iPhone 13 Pro Max + Affinity Photo (replace DSLR?)

I’ve been reading several of the discussions surrounding photography apps and processing.

I have a nice but aging Nikon prosumer DSLR with some very nice and expensive lenses–worth more than the DSLR, buy a lot. :grinning:

I’ve been contemplating upgrading to the newer mirrorless cameras, with many reporting that both Nikon and Canon are moving away from new development of the traditional DSLR to focus (pun intended) on mirrorless technologies.

But, rather than spending a boatload of money on a new Digital camera, I’m considering working to master excellent photography on an iPhone and buying accessories to enhance its capabilities. If I take this route, I’ll shoot a lot of RAW photos on the iPhone. I realize that the iPhone cannot match a new high end mirrorless camera from Canon or Nikon but given that I only take photos as a hobby and to share with others, I don’t need such high end equipment, though I do enjoy using it.

In the past I’ve used Lightroom and Affinity to process photos. I have no experience doing so solely with photos taken with the iPhone. In fact, all iPhone photos have only been shot in Jpeg and processed with the Photos app or a few light edits in Affinity or Pixelmator Pro.

This has probably been sufficiently addressed elsewhere, if so, please share the link to the best post(s). I have been reading this thread but I’m thinking my post is more specific–perhaps not.

That said, those of you who are serious photographers, if you took the route I’m contemplating and given that I’m committed to Affinity Photo and Pixelmator, what additional applications would you recommend for managing photos (similar to Lightroom which I’ll no longer use for reasons of cost, impact on my computer system, difficulty with clean uninstalls, etc) and what iPhone camera apps would you recommend? I have found the default camera app to be good. Photos is ok but a pretty bad photo manager. I also have no experience with iPhone camera lenses.

Any recommendations will be appreciated!

You mention shooting RAW on the iPhone but you don’t don’t mention Halide - a redesigned Raw camera app for iPhones with over 40 new and improved features: Digital Photography Review

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It seems a shame to put them to waste. How old is your DSLR? Why not still use it? While DSLRs are a dying breed, they are still great cameras. Unless you are printing large photos, I bet it would still work great for your needs. You paid all that money, why stop using them? (You have mastered the art of ignoring sunk costs.) :stuck_out_tongue:

I decided years ago to just use my phone for everything and sold all my gear. Aperture went away and I went full time in Photos (with the Pixelmator Pro plugin). Two things I didn’t like about going that route. First, I don’t enjoy using an iPhone for photography, and the other is that Photos is too basic.

Even with great apps like Halide I just don’t enjoy using the iPhone for pictures. It’s great for capturing a moment, but I don’t spend 5 minutes setting up the shot, adjusting settings, etc. And even if I did, those settings largely don’t matter with that small sensor with the lens right up against it (they are improving though!). Taking a dedicated camera out with the intention of getting some fresh air and taking some pictures with the real camera is fun for me. It’s a hobby I enjoyed (and plan to again soon).

What the phone can do is amazing though. I was playing the other night taking pictures of my cats in low light. I was shooting jpg+raw with Halide. The raws were complete garbage, even with editing. The jpgs were perfectly acceptal pictures as long as you didn’t zoom in. :wink: I am not sure how the phone did it.

Photos is a great app if you don’t want to do anything complicated or you can live with the comprises. The hidden file structure and minimal interface is a just a pain in the butt for me. And it gets worse when you throw in iCloud (why does my Mac have 10,000 pictures on it by phone has 11,000?). It’s a great app for people who don’t want to think about that stuff, but I do.

All that said, it’s using stuff that you already own or are free and you can definitely make it work.

It was a 2-stage journey for me that started about 4 years ago. I print out a lot of family pictures and have them hanging all around the house. I need lots of pixels and they need to be sharp!

As they say, “the best camera is the one you have with you. Unless that camera sucks.” So I’d hesitate to take my (Sony) DSLR, but iPhone cameras just weren’t good enough yet unless the light was bright outside and you didn’t want to zoom. I bought an RX100 though, and found myself taking that with me way more often than the DSLR.

Fast-forward 2 years and I realized it had been exactly 12 months since I had pulled the DSLR out of the bag. That’s the day I gifted it to my brother-in-law since they had a very young child and that’s when you use it most.

Still - iPhone 11 at this point - I did not find the phone camera good enough. I took the RX100 nearly everywhere when I knew pictures would matter.

A couple of months ago - iPhone 13 Pro now - my wife and I went to Puerto Rico. I came home from that trip and realized that I’d only taken out the RX100 once and that our pictures from the trip were quite good. IMO, we’ve finally arrived at the point where even people who care about image quality will more-often-than-not get what they need out of the phone unless significant zoom is required.

I sold the RX100 last month. We will see if I come to regret it. I use the apps you already mention: Halide, Pixelmator, and also Luminar (in SetApp). It’s working for me, though I also am looking for a library replacement for Lightroom. I was hoping it would be Apple Photos, but, yikes.

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I agree, except I think there are two different ways of thinking of it. If I am capturing moments, I just want a nice shot that is sharp throughout. If I am being artsy, I am playing with depth of field, exposure, ISO, etc. The 13 Pro is much better at DOF, but it is still no where close to a real camera.

It was all the rage a few years ago for people to get these big camera’s for their family photos, but I think those days are mostly gone. Those people were just shooting in auto and it gave them great shots. For those people their phone is all they need now. But, if photography is a hobby, it’s not good enough.

I have no idea who is buying point and shoot cameras now.

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I’m no Austin Mann but one can certainly take more than family photos with the 13” Pro. :slightly_smiling_face:

Sure, not saying you can’t use it to be artsy, but it’s a heck of a lot easier with a real camera (which he still uses).

My point is that’s easier and more fun with a real camera, not that you can’t do it.


Not me. I care about quality and still only use my iPhone if it’s “the only camera with me” (to twist a phrase I usually dislike).

It’s true that focal length is the biggest reason I have a modern DSLR, and that much of my photography happens well beyond 77mm (equivalent) focal length, but in my view there is simply no comparison between “all iPhone photos” and “all DSLR photos”. By that I mean yes, sure the iPhone can take amazing photos in some situations but it’s also a tiny sensor being made decent by software trickery, and that trickery can fail in pretty basic situations.

In my completely unscientific and anecdotal view, the iPhone mostly succeeds when the composition is busy and bright. It is also true, however, that the iPhone will pretty much always take a good photo when the parameters suit it, and that is of course more work with a DSLR. But as as already been said, that’s half the fun of photography.

And on the other side of the coin, just how old a DSLR is considered “past it?” Here’s a photo I just ran through my latest Mac software (DxO PhotoLab 5). All I did was crop it (~86% of the full dimensions), apply my standard “starting point” preset, and add my watermarks. I also downsized the resulting ~7.5 megapixel image to 6 megapixels (the standard size I publish at). The focal length is well within what any recent iPhone could do (46mm equivalent), but the camera that took this was released in November 2006, before the iPhone even existed. Don’t just look at it below, click on it to see it full size. Well… if you’re viewing this on an iPhone you’ll have to zoom.


I’ve actually spent a LOT of time in the last year or so going back to old photos with new software and was impressed by just how good all of my previous cameras actually were, if they just had the right software to bring out that quality (which, in my view, is unquestionably PhotoLab). I’ve done over 1,500 of them.

I’m still holding out on mirrorless, but do foresee I will probably get there many years from now. I simply do not foresee using only a phone camera unless my last DSLR/MILC dies and nobody makes them any more. It also occurs to me that just as there will always be people who want/use lossless music while the masses do not, so there will always be people who want the quality afforded by a “Real Camera”.


I have an iPhone XR and an Olympus M1 with the 300mm Pro, 60mm macro lens (amazing for portraits) and a couple of others I don’t use so much.

You didn’t say what you like to take photos of, what lenses you like to use, and what aperture size you like to use etc, so it is hard to comment too strongly.
My take is that if the iPhone covers those settings, the quality, convenience and weight will suit you brilliantly.
I use my iPhone most the time, but if I go for a walk in the park, or go on holiday, and plan to be doing photography, I take my Olympus. It gives me that long lens which is irreplaceable for birding, but it also gives me beautiful bokeh (background blur) for other shots without relying on computational photography. And it is fun to play with. And, it is not my phone with its inherent potential for distractions, I can focus on the relaxation.

Oh, but your post was about what software to use.
I absolutely love Pixelmator for its correction tools. I’ve found that as I don’t take hundreds of photos a week (been there, done that), I don’t need organisation from Lightroom anymore and I rely on Photos and do serious edits in Pixelmator.

My personal experience with Halide and other software that let you use the phone in manual mode is that I find it frustrating and that it gets in the way of the photography too much compared to using a DSLR/mirrorless. Whilst I have the option of a mirrorless camera, I don’t think I will ever use my iPhone in anything but manual mode. If that option goes away, I will explore some more and get used to it I’m sure.

Halide isn’t great because of the manual mode, in my opinion, but for the features. The onscreen histogram alone makes it worth it to me.

I like that photo! For what it is worth, assuming it was shot in RAW (not necessary but preferable), I’d make a copy and then edit out the electrical poles and wires for cleaner higher impact, and perhaps more precarious, look. Just a thought! :grinning:

That is interesting and unfortunate as I tend to take most serious photos in RAW.

I appreciated your response. I’m considering keeping my lenses, getting an adapter, and buying a high end mirrorless camera body. But, I’m still wondering just how good I could get with the iPhone with enough study and practice. :slight_smile:

I agree–I enjoy using the “big boy” camera!

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I think there’s something to be said for changing cultural expectations and social tolerance as well.

If photography is a hobby - you want to take pictures of things and places as well as people. I had that hobby for about a decade. You also will certainly pixel peep because the picture itself is the thing you aimed to produce. It makes total sense you’d care about how edges look when you zoom in.

When you’re taking pictures of things and places, you can take whatever gear you want. It doesn’t complain about how long you take to set up. Or how you want to look at each shot to see what to change for the next one so you can dial in your settings. You’re producing an image that is intended to be taken in for more than a couple of seconds, even if ultimately by no one other than you.

If photography is not a hobby, you’re likely taking most of your pictures of people and things happening. These are not as patient as landscapes. They do not want to wait for you to “set up,” nor to review between shots.

Our Christmas gathering was slightly frustrated by the hobby-ist photog who wanted the whole group to wait 3-5 minutes while he treated the “family picture” as a professional portrait session. When people had fewer pictures in their lives they had the patience for that. Now that we have pictures of nearly every meal we eat, the patience is gone. This is what I mean by expectations and social tolerance. When it comes to pictures of people, I think, unless we are one or have been one, people have had it with hobby-ist photographers and the time it takes for them to exercise their craft.

So also with regards to pixel peeping. I care about printing out pictures, but now rarely bigger than 10x14. Frankly, slideshows on the 4k TV are far more common than printing, which I do in bulk about twice a year. I think a lot of people don’t even do that. They’re looking at them soon after they’re taken on a phone screen, posting on social media, and then moving on.

So I think it’s really two different conversations being melded into one. For people who enjoy photography as a hobby, they do still need DSLR/Mirrorless to practice their craft and get the pictures they want of things and places.

For everyone else, once you hit a certain threshold of quality, high-end cameraphones get the job done exceedingly well for people and things happening.

Thread needs more pictures!

‎⁨Playa Mar Chiquita⁩, ⁨Puerto Rico⁩

El Indio, ‎⁨Puerto Rico⁩, ⁨Islote⁩

Puente Carreras, Puerto Rico


I am not knocking the phone’s raw as much as I am saying that the it worked wonders on the jpg. I couldn’t recreate the jpg using the raw from using the auto-edit or on my own. Far too much noise in the raw that was smoothed out in the jpg.

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That’s the challenge I have at family gatherings – how to take pictures quickly in order to inconvenience or annoy people least. I keep fine-tuning my DSLR setup so it is always ready for a quick shot. I like candid photos best so I try to make each quickly and without drama. The downside is I end up with fewer shots worth keeping. But that has become part of the game. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thanks! Yes, I intend to revisit it, and yes, it’s RAW. The previously published version was pretty much as you see but processed in 2006 with whatever software I had then (Lightroom I suspect, or maybe Aperture?) and, most importantly, my 2006 brain. I have amassed much more experience in making the best of my photos now. I just bashed it out quickly as an example of an “old” DSLR photo. Not sure I’ll go as far as taking out the poles, though!

I’ve often used the definition “things you can’t touch” as the major weak point of phone cameras. A seal on a rock, a boat in the harbour, a car on a race track, etc. There are of course exceptions to your categories, but they’re a good illustration.

The last time we had a lot of family together was at my father’s funeral. I got my new (to me) DSLR body after he passed away and before the funeral. When everyone gathered at Mum’s place afterwards, I set up the new DSLR with a rather nice 50mm f/1.4 that had come with it and started randomly firing off shots in the room, then gave it to my adult son to do the same to make sure I was in some of them. When I sent the whole lot to family afterwards (with little in the way of processing) everyone loved them. Yes, there was a little knowledge and effort in pre-setting the camera, but once done it was all point and click, and ergonomically superior to a phone. Darn phones need a proper grip!

This hints at another big shift in photography. A heck of a lot more people are doing it now, because of phones. If the phone cameras didn’t exist (or were still terrible) then a lot of people just wouldn’t take photos. Notwithstanding the shots of lunch, good phone cameras have been a net win.

I can’t un-see that horizon!

Sheesh. And I thought my OCD was bad.

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Oddly, this is an example where I personally liked the tilted horizon because the weight of the waves crashing on the right hand rocks pushes the picture that way. Another way of looking at it is that the tilted horizon leads your eye to the right, and then naturally down the picture to the powerful waves on the lower-right. The pointed bottom then takes the eye back up the left to restart the loop. It’s a more interesting composition for me.
Anyway, that’s off topic, and entirely personal.