Credit: Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash

When the iPhone 11 was released last month, its three cameras made mobile journalists clamour over the idea of shooting two-way interviews with the back and front camera at the same time, using FilMic Pro.

An iPhone 11 Pro Max, however, is knocking on £1,500 to buy upfront, so many mobile journalists are not first in line to buy the device. Indeed, many trainers, lecturers and reporters remain happy with older models like the SE and 6S.

But how do you know which of the many models is right for you? caught up with mobile experts to understand the reasons behind their choice in iPhone.

iPhone 6S and 6S Plus

We start with 2015's 6S and 6S Plus, which Stephen Quinn, professor of mobile journalism at Kristiania University said is about "as old as you can go".

Being one of the last models with the much-missed headphone import, it proves a cheap and adaptable option for quick turnaround pieces. So much so that Quinn paid out to fix his last 6S to keep as a back-up.

This model is also a firm favourite with other mobile journalism trainers, as it has all of the key features without breaking the bank.

"This one has all the necessary features," said Peter Brinkman, founder, Karakter. "The most important one is shooting video in 4k and it also gives you the possibility to zoom in post-production."

That is a positive as it means mojos can spend more budget on other accessories, like gimbals, microphones and lights. On the other hand, it means mobile journalism trainers have little incentive to upgrade, according to mobile journalism consultant Corinne Podger.

"If there had been a shift in smartphone technology that represented a fundamental change to how these devices work, as opposed to the steady stepwise improvements in camera and processor quality, I would have upgraded earlier," she said.

Quinn warned, however, that while this model is the oldest supported by the latest iOS 13 updates, it is noticeably slower at running certain apps.

iPhone SE

The SE is a cheaper option, similar to the 6S and 6S Plus. For Ann Charles, director of Radio TechCon, the SE is more than adequate for radio production and mojo training.

"This iPhone is my main phone, so it comes everywhere with me. It's small enough to hold in my hand without slipping," she said.

The ability to shoot in 4k, memory storage up to 128GB, and the availability of the headphone socket are all attractive features.

"I can monitor audio without latency and use the headphones that I like without needing extra adapters or losing the ability to charge."

Lecturer at the University of the West of Scotland, James Mahon said the SE, despite its age, allows journalists to do the most essential bit: getting the story out. It was his weapon of choice, as well as the 6 and an iPad to put together a piece on mobile journalism in international newsrooms.

"It's not always about finesse, it's about getting the job done," he said. "You want to have the freedom to be an observer. Sure, more space would have helped but every evening I was backing-up data."

iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

The designers of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus made a decision that infuriated a lot of people; this was the end of the headphone socket and the beginning of the single-use charger slot. While this can be overcome with dual-adaptors, Quinn noted that it is a fragile piece of tech and is easily broken.

The iPhone is like a guitar - if it plays your music, don't change.Francesco Facchini

It is not insurmountable though. The 7 Plus still enables mobile journalist Caroline Scott to shoot and edit HD video for TV and social media packages.

"Mobile journalism is about being mobile: so staying light, using fewer gadgets and being quick - there's no point in collecting all the latest tech if you don't need it.

"Like any profession, it's very easy to have 'all the gear and no idea' about storytelling."

However, the added memory and RAM makes it a solid choice for Francesco Facchini, manager, The Mobile Side. Facchini produces branded mobile content as well as does training for journalists and institutions.

The 7 Plus is a happy medium between staying up to date, having the latest apps run smoothly and being available second-hand for a fair price.

"The iPhone is like a guitar - if it plays your music, don't change," he said.

"The only situation which tempts me to change is if my phone starts to slow down during processes or apps start operating badly."

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

The 8 Plus is a 'perfectly good' choice for many mobile journalists, according to Glen Mulcahy, mojo trainer and founder of Mojofest.

"The worst thing we as trainers can do is suggest the only way you can become a mobile journalist is to have a £1,500 iPhone."

It is Quinn's iPhone of choice too, as it represents a good price-point for freelance journalists as well as companies, which do not usually roll out the latest models to staff.

The 8 Plus is the phone of choice at the BBC, making it an attractive upgrade for Podger, if not for the business risk of it becoming redundant through eventual omission through the iOS updates.

"I've been very impressed with the work done by Dougal Shaw at the BBC using this phone model - and he has demonstrated categorically that it's good enough for all possible journalism formats: television, radio, online and social media," said Podger.

Mahon also uses the iPhone 8 to teach his students about social form video and live content. It is familiar enough so that students (likely iPhone users) can get going without too much trouble whether they have an older or younger model.

iPhone X, XS

The jump up of memory has been an attractive proposition, but it has priced out many users. Mulcahy is currently on the iPhone XS, though not keen on the oversaturation of images and he still opts for the iPhone 7 for taking images.

But for Nico Piro, foreign affairs correspondent, RAI, its camera can handle exposure unbalance in the same scene. While reporters can use older models, it is a good idea for trainers to be equipped with the latest gear, although you do not need the brand's latest version.

"I don’t advocate for the latest model, my suggestion is to stay always one or two models behind to save money.

"I suggest to new mojos to look for refurbished iPhones, which is a growing and interesting market."

iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max

One person jumping on the new 11 Pro is Brinkman, who made this latest model his main choice for training to see how phones are developing. He said it is faster and can deal with low-light situations better.

Equally impressed with the potential of three cameras is Quinn, who said it will only get better with the increasing competition of Huawei, but said the price-point of the 11 models are a big obstacle for many journalists and will prove too much for typical users.

Mulcahy, who is planning to make the upgrade from XS to 11 Pro Max, agreed that while the photography is improving, it is still lagging behind Android, particularly in terms of zoom.

"As a trainer, you need to know what the latest and greatest is," he said.

"But I'm also quite smitten with the visuals of the wide lens, it does compare quite like what is in Electronic News Gathering cameras - but that's the main change, other than that the specs aren't radically different from the XS."

This device does have its place in a mojo kit though. Broadcasters who do want to achieve HD 1080p, 50fps, 50mps can do so using apps like FilMic pro on this iPhone. That is when it makes sense to spend this money as it is competing with a broadcast-standard camera that costs in the tens of thousands.

"The key is that when you are delivering for broadcast, that is the only time you need to have a top-spec device," he concluded.

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