Can a smartphone camera be as good as DSLR?

Also, in terms of portability, when we’re choosing the camera which you’re most likely to carry everywhere the winner is clear. It’s the smartphone camera certainly has a bit of an advantage over your regular DSLR.

When we talk about capturing a perfect photo, there’s little doubt that something can beat a Leica or a high-end Zeiss model…

But when we’re talking about a casual or a hobbyist photo shooting? Or perhaps a downshifted kind of professional photography? Then the question of can smartphones compare to DSLRs becomes relevant again… All in all, that’s an interesting question. Of course, as far as the image quality is concerned, your DSLR (and certainly all modern DSLRs) win hands down. But smartphone cameras are on a fast track of improving, and many of those can now capture images that make for a decent A4-size print.
“The best camera,” goes the old adage, “is the one you have with you.” It’s true, too… Spend just a few minutes browsing places like pics and you’ll find many stunning images, taken on a rich multitude of cameras. All the way from DSLRs with telephoto lenses down to flagship smartphones. The thing is that usually the modern smartphone is equipped with a hell of a lot of picture-taking power. It actually can capture professionally looking images without a whole lot of effort. Needless to say that nearly everyone has one on these on them, all the time. Does that mean, then, that the best camera today is a smartphone?

SHOOTOUT: HOW DOES A HIGH-END SMARTPHONE CAMERA COMPARE TO A $3,400 DSLR?

I always wanted to pit the iPhone 6 Plus against a $10,000 worth of pro gear to find out the ultimate truth. Not that long ago we delved into this in our October 2014 “iPhone vs. DSLR” shootout and we learned a lot. The first lesson was, at least based on an almost representative polling among folks, that I suck at photography. And that’s all right, I do suck at photography. Most of the images I take are respectfully called “product photography”. These are the carefully planned, done inside of a studio, under regulated conditions with lots of lights. It’s not necessarily to involve a lot of miscellaneous backgrounds too… So shooting in the real world is a lot more complicated (though a lot more fun too).

But much more importantly than that, we proved conventional wisdom right. A smartphone does take awesome pictures, so you don’t need a DSLR, two bags of professional equipment, and a steadycam… Unless you really need an expensive DSLR, two bags of equipment, and a steadycam…

But (there’s always a but!) when used accordingly, especially under a closer-to-reality light and wind outdoor conditions, expensive DSLRs… are a bit better! With all of its thousands of dollars’ worth of lenses and off-camera flashes, it can barely guarantee an end image much sharper than the one taken with a 41MP Nokia Lumia’s camera… Just do some additional post-processing in an application like Lightroom or DxO and you can get some wondrous images. Pictures of a kind that would be nearly impossible to pull out of a smartphone. At least not out of any of those…

Round two: Fight!

About 15 months have passed since that first test shootout. Since then I’ve tried to spend that time excelling my photography moves and skills. Now I’ve dragged my Canon 5D Mark III around on every trip I’ve taken in the past year. During that time I took something close to 20,000 of pictures (some of which even sported a median level of quality). I can’t state that I’ve gotten any better at photography overall, but I’ve certainly gotten a lot more experienced.

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Coupled with the release of a new iPhone (the 6S model), equipped with what by all measures is a pretty darn good smartphone camera, I decided the time was ripe. So I revisited the smartphone vs. DSLR question again…

And this time around, we set out to use a much broader variety of locations. For the smartphone side, I’m using my phone of choice, an iPhone 6S Plus. This is a current-generation iPhone with about as sophisticated a camera as you’re likely to find on a smartphone. Though our Microsoft master Peter Bright prefers his 40-megapixel camera that a Lumia 950 has. Still, an iPhone has a 12-megapixel rear camera with a f/2.2 aperture (some sites quote it as f/2.0, but EXIF data from the phone’s pictures says f/2.2), an 8.47mm sensor with tiny 1.2μm pixels specifically designed to cut down on crosstalk, and optical image stabilization.

And here are the visual results of 1 same landscape shot with the help of both iPhone 6S Plus smartphone and a Canon 5D Mark III DSLR.
Decide for yourself, which is better! P.S. No post-processing was applied to either of these 2 pics…