Smartphone Features Cameras Need ASAP

Smartphone Features Cameras Need ASAP

Having recently written a piece in which I explained how my iPhone 14 Pro replaced my professional camera in some cases, I was wondering, in what ways is my phone actually, technically better than my DSLR? It turns out there are a bunch of features that I wish cameras had.

Having spent a lot of time taking pictures with my phone, I saw myself ditching taking my camera altogether for casual photography. This is exactly what I did, and I am happier than ever. I take more pictures than ever, and I have more fun doing it too. There are a lot of reasons why I do this, if you are interested in the full breakdown, read the article associated with it. It mostly comes down to hardware, however, there are software features that I only wish large cameras had. It would make photography so much more enjoyable and better.

AirDrop

I hate to admit it, but I absolutely love the Apple ecosystem. The connectivity between all the devices is second to none. The fact that I can use AirDrop to send a ton of images from one device to another is perhaps one of my favorite features. It is also quite funny that it takes more time to do it over the lightning cable. If I want to quickly edit a shot I took on my phone and I happen to be at my laptop, I just AirDrop the picture, and it is ready to go. This also works when sharing on the spot.

Let me tell you, there were so many times when I was asked to share the picture I just took at an event. Since per event, there can easily be at least 100 people who need such a service, it is easy to lose track. However, how much easier would it be if it was possible to share images straight from the camera to people’s phones? Implementing a feature similar to AirDrop would be a game-changer for millions of photographers worldwide.  

Computational Photography

While the hardware in iPhones has remained largely unchanged, the software developed greatly. I mean, there is only so much you can improve every year in terms of hardware. But smartphone software has enabled people to squeeze out every possible possibility from the hardware. From enhancements to post-production to artificial depth of field, to countless many features that go unappreciated, computational photography is the future of image-making.

I can only begin to imagine what possibilities will open up as soon as camera companies start introducing computational photography to their devices. If something as basic as a smartphone can do remarkable things, a camera will be truly next level. That said, it takes a lot of work and investment to build such technology. It is unlikely that camera companies have such R&D potential. One of the ways to do this would be by announcing a partnership with larger electronics corporations such as Google, Samsung, or Apple. The users would go nuts if Canon would announce that they’re partnering with Apple and bringing a large number of their features to cameras. While I’m sure that there are negative business consequences in this, the end-user experience will be much better.

AirTag (Wideband) technology

One of the reasons I got the Apple Watch is that I kept losing my phone on set. The same can be said about the new AirPods. Having put them on my keychain, I never forget keys at home or elsewhere. I can only wish the same technology could be somehow implemented into camera bodies, computers, and even light stands. This would make finding and locating items on set much easier. If you ever looked for that 24-70mm on set, you understand what I am saying. Cameras already have GPS built in, which makes tracking the location of images easy. If only the technology behind devices such as AirTag was standard and could be installed in any device. The great thing about the AirTag and the whole wideband technology behind it is that there is an ecosystem. Being able to add your expensive camera to that ecosystem will only do good for keeping track of it. 

Remote Capture With Smartphone/Smartwatch

When I bought my Apple Watch, I got it because I kept losing my phone and track of time on set. But then, as soon as I started to get the hang of using it, I absolutely fell in love with the device. Everything from sleep tracking, to workout monitoring, to remote shutter. Remote shutter with a smartphone is now possible through a dedicated app, but let me be clear here, the connection is at best barely usable. For example, the notorious Canon Camera Connect works half the time, and the other half does not. Meanwhile, Profoto has developed a remote Apple Watch shutter for their camera app, and that’s hats off to them!

It would be incredible to see companies such as Capture One, Adobe, or camera companies indeed develop apps that allow them to control their devices via a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection. In my opinion, it is nothing impossible. If Apple can do it so well with the watch and phone, why can't Canon do the same?

Closing Thoughts

It seems like connectivity is the biggest problem for me, as sharing images is more important than ever. Looking back on my photojournalism days, I wish I had features such as AirDrop and remote capture, as well as easy-to-use internet connectivity to share my work. This would eliminate the problem of having to take the memory card out, bring in extra equipment such as a laptop, edit the images on it, and then upload them for the client. When all that matters is whether I have a shot or not, no one really minds if it is not color graded or edited all together. This is why you can easily see bad-quality images on headlines, covers, and other places. It is simply so much more about the content of the images than it is about how many megapixels the photograph has. Connectivity seems to be the big thing not only in camera tech but also in lights. There is only so much you can improve in hardware now; software is the next big thing. The better the software, the better the user experience.   

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17 Comments
Marco Birri's picture

While you're on the Apple ecosystem discussion, how about Face ID? The same sensor that detects your face to switch from LCD to EVF could also unlock your camera! Just sayin'.

Erich Tucker's picture

For the airdrop functionality, I actually use Canon Connect app on either my phone or tablet depending on which one I have with me. Images flow straight from my camera to my phone which I can choose to share immediately. It takes some getting used to but definitely works.

Illya Ovchar's picture

While it is there, I would say it is rather slow and uncomfortable to use. Perhaps this will improve as cameras get better, I really wish it would.

Tony Northrup's picture

In addition to these, I would love to get security. Today a photographer could shoot boudoir or a top secret product, and if someone steals their camera or memory card, the thief has full access to their files. That's not the case with smartphones that have encryption and authentication.

For those who think the existing Wifi apps meet connectivity needs, try timing the transfer of a set of large files and then transfer those same files from an iphone. iPhones are 10-100x faster. Most cameras don't event support 5GhZ WiFi.

Oh, and GPS. I love browsing photos on a map.

Marco Birri's picture

Amen to GPS. I mean, the chip costs what these days? Pennies?

Illya Ovchar's picture

Absolutely! Security is a big one for me as well. I use a T7 Touch SSD for storing current projects. Since I shoot tethered it makes more sense to do it this way. If an SSD with work that is under an NDA gets in the wrong hands, I am probably at fault.

Some cameras have GPS, but it is so hard to make good use of it. I think there is no integration with Capture One, and there is some integration with Lightroom, but that is such a deep tech rabbit hole, I hardly know where to begin.

Chris Rogers's picture

Ya know what Tony. You raise a very good point. I mean we have had the ability to have our names embedded in the image file for one form of copyright protection. It's not a bad idea to have a way to format a memory card with some sort of password protected encryption or even individually encrypted raw files.

Chris Rogers's picture

Shewt. I'd be jazzed if we could get a camera that has reliable wireless image transfer for, at minimum, jpegs that doesn't rely on connecting to wireless network.

Thomas Demma's picture

I don't even use the presets in Lightroom and now the author is asking for CP? N. O. :)

Mike Shwarts's picture

I use Sony's Imaging Edge to send pic to my phone or as a remote for the camera. While using the phone as a remote, I noticed a copy of the pic automatically went to the phone. I tried using the camera normally with the remote function enabled and found it still send a copy to the phone. Since my camera uses one memory card, I can use the phone for limited backups with remote capture enabled.

Illya Ovchar's picture

I am getting the impression that Sony is miles ahead of other brands when it comes to connectivity. Is that true?

Sam Sims's picture

Sony used to have a pretty decent app but scraped it and connectivity is now woeful. I simply use SD card readers (one for my iPad and one for my Mac) because it’s so much less hassle. The last time I tried the Sony app, it wouldn’t let me transfer RAW files, only jpg.

Sam Sims's picture

Better connectivity with wifi to our smartphones/tablets/computers and some sort of security so people can't steal our photographs if our cameras get stolen, that's all I'd like to see. The last thing I want is computational photography. Leave that to smartphones. The idea you can take a picture and be able to adjust an artificial depth of field in post sounds like a really bad idea and just another way technology could take away yet more of the human creative input when out taking photographs.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Well, it would be great to have that option. I suppose professionals will still not use it in some cases, but it would be great for amateurs and beginners. I would see computational photography be especially useful with event and wedding work.

Sam Sims's picture

Surely professional event and wedding photographers are already competent enough to create decent depth of field in camera without needing to add another stage to the already very time consuming post processing stage. It would be like creating a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. It would just be the first step in introducing Mickey Mouse smartphone features to professional cameras.

Brian Rodgers Jr.'s picture

I really miss the Sony Play Memories Apps that Sony cameras used to have access to. The process of getting those apps onto your camera was a real pain, but once they were on your camera, having the added benefit of expanding your camera's capabilities through additional apps was such an awesome feature and in my opinion was just one more reason to get a Sony over other camera manufacturers at the time.

For example, when I had my Sony A7r2, I would often use a Metabones adapter with a Canon 17mm Tilt Shift Lens. If anyone knows anything about that lens, it's very bulbous. Though manufacturers made Neutral Density filters for that specific lens, they were expensive and it took forever to put the filters on.

With the Sony Play Memories Smooth Motion App, I was able to use a Canon 17mm Tilt Shift Lens on a Sony body and get the same long exposure look all in camera without the need for a giant filter on my Canon 17mm Tilt Shift lens! It was amazing! How it worked was the app essentially took multiple exposures of the same scene over and over again, and averaged them together (all in camera) into a single raw file, which produced a long exposure effect.

This enabled me to photograph some really beautiful urban landscape images. Using the Canon 17mm Tilt Shift Lens on the Sony A7r2 allowed me to create tilt shift stitched panoramic images with insane details and the added benefit of smooth flowing water all by using the Smooth Motion app in combination with a tilt shift lens.

I really wish Sony would bring those apps back, but make an easier way to download them onto your camera.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Oh absolutely! It didn't even cross my mind to have apps on cameras. That would be absolutely incredible. Something like Magic Lantern software, but way better I suppose. This would make cameras far more functional and give thousands of creatives more options.
Your example with the Smooth Motion App is really good, I can understand how easy it made things. The app I would want for me personally would probably be a flash controller. While I love a physical trigger, it would mean carrying way less gear on a lot of shoots. I belive Phase One has this technology, but I am yet to meet a photographer that owns a Phase.