Someday My Camera Will Be As Good as a Phone Camera
December 28, 2012 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Is there an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera on the market that is comparable in quality to an iPhone camera?

My current Canon Powershot SD1200 IS doesn't seem to match up with the photos that my boyfriend's iPhone takes. Those photos are clearer, crisper, and with better color tones. I'm jealous! Aside from getting an iPhone myself, what are some good, not-super-pricey alternatives?

Or, what should I be looking for a new camera that gives such a good result on the iPhone? I have an iPod touch but the camera does not seem to be the same.

posted by amicamentis to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What does 'inexpensive' mean in this instance?
posted by box at 12:21 PM on December 28, 2012

Is your boyfriend using the standard Apple camera app, or is he using an app with filter options like Hipstamatic, Kitcam, Wood Camera, etc? Is he using an app to edit them?

Just about any point & shoot you could buy today should be BETTER than an iPhone since the lens will be considerably larger, even for just a tiny point & shoot. That being said, I replaced my point & shoot with an iPhone two and a half years ago and haven't looked back. The apps make photography fun in ways I never imagined. Even if you don't want an iPhone, you might find something like an iPod Touch worth buying just for the camera. I cannot even begin to express how much my iPhone changed my photography. I have a film camera, an awesome DSLR, and I've had digital point & shoots since 2001... but never have I had as much fun shooting as I have with my iPhone.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:48 PM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure what you budget is, but I have a Canon S95 that takes phenomenal photos in automatic mode, and also allows for complete manual control of everything.

While I use my smartphone (and HTC One X) to take snaps to upload to Facebook or whatever, the S95 really has better picture quality with a full range of colour, especially in low light.

Great camera, and I'm glad I bought it.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:28 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like the Bloggie. I got a good deal on one at Costco last year. Has a built in USB you plug straight into the computer. It's pretty good in low light, which was important to me because I hate flash. I'm not real happy with my HTC One S camera although it is touted as being one of the best phone cameras.
posted by waving at 1:36 PM on December 28, 2012

I agree with 2oh1. An decent point-and-shoot should give you better pictures than almost any smartphone.

As a datapoint, I recently bought an Olympus XZ-1 (more recently superseded by the XZ-2), and it takes much better pictures than my iPhone 5 (and I think the iPhone takes pretty good pictures). Especially under low light. But even under good lighting, there's a lot more subtlety to the colors, shadows, and highlights.
posted by adamrice at 1:55 PM on December 28, 2012

The Panasonic Lumix series are affordable and take great photos.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:51 PM on December 28, 2012

Up the saturation and contrast and then use unsharp mask. I mean, not really, but that's what most phone cameras look like to me.

I think the real difference that sometimes comes into play here is the screen you're viewing them on. The iPhone screen is small, dense, and bright--extremely flattering to a photograph. Your computer monitor is much larger, rather less dense, and generally less bright--extremely revealing of flaws, as I'm sure you've noticed after taking a bunch of great photographs only to find out that they're all slightly out of focus once you throw them up on the large display. Take some typical iPhone photos and some typical photos with your camera and display them side by side on the same display, then see how you feel.
posted by anaelith at 3:38 PM on December 28, 2012

Thanks for all the great replies so far. "Inexpensive" would ideally be sub $200, but I could go a bit above that for something I really loved. My boyfriend doesn't use any apps for photos; my friend took a picture of her hedgehog on her phone and it looks great even on a computer screen (obligatory adorable hedgehog photo here)

I'm glad to hear that today's cameras are as good as the iPhone's; wasn't sure how far camera technology had advanced in the past four years or so. I'll have to mark down these options and test them out in person.
posted by amicamentis at 6:20 PM on December 28, 2012

The iphone is limited by a) tiny lens b) no flash c) crappy controls, especially when wearing gloves. The first is basically unavoidably bad and why P&S will always have a place.

I recently bought a Canon D20. It's well out of your price range but it's also waterproof, shock proof and dust proof with built in GPS and HS movie modes.

My must have was the GPS but there are lots of cameras out there otherwise feature equivelent for ~200. The most important feature IMO generally is the lens. The faster and more optical zoom it has the more happy you'll be with your camera in general.
posted by Mitheral at 6:52 PM on December 28, 2012

once, this was my fave PS... fuji ditched it for some reason. had unbelievable lowlight performance.

got my wife one years back and only wish i had bought 3 or 4. meaty enough not to be flimsy, all around excellent performance, fast, low light... she actually loves the thing and has finally made it part of her routine tech cache when she ventures out into the world. is my goto place for finding out stuff about cameras. look there. prepare for bewliderment, but you will get thorough info you can count on. iphone cams seem wonderful for being integrated into a comprehensive mobile tech platform, but getting higher performance than those cameras isn't a hard target to hit, and cheaply. still, one more set of cables, one more battery and charger, one more pocket bulge, one more set of steps to get a pix online once taken.... for 90% of pix, cell pix seem adequate, imo.
posted by FauxScot at 3:13 AM on December 29, 2012

Er. I actually think the image quality on the photo you linked is not fantastic. Not the composition, which is great, or the cuteness of the hedgehog, which is five stars, but that level of graininess on a light background with a decent amount of light is nothing to write home about.

You should be able to get that level of image quality from your current camera with no problems. I do recommend going through your user manual and really understanding all of your camera's features, not so you can use them all but so that you know which ones to not to enable by accident (for example, never use digital zoom). (Although maybe using a few of them, from what I remember getting the Powershot into macro mode is not intuitive.)
posted by anaelith at 3:55 AM on December 29, 2012

A family member of mine has that camera (albeit the IXUS 95, which is the European variant) and it takes great shots. Not as great as a dSLR, but way better than an iPhone.

I'm not sure why you are getting so poor pictures. Can you put one up for us to see? My gut feel is that something is wrong with your camera.
posted by mr_silver at 5:59 AM on December 29, 2012

I have an HTX One V and my boyfriend has an iPhone. I had him take photos of me because I liked my outfit. First I gave him my phone, then he used his. Once I uploaded to FB, the quality was CLEARLY different. He said it's because of the Zeiss lens?
posted by masquesoporfavor at 3:04 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, iPhones take great snapshots compared to other smartphones. I have an HTC One X and, while it takes great photos in daylight, in low-light situations it's not that great, although there are ways to fiddle with settings to improve things.

As for Lumix, I had a Panasonic Lumix for several years before switching to Canon. The Lumix also did poorly in low-light situations.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:30 PM on December 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

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