Siri, can you tell your fanboys the iPhone’s camera will not replace a DSLR?

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In a little over a decade the camera has made a century’s worth of headway – we went from film, to digital, to mobile, and for the most part photography has benefitted.
During the London subway bombings in 2005, cell phone cameras brought in a new era of community journalism, allowing civilians to quickly capture the breaking news and update their family, and also the rest of the world. News organizations broke the news with dozens of images that were grainy, terribly composed but none of that mattered because they still told the story.
It’s a far cry from what most of us are using our cell phone cameras for today. We document our breakfast, kids and the nightly sunset. We share it on social networks and wait for people to tell us what great picture takers we are, or how cute our offspring is. Through services like Tumblr and Instagram we don’t need a news organization to show the world our photos, we’ll apply our favorite hipster filter, hit “Publish” and do it ourselves.
I’m a fan of these photographic diaries. I like seeing how other people see the world, and the convenience of a cell phone camera has made this possible. I’ve long dreamed of what it would be like to have an 8 megapixel camera in my pocket. An iPhone 4S has the same megapixels as my first digital SLR. So naturally, that means it’s just as good, right?
There isn’t a font bold enough to express my enthusiasm when I say that, or this: Just because your cell has a lot of megapixels and you know megapixels are “good” doesn’t mean it suddenly replaces DSLR cameras.
Lately there has been a flood of Apple fanboy videos and photos showing side by side comparisons of iPhones to professional cameras, all of which foolishly conclude that an iPhone 4S camera is the equivalent of a $2,500 DSLR.
It’s time put these Mac myths to bed, one at a time:
But I saw a video of the side-by-side comparison. Looks the same to me.
You mean this video? The one where they dumbed a Canon 5D MarkII down to its crappiest settings to get it as close to an iPhone as possible? Let’s add some color, movement, selective focus and zoom. Suddenly your similar comparison just became Planet Earth. I don’t think I need to say which is which.
Yeah, but it says it’s showing in HD.
No. The video has been compressed. Let’s look at the raw video of each camera and see which one is really high definition.
Photographers shoot weddings on iPhones now. They must be good cameras.
You’ve seen this video, too? Yes, they’re good cameras compared to any other phone and even some consumer point and shoots, but the idea of paying someone to shoot a wedding on an iPhone is incredibly moronic. If you notice, even in that video they hired a professional photographer.
The iPhone has no control over aperture (depth of field), shutter speed, zoom (available to the camera with exchangeable lenses), doesn’t perform well in low-light, editing and processing would be a nightmare, and the file sizes and quality are not even close to a professional DSLR.
What do you mean the files are smaller? It says 8 megapixels. That’s a big number.
Megapixels aren’t as telling as people think they are. Pixel size is affected by sensor size, so you can’t compare exactly compare a Canon pixel count to a phone’s. You can use megapixels to get an idea of the file quality, but don’t live and die by it. Ron Galbraith breaks it down on his website.
Is the iPhone’s video pretty? Yes. Does it take good pictures? Yes. But both of these answers should conclude with “for a phone.” Heck, the iPhone takes photos that compete with many point and shoots if you’re outside, and apps like DerManDar put together some beautiful panoramics.  It is an impressive phone.
That is what makes this great: We’re talking about a phone that can do these things. It wasn’t that long ago I thought the game “Snake” was the best thing to ever happen to phones – and it was back then. So only time well tell, but I feel confident a phone will never replace my DSLR.
Especially if I can get a DSLR that will make a phone call.

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Rob Womack

If there’s anyone who can honestly say, “Been there, done that,” it’s Rob. After traveling the world for seven years in his 20’s, Rob went to LA and started working in film production. Then it was off to New York, where he learned how to program, which eventually brought him back home to Louisville to build websites. At Current360, Rob heads up our in-house production studio, creating all things digital for our clients — videos, commercials, radio spots, and a lot more. 

When he’s at home, Rob likes to create things like homemade kombucha and music.