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I have an amazing camera phone in my pocket – but I always bring my REAL camera

James Artaius with a camera
(Image credit: Alis Volat)

I don't particularly consider myself a photography purist. I'll never look down at anyone for shooting in a priority mode (I learned composition by shooting on auto), and it's been quite a while since I used my light meter. 

However, despite having an iPhone 13 Mini in my pocket – one of the best camera phones on the market right now – I never leave the house without taking my "real camera" with me. 

This isn't a condemnation of smartphone shooters. The likes of Kim Haggstrom and Dina Alfasi shoot far better stuff than I probably ever will, regardless of what I'm shooting on. 

And indeed, there are some situations where a smartphone does the best job. The best ISO sensitivity in the world is no match for the computational cleverness and sleek HDR work that your phone can perform. 

The fact is, though, that for me personally, my smartphone is there for my slice-of-life snaps. To capture a selfie with friends, to take a quick landscape when I'm on a walk, to film a snippet of video where I don't have to worry about lighting or codecs.

For my "proper" photography and videography, though – what I would consider my work, and what I produce when I am commissioned for an assignment – I just can't be without my "proper camera" (which, on any given day, might be my Olympus PEN E-P7, Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, Canon EOS R5 or anything in-between).

Phones are fantastic for their purposes, but all their clever computation comes at the cost of creativity. Their automation is great for taking a shot of your friends in a dimly lit bar, or a quick video of your cat doing something daft, but they rob you of the creative control that only a sensor (or film) and a hunk of glass can unleash.

Razor-thin depth of field to isolate your subject from the background. Genuine optical zoom, to capture faraway subjects in crisp detail. Fast shutter speeds to freeze motion. Beautiful bokeh, to create a magical scene. Anamorphic lenses, to record filmic flare.

Yes, the best camera is the one you have with you – which is why I always make sure to take my actual camera with me. Trust me, on the day that fate gives you an unforeseen chance to take a photograph of Lady Gaga or the Dalai Lama, you'll regret only having your iPhone with you.

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The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Phot0: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.