I have a confession to make. I used an iPhone in place of a proper camera for one of my assignments and nobody noticed. I don't feel bad about it, but thought you should know.
For the first time in my career as a paid lover of technology, this October I attended a press event without a dedicated camera. It was the OnePlus X launch event in London and, since my trusty colleague Nick Statt had already seen and photographed the phone, I felt safe not bringing a DSLR or even a more compact mirrorless camera along. But, as so often happens, I was captivated by the shiny, alluring, glossy exterior of the delightfully cute OnePlus X and I felt the urge to capture at least some of its appeal. So out came the iPhone 6S Plus. At first I figured I'd only take a couple of shots in preparation for some humorous tweet, but when I looked at the images, I realized that they were decent enough to put on The Verge.
Far from perfect, the pictures I shot with the iPhone 6S Plus were nevertheless sharp, clear, and detailed. They conveyed the distinction in finishes and reflectivity between the Ceramic and Onyx OnePlus X, which was the biggest omission from our earlier images.
I don't recount this tale as an advertisement for Apple, which has already received the endorsement of people who can truly call themselves professional photographers (I'm only a pro in that I, incidentally, get paid for my photos). The experience of it is fascinating, because it illustrates how far mobile cameras have advanced. I actually think I'd have stood a pretty good chance of getting pictures just as good with the LG V10 or Samsung's Galaxy Note 5. The iPhone just happened to be the phablet with an excellent camera that I had with me at the time.
Mobile cameras have grown up in a hurry
It's common to hear of people choosing to use mobile cameras on photography assignments, but they usually do it with the purpose of achieving a particular, more casual effect. In my line of work, readers don't want filtered or moody photos — they just want to see the new object of desire, from every angle and with perfect clarity. I took a chance on the iPhone doing a reasonable job of that, and it didn't let me down.
The wild thing is that no one who looked at the images after they were published noticed a difference. Sure, they exhibit some color balance issues, but every camera struggles with that when confronted with an AMOLED screen. I still don't trust the iPhone or any other mobile camera (well, maybe Nokia's 808 PureView, but that barely qualifies as a smartphone) to do serious photography work with, but it's starting to feel like that's just me showing my age and prejudice. On the evidence of my experience, phone cameras have grown up to the point where they can legitimately replace professional gear in good lighting conditions. And that's pretty awesome.