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Digital Life

Hold on to your camera for good kid photos

Published on May 27, 2014 2:59 PM

The best camera is the one you have in your hand. Sadly, that is why my two-year-old Sony DSLR-like camera has been sitting in my camera cabinet.

The smartphone has become the most popular camera today, simply because it is almost everyone's constant companion.

For many people, it is their only camera. That is why smartphone makers consistently highlight their devices' photo-taking features.

Not so long ago, the selling factor was the megapixel count.

Today's smartphone cameras offer panoramic, low-light and high dynamic range (HDR) shots. HDR is a special technique for improving image quality in a photo with extremes of lighting conditions.

Some phones are now even waterproof and double as video recorders.

So, is it time to ditch your camera and keep your smartphone handy? The answer, for me at least, is still a definite no.

Let me first say I am no expert. I am still a point-and-shoot person who is forced to learn a few extra tricks to earn some respect from my kids.

Despite the marketing hype swirling about smartphone cameras, I doubt that they can snap sharp photos of my kids running around. Better cameras are needed as more light is required to capture movement in full flight.

That was why I bought my first DSLR - the Canon 300D - a decade or so ago, after my second daughter was born. My mid-range compact camera was simply not good enough to capture her in action.

Outdoors, at the pool, it was fine. But indoors, she was often a blur to my lens when she was not sitting still. Using the tiny built-in flash became a turn-off. The colours were quite unnatural and left some subjects looking like aliens with red eyes.

I invested in a better lens - one with a superior aperture, or F-stop number, in geek parlance. This would let in more light to capture motion in dim conditions.

Then I learnt that using a big add-on flash and bouncing its light off the ceiling instead of aiming it directly at the kids would produce more natural-looking photos.

This meant that my camera bag got even bulkier and harder to lug. And my 300D could not shoot video.

Enter the camcorder.

Two years ago, I switched to the Sony Alpha SLT-A57 as it was a DSLR-grade camera which did well with stills and video.

This was way better, but still too bulky.

Smartphones are compact but they still aren't good enough, at least not for what I want of them - to get sharp photos of my kids in action at home - even though some do boast amazing f/2.0 aperture lenses for low-light shots.

The truth remains that the size of the image sensor is the key determinant of how much light you can capture in each shot. Sensors in smartphone cameras remain tiny in comparison to those in high-end compacts and DSLRs.

Don't be fooled by the f/2.0 rating as the number is relative to the size of the camera sensor and lens.

The aperture in a smartphone is way smaller than the aperture size of the f/2.0 lens in my 10-year-old Canon 300D.

A smartphone camera may be able to capture decent low-light shots of people who are posing or standing still, but not if they are moving.

My sights, for now, are set on two high-end compact cameras - the Canon PowerShot G1X Mark II and the Sony Cyber-shot RX-100 II.

I will soon test them to see if they make the cut.

This story was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life on May 14, 2014