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Technologies: Amateur Film vs Cell Phone Photography Essay

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Updated: Apr 10th, 2020


Technological development changes the way people do things. From written letters to electronic mails, physical libraries to digital databases, and tape recorders to iPods, technological evolution is feasible and influences people’s interaction with the world. The advancement in development encourages the merging of various technological forms, such as audio, video and photographic systems, onto other devices.

Cellphone camera technology and amateur film photography are both used for visual documentation of real life events. In amateur photography, pictures are captured when photographic film is exposed to light (Wade and Finger 1158).

Films, which have been used for more than two centuries, are created by chemically mixing emulsified materials on light-sensitive flexible substrates (Rogers 15). When a film is exposed to light, a similar image of the scene is produced on the material’s chemical coating. Amateur cameras have been produced for various film categories, such as Advantix, 35mm, and 8×10.

Cellphone cameras, on the other hand, are digital cameras attached to cellular phones. The earliest cellphone camera was produced in 2000 by Samsung. The camera was attached to a 1.5 inch screen and could capture and store 20 pictures, which could be accessed by connecting the camera to a computer system.

The cellphone and the camera mechanisms were basically different devices mounted on the same frame. Technological development has improved the functionality of cellphone and most of them having the ability to capture, edit, and connect directly with printers.

This paper discusses the similarities and differences between cellular phone photography and amateur film photography. An analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the two forms of photography concludes the paper. The paper is important because of the growing popularity of cellphone photography.


Although cellphone cameras and amateur film cameras exist in different technological time spaces, there are some similarities in the devices. This part of the paper describes the similarities in the technologies in terms of memory, use of exposure light, and socio-cultural effect of both devices.

Light Exposure

An important similarity between cellphone camera technology and amateur film cameras is that they use light exposure during image capture. While light exposure in the cellphone camera occurs on the camera sensor, it occurs on films in amateur camera. Light exposure is a significant aspect of photography technology and is influenced by four elements, namely aperture, light, sensitivity and shutter speed (Setzler 2).

The most significant element of exposure is light. The scene brightness during photography determines the clarity of the pictures because light creates shades, stresses textures, highlights colors, produces emotions, and enables photographic effects. The aperture controls the quantity of light that enters the lens. Cellphone and film cameras have apertures that regulate the quantity of light passing to the sensor and film, respectively.

Shutter-speed is another important element of light exposure determined by the time taken for the shutter to open and shut to enable light reach the film or sensor (Setzler 2). The shutter functions alongside the aperture to ensure adequate light exposure (Setzler 3).

Finally, sensitivity is the element of exposure that determines the clarity or level of detail characteristic to the image produced on the sensor or film. The mentioned constituents are present in cellphone and film photography and contribute to the production of photographs.

Socio-Cultural Significance of Cellphone and Film Camera

An important similarity between cellphone and film cameras is that both are used to capture significant historic social and cultural events. For example, the documentation of John F. Kennedy’s assassination through a film camera remains historically significant and played an important role in the police investigation. Kennedy’s assassination was captured on a newfangled 8mm amateur film camera by Abraham Zapruder.

Abraham Zapruder’s video clip eventually shaped the consequent investigation and controversy surrounding the president’s assassination. Although Zapruder’s video clip was not the only documentation of the scene, it became the primary evidence used to investigate the intricacies of Kennedy’s death. The results of the film analysis showed that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole perpetrator of Kennedy’s assassination (Vagnes 4).

Cellphone cameras have become the most popular way of amateur photography (Gye 278). The ubiquity of these devices has simplified video and picture documentation and contributed to the generation to social and cultural media data. Evidence from cellphone cameras has caused social reaction and outrage in all parts of the world. One aspect of social irresponsibility captured by cellphone footages is police brutality.

For example, the police brutalization of an unarmed 43 year-old man in New York captured on a cellphone camera sparked social outrage in America and some parts of the world. Garner, an unarmed citizen of America, quarreled with law-enforcement agents because he felt targeted (Sanburn 1). One of the officers used a chokehold, currently barred by the NYPD, to quell Garner while other policemen forced him to the floor.

The video clip produced by Orta on his cellphone turned the fatal event from a provincial disaster into a nationwide deliberation over police brutality. In the video clip, one of the law enforcement agents is seen forcing Garner’s face to the pavement while other policemen try to restrain him to the floor. The video clip showed Garner repetitively shouting that he could not breathe (Sanburn 1).

Orta’s clip became popular through weblogs and sparked reactions in the social sphere and police departments. Daniel Pantaleo, the policeman who used a chokehold to subdue Garner, was momentarily dismissed and all the emergency officers that came to the scene were momentarily dismissed without benefits (Sanburn 1).

The cases of John F. Kennedy and Garner show the importance of photography for capturing significant social events. Notwithstanding the method of photography used, documented footages inspire social reactions and contribute to decision making in law enforcement.


In spite of their similarities between cellphone and film photography, these methods of media documentation have significant differences. This part of the paper highlights some differences between the old-fashioned film photography and the modern phenomenon of cellphone cameras.

Ubiquity of these cameras

One difference between the two methods of photography is that cellphone cameras are ubiquitous while film photography is not. Integration of cameras with cellphones offers people a device that enables simultaneous communication and photography. Consequently, few people deem it necessary to carry a dedicated gadget for photography and this has caused a plummeting in the popularity of film cameras.

The increase in the popularity of cellphone and the resulting depreciation in using film photography occurred because of the fast paced changes in cellphone technology. Due to severe competition in the cellphone market, industry players used innovation and technological functions to attract consumers to their products.

After Samsung released the first camera cellphone, other companies in the mobile technology industry reacted by releasing cellphone cameras with better performance and functionality. Consumers were thrilled by the possibility of having decent cameras attached to their cellphones, gradually eliminating the need to carry film cameras around. Continuous improvement in cellphone camera technology has nearly eliminated the use film photography.

Selfie phenomenon

The competitive nature mobile technology industry has made competitors modify photography to attract consumers. The portability of cellphones made it possible for a user to take a “selfie” by pointing the camera lens on their face. However, cellphone companies saw this as an opportunity and now integrate secondary cameras on the front of cellphones.

The “selfie” phenomenon is peculiar to cellphones and differentiates them from film photography. “Selfies” have become the most common form of photography and its popularity is experienced by youths and adults alike. Social media websites, such as Facebook and Instagram, offer evidence to the popularity of “selfies.” The popularity of social media increases the need for people to use cellphone cameras since film photography does not allow users to share photographs in real time.


The theory of evolution occurs in the way people do things. Technological advancement changes the norm and makes it easier for people to perform activities. Although cellphone and film photography share certain similarities, the change in technology has separated the characteristics of both methods.

This paper presented a comparative analysis of cellphone and film photography. Cellphone and film photography depend on light exposure for image capturing and both influence socio-cultural events. Despite these similarities, the popularity of cellphone photography is gradually eliminating the acceptance and use of film cameras.

Works Cited

Gye, Lisa. “Picture This: The Impact of Mobile Camera Phones on Personal Photographic Practices.” Continuum 21.2 (2007): 279-288. Print.

Rogers, David. The Chemistry of Photography: From Classical to Digital Technologies, Cambridge, UK: The Royal Society of Chemistry, 2007. Print.

Sanburn, Josh 2014, .

Setzler, John 2004, . PDF file.

Vagnes, Oyvind. Zaprudered: The Kennedy Assassination Film in Visual Culture, Texas, University of Texas Press, 2012. Print.

Wade, Nicholas and Stanley Finger. “The eye as an optical instrument: from camera obscura to Helmholtz’s perspective.” Perception 30.10 (2001): 1157–77. Print.

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