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iPhone vs DSLR – how do the cameras compare?

iPhone has been the most popular camera in the world for years now, despite not really being a camera at all. It’s often said that the best camera for a job is the one you have on you, and millions of people worldwide have an iPhone on them pretty much 24/7. But despite our smartphone snaps getting better every year, the quality can’t compare to a professional DSLR camera costing many times more. Right?

Maybe not.

Since the iPhone 11 Pro launched last month, we’ve seen many people comparing just that – and the results are much closer than you might expect.

Andrew Hoyle over at CNET took a road trip through the gorgeous Scottish highlands in an equally gorgeous McClaren sports car to test the capabilities of the latest and greatest iPhone. The article is worth a read if you’re curious about the capabilities of the iPhone 11 Pro’s three cameras, with stunning photographs peppered throughout.

When the iPhone’s photographic capabilities are put to the test against a standalone DSLR camera costing more than twice as much as the iPhone 11 Pro, it’s remarkable how similar the final images are. The following shots mainly differ in perspective and the amount of reflection captured.

Which of these shots was taken with an iPhone? Answers below!

“I set out to see whether a phone camera can capture a journey like this as well as my DSLR could have,” Hoyle says. “I genuinely think it’s a close-run thing. I was seriously impressed with the images I shot with the iPhone and there were many images that I couldn’t tell whether they were taken with the phone or the professional camera. That’s not something I’d imagine saying even a year ago.”

Backing up this conclusion is filmmaker Matti Haapoja, who showcases on his YouTube channel the slim differences between an iPhone 11 Pro and a $7500 DSLR camera. Here, he shoots side-by-side comparison photos and challenges the audience to figure out which is which.

Can you tell which is which? Answers below!

It’s surprisingly difficult to pick, especially at first glance – though the blur and bokeh effects generated by the iPhone’s Portrait mode betray a few giveaway signs. The capture of details such as flyaway hairs and glasses isn’t as consistently good with the iPhone, but for the most part the images are incredibly similar, despite the sensors on the DSLR being much bigger. It’s amazing to see just how close a smartphone can get.

For a better look at his photos – and to see if you can pick out which is which when put to the test – the full video is worth a watch.

The real secret to the astonishing rise of quality in smartphone cameras – not just the iPhone – is computational photography. Advanced software, powered by machine learning, is working behind the scenes to pick out details and simulate effects that you’d traditionally need huge camera rigs to achieve. And it’s getting better every year.

We talk about it a lot, but if you’ve not tried out the free lessons from the iPhone Photo Academy, now is a great time to do so – especially if you want to get the most from a brand new iPhone 11!


McClaren photos: iPhone 11 top, DSLR bottom. Portrait photos: DSLR left, iPhone 11 right. Did you guess correctly?