Each year, smartphone technology boosts, and each year, more people in the online world compare digital cameras to mobile phones. Therefore, we have decided to put an end to this common comparison in today’s article.
No one can deny that smartphone cameras are now highly satisfying imaging devices. Current smartphones offer premium quality pictures, typically employing computational features to cover up the loss with their comparatively tiny sensor size. With the progress of the image processing software and smartphone cameras, everyone is wondering which one of the two devices is better.
Many users believe that iPhones are now almost equal in worth or better than digital cameras. On the other hand, some people argue that the tiny iPhone sensor can never compete with the performance of the full-frame imaging device. And if you are confused which device to purchase, today we will put an end to the iPhone vs camera photography debate that is always raging online. Let’s get started.
- 1 Photography in Your Pocket: Comparing iPhone and Camera Photography
Photography in Your Pocket: Comparing iPhone and Camera Photography
First things first, what are the pictures like? The image quality of iPhone 12 Pro Max especially is very striking. However, the image files lack the dense level of information for shadow and highlight recovery.
Digital cameras boast an improved picture quality as opposed to iPhone. Yes, iPhone pictures appear high-quality, but this impression is only from a tiny screen. Things change when you zoom the image and put it side-by-side with digital camera work. You will see the striking differences then.
Many details are maintained by the camera pictures, and colors are also more correct. This realistic result is due to the talented camera sensor and a greater resolution. Although iPhones are able to automatically process an image to make it appear nice. However, the general picture quality is not great.
But yes, the result boils down to how you operate either one of the devices. And if you fail to utilize the camera correctly, do not expect good delivery. Moreover, digital camera pictures can be further refined if you pick the RAW format. Editing the images in the post processing stage adds more edge to the work. More on this later.
As iPhone lenses are tiny, these pose restrictions to what is possible. These smartphones are perfect for normal zooming and wide angle, but lack the natural looking appearance. And the biggest downside is how you cannot change the iPhone lenses. This means that you have to make the most of the in-built lenses as they are fixed, similar to all the other smartphones.
However, there is no shortage of lenses for digital cameras. Their zooming capability is way bigger than the iPhone. Moreover, their lenses fulfill specific photography niches and needs. For instance, particular lenses exist for shooting portraits, adjustable zoom, wildlife, and wide angle landscapes. And camera lenses are constructed with premium glass. This further boosts the color, clarity, and the picture quality.
Also known as bokeh, this unpleasant situation happens when you snap an image while focusing on the foreground subject with a wide f-stop. This results in the background losing focus due to the poor depth of field.
When it comes to iPhones, they showcase slight blur while capturing zoomed in subjects, but present an artificial blur to make it resemble farther objects. In simple words, the blur added by the iPhone is not the same as the natural bokeh effect of digital cameras.
The digital camera bokeh, or background blur, is more natural and significantly better than the iPhone. Its blur is much smoother and cleaner without any strange effect surrounding the outline of the subject.
Ease of Usage
Capturing images in an iPhone is a breeze because users can direct and shoot. But digital cameras require a learning curve and some skillset to make the most of it. Even if the iPhone is more readily available, grasping the art of using a digital camera is a gratifying experience, which will work in your favor to become a polished photographer. The reason is because you will learn all the nitty gritty of snapping a mesmerizing picture.
However, if you think you can’t maintain the camera and can’t learn how to work a camera, choose an iPhone. This option is also best for people who do not desire much flexibility, control, and image quality. But the ones who are aspiring to be photographers, digital cameras are worth the additional effort because the final pictures will be unmatched.
Do you know what an HDR picture is? It balances out the whites and boosts the darks. This leads to a well-balanced and vivid image. Mobile phones popularized the HDR images, since they are capable of doing it rapidly. Moreover, the iPhone is able to automatically capture HDR pictures by snapping tons of images. Afterwards, it blends the dark and colorful parts into one.
Digital cameras boast several automatic HDR features. However, users are free to accomplish it manually, even if it is more complicated. Do you desire a similar speed and experience? Own a DSLR camera with the highest dynamic range.
This term refers to the highest range between light and dark. A high dynamic range is capable of capturing a bigger variety of both extremes. In case you snap an image on a digital camera by adopting RAW format and a high dynamic range, you will enjoy the freedom to edit the picture afterwards however you like.
Digital cameras present tons of settings in order to adjust every minor detail. This brings you much closer to the picture you want to capture. Not only this, it adds immense flexibility which an iPhone can’t compete with. For instance, a slew of buttons exist to adjust all settings.
The abundance of such settings proves it to be simpler to utilize and adjust rather than doing everything on a small touchscreen of an iPhone. With that being said, the high-end digital cameras are now equipped with LCD screens as well as physical buttons.
But when we look at the iPhone, it lacks settings to change in the stock camera app. However, several professional camera apps provide flexibility.
Capturing images on an iPhone consumes considerable battery with time. Over the course of time, your photography hobby or passion will suffer by needing charging access during shooting. However, digital cameras never pose this issue because they are equipped with replaceable batteries.
This means that users are never concerned about eating up the battery. And DSLR camera owners can swiftly charge its batteries because they can enjoy various batteries to replace. In simple words, you can snap images without worries while an additional battery is on charge to be utilized afterwards.
While an iPhone image storage is fixed and is quite expensive if you want to purchase a bigger storage option, digital cameras are hardly similar to this smartphone. It is also impossible to upgrade your storage afterwards.
There is no end of digital camera storage because users can purchase different memory cards. Photographers have as much as 6 memory cards minimum. These cards are very affordable. It is no wonder why digital camera users freely and even recklessly capture videos and pictures. This is why many seasoned photographers only use an iPhone or other smartphone as a backup.
Size and Weight
Isn’t this a no-brainer? This is an aspect in which the iPhone wins because it is portable and lightweight. Plus, we all carry our mobile phone with us everywhere so there is no worries about its size and weight. iPhones can fit in your pocket and are highly practical.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max weighs 228 grams with a thickness of 7.4mm. But on the other hand, the Canon 5D Mark IV DSLR weighs 800 grams excluding the lens and its thickness is 75.9mm.
In simple words, digital cameras are larger and heavier, with DSLRs being the bulkiest. It is impossible to slide them in your pocket like with an iPhone. And camera owners do not just use the camera because it is connected to a host of accessories and lenses as well.
These components are fragile and vulnerable to external conditions. This means that you are carrying all this stuff with you wherever you go for shooting. Even if the additional equipment brings unbelievable perks, you will need to decide how to carry all this. If you want a smaller camera, consider going down the mirrorless route.
No one leaves their house without their smartphone, but you have to specifically pack the digital camera with the lens, memory card, and batteries in a special carrying bag. You know what they say – the best camera is the one that is with you, and we always carry our smartphone everywhere. So in this case, the iPhone is way more practical.
Again, digital cameras win in this regard as it is a breeze to edit their images. Digital cameras are able to save more information in the picture file, particularly if you capture them in the RAW format. And if you are unaware, RAW pictures are uncompressed images that retain the entire data while shooting a photo.
You only realize how much editing is permissible with an image once you attempt to edit the RAW picture. For instance, if you capture a dim light image in the JPG format, it is not possible to illuminate it without compromising on detail and resulting in artifacts. But the RAW format boasts the freedom to illuminate darkness way more and balance out the highlights.
But on the other hand, an iPhone lacks this freedom and simplicity of editing. However, the majority of editing is handled automatically by smartphone processing. Although this is neat, it still erases the freedom in case you wish to edit it more afterwards. But things change if you choose the RAW format because it becomes a breeze to edit a picture on your personal smartphone.
Digital cameras have a low starting price for entry-level models. However, the cost quickly increases if you add various lenses and an upscale model. Irrespective of the expensive price tag, digital cameras nicely hold on to their value with time.
Not only this, digital cameras accomplish way more tasks while giving years of service, even decades. This means that a high-quality digital camera and lenses are great value for money in the long run.
The consequence of preferring an iPhone over a digital camera is that you might want to upgrade earlier because phone technology quickly improves. Since you will most probably be employing a smartphone anyway, buying an iPhone with a great camera will save you money.
However, the ideal solution is to get both a digital camera and an iPhone. Moreover, since the iPhone comes with a fixed starting price, you can judge whether it is affordable to you.
Digital cameras are disappointing in this regard but it is only because they were built to specifically capture images as compared to iPhones which are meant to fulfill many other purposes. The upscale DSLR models include WiFi and Bluetooth connection to share image files.
But there is no possibility of reading your email or surfing through the news. And when it comes to the iPhone, it boasts WiFi, Bluetooth, and 5G connectivity. Therefore, the iPhone wins in this aspect.
Design and Ergonomics
It is safe to admit that the digital cameras were built with photography as the sole function, whereas the iPhone was created with photography as one of the priorities. It is a breeze to regulate imaging and snap pictures through your iPhone. But on the other hand, the digital cameras display all the buttons and controls to adjust exposure and other features to get the exact picture you want.
You must have noticed that DSLRs resemble cameras rather than the simple glass slab of an iPhone. Digital cameras win in this aspect because they showcase an impressive body.
There is never a built-in app store on digital cameras. But everyone knows that mobile phones have an integral app store based on their operating system, which is Apple App Store in this case. The iPhone has already pre-installed Apple App Store, which offers access to thousands of third-party applications that can be installed whenever you want.
Canon DSLRs demand your PC to save files to the SD card which is then employed in the camera. But this tactic allows digital camera owners to install third-party firmware and software updates. Still, it is time-consuming and not as convenient as the iPhone.
Now here is a category in which digital cameras win! Seasoned photographers love DSLRs to shoot portraits as it is compatible with many off-camera flashes. Even though it is a piece of cake to set up your iPhone and you can quickly start capturing images in it, the smartphone can’t compete with digital cameras.
Even though the iPhone packs its own Portrait mode, the lighting effects and artificial blurred background look weaker than the results of a camera’s ideal portrait lens and a big sensor.
Sharing to Social Media
Devices are expected to share content on all the major social media platforms. The reason is because we want to share our snapped images with our followers on Instagram and close friends. Everyone loves posting appealing content on these channels.
And of course iPhone is the undeniable winner here as it was built to share tons of reckless content to quench the eager thirst of social media users. But all the leading brands of digital cameras are still very left behind because there is no dedicated social media app for posting content.
As previously mentioned, there is no dedicated social media app present on any digital camera. Although we can hope that makers solve this gap in the future firmware updates, it is possible that brands won’t execute smartphone functionality, along with the due cellular connection, speaker, and microphone.
However, the iPhone can be easily employed for imaging and communication. And until brands enable texting and calls in their camera models, the iPhone will win in this category.
This is a common real world need which engages everyone. Imagine you are sitting in your home and you remember a product you forgot to buy today. But the availability of grocery shopping apps can bring you anything immediately. Or if your friend is out in a physical store, you can text them the said product after which they can snap an image of the item to confirm.
But with a digital camera, you will have to snap a picture, link it to your PC, and process the picture, and then send the image back. You see how chaotic and time-consuming this is? So the iPhone clearly wins.
Robert is an avid photographer and camera enthusiast with a passion for capturing the perfect shot. With years of experience testing and reviewing a wide range of camera equipment, Robert has become an expert in identifying the features and functions that are essential for capturing high-quality photos and videos.
As the founder and editor of Life in Cameras, Robert is dedicated to providing readers with honest and comprehensive reviews of the latest cameras, lenses, and accessories on the market. Whether you’re a professional photographer or a hobbyist, Roberts’s in-depth analysis and unbiased opinions can help you make informed decisions about your next camera purchase.