Travel photography in the age of the iPhone

On my recent trip to the U.K. and Norway I carried with me two photographic tools; my trusty Olympus OMD E-M5 II and my iPhone 7 Plus. My primary reason for bringing a dedicated camera was to capture the incredible vistas I was sure to encounter in the Norwegian fjords with some condideration for general travel photography for time spent in the U.K. I even packed my 12-50mm lens so I would not miss out on any wide-angle shots that landscape photographers love so much. So that was my plan...use the Olympus for the serious shots and the iPhone for candid "on-the-go" photos...except that's not how things worked out. 

Taken using my iPhone 7 Plus.

First off, I totally love my Olympus OMD E-M5 II. I really do. The image quality this camera can produce can be amazing....with the right lens. And this leads me to the crux of the problem. While on this trip it became quite obvious that my 12-50mm lens was just not up to the task of dealing with some of the varied lighting conditions I encountered during the trip. It's fine in bright sunlight but anything else resulted in mushy photos forcing me to use a faster (but less wide) 14-150mm or *gasp* my Nikon 28mm / lens turbo combination along with manual focus. Not good. 

Taken with my iPhone 7 Plus using the Olloclip super-wide lens.

As the trip progressed I found myself using my iPhone more and more for landscape shots as I had the Olloclip super-side and ultra-wide lenses with me. At first I was concerned that I was not going to get sharp results but after some pixel-peeping it was clear that 90% of the shots I took were not only "good enough" but were usually far more visually pleasing that was was coming out of the Olympus 12-50mm. 

By the end of the trip it was clear that the best photos were coming from the iPhone. I was getting amazing shots from the 28mm Nikon lens mounted on the Olympus but being a prime and only allowing for manual focus was just too limiting for anything beyond various staged shots. To be clear, the Olympus was taking great shots that were technically superior to what the iPhone was doing but they just were not dramatically better. As the trip continued I found it was harder to justify the hassle of lugging along the extra gear when I was able to capture amazing photos just using the iPhone. 

Taken with my iPhone 7 Plus.

Do understand, I was not intending to print any of these photos, or use them for any commercial purposes so pixel-level quality was never going to be an issue for me. Other folks who are looking to create imagery for commercial purposes are not going to be satisfied with iPhone photos and should definitely be using professional gear. And that's really the lesson I learned on this trip....

Yup, you guessed it. Taken using my iPhone 7 Plus.

Let's accept reality. The iPhone produces photos that at the level of quality where if you want something better you need to be packing semi-professional gear along with top quality lenses. Mid-range cameras such as the Olympus Micro-Four-Thirds lineup is only going to be an improvement if you attach top quality lenses and know what you are doing. Folks lugging low-end DSLR gear around on vacation are just wasting their time. 

Taken using my iPhone 7 Plus.

For me this trip was a real eye-opener. It's time to either pony up the cash for gear that is significantly better or to focus on only bringing existing gear that addresses a specific limitation of the iPhone (long zoom capability, and extreme low-light) and use my iPhone as my primary photographic tool. 

A few more shots below, all taken using my iPhone 7 Plus!