Some of you endured my anguished decision-making process over whether or not to buy the new, absurdly over-priced, iPhone X. Frankly I don’t give a hoot about the communications aspects of a smartphone.
I care about the photographs and video the phone’s camera can create. And when I look back at how drastically far smartphone camera technology has come, I’m really shocked. Remember those hideous images on the original Instagram app? The quality was so awful the app used filters to imitate the bad camera technology of decades past. They called it Retro and Lomo…
But today’s smartphones can capture some quality photographs. So, in this post, I thought I would share some of the more current trends, apps, and gear that I use that really narrow the gap between DSLRs and smartphone cameras. I use the iPhone; so, I’ll focus on the iOS platform though much of this (if not all) is the same on most smartphones.
Depth of Field Apps
The lens in smartphones still has some significant limitation. One of them pertains to creating blurred backgrounds that accentuate the foreground subject. Apple has come up with some clever software and hardware tricks to compensate for this. But what I want to highlight here are 2 very clever apps: Focos and Halide. Each app achieves post-photograph measured depth of field using the camera’s existing hardware.
Focos gives you a great deal of creative options when creating depth. The image below, of our Solstice Tree, was shot on my iPhone X. In the original photo, everything is in focus including the reflection of the tree in the window. I used the Focos app not only to measure depth and create boca, but to stylize the more distant reflections of light. Astonishingly, this is a handheld shot, and the only lights in the room were the tree lights themselves.
Halide actually creates a depth map of the image in addition to the image itself and uses that data to create depth of field. Both apps are worth exploring.
But we now have other options as well…
Using Your DSLR Lens
BeastGrip has done a really clever thing. They have created a smartphone agnostic grip that securely holds your smartphone. You can mount it to a tripod. You can mount lens onto the BeastGrip itself. And yes, they created the DoFMK2 to which you can attach your pricy glass from your favorite DSLR.
I’ve just been playing with the DoFMK2 and my Canon EF 24 – 70mm, my 50mm prime, and my 70 – 200mm lens. The initial depth of field results have been striking, and I include some shots here.
The two figures are about 3 inches apart. I used the 24 – 70mm lens at 70mm, very close to the subject almost like a macro lens and a very shallow depth of field. I pulled focus between the figures. You can also see the shot setup.
The shots below used the 50mm Canon Prime Lens with the BeastGrip DoFMK2. Focusing is a crazy challenge when shooting close up. And there’s one final challenge to overcome: the DoFMK2 flips the image upside down, and the iPhone’s Camera app does not offer a software setting to automatically change that in the viewfinder.
This means you have 2 options. You can try to frame your shot while looking at it upside down, which is decidedly more difficult than you would imagine because all directional movement is reversed. Or, you can use a better camera app like ProCamera which offers the ability to flip the image in the viewfinder. The major apps for shooting video all make accommodations for this hardware. I use FiLMiC Pro.
Of course everyone knows I’m a huge fan of the 1.33 anamorphic lens, especially with video. Below are comparison shots, using the iPhone X, of Moondog’s anamorphic lens and BeastGrip’s new anamorphic lens. I really can not see any visual differences in the images. Both are small and screw directly onto the BeastGrip that holds the phone.
Just for kicks, below is the original phone image just as it looked out of the camera. It has to be stretched horizontally to show the correct aspect ratio. You simply multiply the horizontal image width by 1.33 and save the new file. These images were originally 4,032 pixels wide but needed to be saved as images that were 5,362 pixels wide. The height does not change.
You can see that the image looks squeezed. Note to self: to look really thin, always use an anamorphic lens when taking pictures of yourself and do not change the aspect ratio. 🙂