Friday, April 22, 2016

Two week vacation with an iPhone as my only camera

I recently returned from two weeks vacationing in New Orleans and Kansas City. In preparation for the trip, I got myself a set of Moment lenses and a Moment case. I was very curious to see if I could capture decent images with an iPhone 6 and these lenses. I was interested in reducing the amount of equipment I carry around on trips. First, because it’s so much easier to pack everything that I can carry on to a flight – and reducing camera gear goes a long way towards reducing bulk and weight. Second, because having pocketable camera gear means I’ll have it with me more often, and I don’t have to intentionally remember to bring along a bag large enough (and possibly awkward to carry around). And thirdly, because so many venues and attractions now discourage or even prohibit “professional” (i.e., interchangeable lens) camera gear. And even if not prohibited, it feels more awkward to use a larger camera in a crowd.

The Good

Overall I was quite pleased during my two weeks having a pocketable system. The wide angle lens gave me sufficient coverage to pick up entire buildings in confined city areas, and broad landscapes. The telephoto lens allowed me to gain a little more reach and the ability to crop out optically distractions that would normally have entered into the frame. I had a few occasions to use the macro lens, mostly with flowers and plants. Switching the lenses was relatively quick and easy, something that practice helps with. The case and app combo worked well for the most part.

I was pleasantly surprised at the ability to capture some wildlife images, albeit it was in a park and they were used to having people around, thus they weren’t terribly skittish or quick to move. I wish there was a longer telephoto available, but I’m not sure the system would remain entirely pocketable.

The Not-So-Good

There were a number of areas where I experienced deficiencies and where I thought could use some improvements. The lenses are quite good, but I did notice a some distortion in the corners and sides. Interestingly it seems the telephoto lens seems to suffer more. While it may not be noticeable on smartphone size displays, it does become quite pronounced on larger displays.

The lens is quite small and I feared dropping one accidentally. This was particularly an issue when I was on a steamboat on the Mississippi with open railings going straight out into the water. Changing lenses was a bit of a nerve-wracking affair. Fortunately nothing of the sort happened during the trip.

My greatest annoyance might be with the Moment app and the case. As I wrote earlier, it works well most of the time. But from time to time the Bluetooth connection would seem to not work (even though it says connected) and pressing the shutter wouldn’t do anything. Or there would be seconds-long delay and the shutter would finally snap, taking an image of my foot or floor, or some other randomly pointed thing. Another app annoyance is that it recognizes when a lens is attached and prompts for selection of the lens type to be recorded into the EXIF metadata (as long as Bluetooth is connected). But it doesn’t clear out the selection when a lens is removed. Is the case unable to detect lens removal? The focusing with the telephoto lens attached didn’t always seem to track accurately, and I ended up having to manually adjust the focus on a number of occasions.

A Selection of Images

I estimate I snapped over 700 photos during the two weeks. About half I posted on Facebook to chronicle the vacation. Of these I found 95 to be worth another look, and eventually settled on 28 that I thought were most interesting, of good quality, and worth spending more time processing. I also sent these 28 out to MPix for printing – about half at 5x7 size, and the rest as 10x13. I processed these using On1’s photo editing suite, including enlarging them using its Genuine Fractals enlargement function. I haven’t received them back so I don’t know how they will look like in print, but from equivalent sizes I viewed on my PC display, I thought the images look quite good.

So here is the selection. Click on each image for larger version. I added the Moment lens used (EXIF might show wrong info, if I forgot to assign the correct lens in the app when I shot the image). If there is no mention, then the image was taken with the standard iPhone rear camera.

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Somewhere over Vancouver BC. I was taken by the interesting lines made by the snow.
(Moment Tele)

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In New Orleans. The first afternoon there, the resort had a free crawfish boil.
(Moment Macro)

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At the Old U.S. Mint. This is the bottom floor where the furnace used to be.
(Moment Wide)

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A window on Bourbon Street.
(Moment Tele)

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Pavers on the sides of Bourbon Street.
(Moment Tele)

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French Quarter. The restaurant staff taking a break before the evening rush.
(Moment Tele)

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A residential door on Royal Street.
(Moment Tele)

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Wall and shadows on Royal Street.
(Moment Tele)

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Window box planter on Royal Street.
(Moment Wide)

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The colorful buildings of French Quarter.
(Moment Wide)

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More houses in the French Quarter.
(Moment Wide)

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Street Musicians start out young. The corner of the donation box in the lower left.
(Moment Wide)

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On the exterior wall surrounding Lafayette Cemetery No. 1

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Wall of one of the tombs at Lafayette Cemetery.
(Moment Wide)

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A pair of waterfowl at Audubon Park.
(Moment Tele and cropped some more on PC)

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Audubon Park
(Moment Tele)

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Audubon Park
(Moment Tele)

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Audubon Park
(Moment Macro)

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New Orleans at dawn
(Moment Wide)

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As we left New Orleans, it was hit by a storm. This is the storm cell from above.

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From the World War I Memorial looking down to Union Station and Kansas City downtown.
(Moment Tele)

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Union Station, Kansas City

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Boulevard Brewing Company
(Moment Wide)

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Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts
(Moment Wide)

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Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts
(Moment Wide)

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Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que

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Atlanta, Georgia
(Moment Tele)

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Just south of Juneau, Alaska