Why AI Photography Could Make It Unnecessary to Carry a Professional Camera

Your iPhone Pro and an AI app will do the trick

  • The iPhone camera app Halide now uses AI (artificial intelligence) to add zoom to non-Pro iPhones.
  • Professional cameras are still better, but the tradeoffs make them unappealing.
  • When used 'raw,' the iPhone camera is capable of incredible results.
An array of camera gear laid out on a tabletop.

Jakob Owens / Unpslash

Halide's latest update adds a fancy feature, AI zoom, and the results are so good that most people probably never need to pick up a DSLR camera ever again. 

If you're taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip to, say, the Galapagos Islands, then what camera are you going to take with you? You might think you want to carry a bag full of high-megapixel cameras and fancy lenses, but with the improvements in AI photography features and smartphone camera advancements, you're probably better off taking your iPhone. Especially if you have an app that gives you extra control–and maybe some AI telephoto.

"Almost all of us now carry smartphones at all times, and it seems redundant to carry a second camera for everyday life. Smartphone camera technology has reached a point where you can even print your photos with decent quality, so there is hardly a sacrifice being made. Unless you're planning on spending thousands of dollars on professional gear and printing your photos on a large scale, a smartphone camera should do the trick," professional photographer Maryam Salassi told Lifewire via email.

The Camera You Have With You

For professional use, a DSLR camera is still the correct tool for the job—usually, anyway. It can shoot raw images faster, has dedicated hardware controls for easier operation, and does far less processing to the image, giving you a cleaner starting point for editing later.

But for everything else, and even for many professional uses, phone cameras are now so good that they will give you better results most of the time while being easier, more pocketable, more resilient, and, importantly, always with you.

Almost all of us now carry smartphones at all times, and it seems redundant to carry a second camera for everyday life.

Things have gotten even better if you use an iPhone Pro. These can shoot in Apple's ProRAW format, which gives you a huge amount of information for later editing. It's the closest the built-in iPhone camera app can get to pro-level pictures.

But if you really want to replace your DSLR camera, you'll need even more control.

The Problem With Apple ProRAW

Halide is a fantastic third-party iPhone camera app, and it just added one neat new feature–an AI telephoto mode for getting closer to the action. But before we get to that, let's discuss the big drawback of Apple's camera app—too much processing. The iPhone snaps several images when you take a photo and combines them to get what it thinks is the best result. And often, that result is amazing. But not always. Sometimes that processing is just too much.

Halide can disable Apple's heavily-processed ProRAW capture and use basic RAW instead. This also gives back control to the photographer, letting them set an important parameter: the shutter speed. This, in turn, allows for sharper raw images because faster shutter speeds freeze subject movement and/or camera shake. 

You'll have to do some of the processing yourself, like with a professional camera. But as you can see in the video from Halide's developers, the results are totally worth it. And this all leads us to the one thing we really miss when taking pictures with phone cameras.

Halide's Neural Telephoto

Most people don't want to carry around a dedicated camera, especially a big one with a long, heavy lens. Halide's Neural Telephoto uses AI to clean up the blur and softness that comes from blowing up an image in software. It's an AI digital zoom that actually looks good.

Someone taking a picture of a lake with an iPhone.

Nadine Shaabana / Unsplash

That allows users of the regular iPhone, not just the iPhone Pro, to zoom in on the subject, removing one of the last obstacles to ditching a real camera. The original unzoomed raw files are saved too.

There are plenty of things your iPhone camera can do that a regular one can't, and it's more than just the social photo-sharing aspect. 

Your iPhone, for example, is waterproof and much tougher than many cameras. Take it on a boat trip, and you only have to worry about dropping it over the side. Splashes and submersions will be fine. Also, custom waterproof housings can cost thousands for a DSLR camera. They're way less expensive for iPhones, so you can shoot underwater too.

The bottom line, then, is that for ultimate quality and flexibility, a professional photographer will still schlep a pack of cameras and lenses on every trip. But for most of us, a good smartphone and AI photography app are more than good enough. And a whole lot easier to carry.

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