How to use phone or tablet as travel camera: is it really a good substitute to point-and-shoot or DSLR?

On this trip to Australia, I decided to not bring a camera with me. Instead, I opted to use my iPhone 4S and my iPad mini as travel camera.  I have never owned a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, even when I had the money to buy one. I have borrowed friends' DLSR and mirror-less camera before and it felt good to use them and I was also able to shoot better photos.

However, considering how much additional gadgets I would have to lug around when I use those cameras (battery, charger, extra lenses, flash, etc), I thought it was not worth the hassle especially since I like traveling light.

I am not an aspiring photographer anyway (never had the illusion). I realized long time ago that I wanted to take photos, especially during travels, so that I could document and make it easier for me to tell stories. I also want proof of odd or interesting things I find. Making photos look good is not really my goal.

So what's my verdict? Yes, you can use a smartphone or tablet as travel camera. After all, the best camera is the one you have when you needed it. Here are some of the reasons why I said yes:

1) It's lightweight and easily available. Just pull it out of your pocket. That said, battery life might be an issue. So in my case, I used my iPad as my main camera since it has longer battery life, and used my iPhone as a back-up.

2) It's not so goofy using an iPhone to take photos. I thought I'd look stupid, but then again I didn't really care about what other people would say. And I don't really block other people when I take photos. Whether you are using a tablet or a DLSR, you are bound to block someone's lens if you stand between him and the object he is trying to shoot.

3) Smartphone and tablets are multitasking -- I was able to take photos, videos, panoramic shots, selfies (no tripod needed!), edit photos, and upload photos! Also, when internet is available, I can share photos in social media immediately.

4) You don't need a lot of accessories, making it easier to bring along! No extra chargers, no extra cables. The only issue is, if your phone has small storage capacity, then you have to transfer the photos from your phone to another media or online storage.

There are limitations, of course. But I think I can live with them:

1) Low quality -- some phones are good with night shots, some phones have better lenses. But all in all, I just try to adjust my expectations. In the situation where taking photo is not advisable, I take videos instead. The point is, I could still capture the moment, just not in still.

2) Battery anxiety - when I saw my iPad's battery drop to 20%, I started heading back to the hotel to recharge. Well, that's the reason I had my iPhone as a back-up in case I couldn't recharge my tablet in time.

3)  Usage problems - dirty or cloudy lense, finger covering the lense, shaky hands, etc

4) It takes practice to get good selfie!

Anyway, here are some photos I took during my recent trip, using my iPad mini or iPhone:

Lastly, here are some tips I found online that might help you use your iPhone as a travel camera:
1) http://www.adventurejo.com/turn-your-iphone-into-the-ultimate-travel-camera/
2) http://connect.dpreview.com/post/2863436371/leaving-my-dslr-at-home-iphone-experiment
3) http://iphonephotographyschool.com/light-sources/
4) http://iphonephotographyschool.com/focus-tips/
5) http://iphonephotographyschool.com/travel-photography/

To sum it up, let me quote a statement from one of the articles above:
Using a phone camera freed-up my head. No settings to fuss over, no gear to shepherd. It became about seeing pictures, rather than creating pictures. When I saw good things, I got good pictures. When I didn’t, there was no technical wizardry to save the day. - Dean Holland