Ask any professional photographer about their views on using a smartphone to click pictures and he/she will scorn at you and explain furtively about why a smartphone camera is the worst possible camera (Which it isn’t) and how the DSLR is and always will be the king when it comes to Photography. However, the average Joe doesn’t know WHY a DSLR is actually better than a smartphone. We are here to give you the reasons why a DSLR is better than a smartphone and to give the story a bit of a twist, we will also explore the other side: Why a Smartphone is better than a DSLR.
It is pretty much undisputable, DSLRs are much better than smartphones at taking pictures and the big reason behind that lies in the sensor.
First, before we move on to why a DSLR’s quality surpasses that of a smartphone, let us debunk a myth first: Megapixels are not everything. Contrary to what that sneaky Salesman would like you to believe, racking on megapixels doesn’t necessarily mean that your photo quality will improve.
That does not mean that you can shoot at 1MP and get away with it, what we want to say is that after a certain point, more megapixels just doesn’t visibly improve the quality of the picture. Also, if you keep on racking pixels, it may actually prove to be destructive to the picture, and this is especially visible on a smartphone, which have really small sensors.
Can’t wrap your head around the Megapixel Myth? Here’s one really simple example: Just compare pictures of a 16MP DSLR and a 24MP Point and Shoot: The DSLR pictures will be leaps and bounds better, despite having a lower pixel count.
What matters is the sensor size: DSLR have a very visibly large sensor, which is leaps and bounds bigger than that small one in your smartphone. A larger sensor means more scope for a DSLR to capture light and detail, which is turn results in lesser noise and a cleaner and sharper picture. In a phone, the sensor is really small, so it already can’t pick up enough light and detail: More megapixels packed together actually generates more heat, making for a darker and noisier picture.
Going into the technical side: Camera sensors have millions of ponts called Photosites, which collect light. A DSLR has a larger sensor, so has larger, better quality and more photosites, enabling it to capture brighter, cleaner, sharper pictures with better dynamic range.
Although the sensor in the main factor in deciding the quality of the picture, the lens quality too plays an important part. Why do you think professionals spend thousands of dollars on lenses when they could have just settled with some cheapo lens or the lens that came free? Because it matters.
Smartphone lenses are small and are made of low-quality materials. They don’t use glass and even if they do, they don’t use high quality glass. It is usually ‘contaminated’ with other elements such as plastic. For example, the Lumia 1020 has a six-element lens arrangement, with five being plastic and one being glass. This deteriorates the quality of the picture.
On the other hand, DSLRs have a large variety of lenses available (A factor which we will come to later) of which many are high quality and made of high quality glass.
The reason a smartphone doesn’t have a pure-glass lens is durability. Smartphones are subject to rougher use than DSLRs: They are thrown around, which proves to be tough for glass, which is a fragile element.
DSLR triumph over smartphones when it comes to versatility. They have got just about every kind of lens, for every kind of situation.
Need Macro shots? Here’s a Macro lens for you. Need to shoot Landscapes? Here is a wide-angle lens for you. Need to shoot that thing in the distance? Here is a telephoto lens for you: You get the gist.
For example: Smartphones feature only Digital Zoom, not Optical Zoom. Digital Zoom actually crops up the picture, reducing the quality considerably. On the other hand, Optical Zoom can zoom in without deteriorating the quality of the picture at all.
While the Lumia 1020 (And the Pureview) overcomes this problem using its oversampling technology, enabling it to zoom in without any visual loss in quality. But it can only go so much: You can zoom in till around 3X and then you will start noticing signs of quality deterioration.
On the other hand, a DSLR features Optical Zoom right out of the box and the default lenses that come in a kit with it can easily outperform the Lumia 1020 in terms of Zoom Performance. But when you add a good telephoto lens to the DSLR, the Lumia 1020 blows out of the water. Where the Lumia 1020 is only able to offer 3X zoom with no quality-loss, a DSLR equipped with a good telephoto lens can go to upto 40X and even 50X for some lenses.
And forget other phones like the iPhone 5s, the Galaxy S5, etc. While the Lumia 1020 manages to give a weak stand (and gets crushed) against the DSLR when it comes to zoom performance, the other phones, with no special oversampling technology (With the possible exception of the Z2) will be incinerated by the DSLR.
Another scenario is in low light: DSLRs already have spectacular low-light performance, but when you add a hotshoe-flash to it, it can turn night into day.
DSLR Flashes are much larger than that of smartphone flashes which are miniscule in comparison. Also, DSLRs have a type of flash known as Xenon flash, whilst today’s smartphones use LED Flash. The difference is that Xenon is much brighter, but uses more power (making unsuitable for smartphones). While the Lumia 1020 does have a Xenon flash, it is still outperformed by DSLR Hotshoe flashes due to it being of a smaller size and it using less power.
Also, Smartphone Flashes (Including that of the 5s and the Lumia 1020) tend to washout the color of the subject, making the photo look unattractive, while DSLR Flashes show no such quirk.
Customizability (And Editablity)
As we mentioned above, DSLRs have the option to change lenses which goes a long way into determining the photo quality.
DSLRs also have a whole lot of changeable factors in their arsenal. In a DSLR, you can change parameters such as Exposure, ISO, Shutter Speed, etc.
While on a smartphone you can change some of those parameters such as ISO and Exposure, stuff like the Shutter Speed cannot be changed.
For example. you can set the shutter speed to be extremely fast to capture a moving subject, or set the shutter speed to extremely slow to capture dreamy, captivating pictures.
(Don’t know what we are talking about? Just set the shutter speed of the DSLR to as low as it can and set it under a starry sky and capture. Keep it there for some time (time= hours) and then you will see what we mean)
But on a smartphone, you have to make do with the defailt shutter speed as there is no way, because it is physically impossible to change the shutter speed of a smartphone.
Meaning that with a DSLR, you can control every parameter of the picture to get the perfect picture, but with a smartphone, you will have to do with what you have got.
The next factor is Editability. DSLRs have the option to shoot in a format called RAW, while Smartphones can only shoot in compressed image formats such as PNG and JPG.
The RAW format provides more of an editing threshold than compressed image formats such as PNG and JPG. If you want to touch up your photos (If you don’t , you really shouldn’t consider yourselves a photographer), you will find that RAW files edit more easily without deterioration.
This is because compressed image formats are, well compressed. They don’t have all the image data. Some of it is lost during compression. On the other hand, RAW image formats are essentially all the data in one bucket. All of it. The downside is that you should have a computer or something that can process RAW files to fully render the picture. But, on the upside, you are getting all the image data, so more space for editing and also a better picture overall.
Yes, yes, we know we said in the Versatality section that Lenses are fragile and so Smartphones don’t have pure-Glass lenses.
Then how can DSLRs be more durable than smartphones when they have fully glass-lenses?
It’s true that the lenses are fragile. But remember what we are talking about here, only the DSLR, not its lens. Smartphones and lenses are essentially joint, so we can’t separate them.
DSLRs have much more durable magnesium alloy enclosures which are much, much more durable than the thin enclosures of today’s smartphones.
Also, smartphones have those large fragile glass thingies we call screens, which also goes a long way in making them fragile.
With a camera like the D4. you may literally crack someone’s skull with it, but the camera itself will not suffer a dent.
On the other hand, smartphones are getting thinner and thinner in a bid to look good, but are also getting more fragile in the process.
DSLR’s are also designed to be more weather resistant than smartphones, so they are more suited to..let us say photography adventures.
You may always trust a DSLR (But not its lens) to survive a bump or two, but it is not the same with a smartphone.
DSLR’s usually use button controls, which are generally better than the touch controls of smartphones.
DSLRs, by nature, are more ergonomic than smartphones. While the full arsenal of dials and buttons may confuse you at first, soon you may find it better than the virtual ‘buttons’ on a smartphone screen.
With a smartphone, you have to dig deep into menus to find that particular setting, but with a DSLR, there is a dial to change it right near your hand, no settings B.S.
By virtue of their bulk and design, DSLR’s just feel better to hold. Your entire hand can hold the DSLR, giving you that comfy feeling, as opposed to the uncomfortable feeling felt while holding the smartphone by your fingertips.
Also, the viewfinder in DSLRs is felt by many to be more comfortable and better for composing and clicking pictures than a smartphone’s screen. Also, viewfinders don’t suffer from glare, while Smartphone screens do.
Now that we have narrated the tale of the DSLR and praised it to great heights, it is now time to give a little push to the smartphone, which currently seems insignificant compared to DSLRs.
However, there are some obvious factors that rule in favor of the smartphone.
Let us get this out of the way first: DSLRs are big bulky beasts that weigh you down while smartphones are thin are portable and are fit for taking everywhere.
The DSLR’s ergonomic advantage unfortunately is also is its disadvantage: Due to it being nice and big, it is also bulky and unsuitable for carrying with you everywhere.
Smartphones are much more compact than DSLRs; They fit into your pocket; You can take them everywhere: The Smartphone sweeps the floor when it comes to portability.
The Social Factor
Let us face it, Smartphones have an arsenal of sharing apps at their disposal, to which you can share a picture within seconds of capturing it.
While some DSLRs offer WiFi, it is never as convenient as a smartphone when it comes to sharing pictures.
Take Picture, Open App, Share. That’s it, for smartphones. For DSLRs, the sharing process is much less user-friendly and takes more time. Additionally, you have to find a WiFi hotspot for the sharing to work, while you can use the phone’s Mobile Network to share it right there and then.
Sure, you can use your Smartphone’s “WiFi Hotspot” feature to share your internet, but that may cost money for some carriers and even if it doesn’t cost money, it is less convenient with DSLRs and there is fewer social compatibility as well with a DSLR.
On the Spot Editing
While DSLRs have the ability to shoot in the RAW format, which provides more space for editing, smartphones have access to an entire army of editing apps, which will allow you to touch up your photo right there and then. Extremely efficient.
Sure, those photo editors may not be as powerful as their Desktop counterparts, but for most people, it is more than enough. You have to admit, you don’t usually do advanced editing on your photos that can’t be done with smartphone apps.
WIth Smartphones, it is a very efficient process: Click, Edit ,Upload. But with DSLRs, there are a bit of extra steps.
Sure, some DSLRs do offer software editors, but they are usually simple and cannot face the onslaught of Smartphone Photo Editors.
Yes, we know it was a comparison of Apples and Oranges. But the gap between smartphones and DSLRs has narrowed enough that we can actually compare them. Before, the first cameraphones and the first smartphones couldn’t even dream of being in the same arena of the DSLR. But today, phones like the Lumia 1020 dare to even challenge (and get crushed) the might of the DSLR. Sure, they always lose, but looking at them even merely challenging the DSLR, truly shows us how far we have come.
This was an extensive comparison and there may have been points and advantage/disadvantages we may have missed. If there is any, inform us in the comments.
If you didn’t understand somethings, here is a video for you (Not Made by Us):
For the average Joe, who just needs to capture that occasional moment, that occasional scene, a smartphone does the job. He/She can capture the picture and immediately upload it on his/her social network of choice.
Even for the amateur, a smartphone can serve as a good supplement for the DSLR. It can provide a different persepective and also, on the spot editing tools.
For the professional, there is only one device in mind and that is the DSLR: No other device can express the feelings, the imagination, the creativity of the person so fluently as the DLSR.