Camera test: Apple’s iPhone 6 still won’t beat a DSLR (but it’s close)

“While I don’t have any formal photography training, to say that I enjoy taking pictures is an understatement,” Serenity Caldwell writes for Macworld. “I’ve been obsessed with digital photography and filmmaking ever since I picked up my first Olympus 2-megapixel camera, and that love has carried me through years of point-and-shoots, DSLRs, and phones.”

“Now, I think the world of my Canon Rebel and its 40mm pancake lens. I’ve gotten some incredible pictures from that camera. But the more I carry around my iPhone 6, the more I’m convinced that its days of hanging out in my bag are almost over,” Caldwell writes. “Because the iPhone 6 is a mighty fine camera, indeed.”

Caldwell writes, “I took my 64GB iPhone [6, not 6 Plus] out and about on Friday to stress-test some of its new camera features and see if I could get some similar results to Apple’s promo photography.”

Read more in the full article here.

28 Comments

    1. Why? They’re effectively saying that they’re speaking for the vast, vast majority of the population. People with any sort of training may be able to justify a better camera, but everyone else won’t, and indeed on a day to day basis an iPhone is going to suit a lot of dslr users.

    2. Unfortunately, even if the sentence would assert the opposite, it would not mean that there is point to read anything as photographers is highly biased category unless the testing is purely scientific (shots of special resolution and colour tables, computer analysis and such).

      1. I haven’t seen Tim Page’s cat pictures, nor can I find his article comparing Apple’s iPhone 6 camera to a DSLR. There are much better articles touting the achievements of the iPhone 6 camera. This article is junk.

  1. No, it is not close but is also the wrong comparison. Professional photographers used to have backup Point and Shoot cameras with them so even off set or off assignment they could capture moments of opportunity. Now they all just carry iPhone. Each iPhine camera gets better and the 6 is simply best phone camera yet. But it won’t rival by $7,000 body with $2,500 lens, nor would I ever expect it to…

    1. Here is where the difference lies, in my opinion. The $5,000 DSLRs and $650 iPhones shoot almost indistinguishable images under ideal conditions. When there is plenty of light, the subject isn’t moving much, and there isn’t huge range of light and shadow, even professionals would have a hard time telling the difference. But where high-end (even lower-end) DSLRs easily outshine an iPhone is in less-than-optimal conditions: low light (or blow-out beach or snow), fast motion, fog, smoke, rain or similar particles in the air, etc.

      The overlap of functionality is increasing with every new generation of iPhone, but there will always be a healthy area above iPhone where DSLRs can do much better job than a mobile phone.

      Luckily, for all of us, most of our picture shooting is done in reasonably optimal conditions, and the kind that is done in less-than-optimal is now much better than it was with previous generations of phones.

      1. It depends how you compare the images of DSLR and the iPhone. On a tiny mobile screen, yes a pro would find it harder to tell the difference, but on a decent size screen you’ll see a stark difference.

      2. No they are not, they are easy to tell apart. 1st a quality picture is more reliant on quality glass and a knowledgable person using the camera. You can NEVER, NEVER, NEVER get quality glass in a phone camera PERIOD. Nothing beats a knowledgable photography. Most people just go click without a thought about dynamic range, exposure compensation, aperture, shutting speed or composure….

        1. We are comparing different things. You are comparing people with photographic skill with people without. I am comparing the outcome result of an iPhone camera to the outcome of a DSLR. And under optimal conditions (and in the hands of an experienced professional), outcome result will be quite similar. Professional eye would likely be able to tell the difference, but every honest professional will concede that the difference is quite small.

          This is no different than the difference in recording an album in GarageBand and recording it in a $30,000 Pro Tools audio system, in a professional recording studio. One is free, the other is a high-end audio production environment. In the hands of a skillful audio engineer, and with talented musicians, GarageBand recording can approach the quality of a studio recording. Even professional recording engineers and musicians would have to admit that the difference is minimal.

  2. First of all, the headline is ridiculous. Only a certified moron would believe it. The fact is that even a garden-variety pocket camera offers much more control of the shooting experience than any camera phone. But since most snapshooters know absolutely nothing about controlling a camera, the iPhone is fine for them. There’s no good reason why they should even consider buying a DSLR in the first place.

    1. Indeed. I certainly found that having an expensive SLR with a good lens does not guarantee ANY kind of quality at all. So unless you’re going to develop real skill and knowledge, it’s irrelevant for most people… just an affectation.

  3. When it can capture raw images with at least 14-bit color depth AND when there’s real depth of field control (F2 on a micro-sized lens does nothing) AND when it can have a full-frame equivalent of 16-400 mm AND when you can shoot cleanly at ISO 3200, THEN we’ll talk.

    Until then, just keep taking those cat picture.

    1. And having all that available still doesn’t mean a photographer is going to take photos that have commercial value. I’ve taken panoramas on my iPhone that I’m pretty sure I couldn’t match without an enormous amount of fannying around in Photoshop using a DSLR.
      I’ve pretty much stopped using a DSLR, relying on my little Lumix TZ30 and my iPhone, because I take a lot of photos at gigs, where a DSLR in the audience is seen as a pro tool, and will be confiscated, or security will stop you from taking pictures, and I know for a fact that I’ve got photos that pros would be chuffed to bits with.
      Having said that, many venues have very poor lighting, which does restrict the sort of results you can get; a DSLR like Sony’s A7 would be a wonderful thing to be able to use, maybe the new Sony compact with the full-size sensor would be the best tool for the job, along with an iPhone for video.
      As a wise man once said, the best camera to have is the camera you have with you.

  4. She’s comparing it to a Canon Rebel with a 40mm prime lens. I own a Rebel and it is only marginally better than a point an shoot. It’s a great entry and my guess is she never turned it from the green box. The ISO on that body maxes at 1600 and it’s dreadfully awful. Extremely grainy. I upgraded to a T2i which exceeds 6400 ISO (high is 12,800) and to even compare those two bodies is ridiculous. And that older body is NOTHING compared to a 5D Mark III or a 7D.

    I get that for a normal person snapping pictures the iPhone is just great. I’ve taken on trips as my only travel camera, but for a trip of a lifetime, no way. I’m not leaving behind a real DSLR.

    1. I think she is not saying you might abandon your DSLR. She is looking for a way to illustrate the dramatic improvement that’s occurred in the iPhone 6 camera.

      Upgrading from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone 6, I have been very impressed with how much better the camera captures lowlight details in images.

      Some of the apparent improvement in the images is probably due to the improvements in the display screen.

  5. MDN should avoid taking license with the original article’s headline which reads, ‘The iPhone 6 won’t beat a DSLR, but it’s still and excellent device’. That way, we can focus the discussion on the new iPhone’s photographic capabilities, rather than wade through discussions about the superiority of DSLRs.

  6. I have no doubt Apple could build an incredibly disruptive camera should it want to and the iPhone has a really nice point and shoot capability, but it is far from what can be done with a high grade camera in the hands of someone who knows how to use it.

    I would love to see what Apple could do designing a Micro Four Thirds camera body. Lots of nice lenses from PanaLeica to Olympus and others.

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