Yacht Club

As we continue to search for the best smartphone camera, let's take a minute and enjoy the damn pictures

When, exactly, did we become so damn cynical about smartphone cameras? In my lifetime we've gone from Polaroids and those point-and-shoots with the crazy five- or six-shot (I don't remember how many) flashes to friggin' computers with 4- or 16- or even 20-megapixel shooters in our pockets. We're able to take multiple pictures, select, edit and then share them with the world just seconds later. No more 24-hour processing. No more hoping you get the right prints back. No more lugging out large photo albums that you might care about once or twice a year. We have unlimited virtual storage.

So why the hell can't we just enjoy the shots?

I've come around on filters. I've come around on overprocessing pictures simply because you can. I'm cool with it now. There's a time and a place for it, sure. Instagram in a newspaper? Not good. HDR isn't quite a factual representation of what something looked like, but find folks who know how to use it properly (I'm not one of them), and you get some truly amazing shots. And while news photos always have some toning done before publication (as do some of ours here at AC, for what it's worth), that's a different intent, with a different result.

Photography is art. Art isn't perfect. Art shouldn't be perfect. We're not all going to be Ansel Adams. (Hell, it's enough just to get most folks to shoot in landscape, right?) So many of us have found that using HDR on every picture can make up for our smartphone cameras' shortcomings. Need MOAR HDR? No problem. There's an app for that. Consider the above picture, which I shot Friday evening at the Pensacola Yacht Club. I essentially grew up there on the weekends as a kid, sailing with my family and swimming with the other kids there to do the same. I was to have my wedding reception there nearly 10 years ago, except Hurricane Ivan had different plans for the venue.

So when I look at picture above and see that familiar scene, remembering all those trips through the channel, that exact spot where you ease to starboard to head out into Pensacola Bay, I don't care that I processed the hell out of it. I don't care that the blacks are noisy. The sun had gone down. There wasn't much light left. And in the space of a few seconds, I had what I consider to be an engaging picture of a scene that takes me back some 30 years.

And that, boys and girls, is what really matters with these toys.

By the way, here's a look at my train of thought here. I was using the HTC One M8. First, I took a standard pic on "Auto," which is how I shoot most of the time anyway. And then took one with HDR turned on. Much better. And then I ran that through Snapseed's HDR Scape filter. Which is what you see above.

Pensacola Yacht Club in Auto ModePensacola Yacht Club

By biggest regret? Not getting the horizon straight on that second shot. Oh well. I can always crop it.

A few other thoughts on the week that was (and what's ahead) ...

  • Can't think of anything I really disagree with in Alex's GalaxyS5 review. It's a really good phone. Samsung's getting there with the software. For the vast majority of folks out there, it'll be a great buy.
  • Still not sure I can say that about the Gear Fit and Gear 2 watches. More on that in the next week or so.
  • Samsung's game controller looks pretty sweet, though.
  • I'm pretty pleased with how our GS5 coverage has gone thus far. We're breaking it down feature by feature. And, yes, a lot of basics — remember that there will be a ton of folks switching to the GS5 (and to Android) for the first time, and you'd be surprised how popular those stories are. I think we're doing a pretty good job balancing that with the usual news. And we're even managing to sneak in more accessory reviews.
  • Now that it's got Google Play Music support, I finally broke down and bought a Sonos. Expensive, sure. But you get what you pay for.
  • Major props to Google for its new Camera app. It's really cool to see a pretty big influx of Photospheres on Google+.
  • For those who prefer the Android Central Podcast videos in a straight feed instead of YouTube, we should have that back up and running soon. Had to move to a new provider.
  • Cool to see all the love for the LG G2. Still a very underrated phone.
  • We'll finally (officially) see the OnePlus One this week. It's set some lofty expectations, for sure.
  • Keep an eye on your inboxes Monday for Google I/O lottery winners, if you registered. Good luck to everyone.
  • Who the hell doesn't update their apps? Some 22 percent of folks who have the official Android Central App are on an old version. Bizarre.

Aight, that's it for this week. Let's get back to work.