With the advent of the modern mobile phone reasonably high quality cameras are now in most people’s pockets and the sales of compact cameras has plummeted. The modern Digital SLR camera has had to adapt to this change in the market at the consumer level and a myriad of smaller “bridge” and mirrorless cameras have flooded the market in an attempt to boost camera sales. It is a known fact that in the video blogging industry mobile phones and especially the iphone are being used to create professional marketing content for use on video sharing sites like youtube. Professional video bloggers such as Casey Neistat are even using mobile phones mounted on 3 axis electronically stabilized gimbals such as the Zhiyun smooth Q and the DJI Osmo to create video that for all intents and purposes is indistinguishable from professional level video.
However due to the nature of phones needing to be small in size this presents issues as the camera lens and sensor must also be very small and for this reason mobile phones have in most cases struggled at real still photography. But with the advent of the Iphone 6s things have taken a turn for the better. Apple have been pushing the camera aspect with this phone that it truly can compete with the dedicated digital camera and have created some great lifestyle promotional content with the phone. But as is seen with gopro quite often with their own promotional media it can be exceptionally hard to replicate the quality seen in their photos and videos for the average consumer of their products leaving some to speculate that they have not actually been using the product to produce the products promotional media. So let us compare the phone camera with a comparable mirrorless camera.
With a 12 megapixel sensor the iphone’s camera is at the low end compared to modern mirrorless and DSLR cameras. Our comparison camera, a 5 year old Canon EOS M mirrorless has 18 megapixels so beats the iphone by 6 megapixels. However as most photography enthusiasts know megapixels aren’t everything and even professional level cameras have run into a wall of around 24 megapixels where image noise is the limiting factor. Overall Image quality and expressive effects such as bokeh are a combination of different features of a camera and it is the balance of these that creates a great camera.
With this in mind let us look at the aperture of the iphone. With an aperture of f2.2 this is very impressive for a phone camera. With a low f number comes a shallow depth of field and this allows us to pick out our subject by keeping it in focus while everything around falls away in a blur. This is referred to by many as bokeh, a Japanese word that has become synonymous with far out of focus backgrounds with blurry circular halos around lights. It is also very important for low light performance which is obviously beneficial to a camera phone.
As it would be unfair to use the mirrorless cameras ace up its sleeve that is the ability to use non original lenses by the use of adapters we will compare the stock kit lens the camera came with, an F3.5 to F5.6 18-55 zoom. The focal length of 18mm to 55mm is a fair comparison to the focal length that a mobile phone may be able to achieve with it’s zoom so this is beneficial to our test. The EOS M actually came originally in one form with a 22mm F2 lens but as this is a fixed lens it would not be a fair test. So for the iphone to possess a zoom lens with an aperture of F2.2 is actually quite impressive and exceeds our minimum F3.5 on the canon lens. One thing that both cameras possess is image stabilization which for video is extremely important and with the target audience that the Iphone 6s is aimed at it is a wise addition for handheld video. Lets take a look at some basic comparison photo’s in a number of scenarios.
Landscape Iphone vs Canon
Depth of field Iphone vs Canon
Although the Iphone’s camera is very good compared to most camera phone’s It still has it’s limitations. One thing we haven’t looked at is the use of post processing photos with software such as Adobe Lightroom. Most modern cameras are able to shoot in a RAW format where the photo has not been altered in camera allowing for colour correction and the addition of creative effects afterwards.
Natively the Iphone cannot do this so any photos taken with the Iphone has very little scope for correcting or altering them. The photos from the Canon were taken in Raw format and exported with out an correction so they appear flatter and have much less contrast than the Iphone photos but can be corrected and altered to taste. The good news is that there are currently at least a couple of third party apps now available for the Iphone that allows it to take Raw format photos but these are not supported by Apple. Should Apple adopt a native Raw shooting mode into the next Iphone and increase the sensors megapixels then It may finally become a replacement for the mid range digital camera.