There. I said it. I hate it. OK, I don't really hate it. But sometimes I want to smash it against the wall. The last time was in the pit at the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band's concert in Madrid. I was there, first row, centre of the stage, after waiting a whole night and day outside of the stadium. That night was the most amazing and magical I've experienced in a very long time, and certainly the best rock concert I've ever been to. Only one thing failed: my iPhone's camera.
I was tired, exhausted, and about to fall sleep standing up (there were no seats at the pit). The week had been hell, and I was physically and emotionally destroyed. But then, the band and the Boss took the stage and Night blasted everything away. In a few seconds, as the adrenalin kicked in, the exhaustion disappeared. Then Radio Nowhere came. And Lonesome Day. And the Promised Land. From there, he and his band made every single one of the 60,000 souls in the stadium fly.
Three hours of pure rock, with the Boss giving it all until the end, when he sung a ten-minute version of Twist And Shout, mixed with—get this—La Bamba. Not a single pause. Just music, heart and soul. I just couldn't believe this guy is almost as old as my dad. Forget Mick Jagger. Forget bloody Bono. He is the greatest rock musician alive, a true force of nature. And I'm not even—or was not, until this day—a fan.
During the whole concert, the entire stadium was under his command, jumping, singing, waving, screaming, completely in ecstasy, electricfied, everyone sweating under the hot spanish summer night. He and the band were enjoying the whole thing to no end. You could see them laughing, looking at us with real surprise in their faces, as if they weren't believing that this huge stadium just couldn't stop singing and jumping through every single one of the songs they played.
They were giving all their life away right there, and the public was returning it right back. With interest. Each of us. Mass hysteria. Crowd orgasm. Total love and dedication from Bruce, the band, and the public.
At one point—one of many in which he came to sing even closer to us—the Boss walked to the central platform and took a girl up on the stage. I knew she was the daughter of one of the spanish fans—who had been following him through the whole tour—because I met her before the concert started. She danced with him for a minute, smiling while the band played. It was just one of the many "I can't believe this is happening" moments of the night.
Right there, in the very first row, in the corner of the central platform, I could see all these moments perfectly, like I'm seeing the screen of my computer right now. We were able to actually shake his hand, as well as the hands of the band—who at the end all came to the centre platform. I shouted at him at one point ("Yes! Take us up there!") and he replied looking straight into my eyes, with the biggest smile, pointing at me and saying "Yes, I'm going to take you there!" just before the band exploded with sound.
Another time, I could see him turning to Max Weinberg—at the end of Seven Nights to Rock—and whisper: "Born to Run!" And (boom!) Born to Run started to play a second later. At any time, I could turn around and see the 60,000 people in the Santiago Bernabéu—the name of the Real Madrid football stadium—singing, clapping, taken way by his power. Yes, it was absolutely breathtaking. All of it. From the very beginning I thought: "I have to share this with the people I love. I can't do this justice with my description. I have to take photos."
There was when I started hating the iPhone's camera.
Nothing, I wasn't able to take any of this magic with clarity. I'm not even talking about recording video (don't get me started on that). I'm just talking about making a decent photo with one of the most advanced pieces of technology ever developed. Only one single photo that didn't appear to be taken with a broken Lomo. By a drunk guy. Without a decent sleep in the last three days (ok, forget about the part about the drunk guy.)
Sure there was some clear pics here and there, but whatever was ok'ish, it was also completely crazy and badly framed. Some of them look nice—as you can see here, in the gallery of untouched images—but most of them need cropping and heavy Photoshop treatment.
I know most mobile phone cameras are exactly the same. They behave poorly under low light conditions, they are slow, and have bad interfaces. And yes, I have to admit I like the iPhone's camera blurriness and unwanted "special effects" sometimes. I even try to get similar effects with my DSLR. But that's optional. This time I only wanted one thing: to be able to frame a good photo. Without having to hold the iPhone in a weird position. Without trying to find the stupid software interface button and not miss the shot (which I did, plenty of times).
That's what I want. I don't want more resolution, and I don't want a stupid zoom. I would be happy (HAPPY) with good lenses and a better, speedier, more luminous sensor. And of course, the physical button. In fact, scrap the rest. Just give me the physical button. As much as I love virtual interfaces—because they open the door to multi-functional devices at a low cost, with great power and flexibility—I'm afraid that there are still times when the only way to go is a physical button. So give me just that in the iPhone 3G 2.0 and I will be happy, Señor Jobs.
And since we are at it, here's a note for the Nokias, Sony Ericssons, Samsungs, and LGs of this world: stop doing the silly marketdrone race towards more megapixels and bigger optical zooms. Educate the users. Don't dazzle them with higher numbers. Give us all more quality, more light, and more speed. That's what really counts to catch the special, truly ephemeral moments you want to save forever.
Because when I think about it, even while I will always keep this concert in my—blurry as the iPhone's camera—memory, there would never be another one like it.
AU: Totally disagree with Jesus here. If he thinks he'll ever get good nighttime photography from a phone at a concert, he's vastly mistaken - taking photos at a concert with a dedicated snapper is hard enough - It's naturally dark, the lights on stage are bright and everybody's moving quickly. It's a difficult situation for even an experienced photographer. But if he'd thought it through, he would have snuck a compact camera into his pocket for the show.
Still, sometimes it just feels good to rant.