Smart Phone or DSLR: Which Produces Better Photos

Top of the line smartphones today are packed with state of the art cameras, featuring megapixel counts, integrated hardware and software that would make your old point-and-shoot blush. However, the general consensus around the photography community is that while smartphones are convenient, a dedicated digital camera will consistently produce the best images.Our goal here wasn’t to debate the merits of a dedicated camera, as skilled professionals use expensive cameras for good reason. However, we wanted to test this theory in a limited but practical way for us regular folk and answer the question, which camera is best for our daily lives? Smartphone camera versus DSLR, who comes out on top?


For our comparison, we chose the most recent top-line smartphones from the largest manufacturers. Included was the Apple iPhone 5s, HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4, and the Sony Xperia Z. The DSLR we used for this test was a Canon 5D Mark II coupled with a Canon EF 24-70 lens.


Our goal with this comparison was to create a level playing field using a variety of different shots taken in our daily lives. We hired a professional photographer who created 10 controlled scenes to test each smartphone camera. They included a variety of lighting, landscape, portrait and macro shots.

The photographer then rated each photo and provided useful commentary and tips for each shot. Additionally, we surveyed 1000 individuals and put each shot to a vote and asked, which camera did it best?


This shot was an example of some of the everyday lens distortion you could achieve with smaller phone camera lenses. The iPhone’s metering system was more responsive, while the HTC and Sony cameras weren’t able to properly meter the building and produced overexposed photos. The DSLR used was a Canon 24-70, and at 24mm, it also suffered considerable distortion.

Interestingly, the iPhone had a visibly narrower lens versus the other cameras. Also of note, professional and amateur photographers often struggle to keep horizontal and vertical lines aligned with each other, and phone cameras are no exception.


On the merit of the pictures alone, there surprisingly was no resounding victory for any party. While the Canon produced the most consistent high quality images, the iPhone ended up garnering the most votes overall for the images.

Smartphone cameras continue to close the gap in how we take our photos. And for everyday use, the convenience of a smartphone smashes its heavier, more expensive counterparts. So unless you’re looking to take professional-grade photos, hold your phone up proud and filter away.