It's not as if Winter wasn't carrying lots of conventional photojournalistic gear. He had a Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital single lens reflex, which he used to shoot stills and video. But, as he explains in the NYT's Lens blog, the Hipstamatic had its own appeal.
But it happens that Mr. Winter quickly realized — after trying a few shots — that his iPhone would be an effective way to capture the day-to-day trials of the First Battalion, 87th Infantry of the 10th Mountain Division in northern Afghanistan.That's an interesting point about the 10-second delay with the Hipstamatic, something I've found true as well. (There's not much of a delay when shooting low-res pictures for web use, but it does take the Hipstamatic about 10 seconds to do all the processing for a high-res image that makes full use of the camera's resolution.)
“Composing with the iPhone is more casual and less deliberate,” Mr. Winter said. “And the soldiers often take photos of each other with their phones, so they were more comfortable than if I had my regular camera.”
Mr. Winter even found himself taking a few iPhone pictures during firefights while he was shooting video with his single-lens reflex (a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, as long as we’re on the subject). The Hipstamatic app forced him to wait about 10 seconds between photos, so each one had to count.
In 10 seconds, a conventional modern photojournalist might shoot dozens of images of an important scene in order to make sure they captured just the right instant. Winter is right -- the delay forces you think about what your are doing, and fosters a much more deliberate sort of photography. It's like going back to a much earlier era in photography, when Henri Cartier-Bresson, for example, did not have access to motor drives, burst modes, or even rapid advance levers. He had to advance the film by winding the film-advance knob by hand. It didn't take 10 seconds, but it did preclude getting a second shot of "the decisive moment." It forced him to focus his attention.
There's an extended slideshow of nineteen of Winter's Hipstamatic images at the Lens blog. Take a look -- they're excellent.