Smartphones Vs DSLR in low light photography

Someone told me recently that nowadays the smartphones cameras are a good substitute to DSLRs when it comes to low light photography. And of course, I took that comment with a pinch of salt. But it got me thinking and wondered if the technological gap had really narrowed?
So I decided to bring a DSLR and my iPhone X out to perform a test and compare the results.


The Hardware and Software

For the iPhone, I will be using the Procam 5 app to manually control the shutter speed, ISO, and WB. While for the DSLR, I will be using a D600 and a 24mm PCE lens. Both the phone and DSLR were mounted on a tripod for the shot. Both cameras shot in the RAW. 


The Results

From the thumbnail sizes above, it will be hard pressed to determine the differences in quality as both look rather good. So if the images were to be used for social media or on the web, the one from the iPhone will likely be sufficient.
And by the way, the image on the left is taken by the iPhone X with the Procam 5 app while the right image was taken with the D600. I have resized the D600 image to match that of the iPhone.

The image from the iPhone X was shot at 1/4secs and ISO200 in RAW (DNG format) while the shot on the D600 was 25 secs, f8 and iso64.

Overall, I can see that the image from the iPhone is more grainy due to hardware limitations with the slowest shutter speed of 1/4 secs. The image on the DSLR needless to say is very clean with good dynamic range.  

You could click on the images to pixel peep.



From the iPhone, I got a pretty decent image which I will be more then happy to use for social media.
The smartphone cameras have made huge progress in closing the gap on the DSLR cameras. The current limiting factor of slowest 1/4sec shutter speed is the deal breaker. If the phone hardware can go beyond that, then we have a level playing ground. The smartphone apps does have a longer shutter speed ‘gimmick’ which stacks multiple photos to create almost the same slow shutter effect but I would give that a pass as resultant image quality suffers quite a bit.

Bearing in mind too that the iPhone is a fixed lens camera that comes with a 28mm or 52mm focal lens whereas a DSLR have many lenses to choose from. 

So for now, the smartphones still remains in the casual photography corner while the DSLR is still for the more serious photographer.