iPhone 5 Camera Sensor Pitted Against the Canon 5D Mark III

We live in strange and exciting times in which phone camera photos can be compared side-by-side with top-of-the-line DSLR photos without anyone laughing (too hard). Having just gotten his hands on a shiny new iPhone 5, photographer Dustin Curtis decided to test out its camera’s quality by pitting it against his Canon 5D Mark III (with a 50mm lens fixed at f/2.8).

He writes,

I purposefully chose a composition that had a lot of harsh light and various colorful objects at varying distances. The metering and focusing on both cameras was spotted directly on the “no stopping” sign.

The results are pretty amazing – the iPhone takes worse photos but it certainly stacks up against a $4,000 professional camera. And, although the photos from the iPhone are significantly noisier, it has fantastic automatic metering.

Check out the full-res versions of the iPhone 5 photo and the 5D Mark III one to see the differences for yourself.

While the $3,500 DSLR obviously comes out on top (as it should), the comparison shows that phones are definitely getting to the point of being very respectable point-and-shoot cameras. With larger sensors and better glass — like Nokia is doing with PureView — phones appear primed for a jump to a new level of photographic quality in the next few years.

Phones these days can probably shoot better photos than many of the top-of-the-line digital cameras from over a decade ago. How long do you think it will be until future phones can actually beat a current 5D Mark III in a head-to-head shootout?

iPhone 5 vs. Canon 5D Mark III [Dustin Curtis via Cult of Mac]

P.S. A similar comparison was done a couple of months ago using a Nokia PureView 808 and a 40MP medium format DSLR.

Update: Austin Mann over at TREK has a great review that shows off the new camera’s low-light performance (via Engadget):

Image credit: Photographs by Dustin Curtis, Austin Mann

  • Sofia Lucifairy

    nobody wants a blurry photo due to limited depth of field, a small sensor is better as it has more extensive depth of field.

  • Efi Geo

    That’s why the iPhone wins over the DSLR: at f/22 the DSLR would produce a soft blurry photo due to diffraction, while the iPhone can give you a sharp photo with everything in focus. That’s why people prefer small sensors over large sensors, because it gives us more extensive depth of field and therefore better photos.

  • Diamanto

    No, in fact the iPhone pic is better because it has more depth of field. The 5D photo is blurry because it was shot at f/2.8! and even if you shoot it at f/22 it would be worse than the iPhone pic due to diffraction. So, the iPhone is better than the DSLR for extensive DOF.

  • Zota

    but the DSLR doesn’t win against the iPhone because the iPhone has unlimited depth of field without diffraction. To take the same photo with a DSLR you’d need f/22 or f/32, at which point the diffraction would make the photo more blurry than the iPhone pic! so the iPhone wins!

  • Sofia Berati

    the iphone and p&s cams are better than full-frame because they have unlimited depth of field. DSLRs need f/22 to achieve all-in-focus pictures but at that point they suffer from diffraction and inadequate exposure.

  • Alex

    at which point the canon would suffer from diffraction, so the iphone is better

  • Luiz Fernando Zadra

    Yes, smaller sensor has more extensive depth of field and only more extensive depth of field. A big chunk of photography technique is the capacity to provide limited depth of field, so you can isolate your subject from the background. Ultimately, huge DOF is desirable for landscape only. For everything else (most of the time), if you are not limiting your depth of field to some degree, you are simply not in business, so unless you can bend the laws of optics, forget about it. People will still need DSLRs, big sensors and big lenses.

  • Boomicson

    Why would you want everything in focus all the time?

  • Boomicson

    AFAIK, 5d3 diffraction limit aperture is around f/10.5, so you wouldn’t notice diffraction due to sensor size at f/11, and depending on the lens used, not so much at f/16 either except when pixel-peeping (and then you see that iPhones resolution is much worse than any diffraction by Canon). However, some lenses, especially large-aperture ones, start to show diffraction already around f/5.6-8, because those are designed to perform well at much larger apertures.