To Appreciate the New, Use the Old

To Appreciate the New, Use the Old

It’s pretty easy to get bored with a new camera. At the end of the day, it’s doing about the same thing the old one did, but without the magic of your old camera. Or so you think. But is that really the case? Probably not.

To test this theory, I dug up my old phone, the original 2009-era Motorola Droid and pit it against my (not so new, but still current) iPhone 6s. I’m frequently frustrated with my iPhone. I feel like it sometimes takes too long from shot to shot, I don’t like the image quality, and it’s a pain to get the photos off of it.

Ah, my old Droid — now that was a camera! I could shoot to a micro SD card and it was more of a purist phone-camera. No selfie-cams here. Or at least that’s the way I remembered it. Verizon didn’t have an iPhone option at the time, and so it turns out a lot of that was “Droid does” marketing hype.

So how did the Droid hold up against its 6-year-newer counterpart? It turns out my nostalgia was completely unfounded. Take a look:

Motorola Droid photo of Syracuse University

Motorola Droid photo of Syracuse University

iPhone 6s photo of Syracuse University

iPhone 6s photo of Syracuse University

In this shot, I gave each phone as much advantage as possible — the iPhone was shot in raw with the ProCam app, while the Droid doesn’t have that capability, but I still tuned the photo in Photoshop as a JPG. Even at a low ISO of 51 (the iPhone was at 25) there’s still tons of noise and the details in the photo aren’t there. It’s mostly colored mush.

OK, so perhaps that’s stacking the deck too much against the Android device. How did they both do out of the box?

Here are unretouched JPG files from each phone. The Droid has a paltry 5 megapixels compared to the 12 megapixel iPhone. Here, you can see the iPhone pull way ahead in the detail department:

Straight-out-of-the-phone Droid shot.

Straight-out-of-the-phone Droid shot.

Straight-out-of-the-phone iPhone 6s shot.

Straight-out-of-the-phone iPhone 6s shot.

My trip down memory lane was an ugly reminder about how bad things used to be in cell phone photography. Every time I think my iPhone is slow to shoot or focus, I should go back to the Droid as a reminder. If a picture looks particularly bad, I should remember it could be worse.

That said, there’s still one area the Droid still has the iPhone beat. Getting the photos off the camera was as simple as plugging the micro SD card into a card reader on my computer. No messing with proprietary cables and software.

Aside from that one small convenience feature though, this was no contest.
 

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8 Comments

Gabrielle Colton's picture

This is awesome, I got a note 8 today and am literally in awe of the camera compared to my Iphone

Shoot them both in RAW and you'll get much better quality. My wife has an iPhone 7 Plus and the difference in detail is stark.

It seems like Droid lacks "Dehase" slider in Lightroom. Just because of ages-old dust on and under the lens...

Wasim Ahmad's picture

I did clean off the lens before! Just junky optics, I think.

I have nice layer of dust under front elements of 1-year-old iPhone SE.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Love these comparisons!

Tony Tumminello's picture

That's part of the reason I still shoot with an original 5D from time to time: sometimes it's nice to use an older model camera without all of the fancy features to make you appreciate the more commonplace features that we take for granted with more recent models such as Auto ISO, Live View, etc.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

I found myself without my cameras and my son was going to the Museum of Natural History for the first time. I pulled the old 2011-era Panasonic GF3 and 14mm f/2.5 out from the cabinet, a camera and lens I traveled with quite a bit and loved. My how several years have changed that impression. I'll never complain about my Fujis again.

So weird because at the time I loved loved loved the GF1-GF2-GF3.