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Mineral PhotographyBest smarthphone camera for minerals

14th Jun 2019 15:37 BSTProdromos Nikolaidis

Hi all,

Until the end of the month, I’m planning to buy a new smartphone. My final choice will be primarily based upon one criterion: a good and decent camera.

My goal is to capture minerals in images and videos in the best possible quality, always regarding using a smartphone camera and not a professional setup.

So I’d like to know if any of you have some experience and advice on the subject. To save some trouble, I’m interested in any smartphone but NOT in iPhone.

Is there any software or app related to specific smartphones to enhance the quality of the camera when it comes down to specimens?

Any other suggestions are welcome!


14th Jun 2019 16:23 BSTRichard Gibson

I've been very happy with my old Samsung Galaxy S6, both for direct photos including zooming, and for photos through a microscope ocular. The attached is an example, hand held, just laying the camera on top of the microscope ocular, no stacking. Field of view 4 mm, hemimorphite from Idaho. The hutchinsonite was made the same way, and both of these are actually reduced resolution for posting on facebook. You may or may nor be able to even buy such an old phone now, but I really love my camera that happens to make phone calls too.


14th Jun 2019 16:48 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

I use the Huawei P20Pro to do most of my mindat reports now, including the specimen photos. The camera is excellent.

Just as an example (non-mineralogical) of what this phone camera can do, this is what happened last week when I pointed the camera up.

You can't do this on an iPhone!

14th Jun 2019 16:49 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

Also it's a very good phone in all other aspects! No regrets for leaving iPhone.

14th Jun 2019 17:08 BSTPaul Brandes Manager

I don't believe it's as much the camera as the user and how well they know their equipment. That's not to say that some cameras aren't better than others, but if you don't understand your camera, it won't matter how good it is.

With that said, I have been very pleased with the camera on my LG v40.

14th Jun 2019 19:08 BSTThomas Lühr Expert

The free app OPEN CAMERA allows you to disable (or lock) the automatic functions and gives you the full control over all parameters (depending of the phone's hardware). It's very useful that the camera can "remote" triggered by voice.

If you can reach to fix the phone at the microscope, even stacking is possible with excellent results!

Of course -as Paul wrote- all that is useless if you don't understand the basics of photography in general.


14th Jun 2019 20:16 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

The Huawei phones have a 'Pro' mode which gives you full manual control built in.

14th Jun 2019 21:03 BSTJennifer Cindrich

As Thomas said, being able to have full control and disable the controls is the most important. I dont think the difference between an android and an Iphone would matter as long as you found the correct app for your phone. I know Open Camera works great, Camera+ also. Some of them are free and other you may have to pay for. It is important to find an app that has the ability to say ‘cheese’ to take your photos as movement of any kind with your phone was my biggest problem.

I have taken all of the photos on my photo page with a phone and I am very happy with the result!

14th Jun 2019 22:02 BSTJeff Weissman Expert

Most modern photography equipment, from smartphones to digital large format, are more than adequate for this site; its the lighting, background, foreground, specimen orientation, etc. that make or break most images posted here.

14th Jun 2019 23:30 BSTKyle Bayliff

Camera on the Samsung galaxy S8 has been pretty good. It too has a pro mode for setting things as you like them. Depending what else you want to do with it, if you've got a little extra cash to spend, I'd also recommend getting some clip-on lens attachments. I got some for my last birthday. It included a telescopic lens, a macro lens, a polarizing filter, and a fish-eye that could be paired with the macro lens. They they work really well for macro sized specimens. It just doesn't handle micros well. For that I think you need a stack shot camera, and I don't know that any smartphone camera does that. A few examples (not strictly mineral) attached to give you an idea.



15th Jun 2019 00:12 BSTHarjo Neutkens Manager

My suggestion is: buy a cheap Android phone and use the rest of your money to buy a camera.

You can make adequate photos with a smartphone but even a middle of the road camera allows you to make better photos compared to what you can achieve with a smartphone.

15th Jun 2019 09:18 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

> You can make adequate photos with a smartphone but even a middle of the road camera allows you to make better photos compared to what you can achieve with a smartphone.

That used to be the case, but with the newer cameras in the high-end phones this isn't so true any more. The smaller sensors in phones have disadvantages over a DSLR, most obviously with noise, but they have one great advantage in terms of specimen photography and that is they generally have better depth of field.

15th Jun 2019 12:20 BSTHarjo Neutkens Manager

"but they have one great advantage in terms of specimen photography and that is they generally have better depth of field."

Generally compared to what?

Most phones have a wide angle lens, obviously that has a large dof, but put a 28mm on your camera and almost everything is sharp in your photo as well.

A sensor about 5x smaller gives a dof compared to a diaphragm opening 5x smaller. With a DSLR you can have any dof you desire, and if that is not enough you can use one of the many stacking tools available.

I have yet to see a really good photo taken with a phone. They look pretty cool on Instagram, but if you blow them up you can see they are still a lot inferior compared to what you can achieve with a camera. Another huge advantage is that with a camera you have optical zoom. Digital zoom on a phone makes the noise even worse.

15th Jun 2019 12:48 BSTJolyon Ralph Founder

The whole benefit of a smartphone camera is that it's a camera you have on you all the time. I'm not going to give up my *real* camera at any time, but I think you're absolutely wrong in suggesting a compromise of a *poor* phone and a *poor* camera. Instead, get a GOOD phone now, and then a GOOD camera later.

16th Jun 2019 13:10 BSTProdromos Nikolaidis

Thank you all for your time and input!

I totally agree that in order to take a good picture someone must understand the principles of how photography works. Then comes the right equipment i.e. a camera (mirrorless, DSLR), lenses, lighting, stacking softwares etc. It is a fact though that the gap between cameras and smartphone cameras is closing.

I don't have any high expectations from my phone except making calls, connect to the internet and being able to provide GPS signal. In other words I'm not concerned about let's say a great CPU and graphics to play a game. With that said, I decided to focus on the camera to be able to take a decent photo at any time, wherever I am.

16th Jun 2019 18:52 BSTPaul Brandes Manager


If you're going to spend that amount of money, why short change yourself with buying less that adequate equipment? And while a camera phone will likely never replace a quality dSLR, many smartphone cameras are far superior to dSLRs that came out even 10-15 years ago.

If you do your research Prodromos, you should have no problem finding what's right for you. If you want further recommendations, I highly suggest contacting either B&H Foto & Electronics or Adorama Camera (both in New York) for help. Both have great customer service and should be able to assist you.

18th Jun 2019 07:41 BSTProdromos Nikolaidis

Thanks for the suggestions Paul. It is my wish to spend a good amount of money building a mineral photography studio but this will, hopefully, be in due time! I think that building such a studio is quite expensive and right now I can't afford it (I also contacted a well known professional photographer and asked him to give me a value range estimation and even the lowest price was well over my budget!). Right now, I tend to agree with Jolyon's proposal "get a GOOD phone now, and then a GOOD camera later" but I'll definetely keep in mind your suggestions when I'll start setting up the studio.

19th Jun 2019 03:08 BSTDoug Daniels

Just remember,if and when you set up your studio, there is still going to be a learning curve. I was kinda sorta maybe decent back in the days of film, but I hadn't done real high-tech (and this was before things like stacking were available). If the in-phone cameras are that good (I don't even have a smartphone/I-phone), then may be a good way to start learning some techniques to use when you get a "real" camera and all the nicely expensive accessories.

19th Jun 2019 09:13 BSTProdromos Nikolaidis

Thanks Doug! When I have time, I'm trying to read some stuff about photography to be ready when I get the "real" camera. Until then, I'll experiment with the smartphone's camera as you said!

19th Jun 2019 09:36 BSTTimothy Greenland

My experience is that a high-range racket did not make me into a tennis champion and a good camera did not make me into a good photographer - but if you have the talent the right material can allow you to express it...



19th Jun 2019 18:54 BSTDennis McCoy

I have been taking almost all my mineral photos with my iPhone, with excellent results. A cheap clip-on adapter for macro shots can be found on the internet. I use a third party app (ProCam) that allows manipulation of metering and speed. I also have used it with my microscope to photograph micros.
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