We've gone over this a few times (here & here) - but the best camera you can buy - is the one you have with you. So often, that translates into light-weight/multi-functional device (i.e. a smartphone camera).
Smartphone cameras are improving every year - especially on the software-end of the equation. With dual-lens cameras, you're able to get DSLR-like results from a 200g phone. However, we're not quite at the point where your phone is capable of completely replacing a dedicated camera. If you don't believe me, watch this:
Granted, it's a bit absurd to put a smartphone camera up against one of the most expensive camera systems out there (the price difference alone (roughly $10,000 USD - when you factor in the lens) is enough to tip you off to the results before the video concludes); however, it's fair to compare them on the basis of the hyperbole that comes from the marketing machines of Apple, Google and Samsung. They would have you believe that their phones are comparable. On that basis - it's fair to debunk the marketing hype.
Another example of computational photography (another word for 'portrait mode') falling short is the L16 camera. The L16 is something that we looked at a while back in this blog. Basically, the camera operates on the same principles described above. However, in the case of the L16 - they've TURNED IT UP TO 11!! Or, 16, rather. That is, the camera is creating a composite image from not just 2 - but 16 separated lenses. While the website for the L16 was quite impressive and exciting - in the past week, actual production units were finally shipped to customers and the reviews have started to come in. Long story short - the camera isn't nearly as impressive as first hoped. Read a review here.
To sum it all up - computational photography is still very much in it's nascent stages. After all, the concept was really only popularized a year ago with the iPhone 7. Portrait-mode is far from perfect and as it stands, won't be replacing your DSLR anytime soon.*
Because of the small sensor sizes, these cameras need A LOT of light to perform well (the performance in low-light situations is invariably poor). However, this is a relatively new technology. Just think of the image quality you were able to get from your flip phone 10 years ago - it was truly dreadful. In another 5, 10, 15, 20 years - it's not crazy to think that computational photography could surpass your DSLR.
*However, as discussed previously on this blog, for the vast majority of people, in a large number of scenarios - these cameras a probably good enough.
What do you think of portrait mode on your phone? Have you had a chance to use it? Does it work well for the kind of photography you do? Do you think you'll ever be able to get rid of your bulky camera once and for all? Let me know in the comments.
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