Finale - Living Nativity 2021

My new camera – a cell phone !

Back in August, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. The cancer fractured my hip and attacked my spine. My hip has been repaired but one consequence of the spinal damage is that the doctors told me I can’t carry anything weighing more than about ten pounds. That rules out dragging my camera bag around or hanging a camera and telephoto lens around my neck. Giving up photography didn’t seem a sensible option so I looked at cell phone cameras that might replace my aging iPhone 8 and substitute for my Pentax DSLR. The iPhone 13 pro was an obvious contender. All reviews suggest the iPhone 13 is “best in class” for video but as I have little interest in video that was not a consideration. Moreover, at the time the iPhone 13 Pro wasn’t available until late in December. An alternative was the new Google Pixel 6 Pro that has great reviews for photography. That cell phone was immediately available and comes with a 4x zoom compared to the 3x zoom on the Apple. After much “research” and deliberation on the wisdom of switching from iOS to Android systems, I took the plunge and purchased a Google Pixel 6 Pro. This short epistle summarizes my experiences so far.

Moving from iOS to Android was not as painful as I expected. Perhaps that is because I was already using Gmail for mail, contacts, and Chrome as a browser. Also, I didn’t have too many other apps on my iPhone and most of those were available for the Android system. Even so, there are differences between the systems and idiosyncrasies to learn. It took me several days to learn how to answer the phone when it rang! If I am honest, the Apple system seems smoother and user friendly. I do miss the user manuals that were once a normal part of any product package but have totally disappeared from most phones. Now, we learn by trial and error or by searching the internet for answers. Sometimes, what might seem intuitive to a programmer or a teen just isn’t intuitive to a senior citizen. However, all this is largely irrelevant to the Pixel 6 Pro camera capabilities.

The Pixel 6 Pro has four cameras: – three for capturing the surroundings and a selfie camera. I still haven’t used the selfie camera (why would I need a selfie) so the images below are from the three main cameras. Those have the following specifications;

CameraMegapixelsLens (35mm Equivalent)
Main Camera5025 mm f/1.9
Second Camera48104 mm f/3.5
Third Camera1218 mm f/2.2

Those look impressive, but sadly, the size of the files from the main and second cameras do not reflect the original resolution of the sensors. Instead, Google combines pixels (or discards them) and produces images that are 4080×3072 pixels – or just over 12 megapixels. Given that very few images are printed and even fewer are printed at large sizes, those 12 megapixels are more than sufficient to illustrate social media posts, or blogs like this. That is, if the processing results in a quality image. So far, I have only used the JPG settings and I am happy with the quality of the images. The gallery below invites your impressions and opinion.

The Pixel 6 Pro does not have a dedicated macro mode. This is a significant deficiency and one that requires some work to overcome. The 4x zoom offers an alternative solution – but cannot compensate for the close focus that a traditional macro lens provides. The fixed f/3.5 aperture of the 100 mm lens is also not conducive to a significant depth of field typically required for macro images. Nevertheless, given the depth of field that comes with a small sensor and the reasonably close focus that 4x zoom allows, an approximation of a macro image can be captured.

The Pixel 6 pro has one more facet that I need to explore – it can capture a RAW file as well as the processed JPG file. I use Lightroom to process my photographs and Adobe has now included the Pixel 6 pro raw images among the files that Lightroom will handle. This should offer additional opportunities to personalize the final images rather than being forced to accept Google’s interpretation of how the file should processed. I am looking forward to playing with those RAW files – if only to see how my processing compares to Googles.

The Pixel 6 pro is not a DSLR and doesn’t offer the flexibility that my Pentax and camera bag do. Still, so far, it meets most of my requirements and in a much more convenient package.

UPDATE (May 2022): I confess that I have returned to an Apple iPhone. I loved the Google Pixel 6 Pro camera but hated the Android system. Somewhere in there was a control that made answering some calls difficult (or impossible.) It seems to affect calls from places that had a central number for replies but individual numbers for each extension. Maybe the phone thought those calls were spam and stepped in to protect me. Sadly, many were from hospitals. A phone with software that is won’t let me answer calls doesn’t make sense. Was there a less drastic solution than changing phones? Maybe, but I was not going to risk missing more calls.

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