It's so easy to fall down the well of "need great gear to make great pictures." It's a compelling argument. It's why camera manufacturers get celebrities to endorse their gear. Sometimes even celebrity photographers. Gear has it's own eco-system of advertising and reviews that feed more advertising. It's complicated. But taking pictures shouldn't be.
Chase Jarvis kicked things off with the "Best Camera is the One That's With You." Complete with an app for the iPhone and it's own built in eco-system. The sentiment is true—without a doubt. A camera is better than no camera. Even when the Best Camera app was announced I think the iPhone 4 was still an undisclosed, rumor of a myth. And—to fall back into the well of gear geekery—the iPhone 4 really does have an extraordinary camera in it.
[caption id="attachment_1695" align="alignnone" width="570" caption="An entirely random image. The only reason it applies is that it was, indeed, taken with an iPhone."][/caption]
David Duchemin consistently has some good rants about the gear thing, like this one on spending the money on tickets instead.
One of my all time favorite photographers Norman Mausfopf has been shooting with the same Leica kit for years. With the same film. Processed in the same developer. It hasn't slowed Mauskopf from making absolutely magical photographs.
Other options followed for iOS—Hipstamic, Camera+ and finally Instagram—which really took off and started spawning it's own set of services for sharing. But still, for people not keeping up it's easy to write the whole thing off as "it's just a phone camera."
This is a good thing.
People change when you reach into a camera bag, pull out a some giant, begripped digital SLR with a gaping, hooded lens on the front of it. They get worried. They start second guessing what your motives are. You've become part of the situation instead of documenting it. Plus, you have to get it off that card, into a computer or iPad. Some people get obsessed with editing, culling, doing hours of post-processing.
Your iPhone on the other hand isn't hanging off your shoulder along with another twenty pounds of additional lenses, a flash and extra stuff. You see an image or a situation and quietly retrieve your phone. Capture your image and move along. Plus, you can share it almost instantly—right from the "camera."
The longer the majority of the population views the iPhone as a "not serious" piece of camera equipment the better. You can catch people a bit closer to being themselves. And it can be used to create compelling, challenging, work. Want more proof? Look no further than the results of the Basetrack project featured at Foreign Policy.
This isn't to say I'll be selling my dSLR any time soon. I do enjoy shooting with it—but it's just way past time to stop thinking of the iPhone as a toy.