Breaking Up With My Cellphone Or: The Day I Realized I Don’t Know How To Use A Real Camera

My love of cellphone cameras

Cell phone cameras have ruined me. The Google Pixel 3 has an impressive camera and I don’t know how, but Google knows exactly how to correct every photo I take. It knows I shake a little. And that I’m not always good at choosing the right lighting for a photo. Regardless of my shortcomings, it has managed to take some of my favorite pictures:

My phone before that was a Samsung Galaxy 7, which also took great photos.

How I chose my new camera

But I thought to myself, I should grow up and start using a real camera for all my travel! I started the hunt for which camera to buy. The first question I had to answer was, how much money was I willing spend? I knew I wouldn’t go north of $1000, and I thought I wanted to be much closer to $500.

The second question I had to answer was, did I want a DSLR or mirrorless? For me, weight is very important. I wanted it to be as lightweight as possible. I heard mirrorless are lighter, so my thought was to go with mirrorless.

The next question was, did I have a brand preference? Really, no, I don’t. I have never been someone who was particularly brand-loyal. For computers, I’ve owned dells, sonys, a microsoft, a lenovo. I just want something that has the latest and greatest. For phones, I just talked about how I currently have the Google Pixel 3, but I had the Samsung before that. And before that it was an LG. So I have no brand loyalty. This made my choice much harder.

It came down to three cameras: the Canon EOS M50, the Fuji X-T20 or the Sony Alpha a6000. After much hemming and hawing, I asked friends what they had. Many have DSLRs and not mirrorless, but those who have mirrorless, have the Sony. So I got the Sony.

It came with a huge bundle of stuff, most of which I have no idea what to do with. Someday I will figure that out, or that stuff will sit in the enormous Focus camera bag that came with it. It also came with an extra lens that zooms 200m. I’m excited to try that, but haven’t had an opportunity yet.

My first impressions/experiences

When I first got it, I thought it wasn’t that good looking. I kind of wished I got it in a different color. BUT, it is super light. And it fits perfectly in my hand like it was made for me. I charged it up immediately.

We first took it out on an excursion to Gantry Park by the water near my apartment in Queens. I took pictures of lots of things just to start getting a feel for the settings and the camera itself. It took some pretty decent first shots (I didn’t edit these in any way).

But I feel pretty sure I could have taken these with my cell and they would have turned out very similarly. Though I will say this: my cell camera cannot take a picture of the Pepsi Cola sign. I have to do a panorama, which never turns out right. I’m happy to see the Sony can.

Sunset setting

As you can see, it was a pretty grey day. When sunset came, it was like the heavens were providing me with the perfect colorful canvas. It was absolutely gorgeous and I was so happy to have the camera to try its sunset setting. Let’s start with how it came out with my phone:

This is pretty, but it’s really not what it looked like AT ALL. It was a blood orange, not this pale yellow. Here’s how the Sony held up:

Simply gorgeous shots. I loved how it photographed the water.

Portrait/Night Portrait Setting

My Pixel has a nice portrait setting. I can’t help taking a million pictures of food with it. Case and Point:

So I was excited to check out the Sony’s portrait. It turns out that portrait mode recognizes faces only. I at least have not figured out yet how to choose what I focus on to do portrait any other way. The other interesting aspect I hadn’t expected was that it takes a full picture, and then creates a portrait. It took this picture:

And turned it into this:

That’s pretty nice, I guess. But I will note that it not only did it with human faces; it also transformed street art that had faces on it when it was in intelligent auto mode. See:

The camera automatically turned her into a portrait pic. I really don’t know why. I don’t know how being in that mode may have changed the way the original came out, either. I did think the night portrait was quite nice:

It feels crisp for being at night, so good job Sony!

So as you can see, I am still exploring the camera settings. I think it’s taking some nice shots, but I am clearly underutilizing its capabilities. It’s my own ignorance on how to actually use the dang thing. Here are some other settings I played with.

Macro flower setting

Still having some trouble with this.

Panorama setting

Disappointed this was completely washed out by the sun. Not sure how to fix…

Aperture Setting

I tried playing with the aperture…too advanced…no clue if it’s working.


The camera also came with filters – a UV filter, a filter that takes away reflections and a fluorescent light filter. I tried out the UV filter and the reflections filter, with little success. Still a work in progress…


Overall, I am happy with the camera. I have A LOT to learn, but I think what I’ve been most impressed with is its ability to capture colors. It is far and above better than my cell. Of course, I can get these colors with my cell, it just takes a filter.

I can break up with my cell camera for these colors. I was also pleased with how it performed when there was a huge amount of light behind the subject.

Not only do I have to learn the camera, I also have to learn the software that came with it…It will be a lot of work to get good at using the camera. We’re going to Switzerland in 2 weeks and I hope to have gotten a little better by then… And I’m having fun in the meantime! If you have any tips or have had a different experience, I want to hear about it! Leave me a comment.

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11 thoughts on “Breaking Up With My Cellphone Or: The Day I Realized I Don’t Know How To Use A Real Camera

  1. So happy for you that you’re learning! I swear, you will not regret it once you learn how to use it better ๐Ÿ™‚ Just a tip: the portrait mode on our phones mimic an effect known as “bokeh” or “shallow depth of field” on more advanced cameras. In order to achieve this effect, you need a tele lens + distance to the subject you want to stand out/in focus, OR a lens that can get you a low aperture number (the “f” number). The lower the number, the bigger the opening, the more light gets through to the lens, and the more depth you can get! For my Sony a6500 I got the Sigma 30mm f/1.4, which creates amazing bokeh that is perfect for shooting portraits, food and more. The low aperature number allows a ton of light to come through your lens, which also means it is PERFECT for low light photography. I suggest you do more research on bokeh to get that “portrait mode” you seem to miss ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Awesome tip! I have no idea what most of those words are, but I can’t wait to learn! I’m going to be investing some time into youtube videos learning how to use this camera. Part of me thinks I should have just gotten the a6500, since the a6000 is an older model, but in case I started to use it and found myself not interested, I didn’t want to spend too much money. I’m going to look into that lens…

      1. I’m not that familiar with the Sony system myself yet (I shot Canon up until recently), but I think the a6000 is a great option to start with! Yeah I would look into getting a lens with low aperture (1.4 is the best, but 1.8 lenses are a cheaper and good way to start too). Sigma has a 16mm 1.4 lens that is great for wide angle shots too.

        Oh and I always buy my camera equipment used ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. I really need to learn to use my camera better – I also have a Sony, but a different model. I use it for food pictures and it’s great in low light, but sometimes I still need my iphone!

  3. Even your photos from the The Google Pixel 3 look like you’ve always had a camera lol I use Cannon 700D, I’ve had it for ages and I’m still a beginner level! Never have enough time to get into the details! you gave me some motivation! also shared mix&flipboard

  4. I feel your struggle hehe! I have had a bridge camera (a super small DSLR type but the lenses dont change) and a mirrorless too and after 2 years I still learn a lot! Now I am at the point of identifying all the cell-photos and use almost exclusively my camera photos with no filters at all! Great insight on your journey ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I take my pics on my iPhone 7Plus. These are used for social media and pictures within its sweet spot. Hubby has a Canon D80 DSLR to add in another perspective and the shots I canโ€™t get on my iPhone. We have been considering a change for our DSLR so interesting to read about your quest. Love the colours you got on the Sony.

  6. Oh my all your photos are stunning! And that google pixel phone is really great too especially to someone that has no talent in taking nice photos. But itโ€™s always nice to learn how to use the basic of camera. I would probably go with Fuji.

  7. Such a great article. This is totally me. I’m getting ready to break up with my iPhone but I’m still nervous about the learning curve. Thanks for sharing your experience!
    ๐Ÿ˜Š Jenifer

    1. Of course! I have seen great pics done by the iPhone, but I don’t think it’s the best cell camera out there, either. I bought a little cheat sheet for the camera to help me learn the best settings in different situations. I think the hardest thing has been switching lenses. I don’t like doing it at all and I always end up with spots of my lens. Still learning…

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