It provided a corkscrew, a tiny saw, tweezers, a toothpick, a nail file, a screwdriver, a bottle opener, several different sizes of knife blades — even some diminutive scissors. In theory it was a tool to replace all other tools. As I recall, all the retractable apparatus worked sort of OK, but none of it was spectacular. I suppose a seamstress somewhere in the world could have used the tiny scissors to cut fabric to make a quilt, but it’s not likely. In reality, the tiny tools were great alternatives to having no tools at all, but there was never a big movement of people throwing away their regular screwdrivers, can openers and corkscrews because they had a Swiss Army knife.
Today’s smartphones are like digital versions of the Swiss Army knife. They are remarkable devices that are packed with a multitude of features. The typical smartphone combines telephone, watch, computer, Internet browser, music player, video player, eReader, calendar, alarm clock, still camera and video camera into one pocket-sized device. While you have likely used your smartphone for many of these things, you may have found the experience to be like that of using a Swiss Army knife. While your phone can be used for simple computing in a crunch, no one is abandoning their desktops, laptops and tablets just yet. There are some jobs that are are best done by full-featured computers.
The same is true of shooting video with a smartphone. Simply rotate the phone so the frame is oriented horizontally in the correct video aspect ratio, hit record and frame the action. That’s it. There is no further instruction required. While the smartphone may be adequate for capturing a few quick clips, serious shooters will quickly realize that their smartphone’s limited video capabilities are not adequate for capturing footage for produced productions.
The biggest difference between using a smartphone to record video versus a dedicated video camera comes down to control. The best videographers are notorious control freaks. This includes everything from directing the delivery of lines from talent to lighting and shot composition. Smartphones are fully automatic, so they offer little or no control to the savvy shooter. Dedicated video cameras provide manual adjustment of aperture, white balance and shutter speed. They provide much higher quality lens optics that permit optical zoom from a lens servo and precise control over focus. Many dedicated video cameras also provide microphone inputs and control over audio levels. Other more subtle advantages include the ability to mount the camera to a tripod for stability and smooth pan and tilt moves.
At first, all of these controls may seem intimidating to the novice shooter, but the advantages and satisfaction of shooting with a dedicated video camera will quickly surpass any momentary learning curve. That’s not to say that one should never use a smartphone for recording video. All the tools in the Swiss Army knife are useful tools in the right situation. However, I still wouldn’t recommend cutting anything precise with those tiny scissors.