Using my iPhone 4 as my only travel camera

4 Jan ’11

When I travel I normally take a lot of pictures. I’m by no means a “photographer” – I just like to take snapshots for memory’s sake. And like many people, I’ve been taking more and more of my pictures with my phone – an iPhone 4. So much so, that on this trip to Argentina I decided to take nothing else, and see what happened.

The results have really surprised me. First, the image quality on the rear facing camera is terrific. One doesn’t have a lot of image control, obviously, and shooting in jpg means there’s a lot of post-processing that one simply can’t do. But for snapshots, the best camera is the one you’re carrying, and this is a great one to carry.

Second, the video capability is terrific, and opens a whole range of opportunities. First, if you have access to cheap data, being able to record and quickly upload / publish video is a game changer (it’s important to remember that this is something that expensive data plans makes very, very difficult). Giving family, friends – or any audience – the opportunity to plug into what you’re doing via video, whether live streamed or recorded – truly changes your relationship with them when you’re on the road. Distance evaporates. Intimacy is everywhere. It’s a powerful new paradigm.

Third – the front facing camera is an awesome tool for recording memories – whether of pictures of friends – or video of myself, for example, with notes on how a friend prepared his asado. The addition of video to Skype’s mobile apps makes this very, very powerful (again, if you have access to affordable data).

Recent examples of how I’m using this? Watching a friend prepare asado and another prepare paella – and being able to document it for others. Documenting the design of a parilla. Shooting street theatre in Mendoza and getting it to family at home in seconds. Telling people about one of my favourite things – food on the road (here and here) – and getting their recommendations in return. And of course, just staying connected.

I’m still experimenting with how to use this and thinking about how it plays into travel and other activities. If you have thoughts I could use while I’m on the road, feel free to comment.

Update – here are a couple more examples using the front-facing camera: keeping a video journal of special moments, and taking quick self-portraits.

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