If you were assigned to film a short nature documentary, what kind of camera would you use? For a limitless budget, the obvious go-to would be a $2,000 DSLR shooting at full 4k resolution. But most amateur videographers aren’t working with limitless budgets. In fact, many of them have nothing more than the phone in their own pocket — but that’s now more than enough.
Just look at this video, shot entirely on a smartphone. Photographers, vloggers, explorers and enthusiasts are all leaving the DSLR at home. Here is why the smartphone is now taking its place.
The biggest crutch of old smartphones were slow shutter speeds, poor sensors, and weak hardware to process photos. That’s all in the past and today’s smartphones whiz through high-resolution pictures and full 4k video. Some of the fastest mobile processors, like those from Qualcomm, found in many flagship Android phones, can capture 28 MP photos with zero shutter lag. That kind of speed was impossible just a few years ago.
The same goes for video, both at high resolution and high frame rates. Smartphones can easily capture stunning action footage at 120 and even 240 frames per second. Even extreme athletes are using smartphones in situations normally dominated by the GoPro.
When you see a commercial like the one above, it’s true that these videos are shot on a smartphone, but there is a catch — many people use aftermarket attachments to improve photo and video quality. This isn’t a bad thing, however. These attachments put smartphones on the level of a DSLR and why so many people opt for these mobile devices.
Lenses like ones from olloclip completely transform the quality and style of smartphone footage and are easily interchangeable, making them a go-to for many travel photographers and videographers. They’re also much more affordable than traditional DSLR lenses.
There are all sorts of YouTube tutorials from photographers and videographers showing off their travel setups, but you won’t see the same for smartphones. That’s because traveling with a smartphone is nothing — it’s always with us. And even if you have a slew of aftermarket attachments, they probably all fit into a small pouch that you can just throw in your pack. Smartphones also have smaller stabilizing gimbals, battery packs and other accessories compared to DSLR cameras. So the total pack load is shrunken down even smaller.
And speaking of carrying around battery packs, what a chore it is to keep a DSLR juiced and running for a full day of filming. While a DSLR might need a few battery swaps throughout the day, a smartphone can usually manage sun up to sun down on a single charge. And with the purchase of a very modest battery pack on Amazon, you could disappear in the woods and have several days of juice to film all your adventures.
Professionals will always use a DSLR when the project demands the highest quality. Their sensors can’t be matched by any smartphone out there. But the gap is closing while the gap in price remains substantial. When you need a quick video and all you have is the camera in your pocket, you can make a video that looks pretty close to what the pros are producing — and that’s why so many people are opting out of the DSLR.