Photography shootout: Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus vs. $3,000 DSLR camera

“For this shootout, we got together with Houston-area pro photographer Jay Lee,” Lee Hutchinson reports for Ars Technica. “We also tried hard to find interesting environments to shoot and wound up at some neat places—inside NASA’s Apollo mission control center, deep underground in a forgotten cistern, and behind the scenes at a local network TV station control room. The idea was to gather shots in several distinct environments: very low light, normal low indoor light, and bright outdoor sun.”

“For this roundup, we went with Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus as our representative smartphone and a pair of Sony Alpha bodies (an A7S and an A99V) for our DSLR exemplars,” Hutchinson reports. “I had Jay shoot in RAW on all devices and asked him to post-process all the images—iPhone and DSLR both—as he would if he were going to use the photos professionally. The gallery thumbnails below have been further resized and scaled for Web display, but the original full-size images are available if you click through each image.”

“This year’s shootout comes to essentially the same conclusion as the last: a high-end smartphone camera can under many circumstances produce images that are as good as a DSLR’s images. But ‘many circumstances’ doesn’t mean ‘all the time,’ and if you’re going somewhere specifically to take pictures, you’ll still want a high-quality standalone camera,” Hutchinson reports. “On the other hand, state-of-the-art smartphone cameras have for years now been good enough to use for basically everything, and the iPhone has the advantage of being on you all the time. The best camera, as they say, is the one you have with you, and an Internet-connected smartphone remains the easiest way for just about anyone to take a picture of a thing and then share that thing with the world.”

Read more, and check out all of the images, in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It bright light, iPhone’s Portrait mode holds its own very nicely.

Apple’s iPhone cameras not only destroyed the compact digital camera market, they completely changed society – September 21, 2016
Professional photographer Benjamin Lowy puts Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus cutting-edge camera to the test – September 20, 2016


  1. … TOOL, and you have two options: get the right tool or use the best approximation available at the moment.
    My flip-phone will take “adequate” snapshots in many situations, but it is too seriously limited for too many others. And my needs in no way justify a “real” camera. So I did my research and bought a ‘compact’ camera – zoom from fairly wide to longer than I can hand-hold, excellent low-light sans flash, pretty good color balance, and small size.
    Can an iPhone do ‘better’? Likely so. So what? I should upgrade my phone/camera every year because … ? ‘Good enough’ means just that. For ME! YOUR needs may differ. As may your WANTS.
    I’m glad that the options are out there. All three of my children have chosen the smart-phone alternative. Now if they would learn to edit and cull their mostly-good shots. 😉

        1. First of all define “weird.” These look like long focal length shots with a low DOF causing backgrounds to blur. Usually how portraits are preferred. The only thing you may not get is the same graduated blur and the lack of grain in the blurred areas as you would with a DSLR with a long telephoto lens. I find it’s depth and shift of attention to your foreground subject very satisfying.

    1. All their “portrait” images were shot with inanimate objects. It’s my understanding that this is always hit or miss with the iPhone. The software is optimized more for facial recognition to determine focused vs blurred elements. Would have been nice to see one or two actual people used in this comparison.

  2. This is a magnet of ire from photo professionals. Very silly.

    But for what it can perform, as a camera shoved into a smartphone, Apple killed yet again.

    No Google, your Pixel camera isn’t better than the iPhone 7 Plus camera. But you already knew that didn’t you. That’s why you have NEVER DARED compare the two. I’m right, aren’t I.

    You could still do a head-to-head Google! Let’s see it! Please!

  3. If “the camera you have with you” is really the best camera, then yes the iPhone 7 plus is a great camera. And yes, the plus is an important step up from the iPhone 7 non-plus.

    However, in even moderately dim light the incrediably small sensor on the iPhone cannot compare to a DSLR. The lack of light hitting the sensor makes the ISO soar, and the images become uncontrollably grainy very quickly.

    I love my iPhone 7 plus. But I’m not getting rid of my Nikon D810 any time soon.

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