Eastern Bluebird: Kennebunk, Maine, USA — The other way to get impressive results with the iPhone SE 2020 and the Sirui 400mm mounted on the Moment thin case, is to use 60fps 4K video clips and capture frames after the fact. Since I am still in the experimentation phase with this phone and lens (and case) combination, if the bird cooperates I generally try to shoot some still frames, using ProShot at 1/500th or 1/1000th of a second when shooting hand-held, and then switch to 4K video for a few seconds or more of video. I use Lumafusion on my iPad to select and save frames at the full 4K resolution. It is quicker to just take a screen shot in the built in video player, but then you are limited to the resolution of the screen, and, if you crop at all, to even less pixels. I process the captured frames as I would any image, in Polarr and Apple Photos. The results are never going to equal the output from my Sony Rx10iv, but the more I play with the Sirui 400mm on the iPhone, the potential I discover in it, as a photographic tool.
Eastern Bluebird: Kennebunk, Maine, USA — Someone said, and I read it somewhere, one time, a long time ago… “It is not that the elephant dances well, it is that the elephant dances at all.” I thought it was Mark Twain, but I can not find the reference using Google this morning…in fact I can not find the quotation at all…and I am beginning to think I may have made it up. 🙂 This photo brings the quotation to mind. It might not be all that great, as photos of bluebirds go. I certainly have much better ones. But then, when you consider that it was taken with an iPhone SE 2020, it is actually kind of amazing. I keep practicing with the iPhone and the Sirui 400mm lens mounted on the Moment thin case, and I am getting better. Of course holding the phone and lens steady enough for a decent photo is the hard part. It helps to use an app like ProShot, which allows you to create custom presets with higher shutter speeds. This shot was at 1/500 of a second, with auto ISO for correct exposure (ISO 50). I have also been experimenting with a “camera grip” on the phone. It is just a plastic clamp thing with a grip like small camera, and a bluetooth shutter button on the top right under your trigger finger. It makes phone photography much more comfortable and increases your chances of holding the phone still enough. There are a few on Amazon…variations on the design. I bought this one because it has the cold shoe for mounting a mic or light. The bluetooth release is a little finicky, but when it is working, it makes the phone very “camera like”. And it makes shots like this one with the Sirui 400mm possible at 1/500th, hand held. So you see, the elephant can dance.
Still experimenting with my iPhone SE 2020 and the Sirui add on lenses on the Moment thin case. This shot is a frame from a 4K video, and, given the limits of the phone camera, I think it shows promise. I had the phone on my selfie stand on the deck with the Sirui 400mm lens prefocused on the meal worm dish and again, I was inside with the bluetooth remote. The frame was captured from the video at full 4K resolution using the Lumafusion app on my iPad, and then processed as I would a normal image, in Polarr and Apple Photos. This might be as good as the iPhone SE can do. I have a photo grip for the phone arriving today…just a little hand grip with a bluetooth trigger that fits one the end of the phone, so my next experiment will be to see if I can get anything at all from a hand-held 4K video. 🙂 The video is too large for upload to WordPress, but I will post it on FaceBook. I have been digging into Phone camera reviews, and, while there are certainly better phone cameras out there than the one in the iPhone SE, it looks to me like the limits I am seeing in the telephoto images are not going to be eliminated by investing in a “better phone”. The reality is the sensors are just so tiny, that they reach their limits for nature work, especially wildlife, very quickly. Still, it is amazing to be able to get anything at all at 400mm with a phone. 🙂
I set up the chair blind in the back yard yesterday, just to begin the process of getting the birds used to it. I took the iPhone SE 2020 out with me with the Sirui 400mm lens attached to the Moment thin case, and mounted it on a selfie-stand I bought for videos. The stand is handy because it has three broad based feet and then a pole that can put the phone at be any height from 2.5 feet to close to 6 feet. It is just right for working inside the chair blind. I had the phone focused on the meal worm feeder, which was the most active, and was using the bluetooth remote that came with the Sirui lens to shot a burst of photos when a bird would show up. I was hoping, of course, for my first telephoto shots NOT taken through the double glazed glass of our back deck door. As I was sitting there though, getting colder and colder in the mid 30 degree weather, shivering in the shade of the chair blind, it suddenly occurred to me that I could put the phone and lens on its stand outside the back deck door, so there would be no glass between it and the feeders, and I could be inside with the remote, staying warm. Best of both worlds.
So I sat at the kitchen table, doodling around on the iPad, and playing a few tunes on my low whistle and bowed psaltery, sipping coffee, as I kept my eye on the meal worm feeder and shot off bursts when a bird come in. Very enjoyable.
I am still experimenting with different camera apps for the telephoto shots, as a higher shutter speed than the built in Apple Camera App is likely to choose is required, even with the camera on a stand…since the birds do not stay still for long. I took some shots with the ProShot app, which allows you to specify the shutter speed while the camera choses the ISO (you can also set an upper limit on the ISO, but the lowest setting is 400, which is not much of a limit in any kind of light at all). I set the shutter speed to 1/000th. The Chickadee above is with ProShot, at ISO 40, just twice the base 20 ISO, and you can already see that the sensor is straining. I also tried the Action mode on Camera +2, but that chooses a shutter speed in the 1/3000th to 1/6000th range and pushes the ISO up to 125 or more. ISO 125 on the tiny sensor of the iPhone SE provides considerably worse image quality I get at ISO 6400 on my Sony Rx10iv with its 1 inch sensor, and very likely worse than you would get at ISO 125000 on a full frame sensor. So not good.
This is another ProShot image of a Bluebird.
My next step is to use this setup to shoot 4K video, both for the video itself, and to see what a 4K frame looks like as a still photo. Maybe today. 🙂
Eastern Bluebird: Kennebunk, Maine, USA — I have set up the backyard bird blind feeders, and over the next few days when the temperatures are going to get up into the 50s, I will taking the blind out to see if I can get some Nature Phonographs of birds without a double glazed door between us 🙂 This shot is from the comfort of our kitchen through the glass. I am learning the limits of the tiny sensor in the iPhone SE 2020. Even at low ISO, on close up shots like this one, taken with the Sirui 400mm attached, the sensor does not have the resolution or image structure to render fine feather detail. I am sure detail is also limited by the diffraction of the tiny lens. It is not so obvious in landscapes, or even in macros, but in long telephoto shots I am, so far, coming up hard against the limits of what the phone camera can do. At least the phone camera in the iPhone SE. I may have to invest in a phone with a larger sensor before this is over, just to see what can be done. I wonder if anyone rents phones? Still there is a ways to go in testing the limits of the iPhone SE that I already own, and, considering that I did not buy it for its camera, it is doing okay. iPhone SE 2020 with Sirui 400mm lens on a Moment thin case. ProShot camera app, with a custom preset, Auto White Balance, 1/1000th, and Auto ISO with a 400 upper limit. ISO at 32 in this light.