Smartphone makers are always trying to convince us that smartphone cameras have replaced real cameras. They try to wow us with features like 4K video recording capabilities, HDR capture, 240 fps slo-mo, in-body image stabilization (IBIS), and more.
These are exciting features, yes, and spec for spec, most smartphone cameras these days appear to beat any mirrorless digital camera you could lay your hands on.
There's some truth to these claims, but only a little bit. What you can't argue with are the laws of physics. There's a reason why a 12 MP low-light monster mirrorless costs INR 3.5 lakh and is fast becoming the gold-standard for videography, why you'd want 400-Mbps internal recording, and why depth-of-field still has to be faked on smartphones. Sensor size matters. Pixel size matters. Lens sharpness is a thing.
Despite that, there are things a fancy mirrorless camera can't do. Smartphones are relatively tiny, light, and always with us. There's no fiddling with settings, worrying about recording limits and battery life, weather-proofing and insurance. There aren't any mics to plug in, no SD cards to carry, no gimbals to charge. There's also no need for a PC to edit your footage once you're done.
A INR 43,000 phone like the OnePlus 8T, for example, offers 4K 60 fps recording, 480p slo-mo, a quad-camera array that includes a 48 MP primary camera and 16 MP ultra-wide, IBIS, and all the processing power of Qualcomm's flagship 865 SoC.
A smartphone like the 8T gives you the convenience of just whipping out your phone, hitting record, and eventually, unleashing your creativity on the world. You don't need an expensive studio, an assortment of lenses, and a few lakh worth of supporting equipment and staff to handle said equipment.
Sure, a smartphone is not going to compete with the rapidly-evolving hybrid photo/video cameras, but if the synthetic bokeh looks just as good as the real thing, does it matter? If your viewer can't differentiate between the quality of footage from a INR 3.5 lakh camera and a INR 40,000 smartphone, does it matter? If you can't tell a story with the big, bulky camera you have, does it matter?
Take this video by Kalki Koechlin, for example. The actress and writer is seen in this #ShotOnOnePlus short on digital health. And all you care about is what she's saying; the message. A video like this wouldn't have required more than the barest minimum in lighting, a green screen, a little tripod, and in this case, the OnePlus 8T. You're no Kalki Koechlin, but you could still make a video this good with the smartphone in your pocket.
This is the beauty and power of a smartphone camera. It's always there. It's always ready. And when it comes to storytelling, it's the most convenient tool in your arsenal.
The writer is an independent Journalist.