When Is a DSLR Camera Better Than a Phone Camera?
The old postulate that more is better has not been respected in the world of technology for some time, especially in photography. Cameras are getting smaller, better and more powerful every year – so much so that the mini cameras built into our phones are capable of producing images that rival some professional shots.
“The quality of cell phone photos has become so good that they meet almost 100% of personal photography needs,” said Kevin Yatarola, a professional photographer based in New York. “[Phones] lack the control you get from dedicated cameras, so they won’t replace cameras for higher end and professional use, but control over these attributes isn’t available to most regular photographers anyway. “
Is Yatarola right? Are the phones in our cameras all that most of us need to take great pictures? The answer is yes – for the most part. That’s why.
FTW digital sensors
The “biggest” advantage professional digital cameras have over smartphone cameras is the size of their sensors. DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, due to their larger form factor, can work with larger sensors. This means that the camera can capture more visual information and provide better images, especially in difficult lighting conditions, which can be zoomed in to large sizes without losing precision. You can also experience a lot less noise , especially when shooting in low light conditions.
While smartphone cameras can never compete with the sensor sizes of large rigs, they are steadily improving in terms of how much data they can capture in each shot. For example, the first large camera phone sold in the United States was the Sanyo SCP-5300 with 0.3 megapixel (MP) resolution. In comparison, the Google Pixel 3a is equipped with dual 12.2MP cameras, which means it can capture over 40 times more visual data.
But megapixels are only part of the story. Pixel size and aperture also play an important role in the quality equation – and standalone cameras can outperform your smartphone’s camera in this regard. If your camera’s standard lens isn’t good enough for your needs – say, you need a lens that supports a larger aperture for better night shots – you can buy and install something else, provided your camera supports interchangeable lenses. It only takes five seconds, and it gives you the ability to carry multiple lenses with you for the different types of shots you can take while shooting.
In terms of sensor size and lens quality, professional cameras will always outperform camera phones. But if you don’t need to zoom in to extremely large sizes (which is rarely required by most ordinary camera users), or if you don’t plan on buying ultra-expensive and bulky lenses for specialized photography, you’ll have more than great with a camera in your pocket for everyday use. DSLRs allow you to specialize (and have more consistent image quality during a photo shoot), but your smartphone camera will still give you a lot of gems, especially through computer photography .
Speaking of software …
While the physical components of your camera phone can never rival professional devices, advances in software – both inside and outside your phone’s camera – are starting to make up for the hardware gap.
For example, stand-alone cameras can create sharp foregrounds and blurred backgrounds by using long lenses with different aperture sizes. However, you can also achieve a similar effect on your smartphone using image analysis and processing in a fraction of a second.
In camera phones, this is done using the previously mentioned “computational photography” feature. Basically, the algorithms do the hard work to give you great shots, rather than relying solely on your camera’s lenses and sensors.
Consider Google Pixel phones that record multiple frames when you touch your device to take a photo. Your phone then breaks down those images, picks the best parts of each, and combines them into the picture you see. This results in photos that are less washed out, have good dynamic range (harsh highlights and saturated shadows), and good colors and contrast. Likewise, many iPhones can analyze how much of a composition contains a face, allowing it to isolate and blur the background for a Portrait Lighting depth-of-field effect.
The camera phone software can compensate for hand shake, take pictures with zero shutter lag and, thanks to the dual camera settings in many phones, even simulate a fairly expansive optical zoom – all features that used to only belong to large cameras.
Plus, the software lets you control more shooting components with your camera phone than ever before. It used to be thought that settings such as ISO, white balance, and aperture were only the domain of standalone cameras. Now, the built-in camera app in almost any smartphone allows for such advanced settings, which makes them almost mainstream.
Still need a DSLR?
Unless you’re an avid hobbyist or professional, a high-quality phone camera should be all you need to take vibrant, creative photos that will display beautifully on the web or even on regular-sized prints. Unless, of course, you are shooting in low or difficult lighting conditions; in that case, you might be better off with a DSLR camera, but you’ll also pay for killer lenses to help you get those shots.
While camera phone hardware will never be as good as standalone cameras, software will continue to evolve and make up for this fact. Of course, as the technology that controls your phone’s camera continues to improve, so will stand-alone DSLRs and mirrorless devices. But when you consider the cost of standalone cameras and the maximum convenience of the camera built into your phone, the latter just comes out ahead in most cases.
At the end of the day, the best camera is the one you have, as they say, and even if you have a cool DSLR, you’re 98% more likely to have your smartphone with you when you come across those random moments of life one day. this requires preservation for posterity.
To learn more about photography, watch the video below:
Bugfix: This post was updated to correct the erroneous “film” reference in the title and to clarify references to SLRs versus film cameras all over the place.