Phone camera or DSLR for a great picture? It comes down to skill, says ST deputy tech editor Trevor Tan

The Straits Times' deputy tech editor Trevor Tan at an askST@NLB talk titled "Is your smartphone's camera good enough?" on Jan 26.
The Straits Times' deputy tech editor Trevor Tan at an askST@NLB talk titled "Is your smartphone's camera good enough?" on Jan 26.ST PHOTO: FELICIA CHOO

SINGAPORE - Today's smartphone cameras are nearly as good as a DSLR camera in terms of image quality, but taking a great picture still boils down to the skill of the person behind the lens.

This was highlighted by The Straits Times' deputy tech editor Trevor Tan at an askST@NLB talk on Friday (Jan 26). Titled "Is your smartphone's camera good enough?", the event was attended by around 200 people at the National Library at Victoria Street, many curious to know his opinion on which camera to pick.

Mr Tan acknowledged that the image quality of a photo taken from a smartphone camera still cannot measure up to one from a DSLR or mirrorless camera, due to a smaller image sensor, lack of manual settings, and very little optical zoom, and weaker flash, which makes it hard to illuminate a subject.

However, smartphones have the advantage of being lighter, more inconspicuous, come with easy-to-use modes, and let people share photos easily. They are also improving, with some smartphones letting users take RAW photos, which allow for many changes during post-processing. Mr Tan added that an eight-megapixel smartphone camera is good enough for taking photos to be printed in an 8R print most of the time.

"It depends on the situation - if I'm doing street photography, I'll probably use a smartphone. But if I'm covering events or if I'm doing a portrait shot of somebody, I'd probably use a DSLR," said Mr Tan, who has covered technology news for ST for the last seven years.

Still, he emphasised, basic photography knowledge is important - such as understanding shutter speeds, apertures and ISO levels, as well as how to compose a picture using concepts such as the rules of two-thirds, symmetry and leading lines.

"A lot of people keep asking me, 'What's a good camera?' - it transcends time. You need to learn about photography because ultimately once you know about photography, smartphone camera, DSLR, mirrorless camera - they are all but a tool," said Mr Tan, who has also won awards for his work as a photojournalist.

Mr Chris Limit, who turned up for the talk, switched to taking photos with a smartphone a year ago as he found his digital camera too bulky to carry around. "I'm not a photographer, but the talk has given me more ideas about taking pictures with my smartphone," said the 50-year-old, who works in customer service.

The next askST talk on Feb 23 will feature ST editor Warren Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of the English, Malay and Tamil Media Group at Singapore Press Holdings. He will speak on "Fake news and what ST is doing about it".

Sign up for the talk at http://str.sg/AskWarren