I need help deciding between a phone and an actual camera for amateur nature photography. I need something that can be ON by the time I've raised it and quick to focus when I'm in a hurry, and will be able to manage residual motion when I don't have time to steady myself because the thing's gonna fly away any second.
The main constraint is that I am relatively poor (by choice) and so this needs to be an either-or situation.
My background and context in photography come from these three cameras:
- Asahi/Pentax Spot-o-Matic with I think a very nice 50 mm f/1.8 lens. I didn't care about grain. I shot (what seems like) kilograms of high ASA film, developed the B&W myself and dropped the ASA 400 Ektachrome off at the corner drug store. I was so happy with my photos!
- Sony DSC-W55 (2007, 7.2 megapixels, NO Manual Mode, 3× optical zoom) ugh. Every time I turned it on it needed to reboot the computer, and couldn't put it in my pocket until it was powered down and the lens retracted.
- iPhone 6 vanilla (i.e. no photo app, lots of fumbling with screen controls)
Case in point. I think this orange dragonfly species is either a younger version of the red or a cousin, but they are much, much more sensitive to motion and get spooked at much farther distances than the red one:
- Identify this dragonfly with orange body and orange wings? took me 10 minutes to get even this close to it.
- Why exactly are the reflections of sunlight in this dragonfly's eye hexagonal? I could just walk up, hold my phone up close, fumble with focus, no problem.
All photos with my iPhone 6.
I have lots of blurry pictures of very colorful lizards running away because they've noticed that I've gotten too close, and some beautiful birds recognize my gaze and flee when they are only 100 pixels tall.
I need to decide soon if I should upgrade to an iPhone 11 or 12 with their better cameras than the 6 and actual optical zoom, or buy a used or new point-and-shoot or better actual camera.
Question: What are the key points I need to consider when choosing a point-and-shoot that I can use quickly with a fast lens (low f/no) and is also fast to focus and control, (used or new) and how can I compare that to getting an iPhone 11 or 12 with its better camera and optical zoom? Are there specific types of features that will allow people like me to shoot jumpy, skittish wildlife at a farther distance than I can do with my current phone?
note: per @Orbit's question in comments: I am walking in nature twice a day on my normal route, so the camera I use needs to be something I can carry with me all the time without being cumbersome or interfering with my daily activities. I need either a phone or smaller digital camera form factor so that it can be readily transferred between pockets and necks straps several times a day. I can't integrate the normal DSLR-sized camera form factor into my daily lifestyle and workplace for several reasons. Sooner or later I'll take it off and forget it or bang it on some equipment, and where I live and work if I always carried a big SLR in front of me ready to shoot it may make others uncomfortable. It is not rational because everybody has an excellent camera in their phones of course, but where I live and work it will simply be off-putting to others and that's beyond my control.