Can I buy an iPhone and use it only as a camera?
October 6, 2013 12:44 PM   Subscribe

Can I buy an iPhone and use it only as a camera without having to sign up for a service plan? I don't really need nor want a smartphone, however, I'm now wondering, with Instagram, etc, if I should start shooting some stuff on a smartphone? The only downside is that I like having big, canvas prints up around the house am under the impression that the phone's image quality is still pretty crappy.
posted by tangyraspberry to Technology (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
An iPod Touch would be cheaper, I would think. Or get a camera and transfer pictures on to a computer and use Instragram from there. You'd get better picture quality for your money with the latter.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 12:56 PM on October 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

It really makes no sense to do that. If you don't want a plan, you'll need to pay the out-of-contract price; for a 5S 16GB, that's about ~$650 at the moment. For Instagram? WHY? Just buy an image editing program and use that the crop your photos to square and put filters on them.

The image quality is pretty good, especially from the 5S, but you're not going to get the same as you'd expect from a real camera with some nice glass on it. An iPod touch would indeed be cheaper, though without the IQ of the 5S, but if you're not intending to use the device's features (regardless of which one), you're still much better off using your actual camera.
posted by The Michael The at 12:58 PM on October 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Another option to consider would be something like the Samsung Galaxy Camera. It's basically a digital camera with an optical zoom lens but with a large touchscreen covering its back and it runs Android. This gives you a good quality camera but with all the bells and whistles that Android provides, including Instagram and posting stuff direct from the camera with no hookups required.
posted by wackybrit at 1:07 PM on October 6, 2013

It really makes no sense to do that. If you don't want a plan, you'll need to pay the out-of-contract price; for a 5S 16GB, that's about ~$650 at the moment. For Instagram? WHY?

Yeah, the advantage of iPhone/Instagram photography, which I actually like and enjoy, is that the phone is always in my pocket- so it's casual and fun.

But if you're serious enough to want to put up prints- $650 is most of the way to a decent DSLR- a real camera!! I know it can be confusing with the fanboy chatter, but the iPhone camera is pretty good - FOR A CAMERA ATTACHED TO A PHONE. Compared to real cameras it is ABSOLUTELY ABYSMAL. The lens is tiny, the performance in anything less than perfect light is atrocious, and you cannot zoom (digital "zoom" is simply magnifying and reducing quality and is not "zooming" at all in the sense that a zoom lens does it.) I highly recommend a real camera.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:14 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Get a real digital SLR and an iPod Touch to put them on and upload your photos to Instagram anyway. That's what most good photogs do IME. The best photos on Instagram are not taken with smart phones.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:15 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

heavenstobetsy- while there are workarounds, instagram only works from its mobile phone app. There is a Win8 app called instapic that allows uploading from the desktop but I wouldn't expect instagram to allow this for long. Third party instagram apps- among which the very best is 6tag for Windows Phone 8- also lack desktop clients. You basically can only use IG with a proper camera by shooting, saving to the cloud and then uploading via IG (or 6tag etc) from your phone.

iPod touch is a decent alternative- the camera is the same as the very good one on the iPhone 4S, and you can upload to Instagram via wifi.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:16 PM on October 6, 2013

I'll add that if you want an excellent, almost DSLR quality camera on a phone, the only choice right now is the Nokia Lumia 1020.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:18 PM on October 6, 2013

If what you want is a camera that can upload directly to Instagram and other online photo sharing services, look at the Samsung Galaxy GC110. Two-thirds the price of an off-contract iphone, and a vastly better camera (because it's not a phone, it's a camera with wifi and Android).
posted by pont at 1:29 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've tried retooling my old iPhone 3GS as a dashcam but the main obstacle is that the initialization process comes to a dead stop at the point of activation, and it won't do anything else till you have a SIM card and a mobile telco account. Jailbreaking helps, but the process is generally cumbersome enough that I'd recommend going with either an iPod Touch or the Samsung Galaxy camera that other responders have already mentioned.
posted by brownpau at 2:14 PM on October 6, 2013

If you want a good portable camera, maybe you should consider something like Sony's Nex-3N. I got it recently at Best Buy for $450... it's portable, fits easily in a small purse or bag, it takes nice shots, you can upgrade as your skills improve by buying new lenses, but it's not as bulky or hardcore as a DSLR.

It's easy to plug into your computer through USB and upload photos online, or work with them to prepare for printing.

There are lots of other great portable cameras like this in that price range, too. I would definitely go for that instead of a smartphone you aren't using for phone and web access... I love my relatively new iPhone, but its camera is mediocre (only somewhat decent by phone standards these days).
posted by Old Man McKay at 2:31 PM on October 6, 2013

After a one time initial setup on a computer, Canon's wifi-enabled cameras can upload pics to Facebook, Flickr, etc (not sure about Instagram - though there may be some kind of IFttt hack). All wifi cameras sold now (or cameras with a wifi SD card) can at least share photos with another device (smartphone, tablet, computer, etc).

The problem with getting a smartphone is they're pretty expensive and if you are only going to use the camera and upload part, you might as well put that money towards a nice camera.
posted by bluefly at 3:02 PM on October 6, 2013

Yeah, it's called an iPod Touch. Using an iPhone or even an iPod Touch as a camera seems like a gigantic waste of money.

If you want to upload pictures to Instagram so desperately, you could get a bargain cheap Android phone and put Instagram on that. The you could use a real camera and send yourself (or sync with an app) photos and share them on Instagram. That's what I do. I take photos with my Canon Rebel SLR and there's a lot of ways to do it: 1) email them 2) sync from my computer using Dropbox 3) sync directly from my camera using an EyeFi card in my camera, and then I put them on Instagram. Your EyeFi card almost gives your camera the capability of a phone -- you do need a phone to sync it with, but it will move photos from your camera onto your phone automatically. It's pretty sweet. You don't need a camera that comes with wifi built-in, the card does it.

For the record, putting photos on Instagram literally means nothing. I joined a few weeks ago because as photographer and writer, I thought it would be good to expand my reach. My photos on Twitter get a lot of attention but Instagram seemed like an even better way to share photos and seems to have more users. But honestly, I'm not impressed. Twitter allows me to communicate with people much more effectively. Instagram seems to degrade the quality of photos and overall, the experience is pretty stupid. Do I care that someone liked my photo on Instagram? Not really. Instagram is just kind of a shitshow of people loading it with photos and clogging tags by reposting the same photos over and over again. People will probably steal your photos if they are any good anyway, so you'll want to watermark the hell out of them.

(For the record, there is no way to upload photos to Instagram from a computer. It requires an Android or iOS mobile device. I've checked.)
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:05 PM on October 6, 2013

The most recent iPod touch does not have a rear-facing camera, just so you know, and the generation before it (4th) never had a camera that was as good as an iPhone camera. So really you're looking at paying iPhone prices ($300 and way, way up for used) for a half-decent camera when for the same money you could have a decent used SLR.
posted by wnissen at 5:33 PM on October 6, 2013

Check out bluestacks if you want to upload images from a pc. And if you want to comment,like, follow, etc you can use a browser based service like webstagram or statigram. Its what I did before I got a smartphone. I still use webstagram all the time.
posted by ljesse at 8:12 PM on October 6, 2013

I'd second bluestacks for the android instagram client, that way you don't need a device at all.

The most recent iPod touch does not have a rear-facing camera, just so you know, ...

The most recent iPod touch absolutely does have a rear facing camera.
posted by Brent Parker at 9:00 PM on October 6, 2013

The most recent iPod touch does not have a rear-facing camera, just so you know, ...

The most recent iPod touch absolutely does have a rear facing camera.

In a way, you're both right, according to that page. The 16GB does not; the 32GB and 64GB do.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:27 PM on October 6, 2013

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