PetaPixel

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


 
  • http://www.facebook.com/ppucci Persio Pucci

    plain stupid. Next comparison is between a Ferrari and a Smart?

  • http://twitter.com/stoyanov stanimir stoyanov

    I don’t like the Canon picture … it’s too blurry at 100%! iPhone is the clear winner.

  • http://www.facebook.com/makofoto Mako Koiwai

    hmmm … I thought the i5 lens was equivalent to a 33 mm

  • http://www.facebook.com/makofoto Mako Koiwai

    ? The Canon exhibits the limited depth of field (focus) that is typically desirable … so that one can focus attention on what’s in Focus, a selectable quality. Having EVERYTHING in focus can cause a jumble where the viewer doesn’t know what to focus on.

  • SK

    Comparisation between a Smart and a Lada(Canon)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joey-Duncan/1111692326 Joey Duncan

    No, because that is not logical at all, this, is logical. People want to know these things. YOU may not care, or able to figure it out for yourself. I could careless how it compares to a 5D, maybe a PnS, but it’s still not a bad idea to see….

    check yourself hater.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joey-Duncan/1111692326 Joey Duncan

    I would like to see IN ADDITION to this, a comparison using a standard compact Point n shoot. Something in depth, like time to on and focus, stuff that matters.

  • http://twitter.com/stoyanov stanimir stoyanov

    Well, I was trying to mock the iPhone crowd really. Guess i forgot my /sarcasm tag.

  • Alamin Mohammed

    Are you serious right now????
    Even after going head to head with its competition, the Iphone was blown away by it’s smartphone competition(SG s3 & Lumia 920), comparing it with a Nokia 808 pureview or Sony RX100 would have been laughable at best but to even mention iphone 5 and 5DMKIII in the same sentence is utterly pathetic. Next time he might want to highlight the fact that his 5DMKIII doe’snt play angry birds or fruit ninja.

  • http://twitter.com/bhautikj Bhautik Joshi

    This is a pretty poor comparison. The iPhone sensor and lens combination is approximately equivalent to a 33mm, f/21.5(!) lens on a full-frame camera, so the comparison to a 50mm lens at f/2.8 isn’t representative.

    [For my working, I'm assuming that the iPhone has a 1/4" sensor and a focal length of ~3.85mm]

  • 9inchnail

    Apple fanboys have about as much sense of humor and sarcasm as your average islamist extremist.

  • Det

    Not really, more like a Smart(Iphone) vs Subaru WRC(Canon 5D mkIII). You get from A to B with both of them, but Subaru is an auto, and Smart is a toy (a really nice looking one). Oh yeah, and I must admit, that with a 5D you cant make a phonecall.

  • dez

    f-stop doesnt change.

  • Mansgame

    5D’s pictures are insanely better. Like at least 10 times better which more than makes up for its 7 times higher price.

  • http://www.facebook.com/douglas.liebig Douglas C Liebig

    The two won’t meet ever. The physical limitation of a camera phone’s lens diameter will NEVER allow it to capture the detail a lens with a diameter of, say 77mm will capture. It doesn’t matter how badly the “kool-aid” drinking Apple fans want it…

  • digi

    omg ! !
    this can say only the isheep ! !
    wake up it’s 2012 ! ! ! ! ! !

    android and canon rules…….

  • JW

    I agree, there isn’t even room for any sort of objective comparison because the disparity between the two is so vast. The iphone has enormous amounts of noise and in-camera sharpening applied which gives the illusion of being sharper than it is. I’m not sure how much press Dustin was trying to get with his casual post, but I think a better starting point would be a comparison where the two shots exhibit the same depth of field so we can see just how much better the canon is; at present the focus is a little awkward, sort of right behind the first street sign where there is nothing of interest to compare sharpness, making the canon seem way softer than it could be.

  • Squeamish Ossifrage

    The DoF does, and (assuming he did the math correctly) you’d need the f/21.5 on the Canon to get the same DoF as the iPhone.

  • Avi

    or a zionisit jew, or maybe a born again christian? oh no how about an Average simple minded, fox watching, gun loving, trailer trash american

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michal-Rosa/1061853192 Michal Rosa

    Pointless, idiotic, ridiculous.

  • allah is great

    the i phone is clearly superior.. because it´s apple.
    apple is god.. and steve jobs will come on judgement day to strike down everyone without a iphone…. you will burn in hell samsung user!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1464534615 Eric DiFebbo

    What is the point of comparing a flagship DSLR to an iphone? There is no comparison. A M3 is made to do one thing, TAKE PICTURES! The iphone is a phone that “can” take pictures. You have 1 fixed focal length (without digitally zooming which is not even worth the attempt), 1 fixed F-stop, etc. If you are using the same exact settings on the M3 as what the Iphone uses and on the same tripod, distance, etc then fine… Have at it wasting time only to find out the M3 will produce a better shot based on its sensor. But in the end it will always be apples and oranges. Pointless.

  • Simone Radice

    How can you be so NUMB not to understand that these tests are done with a “Super partes” Device (IE Canon 5D) to show how Phones little, tiny cameras and sensors have gone after 10 years or so? Nobody is questioning a DSLR…Nobody…But it is already very clear that in a not too far future Phone cameras “could” overcome even a “Entry Level” Canon/Nikon/whatever Reflex! In a fraction of space and in a device that can do zillion things that a proper CAMERA wouldn’t ever ever do…People in the “real world” already made their choice: Smartphones….So…

  • Simone Radice

    Wow, really? I didn’t notice… Oh, one thing, I prefer Autofocusing on iPhone…Because with the Canon everything else except the sign is out of focus… The problem is not the camera, is the photographer… I took pictures with my 4s that an ordinary guy with a 5d, not knowing how to deal with it and without lenses, filters and other gimmicks can dream of… “creativity” speaking…

  • http://twitter.com/zak Zak Henry

    This assumes that the sensor/lens combination of a phone is necessarily limited to the size they currently are. Upcoming flat lens technology could potentially fit a full frame or bigger sensor in a phone.

  • red

    The technical comparison is not 1:1.
    The one thing the untrained “photographic” eye can see straight away is sharpness and exposure quality and they judge a comparison based on that.
    Leave the true photographic comparisons to the experts please and do it properly, or be clear, what is it you are comparing “exposure”?, obviously not DOF.
    I would agree the exposure is good but wouldn’t you expect that from any digital device in 2012?

  • http://www.facebook.com/samhgsdg Tom Krypciak

    Compare the galaxy s3

  • mag_num

    czy to żart? ( Is it a joke ?)

  • http://twitter.com/theobserving pete n pete

    After reading the comments, I’m left with the feeling that most people read this article and didn’t understand the point of it.

    They’re not trying to literally compare the two cameras. He highlights that the DSLR should and does come out on top. Really, the point of the whole article is to show how camera phone technology has advanced. It’s true, too. A point and shoot I bought in 2006 wouldn’t stand up to the iPhone’s capabilities now. And back then, it wasn’t “standard” to have a camera on a phone, really.

    That’s the point he’s making. Some people need to untwist the panties and calm down.

  • Andreas

    Did nobody noticed that the stop-sign on the 5d is out of focus? Meh…

  • http://www.markwheadon.com/ Mark Wheadon

    Hmm, yes, for me the difference is still night and day.

  • rhommel

    articles like these are the reason why there are tons of fauxtographers out there.

  • Haufmann56

    Here’s the thing: 99% of pictures are of food and pets and kids and end up on Facebook or, if push comes to shove, in cheapo photobooks. They are not used technically, not artistically but casually. It’s pretty much like normal people need a normal car, not a Nascar or Formula 1 machine.

    And for this demographic the iPhone or any other point and shoot camera is just fine. They don’t need perfect color, because these people have uncalibrated screens and can’t even understand white balance.

    So what they need is a camera that’s quick, so they get the shot while the dog is making the stupid face. They need a camera that is reasonably good at makro, because they’ll need to take pic of the awesome cake. They need a camera that is good in low light and they will take random pictures on holiday. Pictures that mostly have streets or sidewalks in the and a bit of scenery.

    So is it a stupid idea to test the canon 5d mark iii with a 800×600 image against the iphone. Sure, from our perspective. But it’s a typical use case.

  • Erik Watson

    I appreciate professionals looking at the technological leaps and bounds that phones have made over the years. I agree with folks that phones will not ever catch up with DSLR’s in performance and quality but to know that I have a device in my pocket that takes respectable pictures according to professionals, is nice to know. I am by no means a professional photographer but I am an enthusiast and very much enjoy taking pictures for all types of reasons but I am always upset when something great happens and I don’t have my DSLR with me. Now I know that I have a pretty decent camera with me at all times. I think that what they were trying to convey in this article and that is how I read it. I am very glad to have read this article and appreciate them taking the time to write it and do this comparison.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ppucci Persio Pucci

    Comparing how an iPhone and a Full Frame camera is really totally logical.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ppucci Persio Pucci

    Well I guess they should compare pictures of a 1st gen iPhone and the iPhone 5 then?

  • JeffB

    Apparently Apple hasn’t been able to shield the iPhone from emitting harmful radiation to the end user. This brain damaged individual sees the iPhone on an equal plane with a Canon 5D Mark III.

    I can’t wait for your next article when you compare your shoe and a hammer for which one might be the better of the two for pounding in a nail.

  • http://twitter.com/MitchHallmark Mitchell Hallmark

    Dude you are completely missing the point. It’s not a phone comparison article. The guy was just showing how good cameras are in phones these days. No one is trying to say that the iphone 5 camera is better than the 5D. Its just an observation of advanced technology.

  • TurtleFan1

    I Like Turtles!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000200491840 Airphones Puno

    Lets compare the camera with Nokia Lumia 920 when it comes out. I can hear excuses like “iPhone is thinner and lighter”……..lol That’s all about it for iPhone 5 now, its thinner and lighter.

  • Paola

    Agree….
    Android for ever !!! :)

  • rich9cinti

    Really??? If phones get suited with the same size sensor, the answer is yes… The images would rival DSLR’s or other APS-C or APS-H camera systems like the Micro 4/3’s and Sony systems. But the truth of the matter is the phone companies know how ignorant the general public is about digital image technology. It hurts to listen to hopeful consumers thinking their tiny little sensors jammed with too much resolution would perform as good as large sensor cameras. The higher the res on those tiny sensors is only a marketing gimmick which apparently works cuz people buy marketing bull like that. It will only cause worse performance in challenging lighting situations. Old large sensors like on the 2001 Canon 1D Mark I although only 4.15 megapixels will “out-perform” today’s garbage compact camera sensors with 14 MP. Enough said. I have an iPhone 4 and the camera is a helpful tool for work and play… It performs like a leggo toy compared to even the oldest DSLR’s.

    I shoot with a 5D Mark III, 7D, 1D, Micro 4/3’s… Ridiculous that people would associate the iPhone 5 to fine camera systems. More marketing bull-nanny.

  • rich9cinti

    Really??? If phones get suited with the same size sensor, the answer is yes… The images would rival DSLR’s or other APS-C or APS-H camera systems like the Micro 4/3’s and Sony systems. But the truth of the matter is the phone companies know how ignorant the general public is about digital image technology. It hurts to listen to hopeful consumers thinking their tiny little sensors jammed with too much resolution would perform as good as large sensor cameras. The higher the res on those tiny sensors is only a marketing gimmick which apparently works cuz people buy marketing bull like that. It will only cause worse performance in challenging lighting situations. Old large sensors like on the 2001 Canon 1D Mark I although only 4.15 megapixels will “out-perform” today’s garbage compact camera sensors with 14 MP. Enough said. I have an iPhone 4 and the camera is a helpful tool for work and play… It performs like a leggo toy compared to even the oldest DSLR’s.

    I shoot with a 5D Mark III, 7D, 1D, Micro 4/3’s… Ridiculous that people would associate the iPhone 5 to fine camera systems. More marketing bull-nanny.

  • Mike

    You have to consider that the camera is less than 7 mm in size, that´s what´s impressive, sensor size will always matter alot, and of course the DSLR is lots better..

  • Josh Goldstein

    Spock.

  • bob

    Or a leftist, muslim hugging bigot? [check your mirror]

  • Dave

    The canon image is shot at a low f-stop and exhibits shallow depth of field –
    these images are not comparable. Most of the canon image is therefore out of focus. The canon should have been stopped
    down to f/11 or f/16 for a proper comparison

  • Luiz Fernando Zadra

    Sorry, but your dreams are not feasible. Maybe they can enhance ISO performance at the point of being comparable to a 5Dmk1 in some years. But ISO performance is not everything. Other factors, like control of depth of field are limited by the laws of optics. Unless you can sell also Universe 2.0 with upgraded laws of physics together with future smartphones, there’s no way a tiny sensor with a tiny lens can do what a big sensor and big lens can.

  • Xucifairy

    the iPhone photo is better than the 5D3 photo because of the great depth of field. The DSLR photo sucks because of inadequate depth of field and blurriness. What do you need resolution for if the photo comes out blurry due to low DOF?

  • Santos

    No, we don’t want limited depth of field, we want to see everything in the photo, that’s why I shoot at f/13 or f/16 on my DSLR… I wish I had a smaller sensor for more DOF without diffraction. I hate limited depth of field.