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Why you should NOT take pictures with your smartphone during a world trip

It's a recurring one travel tip on just about any Dutch travel blog you ever visit: bring a good camera when you have a long journey or world trip is going to make. And unfortunately, we travel bloggers are not talking about that fancy camera on your new smartphone. I see many of you, with your eyes already rolling in your skull rebelliously, already thinking: I have a futuristic iPhone 23 or a 57 euro Samsung S1500 that takes great pictures!

No. Just, no. Those smartphone cameras are great for home and a picture of your grandmother and your cats, but not for one of the most amazing experiences of your life: a trip around the world.

Also read: What is the best camera for a world tour? And why?

Think about the 'use by' date of your photos

You want to record the trip of your life in a way that you can use it afterwards. Not just in the following weeks, but years after. So that you can enjoy it for a long time. Because who doesn't dream of that? A beautiful, self-made photo of one of your favorite world travel moments on, for example, canvas or printed on wallpaper. Or as a screensaver on your gigantic 65 inch OLED TV in the living room?

Sunset from the garden of our hotel in the Philippines
Sunset from the garden of our hotel in the Philippines, 2019

Something of yourself, a memory of your world trip, beautifully displayed in your living room or bedroom. Websites like wallmode.nl can arrange this for you. But to be sure that the quality of your photos on your wall will still be really superior in 10 years' time, I advise everyone not to take the photos with a smartphone, but with a real camera. Mobile phone photos often look great, but looks can be deceiving. It's junk!

And I'll explain exactly why in this article.

Why smartphone cameras are unsuitable

Please forget your smartphone camera as soon as possible when you travel. No matter how amazingly beautiful the photos seem, the photo quality of smartphones is always miles behind compared to a decent SLR or system camera. Photos from your smartphone look nice at first glance and yes, on such a mini screen the photos do indeed always look a lot. Often with lots of color and high contrast, beautiful.

But those who look closely on a larger screen or want to edit or print something afterwards will be disappointed. It's just not comparable at all.

Imagine for example that you want to print a beautiful photo from your smartphone on canvas for the living room or as wall wallpaper in the bedroom. Then you want the best possible photo quality to start with, right?

Smartphone cameras are simply not good enough for this and to convince you I have listed the 5 most important reasons + examples for you below.

1. The software focus = bad

It 'bokeheffect', as it's expressed in modern terms today, is terribly bad on phones, for example. For those who don't know what this means: the 'bokeh effect' is the blurred foreground or background when you take a portrait photo, for example. The face is sharp, the background blurred.

The focus on the foreground and blurring of the background is normally caused by adjusting different optical lenses in your camera, the focus. Because this happens optically (through the lenses) with a normal camera, you won't see any strange errors here. But when it's done software-wise like on mobile phones, you almost always see a lot of errors in this.

An example:

Poor software focus on mobile phones: example 1
Poor software focus on mobile phones: example 1

I'm sitting upstairs enjoying a bitterbal on the terrace in Nijmegen. The photo was taken with a high-end smartphone from 2022. The focus is clearly visible, at first glance a great photo. But if you look closely you will see all kinds of weird, blurry parts where you can wonder where one begins and the other ends. Click on the photos to enlarge them and zoom in, for example, on the left side of my sunglasses.

Poor software focus on mobile phones: example 2
Poor software focus on mobile phones: example 2

You can see that the software focus doesn't know what to do with my hair for a while. Some picks are sharp, others are not.

What's really weird is that the haircut of the gentleman behind me runs blurry through part of my sunglasses. The software has decided that Mr.'s hair and sunglasses are one object in the background. The pieces of sunglasses in front of my face are sharp, but the part of the sunglasses that is to the left of my face, according to the software, suddenly belongs to the background. Bizarre.

Finally, my left shoulder, which should also be sharp (because the same distance), is also vague. In any case, the software focus does not know what to do with it.

All these weird errors in just one random photo from your smartphone. And you probably won't even notice this when you view the photo on your phone or post it on Instagram. But you'll definitely notice it when you print it, put it in a photo album, or watch it on a bigger screen or TV.

And if you think this is an exception, it is with every photo. For example, one photo later I got this as a result:

Are the plants in the background sharp or not? Open the photo and zoom in, it just doesn't look right. The software focus just doesn't know how to deal with these kinds of situations.

Also take a good look at the can, it contains a plant (they do that at this pub). But is the plant now sharp, or not? It's the same distance as the can but the software focus can't handle it. So they are no exceptions, you will find these kinds of strange things in every photo. With iPhones, Samsungs, Huaweis, all of them.

2. Excessive Color and Contrast Compensation

Then you also have the software color boost and contrast that is added to the photos on smartphones. Super green grass, a bright blue sky and everything is razor sharp. But unfortunately, this is simply because the phone already software edits all your photos without you realizing it. Again: this is not a problem if you only want to share the photo on social media or via WhatsApp (where the quality is already lost anyway), but it is if you want to edit or print it in a photo book, for example, or use it as a screensaver. use it on a big 4k screen.

The photos are therefore 'bald', actually already edited by the software of your Smartphone. You usually can't turn this off either. You then get into a mess with editing afterwards. Editing an already-edited photo does not work and the quality is simply not good enough for that.

The photo below was taken with a Huawei P30 pro. At first glance a great photo, but because this standard has already been edited so much, you can do little with it except put a filter over it. By default, the photo has already been edited by the phone with excessive sharpness (grainy).

South Africa, 2020
South Africa, 2020 | Huawei P20 pro, raw

I took the photo below with a good camera, the Fuji X-T4. Perhaps not the same place, but a good example because, like the photo above, it is also a nature photo with a view including a lot of contrast with trees, mountains and clouds. Is this a clear enough example for you?

Banff National Park, Canada. Photo (unedited) taken with a Fuji X-T4 and a polarizing filter
Banff National Park, Canada. Photo (unedited) taken with a Fuji X-T4 and a polarizing filter
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3. Your selfies are blurry

The difference in quality is also noticeable when you start taking selfies. The camera on the back of the phone is often not that good, but the one on the front certainly isn't. I took the pictures below last year in Jordan. Again, these are all unedited photos.

Two photos were taken with a mobile phone and two with my small Fuji X-T20 system camera. Can you guess which ones are made with? Look especially at the 'detail' of the photos. On which do you see wrinkles and imperfections best? I think so and for that you don't even have to zoom in on my sunglasses 😉

Selfie in Jordan | Phone or system camera? (1)
Selfie in Jordan | Phone or system camera? (1)
Selfie in Jordan | Phone or system camera? (4)
Selfie in Jordan | Phone or system camera? (2)
Selfie in Jordan | Phone or system camera? (2)
Selfie in Jordan | Phone or system camera? (3)
Selfie in Jordan | Phone or system camera? (3)
Selfie in Jordan | Phone or system camera? (4)

Have you looked at photos properly? Zoomed in? Then you probably quickly saw that photo 2 and 3 were made with the phone, and photo 1 of 4 with the system camera. At the same place and at the same time. What a difference! And this is even before you do anything with it, such as printing or editing.

Also read: What is the best camera for a world tour? And why?

4. The zoom function is useless

So far we've only talked about photos that aren't zoomed in. Also when zooming in you will really see the huge difference in quality. Okay, now there are some high-end smartphones on the market that also have a limited optical zoom. But in general it can be said that zooming in on your smartphone is simply cropping out your photo to bring the subject a little closer. Or that the zoom camera itself has a lower resolution. And that definitely does not benefit the quality.

For example, did you know that if you have a 20-megapixel camera on your smartphone and zoom in x2, you're only left with 5 megapixels? At x10 zoom you only have 1 megapixel left and then the photo is no longer usable, it just really doesn't look good.

An example:

Note: The photo below also comes straight from the camera of the phone and is unedited. The photo is zoomed x5 with a Huawei P30 pro. The P30 pro has a separate, optical x5 zoom lens for this. I took the photo of the lions during my scooter trip through Uganda in 2021† Since I was going to travel on a scooter, I often chose not to take my system camera with me and take pictures with my phone.

x5 zoom with the Huawei P30 Pro
x5 zoom with the Huawei P30 Pro

In hindsight, I deeply regret that. I've seen amazing things like the lions eating their prey that I now have only bad pictures of. It looks like a nice photo where I was able to capture the eating lions, but nothing could be further from the truth. The quality is simply too poor and unsuitable for printing. The quality really dwarfs the quality and detail in the photo below.

Below you see a random, unedited photo that I took in 2011 (more than 10 years ago!!!) with a now 14-year-old SLR camera: a standard Canon 500d with a standard lens. So nothing fancy. This photo is also zoomed in x5 but the difference in sharpness, megapixels, color, contrast and quality is still huge. And that with such an old camera!

x5 zoomed in with a 13-year-old budget Canon SLR camera (standard lens)
x5 zoomed in with a 14-year-old budget Canon SLR camera (standard lens)

There really isn't anything that can compete with an ordinary zoom camera. Although Samsung and iPhone say so of course… It is impossible to match the quality and flexibility of a good camera with a Smartphone. Below are a few more examples from my journey in 2022. Just some photos that are impossible to match on a smartphone in terms of color, detail and flexibility for editing.

Colorful evening photo of Chris with the World Travelers camper at the Starship | SpaceX Complex, Boca Chica
Colorful evening photo of Chris with the World Travelers camper at the Starship | SpaceX Complex, Boca Chica
Night photo with the Fuji X-T4 camera
Night photo with the Fuji X-T4 camera
Night photo with the Fuji X-T4 camera
Night photo with the Fuji X-T4 camera

Also read: What is the best camera for a world tour? And why?

5. You take thousands of photos of silly moments

And then the 5th reason. This is an additional disadvantage of shooting with smartphones that I personally have come to find important. Because you use your smartphone on the road to communicate and navigate, you often have it in hand. Handy you will think, then I can always take pictures with it. This is partly true, you can quickly and effectively take a nice photo with it. But at the same time, this also ensures that you take too many photos of nonsensical things far too often.

Do you really plan to photograph 365 days x3 meals for Instagram? From every street dog you meet? From every hotel room? Cab driver? Act normal!

Choose your moments. You will be truly grateful to your future self. Nothing is more annoying than coming home after a trip with 15.000 photos that you simply can't get through because there are simply too many. You don't feel like that! As a result, you never look at it again. Shame…

Thailand, 2014 | When you visit beautiful sights, take your camera and not your smartphone
Thailand, 2014 | Made with a now 13 year old Canon 500d and standard lens
Savannah, Georgia, 2022 | Taken with the Fuji X-T4
Manhattan-during-sunset-from-Top-of-the-Rock-1
New York City, 2022 | Taken with the Fuji X-T4
Martin Luther King Memorial Statue, Washington DC, 2022 | Taken with the Fuji X-T4
Martin Luther King Memorial Statue, Washington DC, 2022 | Taken with the Fuji X-T4

Therefore, be selective. Choose your moments to shoot. An additional advantage: you are also less busy staring at your screen and more enjoying the moment and what is happening around you. Of course, take your real camera with you as much as possible because you never know when the perfect moment will arise. The most beautiful photo can be around any corner during a long journey.

Also read: What is the best camera for a world tour? And why?

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Chris

Owner or Wereldreizigers.nl | Discover the world!

– Travel 3+ months per year, 10 years in a row
– 10 months USA & Canada in 2022
– Bucket List Destination: Antarctica
–Best Beaches:Philippines
– Best Food: Thailand
– Best Wildlife: Uganda
– Best City: Singapore
- Best roadtrip: Croatia

Stubborn & decisive world traveller
– Life is short, make the most out of it in literal sense.
– Never take no for an answer.
– If you think about it, DO IT!

0 comments

  • “Did you know that if you have a 20-megapixel camera on your smartphone and zoom in x2, you only have 10 megapixels left? ”
    Surely it is worse than that? Zoom in c2 and you only have 5 megapixels left. If I zoomed is 5000 x 4000 then zoomed x2 is 2500 x 2000.

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Chris

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