Lion of the Blogosphere

Burrito joint and mobile photography

burrito_joint

This photograph was taken with an iPod Touch 5G @ ISO 400, 1/15 sec

A quick photo I took with my iPod Touch 5G while waiting for a delicious Mexican dish. A grilled chicken burrito is $9.15 (price includes tax), twice the price of Taco Bell, if there were actually any Taco Bells in Manhattan, which there aren’t. Well, there are a few exceptions—for example there are two in Harlem—but there isn’t a Taco Bell on every corner the way there is in Phoenix, Arizona.

As you can see, it’s not a high quality photo from a technical perspective. The tiny sensor in the iPod Touch 5G is pretty noisy. Even at the lowest ISO there is a lot of detail smearing from an over-aggressive noise filter that you can’t turn off, and the situation gets worse in low light. The camera is barely able to handle this low-light situation. On the other hand, it’s not really any worse than the first digital camera I bought in 2001, a Nikon Coolpix 880, and that camera had a sensor that was four times bigger than what’s in the iPod Touch 5G. And I’d even say that, in good light, the iPod Touch 5G has more accurate colors than that old Nikon, and the lens is surprisingly sharp.

But the benefits of mobile photography, that is photography using a mobile device not primarily designed to be a camera such as a cell phone, iPod or tablet, lie not with the technical superiority of the photos but with the availability of the camera. Few people carried digital cameras with them all the time, but half the people now have a smartphone or some other device that’s also a camera. It’s an unprecedented opportunity for documentary photography, to capture the essence of the world today. Too bad most people don’t actually do that with their mobile cameras.

In my case, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable pulling out a real camera to take this picture. The guys behind the counter might not have liked it. Remember what happened when a woman tried to take a picture at Momofuku Ko? But with my iPod Touch 5G, I doubt they realized that I surreptitiously took their photo, because people are always fiddling with their smartphones while waiting for their burritos.

In addition to stealth, people could benfit from mobile photography because it restricts you to a single focal length, generally equivalent to about 30 to 35mm on a 35mm film camera. The iPod Touch 5G is equivalent to 33mm. This is a nice focal length for documentary photography, giving the photo a slight amount of exciting wide angle distortion, but not so bad that it requires great skill to compose photos. By mastering a single focal length, people could perhaps become better photographers than if they have some zoom that makes them lazy.

To take this photo, I used an app called PureShot. It’s a little bit better than the built-in Apple camera app because it displays the ISO and shutter speed and also gives you a histogram, almost like a real camera. But nevertheless, it doesn’t really give you much extra control over the camera and you still get the same smeary photos with low dynamic range.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

January 27, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Posted in Photography, Technology

20 Responses

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  1. I’ve often wondered who does the lettering on those chalk menus. Given the artistic flare, I doubt it’s the meatheads behind the counter. I shop at a wholesaler that is staffed by people who look lucky to have put their clothes on properly, but all the price signs are beautifully lettered.

    islandmommy

    January 27, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    • The people who work the cash register at that place aren’t “meatheads.” Maybe not geniuses, but smarter than the people working at the post office yet probably less well paid.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      January 27, 2013 at 3:00 PM

    • I’m afraid that this will come off snarky, but I mean this in a very real sense: these jobs are where 80% of art school grads wash out to. It’s the “cool” burrito shop so it staves of ignominy (and besides, you’re working on your graphic novel at night!) and it lets you (sporadically) use your talents.

      oo-ee-oo-ah-ah-ting-tang-walla-walla-bing-bang

      January 27, 2013 at 10:35 PM

  2. The Taco Bell on Manhattan
    CLOSED b/c of rats, yes?
    I saw a CNBC expose where they filmed the critters taking moonlight strolls along the floor.
    Big Outrage Ensued amongst Nooyawkas…who actually live with more rats per capita than people.

    So, that’s why Chez SUR and Blaze Mendocino object to you photog-types.

    BTW, I know it’s long been de rigeur for NYTypes to enthrall The Rest O’ The World with pics of their bistros n’ boites. fwiw, The real fascination comes from imagining who pays for those $10 burritos.

    Firepower

    January 27, 2013 at 3:46 PM

  3. I don’t understand, why can’t I see one 57 in that picture?

    hawver

    January 27, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    • For some reason, WordPress thought your comment was spam. Good thing I caught it and rescued it from oblivion.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      January 27, 2013 at 4:10 PM

  4. But wait…what is that we see in the reflection of the bottles of Jarritos? Could it be? Yesss! It’s One57, which will be the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere once completed.

    ATC

    January 27, 2013 at 4:12 PM

  5. Lion, Isteve has an excellent thread on the topic of how a wealthy father can guarantee that he will receive plenty of high IQ grandchildren. YOU should have a similar thread because obviously living in Manhattan requires a high income which generally requires a high IQ .
    as wealthy parent, concerned that my son will choose a wife based on good looks, not based on intellect, if I set up my sons’ trust funds so that they inherit nothing unless their wife has an IQ over 150 and produces three or more children, the power of incentives will work to produce that outcome. There are plenty of very young fertile 150 plus IQ females who are ready to marry a motivated wealthy young man at a young age. In particular if you look at young women at BYU, many of them combine exceptionally high IQ with a desire to start reproducing immediately.

    Arvind

    January 27, 2013 at 5:15 PM

    • “Plenty” of women with IQs above 150? Seriously?

      Unless by “plenty” you mean “a small handful,” then sure. Even a school like Harvard doesn’t have a tremendous number of women with IQs above 150. I’m sure the number of 3Σ+ women at BYU is far smaller.

      Your suggestion that men should always seek out intelligent women (if they want intelligent children), however, is great advice.

      Ian

      January 27, 2013 at 5:48 PM

    • There are plenty of very young fertile 150 plus IQ females who are ready to marry a motivated wealthy young man at a young age.

      There are relatively few women with IQs over 150 because male IQ variance is higher than women’s. This is why when fertility trends and dysgenics its more important to study high IQ male fertility than female; because there are more men at the far right end of the IQ distribution (and the left dumb end) than women. The gender IQ variance gap is also why there are fewer very dumb women and more very dumb men.

      The Undiscovered Jew

      January 27, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    • Snark generally does not work in writing and your attempt fails. However, men with 150 IQ generally do marry very smart women these days because that is who they are around most of the time. Remember, doctors marry doctors, lawyers marry lawyers, etc. the book on Bobos has a whole chapter on the subject.

      superdestroyer

      January 27, 2013 at 8:13 PM

  6. But the benefits of mobile photography, that is photography using a mobile device not primarily designed to be a camera such as a cell phone, iPod or tablet, lie not with the technical superiority of the photos but with the availability of the camera. Few people carried digital cameras with them all the time, but half the people now have a smartphone or some other device that’s also a camera.

    It was a stroke of genius by Jobs to turn a device everyone needs, a mobile phone, into a “do everything” gadget. Welding the camera into the phone and linking it to the internet was an especially good move by Jobs because it encourages social media addicted Americans to send photos of where they are and what they are doing. The iPhone is “sticky” as Apple execs say. Jobs was the greatest at combining state of the art technology and beautiful design with revolutionary marketing hooks.

    The Undiscovered Jew

    January 27, 2013 at 6:09 PM

  7. Burritoes and muffins? What’s going on? If you’re eating to chase away the blues, try drinking instead:http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2017200,00.html.

    Nicolai Yezhov

    January 27, 2013 at 8:59 PM

  8. as a former phoenician, I noticed that as well. Taco Bells *really are* everywhere, which is odd given that actual, legitimate Mexican food, made by and for Mexicans, is also readily availible. Why on earth would you pick Taco Hell when there was a Fillibertos/Alibertos/xyzBertos right there?

    oo-ee-oo-ah-ah-ting-tang-walla-walla-bing-bang

    January 27, 2013 at 10:33 PM

  9. I used to get Taco Bell delivered to me in my office on 5th and 45th. I think the Taco Bell was on 3rd and someplace or other.

    Can’t really remember, but I’m pretty sure it was connected to a deli in some way because I could order drake cakes and other snacks like that (I ordered from seamless web). Very authentic, it was always delivered by a real live Mestizo and always late. Though the very authentic “Mexican Pizza” was always in the bottom of bag and crushed by the seven layer burritos and volcano tacos.

    jf

    January 28, 2013 at 12:59 AM

  10. Does that joint offer certified organic free-range meats and other fresh certified organic ingredients? If not, they are an over-priced poseur institution. Labeling their burritos “natural” and “hormone-free” doesn’t count.

    bobo

    January 28, 2013 at 5:31 AM

  11. That joint is Burrito Box – one of my favorites – the dude on the right has been working every single time ive been there over the past 10 years – and he is the most efficient (if cold) counter guy in Manhattan.

    Seamus

    January 28, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    • Burrito Box (9th ave between 57th and 58th) RULES!!! Definitely the best fast “Fresh-Mex” in the area (border of Hell’s Kitchen and the Upper West Side). Lion, do you live on the UWS or in Hell’s Kitchen AKA “Clinton” now that it has gentrified a bit?

      High Prole & Proud

      January 28, 2013 at 7:36 PM

      • Amazing that people who read the blog have actually been there. For all I know, next time I’m buying a burrito, one of my blog readers could be the guy in line in front of me or behind me.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        January 28, 2013 at 8:18 PM


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