iPhone 12 Pro vs DSLR

I thought many on this forum would find this video of interest. I’d love to hear the comments.

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As the article says (emphasis added):

Does this mean that the iPhone is a better camera than the Nikon D850? Of course not. The D850 is superior in literally every way. But it is pretty telling that cell phone photos taken with adequate light, and displayed on the web (like 99.99% of photos) can look just as good, or even better than, professionally shot and edited photos.

Not much more to add.


What is the old adage; it is the photographer not the camera. True in many cases. I watched a programme a few years ago where amateurs were given some very expensive kit and some pros cheap kit, including a camera phone and a basic point and shoot. In every case the pros photos were better - they simply understood the limitations of the camera and shot accordingly.

I only have an iPhone 8 but seeing some photos a mate took took with an 11 I was astounded by the quality. In this case a staged model with strobes is almost the perfect setup. The advantage of the dslr kit is limited. I suspect in most other situations the DSLR will normally outperform in the right hands.

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It’s amazing how much the technology of photography has progressed. The ability of an iPhone to produce a good image under a relatively wide range of conditions is amazing. Photography has always been about managing the light as well as the composition. And even with plenty of computing power to manipulate an image the iPhone 12 is still at a disadvantage due to the size of its lens and sensor.

The cameras used on the moon in 1969 by Armstrong and Aldrin had no viewfinder or exposure meter. But they did have plenty of sunlight and a fast sharp lens. That’s a combination that’s hard to beat.


Being a happy owner of an iPhone 12 Pro Max, I am very impressed with the cameras.

And in ideal situations the iPhone will achieve a result that is very usable and gorgeous. In some situations the iPhone will achieve results that even are very hard if not impossible to distinguish from a DSLR. If you are able to take a photo in those mentioned situations, the camera in the iPhone is just great.

But there still are situations when the iPhone camera will deliver poor results. That is not because the camera is bad. Because it is not! That is because of optics and physics. And that will be this way for a long time to come. There is a discussion in this community somewhere. And to be honest, I do not really want to get into it again, but it really comes down to the question what the photographer needs, how the photographer works and what the circumstances are.

I am taking less and less photos with my real camera and more and more with my iPhone. The iPhone is always with me. But there are still photos when I look at them that I catch myself with the thought that I really should have taken my camera with me to take them. The good thing is that this is happening less and less.


I’d take a look at this thread again:

The best camera will always be the one that’s with you.


Indeed. Maybe I can make a bacon sandwich that you cannot tell apart from Gordon Ramsay’s bacon sandwich, but that doesn’t make me a chef.

I’ve just spent time over the last week revisiting DSLR photos I took 11 years ago, reprocessing them in the latest version of DxO PhotoLab, and out of 166 photos there are 19 that might look as good taken on a current iPhone if viewed on that iPhone’s screen. The other 147 are basically impossible to take with any phone, and I’d put money on that remaining true for at least the next 5 years.

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If they really wanted to compare the cameras they should have taken the same photo (framing, lens length etc.); this way people chose the photo they liked best (which is what they were asked for).

Anyway these comparisons are quite pointless :wink:

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“iPhone beats DSLR” is misleading. “Photo A was liked more than photo B” would be correct.

The capabilities of the newer phones are impressive. But, for me, not even near DSLRs.


While there are certainly situations where a DLSR will produce a better picture than an iPhone, we’ve gotten to the point where there are plenty of situations where the iPhone will produce better pictures than a DSLR. For instance, two of my favorite pictures from hiking in Montana last summer are panos that I wouldn’t have captured with a DSLR. iPhones also tend to do better in high dynamic range situations, do a better job stabilizing video, etc. It’s not about whether an iPhone is better than a DSLR, it’s about which things an iPhone is better at and which things a DSLR is better at.


Great video and I liked seeing more of the behind the scenes aspect to how the pictures were taken.

Obviously, the iPhone did fantastic. There are lots of qualifications to that of course (skilled photographer, professional model, great location, $1,695 Profoto B10 strobe, $265 Zoom reflector, mostly helpful assistant, and that tall tripod for the strobe can’t be cheap either). As others mentioned it was also the type of photography where the comparison might be closest.

The photoshopping with leg lengthening, cliff moving, and foot swapping for the DSLR picture was a bit much. I also doubt the editing of the iPhone’s picture was done on an iPhone. Still, Nikon and other camera makers have to be nervous about this.

The problem is, for “normal photography” a current smartphone is more than good enough and, in some cases, even better. Smartphones already killed the compact camera market and are impacting DSLR (and MILC) sales. Why problem? For a lot of applications, a smartphone just doesn’t cut it and with overall declining sales, no idea how this will have an impact on the availability of DSLRs and lenses in the future…

I still think that the term “better” is misleading, and needs a definition, btw (what does it mean “better”? the photos on this page are - for sure - “better” than the 99% of the photos ever taken by a human being - with gear that’s “worse” than anything produced in the last 50 years -, but we have criteria to say that. Judging a photo has nothing to do with the camera used).

I think that @ChrisUpchurch’s panos are beautiful photos; I’d argue that any DSLR or Mirrorless could take panos such as good as those (maybe requiring more work from the photographer).

anyway, gear talk, fun but seldom useful :wink:

I shot the Orion Nebula with my iPhone, my DSLR and my dedicated astrophotography camera. Can you tell which is which?

Every camera can take good pictures some of the time. A better camera can take better pictures more often. A specialized camera excels at the pictures it was designed to take but may be less useful for general photography. What I like about iPhone photography is that it’s high quality, image stabilized, geotagged, cloud synced, has panorama and fantastic slo-mo and has all kinds of edit capabilities built in. I also love DSLR photography for the targets that require it. As for the astro camera, can I say it’s like night and day after the DSLR? However, it would be hard to use it for general photography as it has no controls and has to be driven by a computer or control box.


I really like the camera on my iPhone 12 Pro Max. I was also impressed with the 11 series cameras. iPhone cameras are excellent. These polls and comparisons are fun, because it’s neat that an iPhone camera can even step in the ring to compete with a high-end DSLR camera. Yet, I agree with @memex’s comment about these match-ups being a bit pointless.

The primary market for DSLRs and iPhones are not the same, or at least, in their primary markets, iPhones and DSLRs are not substitutes for each other. A large swath of consumers and prosumers may never buy or even want for a DSLR. I bet only a few people go to the camera store and say: should I buy this Nikon D850 or an iPhone instead? What most people want is a convenient camera that they can use to take the best possible picture they can. The camera on the iPhone does that with ease, and then ups the game by enabling the user to take pictures that rival those taken on much more expensive equipment. That is a remarkable feat. So, these comparisons are great to show how much “power” the amateur photographer can unleash.

Knowing that your phone’s camera is so unlimited that a pro can take pro-level photos with it is reassuring even if you can’t take that level of picture yourself.

Personally, I like being able to take great photos without having to pack a DSLR, a bunch of lenses, filters, shades, and all manner of other equipment with me. Saves a fortune, too. My wife and I ran into a pro photographer on vacation one time who we conscripted to take a quick picture of our family using one of our iPhones (probably a 6 or 6s). The picture was so good–focus, lighting, composition–that we ended up using it for our Christmas card that year. We also hired a professional photographer on that same trip to take family photos. He used all the equipment a pro photographer would use. He did a fine job and some of the pictures he took are framed on our walls. Not one was good enough to be on the Christmas card.

Was the iPhone camera better than the pro’s camera. Of course not. But it did the job of taking a picture exceedingly well. Having a great camera in your pocket helps to minimize the limitations you face as a photographer trying to capture a moment. Reviews like this one show that there are fewer and fewer of those limitations we will confront. The primary limitations now have more to do with the ability of the picture-taker, not of the capabilities of the picture-maker.

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Nobody has mentioned it but having live photos makes shooting kids much much easier.


That’s why I included “for me” in my statements.

  • I need telephoto
  • I do huge prints, so resolution is a thing (not only sensor, also lens)
  • I need a fast autofocus
  • other stuff
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Of course :smiley:.

This is quite obviously true, but I don’t think that the quality of the photos is the biggest reason. It’s more likely the same reason MP3 players beat down CD players — convenience.

For me, the iPhones fall down in two critical areas. Focal length and image quality (IQ). The former is obvious. Only in 2020 did we get past 52mm equivalent which, back in the day, was deemed a “normal” focal length. It irks me when it’s called “telephoto” or “2x”. The iPhones Pro have had “normal”, “wide”, and “super wide” lenses. The 62.5mm of the iPhone 12 Pro Max is starting to get into the territory where I might accept “telephoto”. Give me a prod when they get past 100mm.

As for IQ, I have an iPhone 11 Pro and many of my best photos from it look decidedly poor on my 4K monitor. Many were even looking ropey on my (now sold) iPad Pro 11". It needs to be remembered that this fancy “computational photography” is mostly to combat the inherent weaknesses of a camera system that fits in a phone. If you want great iPhone photos at any size, make sure there is a ton of detail to hide the imperfections.

Which does make me wonder what could be done with Apple Silicon DSP/ML in a DSLR with 20+ megapixels and some decent glass! I’d wager an A14X could whip a 24 mpix image into shape pretty darn fast.

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I’m still rocking an iPhone 8 because iPhones are expensive. I would love to own an iPhone 12 Pro Max and a classy DSLR, but that’s a lot of money.

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