I recently got an iPhone8 Plus. My old phone had a lousy camera, so one of the aspects of the new iPhone I was excited about is the camera (or cameras). Specifically, is it good enough to be a casual walking around camera for when I am not lugging around the DSLR gear. I have considered getting a nice point-and-shoot, but with today’s phone cameras this didn’t seem to be necessary. So, I have had this phone for a couple of weeks and I have been taking a few pictures to compare to my DSLR (Nikon D5300). I don’t expect it to be able to perform as well as the DSLR, but hoping that it will be good enough to use casually when I don’t need all of the advanced settings.
First, the iPhone cameras. Apple says that it has a 12MP, f/2.8 telephoto camera and a 12MP, f/2.8 wide angle camera. Apple won’t publish much about the actual sensor, but searching on the internet I found some teardown sites and discussions that indicated that it was on the order of a 1/3 to 1/2.8 inch sensor, which is tiny in comparison to the APS-C sensor on my DSLR. So, with two camera sensors, how do you know which one you are using? With the base camera app, I don’t know, but I did install Lightroom Mobile and the app lets you pick which sensor to use when taking the picture. Lightroom Mobile also allows you to shoot in RAW so you can do some additional processing on the images, which is nice. If you use the default iPhone camera app, you get an image that has been heavily processed by software and generally looks very good.
The Yellow Rose
First, Apple iPhone8 Plus 28MP, f/2.8, Telephoto vs. Nikon D5300 24MP with 18-140mm kit lens (140mm, f/8) with a yellow rose in my front yard with excellent afternoon sun lighting conditions. The two images below are a few seconds apart in the same lighting and wind conditions. You may quickly notice how shallow the focus depth is in the DSLR image as compared to the iPhone8 image. This is probably because I had DSLR lens all the way out to 140mm and I was as close to the rose as I could get and focus, so even at f/8 there wasn’t much focus depth. I just held the iPhone out to get about the same amount of subject, tried to select the focus point, and clicked. I don’t feel like I was able to get good focus on the rose. Perhaps I was too close to the rose with iPhone8 to get a good focus, so I am willing to chalk that up to user error and not blame the camera.
I manipulated each image in Lightroom with similar exposure adjustments. I didn’t boost saturation on either image. I also took a crop of each image to look at the detail. I will point out that the iPhone8’s focus point would appear to be on the leaves behind the flower where the DSLR’s focus point is on the flower. This may be user error or difficultly with the auto-focus of the iPhone8.
I would say that the iPhone8 picture is softer and slightly more noisy, but you would really have to zoom in to notice, and I expect to get much more croppability with the 24MP sensor anyway.
Next a high contrast scene with poorer lighting conditions. This is a sunset behind the trees across the street from my driveway. This scene provided a lot of contrast between the bright sky and the dark foreground. I didn’t quite get matching focal lengths between the two pictures, so the iPhone8 pic has a wider angle of view. I imported both images into Lightroom and pulled up the shadows so that the fence and house in the foreground would be visible. There is a lot more range captured in the DSLR image, as I would expect with a much larger sensor. Also, quite a bit more fisheye distortion in the iPhone8 image; I didn’t apply lens correction for either image.
I also did crops of each picture to show the noise difference. You can see a lot more noise in the iPhone8 pic, but I would expect this. My old phone camera would have made a horrible mess of this shot. So, under extreme conditions, you will want the flexibility and big sensor of the DSLR. But, the D5300+18-140mm lens is heavy and isn’t fitting in anyone’s pocket like the iPhone8.
I also took some indoor photos in low light conditions. My dog was kind enough to pose for me on her little bed. On the iPhone8 Plus, I took the photo using the Lightroom app, selected telephoto and focused on Mia’s face. I used the Lightroom app in order to get a RAW file. If I was using the default iPhone camera app, I would have gotten a JPG with exposure correction and noise reduction applied.
With the DSLR, I was using the same lens as before, set to 24mm, f/3.8, and ISO3200. I had the lights on it the room, but it is still a dark environment and difficult to get a good handheld shot.
I didn’t quite get the same field of view with both cameras, but I wasn’t sure how long I had before Mia ran off, so I guessed at 24mm and shot the picture. I did not process either of these pictures in Lightroom to clean up noise, adjust exposure, or boost color saturation. You can see that the DSLR gave me the flexibility to work at higher ISO without too much noise. If I crop the images, the noise becomes very apparent.
You can see that even though I cropped from a much wider area of view with the DSLR, I had a lot more good data to work with. And the cropped iPhone8 picture is actually higher resolution than the cropped DSLR picture. The cropped iPhone8 picture is quite noisy and there isn’t really much noise reduction in post is going to do to clean that up. So, in indoor conditions with poor light, it is nice to have a big sensor.
Again, the point of this was to evaluate the iPhone8 Plus’ utility as a camera when I can’t (or am too lazy to) carry around my heavier DSLR. I think that in many outdoor conditions during the day, the iPhone8 Plus is going to be able to take good pictures. And in many cases, I will probably be willing to leave the camera backpack at home and rely on the phone. I would not have considered this with my old phone. It is also nice to see that all the money I have spent on the camera, lenses, and other gear aren’t wasted now.
I have also found that the default iPhone camera app makes a lot of corrections and adjustments to create a nicer looking JPG, but does not allow you to get a RAW image. If you use Lightroom mobile to get the RAW, you are going to have to make all of those adjustments yourself, so you have a choice. I will probably have more to say as I use the iPhone8 more and get more familiar with its capabilities.
Anyway, I am happy with my iPhone8 Plus purchase camera-wise. Thanks for reading.
PS. I recently did another comparison between a full frame DSLR and an APS-C DSLR