miked's picture

photography from phone

Some comments on using smartphone for taking pictures and using them on ispot. Would be useful to get feedback from others on this.
1. the type of camera on the phone seems ok for taking pictures of plants. its a wide angle lens which also allows close focus so you can see the plant in context as well as getting quite close.
2. The at its closest macro setting the camera can get something about 4.5cm long filling the field of view. At full resolution this does give an idea of type of hairs or other small structures but is nothing like as good as using a hand lens or a SLR with macro lens. The close focus on compact cameras is somewhere between the smartphone and SLR, as you might expect.
3. Other types of organism besides plants pose a range of other problems that the smartphone can struggle with e.g. invertebrates, you have to get very close so if they can move away then they will. Birds or other distant objects are no good as its a wide angle lens not telephoto so the object of interest will be absolutely tiny in the frame. It might be possible to put the smartphone camera on the eyepiece of a telescope or use an adaptor like you can with compact cameras, I don't know about these. Fungi present other problems, they should be as easy as plants but they often grow in very dark areas so the images become very 'noisy' and poor quality, note the smartphone may have built in flash which can help with this.
4. I find it much easier to take the photos then upload them later with the app but make sure the gps on the phone is switched on so that the location is recorded in the image data, by default its probably switched off as the gps takes quite a lot of battery power.
5. smartphones with larger and higher resolution screens are easier to use with the app and when taking pictures.
6. check the image after taking it to make sure its sharp in the right places before trying to upload. do this checking in the field when you are taking the photos, its too late later on. make sure you zoom in fully on screen to check this as its easy to get something that looks fine at low resolution but is all blurry when you zoom in.



miked's picture

After more looking around at

After more looking around at smartphone cameras it seems that there is quite a wide range of quality. Some of the cameras can't get closer than about 50cm and given that the camera is quite wide angle this means that its not really suitable for many natural history subjects. You just can't get a suitable amount of detail to make an identification. The cameras are designed to take pictures of people not insects.
On the other hand there are some smartphone cameras that are ok for the closer subjects, you just need to check this in the shop before buying.
Also on this subject, there are also some new android cameras that also work as smartphones, this gives the benefit of a good lens and sensor allowing very good closeups. But they are very chunky for a smartphone and may not catch on.