Why Gen-Z Is Sick of the iPhone’s Totally Over-Processed Photos

Shocker: cameras take better photos than phones

  • Gen Z has discovered that cameras take better pictures than cellphones. 
  • Sales of cool-looking digital cameras have gone insane. 
  • You can use raw photo apps to avoid the over-processed look of the iPhone’s built-in camera.
Someone taking a group selfie on a smartphone while a person in the group takes a photo of the phone with a camera.

Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash.com

iOS camera app Luma gives photographers an antidote to the iPhone's over-processed photos, but will it be enough to stop Gen Z from buying up all the cool digital cameras?

Smartphone cameras are incredible. They use their immense computing power to not only overcome the limits of their tiny sensors but also to perform visual miracles. They can snap great photos in near darkness, ensure that a person's face is always perfectly lit and that a blue sky is always blue, and never burned out to white. But this processing also means that billions of smartphone photos have a look. And that look is starting to get old. 

"In my opinion, Gen Z is more likely to reject the over-processed aesthetic commonly found in smartphone photography due to the oversaturation of this style on social media platforms like Instagram. As a result, they may seek alternative methods of visual expression that allow for more creative control and produce more unique and authentic images," professional photographer Adam Khan told Lifewire via email. "I also think the recent trend of embracing retro technology and nostalgia may also play a role in Gen Z's rediscovery of digital cameras."

Z ♥'s X

Smartphone cameras are convenient, always with you, and make it trivially easy to get a good photo. Even my mother, who is famous in our family for taking photos so bad that she might even be trolling us, takes pretty good pictures with a phone. 

But this convenience may be losing value as a generation brought up on phone photography discovers digital cameras. Thanks to TikTok, some models are so popular that you just can't buy them. And not just old '90s-retro digicams, either. Fujifilm's X100V, a superb, powerful camera in a handy size and with beautiful retro styling, has gotten so popular that Fujifilm stopped taking orders, and prices on the used market for this brand-new camera are insane. 

Full frontal view of someone holding a Fujifilm X100V.

Reyazul Haque / Unsplash

People have discovered that a purpose-built camera with a big sensor and a big, high-quality lens can take much better photos than a phone. And perhaps more importantly, they look different from phone photos. 

"There are more pictures being taken and shared every day than any other time in history thanks to social media. This has resulted in viewers being exposed to more iPhone images than ever before, which is causing people to get sick of smartphone images since they often have a distinct look," Rudy Winston, technical advisor in the product planning department at Canon, told Lifewire via email. "This makes smartphone images easily identifiable, given their characteristics can seem overwhelmingly casual, synthetic, and sometimes over-processed. In my opinion, it's not a leap of faith to think that viewers are beginning to desire something a little more visually genuine."


But there's a third way. You can have the convenience of your iPhone camera and instant sharing, along with the unprocessed look of a proper camera. The only catch is that it takes a little work. 

Luma, and other camera apps like Halide, let you get the image data from the iPhone's sensor before the processing begins. This means you have to do a lot of that processing yourself because raw data is just that: raw. But if you have the time and inclination—for instance, if you already spend hours preparing your face, body, wardrobe, and surroundings for the perfect Instagram ego-shot—then you can come up with much more natural-looking pictures. 

Someone editing a photo on their phone with a cup of coffee sitting on the table in the background.

grinvalds / Getty Images

"While shooting RAW may require additional work in post-production, many people are willing to invest the time for better quality results. RAW shooting is a popular choice among professional photographers as it offers greater flexibility and detail in post-processing. However, with the increasing availability of user-friendly editing software, RAW shooting is also becoming more accessible to the general public. The desire for authenticity and a personalized touch in photography could drive more people to experiment with RAW shooting, despite the extra effort involved," filmmaker and photographer Neil Chase told Lifewire via email. 

Then again, if you use Fujifilm's X-series cameras, you will get amazing, natural-looking, already-cooked JPGs straight out of the camera, ready to be shared. So maybe there is something to this TikTok craze after all. Let's just hope it lasts.

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