August 02, 2017

iPhone versus Pentax Point-and-Shoot

M. and I went for a hike today — a mushroom reconnaissance, really — and I got to thinking about pocket cameras.

In this corner, my ten-year-old Pentax Optio E40, 8.1 megapixel sensor, 5x optical zoom plus digital zoom, 6.2–18.2 mm focal length.

In the other corner, my three-year-old iPhone 5s, also about 8 megapixel sensor, and a tiny lens (no optical zoom) coupled to software jiggery-pokery that produces pretty good pictures.

Both have built-in flashes, but today's comparison was outdoor photography.

Like almost everyone who has a smartphone, I carry it most of the time — especially in fire-and-flood season.

The Pentax Optio has a logged a lot of miles in my daypack, hunting vest pocket, etc. How would it hold up head-to-head against the iPhone? Should I still bother with it? With batteries, it's an extra 6.2 oz. (177 grams).

On to the test. Both cameras produced JPG images in the 4–6 MB range, about 45 x 34 inches (Pentax) or 45 x 32 inches (iPhone). For the blog, I have reduced all of them to 12 inches in width (no cropping) at 72 dpi.

1. Wildflowers
Monarda (bee balm) / iPhone 5s


Monarda / Pentax Optio E40
I have not adjusted the exposure, which was a little darker on the Pentax. Neither focused perfectly, partly due to the trouble of seeing the camera screen in bright mountain sunlight. (A through-the-lens viewfinder camera is what you really need in this situation.)

2. Long-distance landscape
View across the Wet Mountain Valley / iPhone


View across the Wet Mountain Valley / Pentax

The iPhone did a better job with the values in the clouds than the point-and-shoot Pentax did. Lightening the latter's photo to match the iPhone tended to wash out the definition in the clouds.

3. Maximum zoom
 
The town of Westcliffe from about seven miles away / iPhone



Westcliffe / Pentax, maximum optical zoom 

Westcliffe / Pentax, maximum optical zoom + digital zoom
The Pentax zooms more, but there is probably a spy satellite that could give a better street view of Westcliffe, Colo., on a sunny day. I wonder what sort of software jiggery-pokery they have.

4. Other considerations

Features: Both shoot videos. The Optio has built-in settings for close-up, landscape, portrait, action, night photography, etc.

Storage: With the right SD card, the Optio can equal the iPhone's storage capacity.

Weight: The iPhone5s is slightly heavier, about 5 grams. But it is a computer that takes photographs, whereas the Optio is only a camera.

Battery: Both suck in different ways. All cell phones run down their batteries too fast, even when asleep, unless you turn off GPS, wireless, etc. The Optio runs down its AA batteries just remembering the time and date, and when you change them, you have to reset those numbers. Figure on a set of batteries a day with active shooting, although you can use rechargeables.

Durability: I keep my iPhone in an OtterBox case, and so far I have not broken it. The Optio is susceptible to dust because of its zoom lens, so normally it rides in a tactical case, which is a plastic sandwich bag. If I dropped it off a cliff or it fell out of the boat, I would not feel so bad, which is a plus.

5. Conclusion

Smartphones are killing the low-end point-and-shoot compact camera market. The Optio and its competitors offer built-in shooting modes, which I like, but smartphone owners can add apps to improve their features. (I like Solocator, which adds altitude, compass bearing, and latitude and longitude to photos.)

My conclusion: I will probably keep using the Optio until it breaks, but I doubt if I will replace it, except possibly with a cheap used one. I will keep my digital SLR for the "serious" photography.

5 comments:

Malcolm J. Brenner said...

I face the same dilemma. However, for a lot of things my little retractable-lens Nikon Coolpix S4150 beats my iPhone 5, partly because it can zoom, partly because I can make the backgrounds blur out with it set to closeup or portrait mode, which I cannot do with the iPhone's fixed, wide-angle lens. Also, it has 50% more pixels!

Chas Clifton said...

Good point about the depth of field. And if you drop your Coolpix in the Gulf, you can probably find a replacement on eBay.

Tam said...

I need to buy a replacement for my Nikon P7000, and having messed with a bunch of cameras, I think it's going to be another used Nikon P7000.

Chas Clifton said...

Seeing how stricken some people are when they lose a smartphone, I think that the quasi-disposability of a used pocket camera is the best argument for having one.

Ruth said...

I've been playing around with Super Zoom cameras. They're basically point n shoots, but with extra zoom built in, both mechanical and digital. I spent $150 on the Pentax one. Downside, it doesn't remember date, or settings or anything, once you turn it off. Upside, it shoots a pretty damn nice picture, though possibly not in competition with the iphone for closer images. And for $150, if I break it I'm not SOL. Its become my "carry around" camera, for when I don't want to risk my SLR.