Monday, September 19, 2016

Photography: DSLR versus smartphone

As someone upgrading from Canon's 5D2 DSLR to its latest and greatest 5D4, it behooves me to think about whether I'm spending my money wisely.

The truth is that smartphone cameras are indeed very good. Arstechnica has a good recent shootout.  Their conclusion:
Ultimately, the winner here is the smartphone, not the DSLR. The DSLR triumphs technically, and it will produce better images under almost any circumstance, but it’s just hella hard to stack it against the iPhone’s portability and "good enough"-ness.

Is the smartphone better? No. The DSLR and its lenses, even in my unskilled hands, produce higher-quality images, period. They’re higher resolution, and they contain more detail. It’s impossible for the iPhone’s little 8.5mm-ish sensor to grab as many photons as the DSLR’s big 35mm full-frame sensor. The DSLR wins every time, and the iPhone’s output, while good, isn’t as good.

But that’s the thing: the smartphone may not produce the same massive, high-detail 22MP images as the full-frame DSLR, but the smartphone does manage to be good enough.
Remember also that it matters on what medium you are going to display your photographs.  The difference in quality between DSLR and smartphone cameras is less perceptible in typical web-sized photograph or on a tiny screen,  but will be visible on a large screen or in a large print.

From my perspective, it is not an "either-or" situation, the smartphone camera and DSLR are two different tools and my purposes are best met by having both.  There are pictures a DSLR will never take because it wasn't possible to carry it to the scene; and there are pictures a smartphone is simply incapable of taking.