We Mincey folken have been connosieurs of fine photographic equipment for possibly 80 years. My grandfather and father used a few Leica and Hasselblad cameras from back in the day, but I was raised on Pentax, Nikon, and more recently, Canon.
My camera of choice in the 21st century is the one that fits into my pocket. iPhone. Some photos I’ve take on my iPhone are better than any photo taken with any of a dozen 35mm SLRs I’ve owned in decades past Where does iPhone rank among the best of smartphone cameras?
Apple’s iPhone XS Max, the one launched in 2018, ranks at #10 with a score of 105 on the DXOMark scoreboard (subject to change, of course). iPhone comes in just behind the new Samsung Galaxy S10+ and well behind #1, the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G, which is just a point ahead of the Galaxy S10 5G, both of which should have the same camera.
What happened to the iPhone?
It used to be that iPhone ranked #1 year after year. Since most iPhone cameras are made by third party manufacturers, why does iPhone’s camera rank so low?
So many questions. So little time.
Why so little time? New iPhones are due and that should mess up the rankings a bit. The iPhone X from two years ago comes in with a score of 97. Higher is better. iPhone XS Max at 105, Samsung Galaxy S10+ 5G at 113.
What’s the problem with those scores?
I’ve dug around online and found a few smartphone camera shootouts here and there– between some of the flagship smartphones– but you’ll get the best shootout with DXOMark’s reviews of photo and video.
The end results are astounding.
Basically, there isn’t much difference between any of the smartphones in the Top 10 list or nearby (Google Pixel 3’s Night Mode is superb, but iPhone Xs Max displays photos are you see them with your eyes).
Seriously. All the photos are just damned good; magazine quality. The videos are better than TV shows or movies; most at 4K. The only negative is all the noise digital photos display when an image is blown up to smithereens but that’s to be expected. Even 35mm film would look better.
None of the smartphone cameras ranked near the top will take a photo or video better than a mid-range DSLR. The physics of big lenses still wins that battle. The problem is obvious. Most of us cannot tell an iPhone camera photo from a photo taken on a Nikon or Canon DSLR. Thanks to computational photography, all photos look better than the scenes we take.
Computational photography can improve the capabilities of a camera, or introduce features that were not possible at all with film based photography, or reduce the cost or size of camera elements. Examples of computational photography include in-camera computation of digital panoramas, high-dynamic-range images, and light field cameras.
There is a reason why point-and-shoot digital cameras are dying, and why sales of DSLRs have fallen in recent years. The camera in your pocket gives you photos which– to the untrained eye– look the same; sometimes better.
Kudos to DXOMark for publishing such in-depth reviews of each smartphone camera, but you’re likely to come to the same results– iPhone camera photos and videos are better than ever, and as virtually indistinguishable from perfect for a few years, makes all the top smartphones excellent cameras.