Daily Archives: March 1, 2021

Nature Phone: Bluebird at 400mm?

Eastern Bluebird: Kennebunk Maine USA — Not a great photo, but an interesting photo in that it was taken with my iPhone, through a double glazed door, on an overcast day. Continuing my experiments with iPhone nature photography. How about birds and wildlife…generally the realm of long telephoto lenses? I bought 2 add-on telephoto lenses and I will do a comparison at some point. This is the best I have done (though, as above, not under ideal conditions) with the better of the two…the Sirui 400mm telephoto on my iPhone SE 2020. While it is not obvious in wide angle, macro, or portrait shots, the limitations of the tiny sensor in the SE become very, well, limiting when attempting a telephoto close up. Unless you use a tripod, (which kind of, in my opinion, defeats the whole purpose of using your compact phone) your natural instinct will be to increase shutter speed for a steadier shot, at the cost of pushing up the phone’s ISO setting…while you can not do that in the stock camera app, it can be done with any number of specialized camera apps. My experiments have demonstrated, however, that shooting at anything much over the base level 20 ISO will not yield satisfying results, at least with the iPhone SE. Action mode on one of the apps uses shutter speeds in the 1/6000th range, great for eliminating motion blur, but any detail is lost in the mushy, grainy, blotchy image quality, at ISO 640. Very disappointing. I have gotten better results just letting the camera choose both ISO and shutter speed and shooting a burst of photos from a monopod. The image above was taken in “live” mode on the iPhone, and then selected as the sharpest of the 15 or so frames the phone captured when I touched the shutter button. I am still experimenting. And, of course, while auto focus still works quite well through the 400mm telephoto, you do have to pre-focus the lens manually to get as close to correct focus as is visually possible. It is a juggling act, trying to focus, and shooting off a few shots with the volume buttons or by tapping the screen, and still holding the phone, even on a monopod, still enough to have any hope of a clear shot. With practice, however, it can be done, more or less. I am still hoping for a bright sunny day when I can get beyond the glass door and results that might be even better. iPhone SE 2020 with Sirui 400mm telephoto add-on lens, using a monopod, Auto Live Mode. ISO 32 @ f1.8 @ 1/121th (chosen by the phone’s camera app).