Smartphones vs Cameras – What do amateur photographers need?

December 05, 2016 Vince Shuley

Ask any veteran snow sports photographer about the latest and greatest in technical camera gear, they’ll probably answer something like: “Great, another piece of technology that’s going to try to run me out of business.” Digital photography has come leaps and bounds in the last 15 years, but the biggest revolution has been the ease of accessibility.

Camera phones have come a long way, baby | Photo - Pintrest
Camera phones have come a long way, baby | Photo – Pinterest


Digital SLR cameras are cheaper and more powerful than ever before, but still need a dedicated bag to carry them around. Mirrorless cameras reduce the bulk without reducing much image quality, but don’t fit in your pocket, especially if you need a zoom lens to get the shot. Point and shoot cameras now are more powerful than ever, but don’t let you upload directly to social media like phones can.

Finding the right camera (or smartphone) for the job can be a bit like Goldilocks finding the perfect bed to sleep in.

DSLR lens selection can turn into an expensive affair | Photo - Canon
DSLR lens selection can turn into an expensive affair | Photo – Canon

If you’re in the “pro-sumer” category and exhibit your work and even make a sale now and then, then there’s no substitute for a proper DSLR body and lens set. But that means when you go shooting, you go shooting. Freeskiing takes a backseat while you figure out the best angle and communicate that to your athlete or model. Some professional pro photographers have made the switch to mirrorless, but have had to compromise on the utility of their gear.

DSLR vs Mirrorless. Does size matter? | Photo - Gearopen.com
DSLR vs Mirrorless. Does size matter? | Photo – Gearopen.com

If you’re strictly a hobby shooter and want the best possible image without getting weighed down by bulky and heavy electronics, mirrorless is a no-brainer. Many of these cameras have exemplary video quality as high as 4K resolution.

The Huawei P9 smart phone comes with two Leica camera lenses | Photo - Arstechnica.com
The Huawei P9 smartphone comes with two Leica camera lenses | Photo – Arstechnica.com

Now, if you want a camera you can whip out of your jacket pocket at a moment’s notice, take the shot and be skiing again in less than a minute, it’s a choice between a point and shoot and a smartphone. Many people opt for the smartphone because it serves multiple uses besides photography and can get the image up on Instagram before the end of the chairlift upload. But not all smartphone cameras are created equal; many cheaper and mid-market phones have dismal performance in low light or when trying to shoot action.

Choose your camera wisely and remember, there’s no silver bullet solution. Ask yourself: What do I want from my pictures? Then select the camera that first your budget and lifestyle.