Mobile Phone or DSLR?

August 23, 2018

A friend told me recently that smartphones cameras are a good substitute to a DSLR when it comes to low light photography and even for videos. Naturally, I took that comment with a pinch of salt but it got me thinking and wondered if the technological gap had actually been narrowed?
So I decided to bring a DSLR and my iPhone X out on a test and compare the results.


The Hardware and Software

For the iPhone, I used the Camera+ app to take the photo. This app could manually set the shutter speed, ISO, and WB. While for the DSLR, I used a D600 camera and a 24mm PCE lens. I know, I know, it is’nt a fair comparison in terms of hardware but hey, that is all I’ve got. Both the phone and DSLR were mounted on a tripod for the shot. Both cameras shot in RAW. Both cameras shot in their lowest iso setting.


The Results

iPhone X image (Click to view full sized image)

Nikon DSLR (Click to view full sized image)

From the image previews above, it will be hard pressed to spot the differences in quality as both look rather good. So on platforms like Instagram, both cameras will do quite well and in most cases, the iPhone is more then good enough.

But for larger prints, it is very evident that the iPhone quality for low light is still lacking in quality compared to the DSLR. The noise and the colour rendition shows stark differences. Anyway, all these were somewhat expected but the truth is, the gap between the two type of cameras are narrowing. Smart use of software technology on a small-sized phone camera have made the mobile phone a truly go-to camera for most situations.

I have resized the D600 image to match that of the iPhone. You could click on the images to compare.


Smartphone videography

Most current smartphones from the IOS or Android camps are able to dish out 4k recordings, 240fps slow motion in 1080p, timelapse and even hyperlapse. These functions have been on the phones many years back but the quality have always been lacking. But recent improvements propelled the smartphones to become a worthy traveller’s videocam. Many video-bloggers and youtubers are already adopting smartphones as their main go-to cameras. Filming tools like the DJI Osmo Mobile 2 gimbal or even Rhino ROV Pro sliders are great add-ons devices to improve the video footage. Together, they can deliver smooth video footage and even creates stunning timelapse, hyperlapse and even motion-lapses.


The smartphones are great to use for social media and casual snaps unless you are into printing large 5 x 5 meters posters or shooting 4k/8k/16k films for a cinema quality broadcast. The portability of the smartphone is also never in doubt the better choice for travelling.
In short, the smartphone cameras are closing the gap on the DSLRs in terms of image quality. The hardware limitation gap between the phones and DSLR/mirrorless/etc will be continuing to close the gap.