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Cell Phone Cameras

Cell phones. You can just tell this is going to be a rant can't you? Mobile phones have been the fodder for comedians and cantankerous alike. Talking on cells in restaurants, while driving, shopping etc, etc, has been hashed over to a point that to repeat it here would be redundant to the point absurdity. Besides, I have often wondered if peoples' nearly irrational hatred of others' phone habits may have as much to do with them not having any friends who want to talk to them as it does with any objection caused by a sense of etiquette. Certainly there are times to put the phone away and be a decent human to those around you, but the people who are rude when using a cell phone usually have deeper issues than just trying to carry on one too many activities at a time. So, I'll make it clear this post isn't about cell phone ringtones, rudeness, driving with, or any other annoyance that is usually beat into the ground in blog posts.

My gripe today is all about the ubiquitous cell camera. I love having a camera to carry all the time, in a device I have to have with me anyhow. I've taken many a cute picture of my daughter Sophia, and used it more times than I can count to remember a product in a store so I can research it at home later. But, the one thing I don't do is pretend that I'm making art with my phone. Sure the pics look decent enough, though not as good as the 1.3 megapixel Sony that Ruth and I bought in 2000. And I understand the desire to raise cell pics to the level of fine photography, everyone wants to feel artistic without going to the trouble of learning how to make art. But to me art isn't incidental, it doesn't pop into existence just because someone happened to be able to take crummy pictures with something at hand. It may be possible to make art with a cell camera, if a person wanted to achieve a very specific message using a limited medium, but that is very rare, and never just happens.

An oft repeated mantra of modern photographers is: "the best camera is the one you've got with you." Maybe, but my response is: the best photographer is the one who always carries a decent camera. By decent I don't mean a Nikon D3x or Canon 5d Mark 2–those are really great cameras that take stunning photos–but any cheap to middle of the road point and shoot can take very acceptable pictures. Something that even the highest end cell is virtually incapable of.

So, go ahead and use your phone to take pictures. Share them on Twitter or, if you absolutely must, Facebook. Every picture you take can be a lesson on how do better with the next one. But please don't try to convince me that your iPhone camera photos deserve a gallery showing or a book to be published–they aren't deserving. Don't tell me that your Nexus One has such a good camera you don't need to carry another–it doesn't, and if you are serious about photography, you should just go buy a cheap point and shoot and shove it in a pocket. Then, when you want to post a tweet, use the cell; when you want to take a photo, use the real camera.