first vacation in nearly two years, and wondering if it can handle your “real” camera, read on.
The Last And Biggest
There are three reasons why I decided to only bring a smartphone like the S21 Ultra to the British Virgin Islands:
- Lots of lenses: Lenses that are flat enough to fit a smartphone aren’t nearly as flexible as camera lenses, which use their length to zoom. That’s why smartphone manufacturers have closed this gap by creating teams of special lenses to capture high-quality photos under different conditions. The S21 Ultra has four rear cameras: wide-angle, ultra-light, and two telephotos. Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max has three, giving up a different telephoto lens.
- Night mode: The S21 Ultra and iPhone 12 Pro Max are much better for low-light shooting, which has been a challenge for smartphones. Both have a special night mode, which results in better photos but also takes longer to focus.
- Artificial intelligence performance: One thing is to put all these lenses over your smartphone’s skinny rear camera. It’s another matter to swap lenses in the blink of an eye — and even combine the two to get a better quality zoom. And today’s flagship smartphones are much more capable.
For my Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 camera, it’s honestly four years old and the S21 Ultra is barely halfway through its first birthday. In addition, I limit the GH5 to its persistent demand for the automatic mode – which is especially damaging in low light – and to its single 5x zoom with a pedestrian focal length of 12 to 60mm. In comparison, the S21 Ultra super-telephoto lens has an equivalent focal length of 240mm.
In a lot of daylight and the range of subjects, I sometimes took richer and more detailed photos with the GH5 than with the S21 Ultra. The GH5 would clearly compete better if it carried more lenses – and a better photographer. But that’s the whole point here, isn’t it? I’m not a better photographer. And I don’t wear contact lenses anymore. If they don’t fit in my pocket.
Then How Did I Do It?
With such beautiful Caribbean themes, from the breathtaking Devil’s Bay in Virgin Gordal to the secluded stretches of beach on the remote island of Anegada, everyone came back to the treasure with photos. But as the only flagship phone, I was able to take more great photos in more situations.
I earned ooh and aah from my boat mates most often when we compared long shots and when we looked at photos taken in the dark. There was also a subtler benefit: My photos often had more detail than even a two-year high-end smartphone. This gave me more flexibility to crop the photos later.
I took a few photos in night mode that were blurry. The gentle swaying of the boat and the long focus time of the night mode clearly withstood this.
What to do?
You’ll notice a big improvement in the number of scenes and situations you can capture with your current high-end smartphone, such as the S21 Ultra, even if your smartphone is less than four years old.
On the other hand, you’re probably happy with the photos you took with your existing phone – provided you don’t invite anyone to take photos with the latest technology.