Can you shoot an event with just a phone?

Recently, I’ve been asked a question that’s been bugging me for days. I was having coffee with a friend one morning when he started asking questions about photography. Among the questions he asked, the one he stood out the most was “Can a professional photographer get away with using a smartphone?” Could I as a professional photographer, shoot an event with just a phone?

I’m a believer in expertise. I think that regardless of the toolset you use if you have a deep understanding of the processes and techniques used in photography, you can still create stunning photos. It’s not about how good the camera and lenses are, but how good the eyes behind the viewfinder are.

But, could I shoot an event with just a phone? I decided to give it a try!

Caught without a camera

One late summer evening, my friend let me know that there was a small classic car show happening nearby. This was a few days after our conversation, and just after a major event. My camera was basically out of commission as none of the batteries were charged and I still needed to offload photos. Then I thought, “Wait, this could be a chance to test what my phone can do!” This was a chance to test my hypothesis. I grabbed my phone and ran out of the door.

My phone of choice is the LG V30. Back in 2017, the V30 featured one of the best (if not the best) built-in cameras in a field that included the iPhone X and the Samsung S8. I decided to get the V30 because of the camera and its ability to shoot in RAW format. I was always curious if I could get away with using just my phone, so I was excited to finally put the phone to the test of capturing a local car show, in less than ideal lighting conditions. 

Leveraging the phone’s ability to shoot in both RAW and JPG, as well as the ability to modify the viewscreen to show professional-style tools (view grids, histograms, white balance, etc.), I got to work. I utilized all of my regular techniques; like dropping close to the floor for close up shots, pulling in really close for macro photography, and then using the view grid for shot composition. I used my phone as if it was a DSLR camera to make sure I can accurately compare the photo quality to using a DSLR rig.

The results were pretty surprising:

Is the best camera is the one you always have with you?

After processing the photos and making my regular tweaks in Lightroom, the quality of the photos was very surprising! While some images weren’t quite as sharp as I wanted, the majority of my photos were almost indistinguishable from photos shot with a professional photography rig. I think my phone performed better under certain conditions than my camera! So, you can professionally shoot an event with your phone.

This, however, begs the question: should I rely more on my phone camera than my rig? I think the answer is both yes and no. While your phone is an extremely powerful tool that not only allows you to take photos, edit them, and upload them to a microblogging platform, it shouldn’t outright replace your camera and lenses, because a phone camera is more limited in its capabilities. I can’t take my phone behind the fences at Laguna Seca and expect the photos to look the same, can I?

I think the best approach is to use both your camera and your phone in tandem. I’ve often used my phone to shoot photos for my Instagram and used the photos from my camera for my blog. The most recent example of this was when I went to Laguna Seca for the 30th Anniversary Miata Reunion; where the photos from driving on the track were from my phone whereas the gallery photos were from the camera.

In conclusion

In the end, I think the question of shooting events with your smartphone boils down to your skill. There is nothing wrong in my opinion with using your phone as a professional camera for Instagram or blogging. There are set limitations for what a phone camera could do. This is where a dedicated camera will outperform a phone camera.

Until someone makes a phone with interchangeable lenses, I’ll continue using both my phone and my camera. Though, It’s nice to know that I can sometimes leave my camera at home!

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The Lotus Evija: Is it a true Lotus?

The Lotus Evija
The 2020 Lotus Evija. Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.

Could this be the future of “Simplify, then add Lightness?”

Lotus has finally revealed the all-electric hypercar they’ve been teasing for months, and now it has a proper name: Evija. The Lotus Evija is Lotus Cars’ attempt at chasing down the Tesla Roadster with a lightweight carbon monocoque chassis mated to a 2000 horsepower motor and the industry’s lightest weight battery pack. Tipping the scales at 1680 kilograms (3703 pounds), Lotus claims that the Evija is the lightest production electric hypercar to enter production. For comparison, the Nio EP9 weighs 1735 kilograms (3825 pounds).

The Lotus Evija
Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.

Marbled carved by the wind

While the massive weight doesn’t seem very Lotus-like, the large swaths of bodywork seemingly carved out of the car does lend itself well to Lotus’ modus operandi. Done for the sake of aerodynamics and lightening, the Evija has openings practically everywhere. My particularly favorite angle of the car is from behind; where the taillight LEDs line the inside of the rear airflow exhaust. The massive rear diffuser with the integrated LED safety light is an interesting touch as well. Noticeably absent are the inclusion of wing mirrors. Instead, the car uses retractable camera pods behind the front wheels, leaving the profile of the car unfettered. Altogether, the car does look like a Lotus, with some styling references to the Lotus Evora and even the Danny Bahar Esprit concept car.

The Lotus Evija
Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.

The styling continues into the interior, with the dashboard and center console being dominated by open spaces. Reminiscent of the tubular frames in some of Lotus’ cars from the 50s and 60s, the interior is pretty sparse. The climate controls, radio, and drive controls are all on the center console “blade”, and the only other decorations in the interior are the instrument cluster and the steering wheel. Inspired by Formula 1, the steering wheel is squared-off and simplified. All of the controls are compressed into the center of the wheel, with turn indicators, lights, cruise control, and other functions beings within thumb’s reach. The steering wheel is dominated by a single red dial that controls the driving modes, with five distinct settings. Lastly, a single multi-function display provides just the information you need according to the different driving modes.

The Lotus Evija
Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.

The Bleeding Edge

Technologically speaking, the Evija is at the bleeding edge of electric vehicle design thanks to the involvement of Geely. While the power and speed of the car are nothing to scoff at, the time it takes to charge the batteries is leaning toward the realm of science fiction. Lotus claims that the Evija can completely replenish its batteries in nine minutes using an 800kW charger. Even when using a 350kW charger, the Evija would still take 18 minutes to completely charge. Thanks to its Williams Formula-E-derived drivetrain, the Evija has the lightest, most energy-dense battery pack ever fitted to a production car. The total range for this car is rated at 270 miles; comparable to the current generation Evora.

A true Lotus?

The Lotus Evija
Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.

One question remains, however: Can an ultra-limited production car valued at $2 million be considered a Lotus? Honestly, I’m on the fence about this one. When I first wrote about the Lotus Hypercar, I claimed that such a car flies in the face of Colin Chapman’s ideals of what made a great sports car. The creed “Simplify, then add lightness” was more than a mantra; it was the formula for what made a Lotus, a Lotus. You don’t need massive amounts of power and displacement to make an engaging car. You just need a lightweight reinforced chassis and great suspension tuning. The Evora is probably the best car I’ve ever driven thanks to its incredibly stiff chassis and excellent suspension.

The Lotus Evija
Photo © Lotus Cars.

On the other hand, Lotus has always been introducing innovative technologies. In the 70s, Lotus dominated Formula 1 thanks to its adoption of ground effects. When Lotus was involved in sports car racing in the 60s, cars like the Lotus 23B were miles ahead of the competition thanks to Lotus’ innovative use of fiberglass and other lightweight materials. For Lotus to find a way to develop a lighter-weight, denser battery pack, they could potentially lead the way in making actual lightweight, electric sports cars for the masses.

The Lotus Evija
Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.

While I still scoff at the existence of a $2 million hypercar Lotus for the son of a sheik, I have to hope that if this car is successful, some of that technology could trickle down to their more “pedestrian offerings”. Imagine an electric Evora with a similar drivetrain or even an Elise.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

The Lotus Evija
Photo © 2019 Lotus Cars.

I can’t get enough of the DeTomaso P72

The DeTomaso P72 is just gorgeous!
The DeTomaso P72 might be my new favorite car! Photo © 2019 G.F Williams / DeTomaso

I really do think this is the best-looking car ever.

This past weekend, the Goodwood Festival of Speed started and ended while I was away from the desk. I did manage to cover some of the more notable events in my new series “Weekend Rear-view”, but there was one piece of news that I simply couldn’t get enough of; The reveal of the DeTomaso P72!

Oh God; that EXHAUST NOISE!

In my Weekend Rear-view, I mentioned that the car is based on the Apollo Intenza Emozione. Personally, I think the P72 is much, much better looking! But, it does use the same naturally-aspirated 6.3-liter V12, so it looks as good as it sounds! Speaking of its looks; the car is inspired by the styling of some famous prototype race cars from the 60s. Cars like the Ferrari 330 P4 / 412P and Alfa Romeo Tipo 33 Stradale are definitely reflected in the lines of the car. In fact, this has actually caused some issues with Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, who has called out DeTomaso for copying their design for the Pininfarina P4/5.

I think this is a bit of a moot point since it’s clear that both cars were inspired by the design of the Ferrari 330 P4 and other similar race cars. That being said, I think the P72 pulls it off a little better than the Pininfarina P4/5. I mean, just look at it!

It’s just gorgeous!

The car looks exactly like the kind of thing I would sketch in the margins of my notebooks during elementary school. Hell, I still sketch cars like this when I get a chance! It has all the classic lines and proportions, and the interior is simply beautiful. Polished and machined copper adorn the inside and outside of the car, and most notably, the top-mounted exhaust. Both the wing mirrors and wheels are finished with polished copper as well, giving the car a weird combination of retro 60’s styling and steampunk aesthetics. I might even go far as to say that the interior looks just as good, if not, better than the Pagani Huayra’s!

A quick pencil sketch I did in 2016.
A quick pencil sketch I did back in 2016 during a meeting at work. I prefer flowing lines over sharp edges!

Now, I know what I said about hypercars. But, this car just happens to be one of the very few that I’m actually excited about! Part of that is because this car looks nothing like your typical hypercar. Cars like the Aston Martin Valkyrie have their designs dictated purely by aerodynamics, and in a way, that takes away from the overall design. The cars aren’t beautiful; they’re purposeful. The P72 is the opposite of what a typical hypercar looks like, and that’s why I like it so much. The P72 is retro design absolutely done right.

DeTomaso couldn’t have picked a better way to return.