Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
Australian technology news, reviews, and guides to help you
The complex camera setup in the Huawei P30 Pro

Why new parents need a great phone camera

I’ve been a parent for a little over two years now. It’s fun and exhausting, and one of the gadgets you should probably have is a great phone with a great camera.

One of the best things about convergence is seeing your hardware needs get cut down from several gadgets to one, and the smartphone is probably the best example of this.

How many people own an alarm clock anymore, when they can just use their phone? How about an iPod or personal media player? Oh sure, you could use a dedicated media player if you plan on playing high-resolution lossless files, but if you don’t, you’re probably working on your phone and relying on one of the streaming media solutions, like Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, or YouTube Music.

Simply put, your phone is one of the better convergence tools in your life, and the most obvious reason why isn’t actually on the front, but the back: the camera.

Why carry a proper camera around when your phone camera can snap the simple things in life and commit them to memory?

Find a great scene and snap it. Take a picture of friends. Grab a great shot of a night out. Or if you’re trying to commit that hotel safe combination code to memory, snap the picture as you’ve typed it in.

Phone cameras can be used for lots of reasons, and as a recent parent, one of the best ways I’ve found thus far is to take photos of your kids.

Taking lots of photos of your kids

Back when many of us were growing up, taking photos of kids was still a relatively new thing.

If you grew up when there was film, it was more or less for special occasions. Film would cost money, and so throwing a roll of 24 or 36 exposures into a camera and taking some photos wasn’t something that would simply happen all the time.

There were reasons for when you had photos back then. They were birthdays, events, parties, portrait sessions, trips to the beach, the park, and so on and so on. They were rarely any old time they could be.

Shot on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Digital changes all of that. With a digital camera, the film cost goes away, and so you can keep taking pictures until the memory is full.

It’s largely the same with phone cameras, but the memory may never be full. You can keep uploading to the cloud, storing your images in a virtually never ending environment, some of which may be free, while storage in others can be an ongoing cost.

The point is this: you can take lots of photos of your kids and family, and you never really have to stop. There can be photos and videos showing how they grew up, and they can be from birth to when they’re older.

Quality AND quantity

Taking photos of your kids doesn’t have to be a quality versus quantity thing, and one of the things I’ve earned in the past few years is just how important a good camera in a phone can be.

My background is photography, and it’s what I grew up with. I’ve worked in darkrooms and had parents who worked as photographers, so having a great camera with a great lens has always been something I’ve treasured.

Apple iPhone XR on an iPhone XS Max
The quality of phone cameras is so good these days, you can get amazing shots out of a decent phone.

In the good old days, however, you carried a big camera. You still can, but these days, you don’t need to.

A better camera typically means better pictures overall, but depending on the phone you buy, the camera quality can go from being ho-hum-acceptable, to “did this really come out of a phone?”

That gives you quality for your images, and quantity for the amount, and it means you shouldn’t settle for a ho-hum camera in a phone if you can.

Every moment is precious

The simple truth is that every moment is precious when you’re watching kids grow up, and that means every moment you have your phone out taking a picture is the right time to do so.

My daughter is two years now, and the amount of photos we have of her is somewhere in the tens of thousands. Throughout this time, we’ve captured pictures of her on good phones and mediocre phones and bad phones and the best phones.

That’s different from what most people get to experience, because most people have one phone for a set period of time. As a phone reviewer, you tend to jump around a lot, settling on the good ones as you get them.

And as we use these phones — the good, the bad, and the ugly — it doesn’t take long until you realise the best phones tend to have the best phone cameras, and these are the ones you want snapping away your family photos.

Why you want a great phone if you’re a new parent

If you’re a new parent, you already have a bunch of new costs you’re going to have to adapt to, and they mount up pretty quickly.

Clothes. Cot. Nappies. More clothes. Food. Bottles. Yet more clothes. Toys. A breast pump and/or formula. More nappies and clothes. More toys. Lots more clothes. You get the point.

Those are all necessities with having a child, and you probably know about the lot of them, or are about to.

A great phone should be chief among them.

You’re going to want to take all the photos as they’re growing, not just because every moment is adorable and your child is going to be a beautiful time waster, but because every photo will remind you of those moments as you grow older. They’re a memory you can look fondly on at a moment’s notice.

Unfortunately, a bad phone camera won’t help you. It will get you the shot, but that’s about it. What you see might be good, and yet it also might not.

So what should be on your list of needs in a great phone camera?

Get a phone camera with a portrait mode

A phone camera with a portrait mode should ideally be on the cards.

Portrait modes typically using a second camera to change the focus of the background, separating person in the foreground from the background and emulating what a lens with a big wide aperture does.

Portrait modes won’t always do as good a job as a dedicated wide aperture lens, but phones are getting better and better at it, and devices like the Huawei P30 Pro, the Apple iPhone XR, Apple iPhone XS Max, and the Samsung Galaxy S10+ are making these modes work with at least two lenses.

A handful of devices can achieve this on one lens, such as the Google Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 3a, and Pixel 3a XL. It’s very much a Google thing, with the creator of the Pixel building phones that make portrait style images with one camera.

Portrait images typically provide a sharp person in front of a blurry background, and the result can create some striking images. You might find the images are a little harder to get for a moving person, but the results can be particularly spectacular, and are ideal to capture more than just a simple photo of your kids.

Get a phone camera with decent low light

When you’re a parent, you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time just gazing at your kids while they sleep. Little ones are beautiful time wasters, because you can just look over their cot and watch them dream.

While they dream, you can, of course, snap a photo or two, but it’s best to not stir them, and that means leaving the lights as low as possible.

Shot on the Huawei P30 Pro

To get a shot like this, you need a camera that allows you to capture in low light, either with a great camera sensor or a night mode.

Most flagship phones over the $1000 mark will offer something like this, and some under it, so make sure to read a phone review and find the devices that capture in low light without flash in order to get these lovely dream-like images.

Get a phone with a great camera

Ultimately, you want to get a phone with a great camera, and that makes it well worth reading the reviews.

A phone with a great camera will almost always come with plenty of space, and that’ll mean there’s plenty of storage for all those pictures.

It’s worth noting that even though a phone with a great camera may typically cost more because it’s a flagship phone, you don’t necessarily have to spend as much. Mid-range phones can do just as well, too.

And remember that you’ll probably have this phone for the next two to three years, so it’s going to give you the best shots you can get throughout that time. Those are moments you won’t be able to recreate or get back, making them just that important.

A great phone camera will mean you’ll have captured moments in potentially great quality, often with the hardware and software of the phone doing much of the work for you.

Anyone can take great shots when they have a camera that can help them get there, which means you should have some practically perfect images of your family, perfect for you to look back on later in life and remember just how vivid and amazing those moments were in the first place.

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