iPhone vs. "big" cameras?

When I’m traveling, I try to take an iPhone photo when I get to a new place.  Sometimes I forget but when I can remember, the iPhone’s GPS capability records the location for me.  Then when I’m back home, it makes it easier to map out exactly where I’ve been.

This is one of the first photo’s I made on our trip out to Utah a few weeks ago:

Cedar Breaks National Monument amphitheaterCedar Breaks National Monument amphitheater iPhone panorama

 When I posted it on Flickr, I commented “Straight out of the iPhone’s panorama mode. I’m not sure why I have all these other cameras.”  And I do like the photo.  Phone cameras do pretty well, especially in good light.  So I wondered …

When I got home and processed the rest of my photos, I took a look at some of the other iPhone images compared with similar images from my “big” cameras (interchangeable lens cameras with larger sensors).  Here’s another example:

Sunrise at Point Supreme, iPhone PanoramaSunrise at Point Supreme, iPhone version – Panorama mode

Although the light was very pretty that morning, it was also very challenging for the iPhone sensor and lens.    I’ve tried to adjust the photo to be as similar as possible to the one below.  But I can still see major differences.  I made the next photo a minute or so later and very near the same spot with an Olympus E-M5 II micro four-thirds camera and the 12 – 40 mm f/2.8 Pro zoom lens.

Sunrise at Point Supreme
Sunrise at Point Supreme – Olympus version – multi image panorama

After looking at several cases where I had similar photos, I think this example shows why we need to keep our big cameras.

  • The exposure latitude and dynamic range capability of sensors that are larger than the one in the iPhone means that the dark areas have more detail and less noise, and the bright areas are less likely to blow out.  For high contrast light (sunrise / sunset) this helps a lot.
  • The lens in the iPhone didn’t handle the flare / glare very well.
  • The resolution capabilities of phone cameras are growing.  But with careful capture, I can create much larger images with the big cameras.  For instance the last photo above is 58 megapixel. The amount of detail in a file that large is enormous compared to a phone photo.
  • Control:  For me, the big cameras beat phone cameras in flexibility / control and ergonomics.  I can easily control everything from lens choice to aperture, ISO, shutter speed, etc.  You can get apps for your phone that add better controls, but I find them inconvenient and don’t often use the ones I have.
  • Color / white balance:  The default color and white balance on the phone are very good.  But when I use the big cameras, I can shoot in RAW format, which makes adjusting white balance and color much easier in post processing.  RAW format also allows more adjustment latitude, since I’m working with a 14 bit file in RAW, instead of an 8 bit jpg file.  RAW is coming to the iPhone soon, which should help.

So there are some reasons why I think big cameras are worth the extra weight / trouble of bringing them along.  I use my phone camera to supplement them.  How about you?

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2016, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “iPhone vs. "big" cameras?

  1. Very good (and relieving) blog! I shall be interested to see what happens to the folk I know who tote enviable, heavy and expensive cameras but only ever shoot in Auto. What’ll they do now?!

  2. First, I enjoyed reading your blog this morning. I’m using my phone and point and shoot more and more just for convience. They take decent snapshots but as you said, when you want a good quality use your good lenses..It is worth the extra effort!

  3. Thanks folks!

    Phone cameras are good and getting better – and oh so convenient! They do things that stand alone cameras don’t and vice versa.

    I think most serious photographers need both.

    Ed

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