Opportunities pass, they don’t pause, someone wise once told me. It was one of those passé sound bites that stuck with me and would spring to mind whenever an opportunity appeared, or more regularly when I failed to take one and regretted it after.
So when out of the blue I was contacted by a PR agency who were working with O2 and Samsung on the launch of a new phone and wanted me to take some photographs with it in an urbex style, I had a decision to make. The shoot was going to be the following week, at several locations that hadn’t been arranged in London and Manchester, on the same day, with a mobile phone that I wouldn’t get hold of until a couple of days before the shoot. Naturally, I said yes – being plucked out of complete obscurity by a multi-national doesn’t happen every day, so might as well seize the opportunity.
I’m not a pro, so I didn’t need the work in fact I had to take a day off but I was both intrigued and concerned about the possibility of shooting low light urbex style photographs with nothing but a phone with a tiny sensor. They say that constraints breed creativity, but this could really be a challenge. One of the reasons I bought my D700 – one of the earlier full frame Nikons – in 2009 was its low light capability. Couple it with a fast prime or a stabilised lens and its superb for urbex and allowed me to travel light without a tripod. The downside to this is the fact that it’s a right big lump of a thing, and I’m quite liking my Fuji XT-10 for its small size and excellent image quality.
I was curious to see how the Samsung fared compared to a proper camera. Purely on grounds of size, I took the Fuji with me as I had a bag full of stuff and the Nikon and lenses wouldn’t fit.
I’ll give a concise history of the Fire Station in the next post, but the day started at 7.30 meeting the Site Supervisor – the property is owned by Allied Properties who kindly allowed me on site to photograph (yes I know that getting permission isn’t in the spirit of urbex, but 1) it’s a commercial job and things have to be done properly and, 2) I’m more interested in photographing a place than getting my kicks from being somewhere illegally. If you want to see some photographs taken whilst trespassing, then have a look on my website http://www.theviewfromthenorth.org.
More through habit of having explored many places, I headed for the top first, which meant the top of the hose drying tower.
I think this was the chief fire officers office, a generously sized circular affair on the corner of Picadilly and Fairfield Street.
From memory this was the laundry on the top floor. Some lovely light in here.
I won’t lie here – the quality of the images isn’t as good as that off my Fuji XT-10. But I didn’t expect them to be. They are damnes good though.
However, given that the vast majority of mobile phone pictures are only ever shared online or don’t even leave the phone (83% of photos remained in digital format in 2012, don’t know how that looks now), that really isn’t going to be a major factor. Viewed on the marvellous screen on the phone, the pictures look great, and look pretty good on my 24″ monitor as well. A4 prints look OK, A3 ones from ISO50 images are acceptable at a reasonable viewing distance. But this is with my critical eye that is used to seeing printed images from a full frame DSLR or an APS-C sensor CSC, so when you consider the size of the sensor it’s more than acceptable. And it maybe moot anyway considering how many actually will be printed.
So a full frame DSLR and an arsenal of quality lenses vs a camera phone – no competition surely? Hmmm, it’s not quite as straightforward as that. I have a highly capable DSLR and a crop sensor CSC, plus a load of lenses that over the past ten years have cost me thousands of pounds. Most people don’t. But what the S7 is, is a very capable camera in your pocket, that is also a phone, and that people will get on contract for maybe £50 a month or whatever the tariffs are. Many people don’t have cameras anymore as the camera on their phone is good enough, and it has the added virtue of fitting in your pocket and being with you virtually all the time. And if something is this good now, it’ll be interesting to see what the next generation brings along.