BTL: Capturing my Daughters Birthday with my Smartphone

In Photography by Jerad HillLeave a Comment

Not every photo has to be taken with high priced gear. You don’t even have to have top of the line equipment to get great photos. This photo is a good example of that. I captured this photo using my iPhone and the Sony QX30. The Sony QX30 is a camera that uses your smartphone as the viewfinder. You also use the phone to control the manual settings on the camera. Though the QX30 does not have full manual mode, it does have Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes, which is pretty close to manual. The QX30 turns my smartphone into a camera capable of shooting in just about any condition.


I know that I can get decent photos using my iPhone 6 Plus so long as the lighting in the room is decent, but my iPhone can not capture a photo I would deem worthy of printing and putting up in our home. This is why I often default to using my DSLR for all situations, but DSLR cameras are large and you can’t easily share photos from them to social media. Not yet anyway.

The lighting for this photo was only window light from across the room. It was about 9:30 in the morning when I took this photo and the sun was actually on the other side of our house so the light coming through the the windows was not that bright. Below is a photo of the windows so you can get an idea of the lighting. My daughter was facing the windows so the light came right through and lit her face.

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Window Light

The Sony QX30 camera seems to do it’s own smoothing on photos when the ISO is rather high. You can kind of tell in the photo as the ISO was set at 4000. When using an ISO as high as 4000 on most cameras, you would see a lot of sensor noise. The Sony QX30 seems to attempt to combat this noise by smoothing out the photo. This is very noticeable when you zoom in 100% to the original photo in photoshop. This camera will produce a RAW and JPG file. At the moment, I can not get the RAW image to open in Photoshop or Lightroom. It will probably be a month or so before the camera is supported, so all I have is the JPG file to work with.


I went with a 1/200 shutter speed because my daughter is all over the place. She is almost moving so it is hard to get a sharp photo of her unless the shutter speed is higher. This is why I used Shutter Priority mode as opposed to Aperture Priority. Most people choose to use Aperture Priority because they want to control the depth of field. I preferred having a sharp photo every time over having manual control over aperture (fstop). Because the ISO was set so high, the photo ended up a little blurry because the camera had to work so hard to produce a well lit image.

Sony QX1 Smartphone Camera

The nice thing about the Sony QX30 is that it’s a small camera that connects directly to your smartphone. I like this because I can capture the photo and instantly share it online through my phone. In the past, I would take photos with my Canon DSLR and also take a couple photos with my phone that I could share right away. Now I can capture nice photos with my smartphone. The QX30 connects directly to my smartphone using Wifi. If you are using an Android device that has NFC, you simply turn on the camera and tap the phone against the NFC logo which instantly creates the connection and opens the Sony PlayMemories App which allows you to control the camera and take photos. (Pictured above is the Sony QX1 which is a Mirrorless Camera that allows you to use any Sony E-Mount lens of your choice. I paired the QX 1 with a Zeiss 32mm 1.8 lens.)

Camera Mode: Shutter Priority
Focal Length: 32mm

Shutter Speed: 1/200
Aperture: 2.8
ISO: 4000
Flash: No Flash

The Sony QX line of cameras also stores the original image to a micro sd card on the camera itself. You can connect the camera to your computer to transfer the images to your computer. I have the camera set to transfer a 2MB image to my phone. This way I don’t have each 20 Megapixel image I capture transferring to my phone. I only plan to use the photos on my phone to post to social media anyway, so the full size image is just overkill.

Sometimes I will edit the images I capture with the QX30 or QX1 in Snapseed. Snapseed is a photo editing app from Google and it’s available on iPhone and Android. It’s easy to use and very powerful. I often use it to bring back some of the shadows in photos because most smartphones have a hard time with shadows and highlights.

Aside from the QX line of cameras not having manual mode, which I assume is just a shortcoming of the Sony Playmemories app, the cameras are pretty awesome. I have tried using my Canon PowerShot G1X Mark II and Canon 6D, which both have Wifi and can transfer images to my smartphones but there are extra steps involved. With Canon’s smartphone app, you can only transfer images to your phone, you can’t take the image and have it directly stored on your phone in one step. That is the killer feature for me, being able to capture the photo and have it saved to your phone at the same time. If Canon would allow for that, I would have no need for the QX cameras. There are ways of doing it using Eye-fi cards or other forms of digital transfer, but none that come as close to how fast the process is using the QX cameras and the Sony Playmemories app. This camera is also a conversation starter. I have used it to liveblog events over the past few weeks and people often stop what they are doing and watch you use it.

Gear used in this photo:

Alternative Gear mentioned in this article

I am always on a search for convenience. I have three kids ages 4 and younger so the lighter I can travel when it comes to photography gear, the better. I also do not like having my large camera in front of my face when I should be experiencing precious moments first hand. My Canon 5D Mark III covers up my entire face, so my kids can’t see me smiling at them. Using smaller gear that does not get in the way as much as my DSLR gear is a win for me.

Here are a few other photos captured with the QX30 attached to my iPhone 6 Plus. These photos are right out of the camera with no editing or cropping. You can see more photos I took and share to my Instagram profile:

IMG_7802 IMG_7806 IMG_7812 IMG_7777

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