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
18 thoughts on “iPhone 8 Plus vs. Nikon D5300”
Great post! Nikon all the way hey 😉
Kind of feel like I didn’t give the iPhone a fair shake as I am still learning it. I will say that Apple put some amazing software in the phone to get such good images out of that sensor.
Oh ya 100%, those cameras are really good for what they are 🙂
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Regarding your ‘Yellow Rose’ I was a bit surprised to observe that it didn’t give you sufficient sharpness in depth to catch the foilage using f8? But I think I prefer your Nikon over your phone any day of the week, however, mobile camera technology has come a looong way over the last 3 years. TYhe last gimmick I noticed was how it is possible to schoot a scene in rather bad light, rainy or overcast and by pushing a couple of buttons thjee picture was instantly converted to a scene with blue sky and bright sunshine. Otherwise exactly the same scene!
A ‘weather guarantee’, so to speak!
The iPhone camera software is definitely the amazing part.
That’s a fab review. I have found similar with my smart phone, the Huawei P10. It has dual Leica 20mp raw and f2.2, 28mm focal length. Its great out doors, even in low light and has good dynamic range. But it’s poor indoors. I use it as an additional camera for street photography.
I got the iPhone and I was interested in its usefulness as a point-and-shoot. The DSLR is heavy.
I have found the iPhone software does a lot of heavy lifting in cleaning up the photos. The camera sensor itself is not that impressive.
I don’t think that there is really going to be any substitute for sensor size/pixel size when it comes to low light performance.
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Yes I think your right there. The pixels are too small to catch enough light.
Been there, done that! I think you put your finger on it: If one learns how to use it!!! And even if you get ample menues on your screen, it’s only a 5 or 6 inch screen hampered by daylight and sun, thus very hard to read, So – I think most people settle for that auto-solution (Uwhich is far from perfect in most cheap camera, I’ve lost count on how many pocket cameras I’ve purchased – and returned in a couple of days as insufficient!
I don’t know about the iPhones. (I never used one) They might be OK if you’re using a Mac, but if you don’t, you’re in for trouble when it comes to loading up pictures taken! A lot of people have been sending med pictures taken with mobile phones to be published, but I’ve had to reject all pictures taken wit a mobile camera. (Not good enough!) All this changed with the Huawei-models P-20, P20 Mate Pro and at last the one I use today: The Huawei P-30 Pro! If you look at my pictures of late, most of them are marked with a ‘H’ in the ID-number, and that stands for ‘Huawei’.
I never expected a camera to perform likee they do, but then it’s a Leica built into the Huawei! And to be honest: Since I bought my P30 Pro
I haven’t shot one frame with my trusty old Olympus M-1
This was interesting. I use a Samsung 6 (I think) and it has a pretty great camera in it. I have a digital camera that probably would take better photos, if I learned how to use it.
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Thanks for the comment
I use my camera as an excuse to get out. Helps get me hiking and not sitting around.
I think most cameras have an auto setting that allows you to shoot and then work your way to the more advanced features. That is kind of what I did.
That would work a long way if your primary setting tallies with the kind of motives you usually shoot, but the comes the unique opportunity that would want a different solution, and that’s the shot where you – unfortunately – won’t succeed!
Really? When I’m holding my digital, I feel like I’m standing on the end of a high diving board, knees knocking…
I’d try out the Huawei P30Pro if I were you? You don’t have to buy it first hand, but visit a photo store and ask about it, Try it out!
Of course, you can’t take the test pictures with you, but if you decide to buy, the P30 Pro holds a separate memory card in addition to the 128 GB
which is already there. And transferring the pictures to your PC is very simple (unless perhaps you have a MAC?!) Done in a matter of minutes regardless of the number of pictures you want to transfer. The fiorst time I did, I probably did something wrong. At any rate I ended up transerring all the tests from the phone (as well as my own pictures) to my computer – a total of 1295 pictures!!! It took me less than 5 minutes!!!
Whoops~that sounds like something I would do! And yes, how did you know, I DO have a mac and I hate it. It is my 3rd one, and I really regret it. The first one was terrific and I keep thinking they make a good product but they really do not, anymore, and they do not care how they treat you. grrr. I had not heard of that kind of camera. Thank you for your suggestion~I’ll note it down and check it out at my favorite camera store!
Please take a lok at the last 50-100 pictures published at my blog! If you find an ‘H’ inserted into the picture ID-number, it’s shot with a Huawei phone
camera (which is actually a ‘Leica’) – and the best you can buy 🙂 If you thing the quality seem acceptable, the you may go to the photo shop!
The ‘Huawei P30 Pro’ is considered to be ‘the top of the mark’ as cameras go – at least today! What may be coming tomorrow, nobody knows!
I don’t know what kind of digital camera you have, but I’d just shoot with it in automatic, and then switch to something like aperture priority if you feel adventurous. No film to worry about wasting.
That is a good idea. I’m overwhelmed by all the variables, so your idea to choose one is brilliant. Thanks!