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DSCF4246 | photos smartphone | Wereldreizigers.nl

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. Smartphone cameras are great for home use and a photo of your grandma and your cats, but not for one of the most wonderful 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 easily arrange this for you. But to ensure that the quality of the photos on your wall will still be superior 10 years from now, I recommend everyone NOT to take the photos with a smartphone, but with a real camera. Cell phone photos often look very good, but appearances can be deceiving. It's trash!

And I will explain to you exactly why in this article. Includes examples.

Why smartphone cameras are unsuitable

Please forget your smartphone camera as soon as possible when you travel. No matter how 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 always look like a lot. Often with lots of color and high contrast, beautiful.

But anyone who looks closely on a larger screen or wants to edit or print something afterwards will be disappointed. It just doesn't compare at all - the quality is terrible.

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 your photo is suddenly tens of centimeters or even meters in size. 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 the blurring of the background is normally caused by adjusting different optical lenses in your camera, the focusing. Because this happens mechanically / optically (through the lenses) in a normal camera, you will not see any strange errors. But when it is done in software, such as on mobile phones, you almost always see many errors.

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 also see that the software focus doesn't know what to do with my hair. Some strands are sharp, others are not.

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

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

I find all these strange errors in just one random portrait photo from my smartphone. And you probably won't even notice this immediately when you view the photo on your phone or put it on Instagram. But you will definitely notice it if you print it larger, use it in a photo book or view it on a larger screen or TV. Trust me.

And if you think this is an exception, almost all software bokeh photos are like this. For example, one photo later I got this as a result:

InkedIMG 20191026 143225 LI | photos smartphone | Wereldreizigers.nl
Why you should NOT take photos with your smartphone during a world trip 34

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 at all times on smartphones. Super green grass, a bright blue sky and everything is razor sharp. But unfortunately, this is simply because the phone already edits photos with software without you asking or 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), but it is if you want to edit it or print it in a photo book, for example, or use it as a screen saver. use on a large 4k screen.

The photos have actually already been edited 'out of the box' by the software of your smartphone. You usually can't even turn this off. You then run into trouble with subsequent editing. Editing an already edited photo does not work. The quality is simply not good enough for that.

For example, the photo below was taken with a Huawei P30 pro. An excellent photo at first glance, but because it has already been edited in such a way that there is little you can do with it other than putting 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 system camera, the Fuji X-T4. Perhaps not the same place, but a good example because, just 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
The ultimate world travel camera
Fujifilm X-T5 Silver + 16-80mm
5.0

The Fujifilm X-T5 with 16-80 is the ultimate all-round world travel camera† This camera has been declared several times by both the consumer association and Tweakers.net the best system camera you can buy.

Even on the automatic mode you suddenly feel like a professional photographer! You can effortlessly shoot the most beautiful photos, and thanks to the versatile zoom range of the 16-80 lens, you can easily get closer to the action anywhere in the world.

Pros:
  • The best tested camera
  • Fantastic photos
  • 6.2K video
  • IBIS image stabilization
  • 5 year warranty
View prices Our review
Want to support us? We earn a small commission if you make a purchase via our link(s), at no additional cost to you. Win win!

3. Reflection makes photos from Smartphone unusable

I was recently asked how it was possible that I could take such beautiful photos from a helicopter, without reflections from the glass. The person in question thought I edited the photos with Photoshop. The person had also taken photos during a helicopter flight, but they all had a lot of reflection, making them unusable.

I recognize this problem and have plenty of failed photos myself. See below an example photo of my helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon. The reflection is terrible. You're not going to share this on social media or hang it in the living room, are you?

Unwanted reflection in photos through glass
Unwanted reflection in photos through glass

Also read: Helicopter Tour Grand Canyon | The ultimate bucket list experience

Reflecting the glass in a helicopter makes photos unusable. With smartphones you have no further options, it is what it is. It's a shame that you couldn't properly capture this amazing, unique once-in-a-lifetime moment in the Grand Canyon, isn't it?

But the solution is simple: fortunately there is a trick that can be applied to SLR and system cameras. This is not a post-processing like Photoshop, but an active, digital 'polarizing filter'. In fact, this is just a ring with special glass that you screw onto your lens. The polarizing filter (click here for more info) you should actually see them as slats for your window. In the polarization filter there are all small slats that can block the light from a certain angle. This way you keep the focus on what you want to photograph, without the unwanted reflections.

With reflections you simply turn the ring and voila! The reflections disappear like snow in the sun, without any editing of the photo afterwards. Below is an example of two photos that I took using the polarizing filter myself, just a few seconds apart with the same camera.

Without polarization filter - a lot of reflection from the glass
Without polarization filter – lots of reflection from the glass
With polarization filter - no reflection from the glass
With polarization filter - no reflection from the glass

Is the above example not clear enough for you? Then I have another example for you. Unwanted reflection can affect photos in many ways. How about water, for example? I photographed this alligator in Florida. Due to the reflection of the light on the water, the alligator was actually barely visible. Three seconds later I take the same photo and suddenly the alligator is clearly visible. Which photo would you rather share on social media?

Without polarizing filter
Without polarizing filter
alligator polarization filter example 2 | photos smartphone | Wereldreizigers.nl
With polarizing filter

Again, what you see above is not Photoshop. Both photos are unedited. The only difference is that I gave the polarizing filter a twist that allowed me to filter out the reflection. Try to do that with your smartphone…

4. Your selfies are blurry

The difference in quality is also noticeable when you take selfies. The camera on the back of the phone is often not that good, but the one on the front is certainly not. I took the photos below last year in Jordan. Once again, they are piece by piece 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?

5. Night photography has no chance with smartphones

Many smartphones nowadays have a night mode that allows you to take photos in the evening and at night. Admittedly, that technology has improved enormously on smartphones in recent years. It used to be really hopeless, but in 2023 your high-end smartphone will fortunately conjure up something on your screen that you can at least see.

The quality, on the other hand, is something you can question. Due to the extremely small lenses on smartphones, there is simply not enough light on the sensor that ultimately captures the photo. To compensate for this, the 'ISO' value and sharpness increase enormously on a phone, causing you to get grainy photos again. This is also called noise. Now I will of course give examples again. You can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Night photo with high-end smartphone in 2023 - Lots of noise
Night photo with high-end smartphone in 2023 – Lots of noise

I took the same photo in the same place at the same time with my fuji camera, with the following result. The difference is mainly in the light you see in the sky above the city. It is very grainy on a smartphone.

Night photo with Fuji system camera in 2023 - No noise
Night photo with Fuji system camera in 2023 - No noise

On a small screen on Instagram, the difference may not be immediately visible, but anyone who takes a close look at the photo and / or edits it will soon see what is going on. I'll give the same photos again below, but edited. On both photos I increased the exposure by +2 in Adobe Lightroom. Nothing else has been modified.

Night photo with high-end smartphone in 2023 - edited with exposure +2
Night shot with high-end smartphone in 2023 – edited with exposure +2
Night photo with Fuji system camera in 2023 - edited with exposure +2
Night photo with Fuji system camera in 2023 - edited with exposure +2

If simply turning up the exposure a little already causes so much noise, you can conclude that the night photos from your smartphone are really not suitable for editing or printing. Which photo would you rather add to your photo book: the top one or the bottom one?

6. The zoom function is useless

So far we've only talked about photos where cannot is zoomed in. Even when zooming in you will really see the enormous difference in quality. Okay, there are now 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 object a little closer. Or that the zoom camera itself has a lower resolution, as is the case with all modern Samsungs and iPhones. And that absolutely does not benefit the final 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

Afterwards I deeply regret that. I have seen amazing things, such as the lions eating their prey, of which I now only have bad smartphone photos. It seems like a nice photo in which 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 pales in comparison to 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)

Please take my word for it: there's really nothing that can beat a regular camera with a zoom lens. Although Samsung and iPhone say so of course... It is impossible to match the quality and flexibility of a good camera with a smartphone. It's like comparing a moped with a Ferrari.

Below are some more examples from my 2022 trip. Just some photos that in terms of color, detail and flexibility for editing are impossible to match with a smartphone.

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
DSCF5188 | photos smartphone | Wereldreizigers.nl
Moraine Lake, Banff, Canada | Fuji X-T4 system 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?

The ultimate world travel camera
Fujifilm X-T5 Silver + 16-80mm
5.0

The Fujifilm X-T5 with 16-80 is the ultimate all-round world travel camera† This camera has been declared several times by both the consumer association and Tweakers.net the best system camera you can buy.

Even on the automatic mode you suddenly feel like a professional photographer! You can effortlessly shoot the most beautiful photos, and thanks to the versatile zoom range of the 16-80 lens, you can easily get closer to the action anywhere in the world.

Pros:
  • The best tested camera
  • Fantastic photos
  • 6.2K video
  • IBIS image stabilization
  • 5 year warranty
View prices Our review
Want to support us? We earn a small commission if you make a purchase via our link(s), at no additional cost to you. Win win!

7. You take thousands of photos of silly moments

Then the last reason that you don't immediately think of. 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 often, too many photos of nonsensical things.

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!

IMG 20190216 211304 | photos smartphone | Wereldreizigers.nl
Why you should NOT take photos with your smartphone during a world trip 35

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
DSCF1064 1 | photos smartphone | Wereldreizigers.nl
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 occur. The most beautiful photo can be around every corner during a long journey.

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

The ultimate world travel camera
Fujifilm X-T5 Silver + 16-80mm
5.0

The Fujifilm X-T5 with 16-80 is the ultimate all-round world travel camera† This camera has been declared several times by both the consumer association and Tweakers.net the best system camera you can buy.

Even on the automatic mode you suddenly feel like a professional photographer! You can effortlessly shoot the most beautiful photos, and thanks to the versatile zoom range of the 16-80 lens, you can easily get closer to the action anywhere in the world.

Pros:
  • The best tested camera
  • Fantastic photos
  • 6.2K video
  • IBIS image stabilization
  • 5 year warranty
View prices Our review
Want to support us? We earn a small commission if you make a purchase via our link(s), at no additional cost to you. Win win!
Avatar picture

Chris

Owner of Wereldreizigers.nl † Discover the world!
- Full-time blogging world traveler.
- Writes about travel, photography, sustainability and gadgets.
- Likes to discover extreme and unknown places.

0 comments

  • English (translated):
    I love this whole article, when you say that the smartphone is not a real camera. At the start, we understand it is basically a phone and at the same time a mini pocket computer. Not to lie the photo and videos he can take, can be of service, but printing images is zero. I have been addicted to photography since my youth, in the good old days of film, I used the FUJI VELVIA KODACHROME for the slides and I still have my LEICA projector with color plan optics; brand new, all. Of course I went digital years ago, with pro gear, I always bought pro, after learning about it before. I also have a smartphone, but it wouldn't come to me the idea of ​​taking a single photo with it, it's shit. When I'm in tourist places, I only see these tablets, in the hands of people of all ages, and me with my 1400g box equipped with a zoom of the mother brand which weighs 1500 grams it is heavy but it is stable in the hands. I find myself alone with this gear and rarely meet another like me, which was not the case in the 80s/2000s, before the sale of these cursed smartphones classified by magazines in the category of cameras. Sometimes it happens to me to take a rant, with a person showing me an image taken with his smart and brought closer three times than me, by saying to me; look, for me it's light, fully automatic and it's better than you. And she brags to you without knowing the utopian qualities of her chocolate bar, with serious conviction. Poor example, where is photography going, the settings, the technique, the pleasure of doing the best of a good job. There is no shortage of real real ap n on the market, there is something for all budgets, whether they are SLRs of different formats, miroless, bridges , with we will claim to take real, effective photos. For photos, put your smartphone in the toilet.

    french(original):
    J'adore tout cet article ,quand vous dites que le smartphone n'est pas un véritable appareil photo .Au départ entendons- nous bien c'est a la base un téléphone et en meme temps un mini ordi de poche .Pour ne pas mentir la photo et videos qu'il peut prendre ,peut rendre service ,mais de la a imprimer des images c'est zéro .Je suis accro a la photo depuis ma jeunesse ,au bon vieux temps de l'argentique, j'utilisais la FUJI VELVIA KODACHROME pour les dias et j'ai toujours mon projecteur LEICA avec optique color plan; tout neuf, l'ensemble .Bien sur depuis des années je suis passé au numérique, avec du matos pro ,j'ai toujours acheté pro ,apres m'etre initié avant .Aussi j'ai un smartphone ,mais il ne me viendrait pas a l'idée de faire une seule photo avec ,c'est de la merde .Quand je me trouve dans des endroits touristiques ,je ne vois que ces tablettes, dans les mains de personnes de tous ages ,et moi avec mon boitier de 1400grammes équipé d'un zoom de la marque mere qui pese 1500 grammes cela fait du poids mais c'est stable dans les mains. Je me retrouve seul avec ce matos et rencontre rarement un autre comme moi ,ce qui n' était pas le cas dans les années 80/2000 ,avant la mise en vente de ces maudits smartphones classés par les magasines dans la catégorie des appareils photos . Parfois il m'arrive de prendre un coup de gueule ,avec une personne me montrant une image prize avec son smart et rapprochée trois fois plus que moi ,en me disant; regardez ,moi c'est léger ,tout automatique et c'est mieux que vous .Et elle vous vante sans s'y connaitre les qualités utopique de sa tablette de chocolat, avec un sérieux de conviction .Pauvre exemple ,ou va la photographie , les réglages, la technique ,le plaisir de faire au mieux du beau travail .Les vrais de vrais véritables apn ne manquent pas sur le marché ,il y en a pour toutes les bourses ,qu'ils soient reflex de différents formats ,miroless ,bridges , avec on prétendra faire de la photo réelle ,efficace vraie.Pour les photos mettez vos smartphone dans les chiottes.

  • Hi Chris,
    I don't think I can take good selfies with a real camera. With a phone, a selfie stick seemed very easy to me. Do you have any tips for that?

  • English: Thank you for this very interesting article! Although I completely agree with you, there is also the budget factor that comes into play. I would love to hear your opinion on this?
    Going on a trip soon, I have a budget of around 450€, not wishing to take my old reflex which takes up a huge space, I rack my brains between smartphone and compact camera…. and I've searched, but I can't find an answer…

    French:
    Merci pour cet article très interesting ! Bien que je sois complètement d'accord avec toi, il ya également le facteur budget qui rentre en compte. J'aimerais bien connaitre ton avis la dessus 🙂
    Partant en voyage bientôt, j'ai un budget d'environ 450€, ne souhaitant pas emmener mon vieux reflex qui prends une place Énorme, je me creuse la tête entre smartphone et appareil photo compact …. et j'ai beau chercher, je ne trouve pas de réponse….

    • Lo, I get what you mean! Budget is of course another important thing so yes it will be a difficult choice. If I were in your position, I would still chose a compact camera. For 450 euros you can buy pretty good ones with a lot of optical zoom and a large sensor (which makes better pictures). The Panasonic Lumix pocket cameras are really good for their size, check them out!

  • “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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