I’ve been a loyal iPhone user for around 4 years now and during that time I’ve never really considered straying. Of course when it comes to phones I’m not a complete monogamist, after all the only reason I even find myself with an iPhone is because I cheated on my Blackberry with one all those years ago. After around a year of loyal Blackberry usage and swearing I’d never cross over, I got completely sucked in to the Apple effect the minute GB got his first iPhone and I was first introduced to Instagram, which at that time wasn’t available on Blackberry (let’s blame Insta shall we). A few months of a shameful affair ensued, where I’d check google maps behind closed doors, or log in and out of Instagram while GB was doing the dishes. It was sordid, and I felt terrible for my poor little Blackberry but when my time for an upgrade came, we all knew where things were going.
Since then I’ve had various other phones paraded in front of me each time I go for an upgrade, been told countless times about better battery life, higher res photos, larger screen’s, faster 3G, colourful cases, unique gadgets and new fangled abilities. But, I’ve rebutted the advances from non Apple phones, waved away the unique, the colourful and the new fangled in favour of my trusty iPhone every time. Yes the battery could last longer, yes the selfie camera isn’t the best and yes the screen could be bigger and clearer at times, but the thing is I’m a creature of habit. Once I’ve invested my time in getting to know how to use something (particularly something technical) I rarely want to re-do this process all over again simply for the advantage of having to charge my phone less. The only thing that ever comes close to luring me is the offer of an extremely good camera within a phone. After all the camera is probably the most used app within my phone, that and of course all of the photo editing apps and photo sharing apps which come after a snap has been taken. On the days that my SLR is at home, my phone becomes my ‘blogging on the go’ tool and with Instagram and Twitter demanding almost as high (if not higher) quality photos as my blog does these days, the prospect of having the best camera-phone on the market in your back pocket is an intriguing one to say the least.
So that’s why last month, for the first time in four years, I strayed. I left my iPhone at home (ok I actually didn’t go that far, that would be RIDICULOUS but ‘left it in the pocket of my handbag while I used another phone’ didn’t have quite the same ring to it – no pun intended) in order to road test the new Microsoft Lumia 930 phone, and in particular put its camera under scrutiny.
The scenario? A street art tour around East London with a hip guide in tow to tell us where to direct our eyes and what the colours and shapes on the walls really meant, and a photography expert to advise us on how to get the most out of our phones camera and utilise all those nifty camera gadgets it came with. I’ll admit on the journey over to our meeting point I had that unnerving feeling that you get when you know your doing something wrong. I could feel the glare of my iPhone screen even from within my handbag and worried I was making a terrible mistake. My iPhone didn’t deserve this betrayal. What could the Lumia possibly have that it didn’t?
That feeling lasted right up until the box of my new phone for the evening was lifted off to reveal a bright neon orange case and a huge clear and bright screen. A little ‘woweeee’ actually exited my mouth and suddenly my iPhone was all but forgotten because I was like a kid with a new toy (classic affair signs – swayed by pretty looks and fancy abilities). It turns out there was a lot that the Lumia had that my iPhone didn’t, mainly a giant screen that took in everything, a slim and sleek shape that fitted in my hand seamlessly, a groovy bright orange case that got noticed everywhere and a camera that allowed for changes in brightness/contrast, ISO, shutter speed and red eye before I’d even attempted to take the photo. Of course I had my usual ten minutes of blind panic before any of this became apparent, as I always do when a new gadget is placed in my hand without a thorough tutorial (i.e. at least three days of me reading and re-reading the manual and trying out every single option until I know how to work them all). I stewed silently at the back of the crowd while the first stop on our street art tour was being explained, flustering about how to find the camera, which buttons to press and what on earth half of the apps were for. It wasn’t familiar, and if I’m honest I didn’t have much of a clue what I was doing with this trendy orange phone with the giant screen which every so often flashed up with a pic my ‘concentration face’ when I accidentally (still don’t know how) clicked onto selfie mode. I soon realised however that I was never going to learn the ways of a new phone in one evening, let alone a matter of minutes, and for tonight at least all I needed to get to grips with was the camera – and so that was what I attempted.
In typical UK fashion, our tour around the streets of East London was somewhat thwarted by grey skies and non-stop rain the entire evening, making the taking of good photos even more of a challenge for the Lumia, but also in true UK fashion we trundled on regardless and all pretended that ‘the cold (or rain) didn’t bother us anyway’. I found it incredibly interesting to walk down streets I must have walked down a million times before, this time actually pausing to take in all of the unique and amazing art which has probably been there all along yet most of us never truly ‘see’. We really are very lucky in London to have so much creativity on our doorsteps, so lucky in fact that we can take it for granted and walk around with blinkers on, seeing but not really seeing all that there is to see. From the giant (entire walls taken over with drawings of herons or lions) to the tiny (blink and you’ll miss them installations propped up on places you’d never think to look), the legal (artists commissioned by shops, bars and property owners to create installations or art on their otherwise plain walls) to the illegal (stories of late night spraying and sticking, the best disguises and those that have been caught out) and the well known (Banksy, Space Invader) to the mysterious (random skulls appearing on every street corner with no known artist behind them), the street art industry is definitely an exciting, interesting and ever-changing one. Even our guide, who does around three tours per week, mentioned that no two tours are ever the same, and he has his work cut out trying to keep up with the changes that happen overnight to an area he knows so well.
East London in particular has become known as a bit of a mecca for street art, and in most cases it’s actively encouraged here, known to be a tourist attraction for the area, but in so many places street art isn’t given the same room to breath. The biggest thing I took away from this tour was the vast difference between street art and graffiti (something many of us might mix up). Street art is – as the name suggests – when an artist chooses to create and display their work (in whichever form that may take) on the streets, rather than in a gallery or at home or in an artists studio. We saw street art in the form of ropes tied to fences in creative patterns, life size paintings adorning walls, pre – printed posters cut and displayed, installations involving cars and wrecking balls on top of buildings and imagery created out of stickers. Each artist with their own signature style and signature calling card.
Graffiti art is perhaps what most of us think of when we hear the word street art, and is the tagging with spray paint. Not to be confused with the ‘I wiz ere’ style of tags that give graffiti artists a bad name of course, this type of art holds just as much creativity with words, shapes and emblems being created simply with a can of spray paint and usually at the dead of night. While I have huge respect for both styles, I definitely had my favourites on the tour and I did seem to favour the more illustrative forms. Some of my favourite pieces came from street art duo, Faith 47 (who’s behind the Lioness mural) and Dal East (who created my top spot of the night, the big cat with a skuba diver within, in a wire style). Turns out they are actually husband and wife but have never actually created a piece together (wouldn’t that be amazing if they did?). Of course I also loved some of the more well known pieces such as ROA’s Heron and the colourful collaboration between Alexis Dias and Elian, which coincidentally became the backdrop to my favourite pic from the night with the ever stylish Emma as a blurry centrepoint (top of the post).
So what of the camera? Well as you can see from the pics it held it’s own pretty well, despite rain, grey skies and, towards the end of the night, extreme darkness. Usually any phone camera struggles in areas of low light or night scenarios (the iPhone especially) so I was impressed that even when using the flash, the photos didn’t come out over exposed. There were a few times throughout the night that the phone crashed out on me slightly and got a little moody about taking a photo. I put that down to the fact that I was trialing a new handset that hadn’t yet been properly configured, and the fact that I’d had the poor thing out in the cold with rain smattering down on top of it for over three hours. The photos are taken at a really high res quality which made transferring them onto my computer pretty easy and blowing them up to the correct size for the blog not a problem in terms of blurriness. There are a lot of features within the camera which, for the most part, I feel anyone other than top photographers might not need to make use of. I always take my SLR whenever I need ‘proper’ photographs at an event or outing and don’t mind fiddling around with the settings to get the ISO and shutter speed just right in this case, but for a phone? Honestly I don’t think I could be bothered with all the faff. One of the main reasons for using a phone camera for me is the ability to take an instant snapshot without too much messing around. As long as the original image is clear there are enough photo editing apps that can sort out all the rest ahead of posting on social media, and considering how much time I spend on those already I don’t need to spend more time ahead of actually taking the photo. That’s just me though, and for those who might use a phone camera in the same way they’d use a real camera, these tools might just be the difference needed to get that winning shot.
One nifty tool I did enjoy was the ‘moving pictures’ setting which took a series of photos in one click to create a very short video image. What its long term purpose is (it’s no longer a video once uploaded) I’m still not sure, but for the immediate LOL’s provided when I asked someone to take a pic of me and instead got a little video of me shuffling around like an idiot, it was worth it.
I can’t say I didn’t get my iPhone out all night because there were a few times when the snapshot waiting in front of me was just too good to miss that I had to take it on my iPhone too (for Instagram purposes you realise – the Lumia didn’t yet have Instagram installed) but on the whole, by the time 10pm hit and I’d wandered the streets of East London with this orange friend alongside me for a good few hours, with a trip to Pizza East for fuel in between, I was a little reluctant to say goodbye to it. Have I been convinced to turn my short affair into a full blown relationship and leave the iPhone for good? In short no. For now me and my iPhone are still as solid as ever. But do I think Apple need to up their game a little on the camera front to compete with the likes of the Lumia? Yes I do.
What do you think of the photo quality of the Lumia 930? Any other Microsoft over Apple users out there?