If you’re contemplating the best time to be alive as a technology enthusiast, you’re already there! You’ve got tech gadgets all around you that are so advanced it’s plain ridiculous. And this is especially true for smartphones.
Smartphones of today have become so sophisticated that some of them are more powerful than entry-level laptops and PCs. In fact, this change is noticeable across all of the individual components that make up the whole smartphone: chassis, computing power, camera; you name it.
Camera, in this sense, is a particular department. Some mobile cameras like the one found in the iPhone 11 and Google Pixel 4 are exceptionally good, putting up a decent competition with high-end DSLR cameras. But are they really that good? The main question that we’re going to answer in this article is whether a smartphone camera can replace DSLRs. Spoiler alert: they can’t, and we will see why.
At the fountainhead of the smartphone revolution
Before we compare smartphone cameras to DSLRs, it’s worth remembering how smartphones have gotten this powerful and how they’re changing billions of lives across the globe. It all started with the release of the original iPhone. At Apple’s Macworld Keynote event in 2007, Steve Jobs presented to the world a new product that combined GPS, camera, and the ability to play music – an iPhone.
The original iPhone took a massive leap from the so-called “smartphones” that were too clunky and difficult to use to the new era of truly smart phones. It was after that keynote that other manufacturers like Samsung began producing similar devices. Therefore, whether you’re a fan of the current Apple products or not, you have to realize that without that original iPhone, the smartphone industry would’ve looked drastically different today.
And now, if you take a look at many third-world countries, you’ll see that the only way people can communicate with the world is through their smartphones and an internet connection. Granted, the majority of the people in those countries cannot afford iPhones, they still have low-end Android smartphones that are getting incredibly powerful these days.
India, for example, is already considered the world’s second-largest nation with its internet-connected users. And this is possible because of the smartphone revolution initiated in 2007. Indians use their Android devices for virtually everything digital, be it paying utilities, reading news, or playing games.
Gaming for instance, and iGaming in particular, is especially popular among Indians. People play live casino for real money India has on offer using nothing more than their own smartphones, which is just ridiculous considering how limited the possibilities in gambling were just 15-20 years ago: the only way a person could play online games was if they had a powerful PC that could run Adobe Flash Player plugin. So, yes, smartphones have definitely become high-end devices with far greater capabilities.
The best-ever camera equipment in a smartphone
In this incredible path of improvement, smartphone cameras have become so much better than their predecessors. Today, people can take photos that are dozens of megapixels in size, are incredibly sharp, vivid, and clean. Not only that, but the software that these cameras use is also helping create HDR, portrait, and night images that mimic the features found in high-end DSLRs.
All of this begs one question: are smartphone cameras really that good that they can replace full-frame DSLRs? Can they take the same quality images that their high-end counterparts do? Well, let’s answer that question together.
Small sensor size
First things first, we have to start with the sensor. After its release, I purchased the iPhone 11, which is constantly rated as one of the best smartphones for its camera capabilities. And boy how this camera works!
The images taken with it are surprisingly clean and sharp. At a regular viewing distance, there’s virtually no way anyone can spot the differences between the DSLR and smartphone images. In fact, the software processing on the iPhone produces images that are much better straight out of the camera in terms of the high dynamic range and sharpness.
However, the difference starts to become much more noticeable when zooming in. At 100%, it is apparent that the DSLR shots are still very clean and sharp, whereas the images from a smartphone camera are already more fringy and noisier. That’s because of the smaller sensor in the latter device.
The multitude of lenses still isn’t enough
Moving on, let’s talk about lens configurations in smartphone cameras. Every new flagship smartphone comes with more than one lens in their camera setup, and since I started with the iPhone 11, let’s continue with that device. The new iPhones come with two or three separate lenses, giving the field of view of a regular 35mm, wide-angle, and a 2x zoom range (iPhone 11 doesn’t have a zoom lens). And to be fair, all those lenses are built with the highest quality material to produce the best results any smartphone camera can ever achieve.
However, one thing is still clear: these lenses are the only choices a person has in terms of an interchangeable field of view; they cannot attach new lenses to the sensor. But what if you need more than 2x zoom? What if your goal is to go way closer to your subject? In these cases, there aren’t a lot of options to choose from since you’re locked with just those three.
Powerful software to fix some optical issues
We have noted earlier that iPhones and other smartphones have more sophisticated software that can imitate the DSLR-type results. For example, the newest iPhones come with a new Night Mode feature which is basically a long exposure mode that’s easily accessible on any DSLR. With this feature, you can easily take low-light pictures, even pursue your very own astrophotography, at some incredible results straight out of your pocket device.
High-end DSLR camera features
The first main advantage of DSLRs is their giant sensor size. While there are two types of sensors – full-frame (35mm) and APS-C (1.5 or 1.6x crop) – they are still way bigger than their smartphone competitors.
This results in better low light capabilities, much sharper images, as well as clean and soft textures. And the megapixels don’t really make much difference here – since every full-sized image from a DSLR has all those features (with varying performances, obviously).
The ability to attach any lens that you want
Another pretty massive advantage any DSLR has over a smartphone is the ability to change lenses. For every instance – whether you’re taking landscape or portrait images – having this level of versatility can be a deciding factor. For example, you can break out your long lens if you see something interesting in the distance, or put a macro lens on the camera and get very close to the subject.
Now, these two advantages that DSLR cameras have may seem a bit too few but in real life, they deliver a stunning performance that a smartphone camera simply cannot deliver.
We’re not there yet
So, there you have the answer to the question of whether a smartphone camera can replace a DSLR: at this point, that’s not possible. But there’s a catch here: if you’re someone who pursues photography as their job that pays them for living, then you should definitely stick with your camera. The majority of employers want the best-quality images that can be printed and for that, iPhone shots can’t really cut it.
However, if you’re an Instagram creator and influencer that does photography as a hobby, then the iPhone might be the best option for you. Just the fact that you’ve got a serious camera in your pocket that follows you everywhere you go is the biggest convenience that the smartphones of today bring to millions of people. And as their software takes the lead, they produce some incredible results.
And in the future, maybe the regular form-factor of smartphones will change so that they can accommodate larger camera sensors. Maybe they’ll even have the ability to attach different lenses. But all that is just a speculation. Today, we’re not there yet!