For YouTubers
October 03, 2021

Phone Camera vs. Digital Camera: Comparing Mobile Video to DSLR

By Jessica Peterson 6 min read

Highlights

  • The best camera is the one you’re carrying, meaning the one you have ready to capture the action in mobile video in a split second
  • While smartphones may have high enough specs for your personal blog, client projects may demand bigger, more expensive DSLRs
  • While smartphones are extremely portable, lightweight and quick to use, DSLRs almost always offer higher video quality and more versatility when it comes to attachments such as lenses, stabilizers, microphones and lights

Want to know the best camera to use? It’s easy. The best camera is the one you’re carrying, meaning the one you have ready to capture the action in mobile video in a split second. That being said, the debate over smartphone cameras vs. digital cameras is a valid one. Can a mobile camera be better than a DSLR? Is iPhone video better than DSLR, or is DSLR better for video? In past articles, you’ve learned how to choose a camera and all about video resolution. Read on to find out how to decide on the best technology when it comes to phone cameras vs. digital cameras.

Phone camera vs. digital camera

Because smartphone manufacturers are so competitive, camera technology increases infinitely faster than ever before. Higher resolutions, better quality, multiple formats, variable focus -- these are all the newest offerings of both Apple and Android smartphone cameras for recording mobile video. So, should you just invest in the latest iPhone as your primary camera? First, you’ll need to determine your primary use. Are you a vlogger, travel filmmaker, or commercial director? Do you primarily create videos for Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube? While smartphones may have high enough specs for your personal blog, client projects may demand bigger, more expensive DSLRs. So, your camera may vary from project to project. 

The advantages of phone cameras

Let’s first get into the best qualities and advantages of smartphones when it comes to shooting videos with your smartphone.

  1. Smartphones are extremely portable. You will likely have one on you at all times, making spontaneous capture very easy.
  2. Phone cameras are compact and do not attract attention when you need to film stealthily or remain low-key.
  3. Smartphones are often dust resistant, splash proof and even waterproof. You can put them to the test in a way that requires special housing for a digital camera.
  4. Phone cameras have long been versatile. You can shoot video as easily as photographs.
  5. Phone cameras like the iPhone offer special shooting modes, such as panorama, slow motion, time-lapse and portrait mode that are very easy to use and add variety to your work.
  6. Phone cameras generally produce smaller file sizes.
  7. And finally, the cost of smartphones is usually far below a digital camera kit with all the lenses, batteries and attachments required.

Standout features of the new iPhone 13

Is iPhone video better than DSLR? The iPhone 13 Pro is unsurprisingly leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor. Here’s why it’s a top contender for the best smartphone for recording mobile video in the iPhone camera vs. DSLR competition.

  1. Internal storage up to 512GB.
  2. Brand new for video: cinematic mode for recording videos with shallow depth of field (in 1080p at 30 fps).
  3. Powered by the A15 Bionic processor, an upgrade from the A14 Bionic chip found in all the iPhone 12 models. New 6‑core CPU with 2 performance and 4 efficiency cores; new 4‑core GPU; new 16‑core Neural Engine. Basically, this is Apple’s fastest, highest-performing phone to date.
  4. Increased battery life of 10 hours and 33 minutes.
  5. Displays up to 28% brighter than the iPhone 12.
  6. The iPhone 13 has 3 lenses built into it. The 77mm telephoto lens now offers 3x optical zoom, an improvement over the 2.5x zoom on the iPhone 12 Pro.
  7. The larger sensor for better low light images and on the wide-angle lens, a wider f/1.8 aperture. 
  8. And finally, Apple’s latest iPhone upgrade even includes Dolby vision. This is big news. HDR (high dynamic range) video format has become standard, meaning much improved image quality, including 4K video at 60fps. 

The advantages of digital cameras

And now for the disadvantages of phone camera vs. digital camera.

  1. DSLRs perform better recording video in low light than phone cameras 99% of the time. This has to do with the size of the sensor as well as the ability to add interchangeable lenses to a DSLR. Another contributing factor is ISO range, which is relatively limited on phone cameras. DSLR vs. phone camera is a fairly obvious choice here.
  2. Phone cameras only offer digital zoom vs. the true mechanical zoom of a DSLR. Digital zoom is a synthesized way of getting closer to a subject. As you’ve no doubt seen when using it, it can result in pixelated or noisy images when the zoom is increased to its limit.
  3. While you can attach lenses to phone cameras, they’re just never going to be as high quality as, say, the Sony Zeiss lens that you can connect to a DSLR. Being able to interchange lenses is crucial for controlling f-stop, angle, and distance.
  4. DSLRs can allow for more high-quality attachments such as cages, microphones, lights and transmitters. Of course, you can up your phone camera game with smartphone accessories such as phone stabilizers, but the quality of those products just won’t match their DSLR counterparts. DSLR vs. smartphone winner? Clearly a DSLR.

Still, the cheapest DSLR may not have the production qualities of the best Apple or Android phone camera. That’s why it’s vital to check the specs! Compare and contrast. Do camera tests to determine which output suits your needs better.

Conclusion

While the question of phone camera vs. digital camera will no doubt go on for ages, now you have a better understanding of the advantages of each. Take this knowledge into the field whether you’re producing mobile video or higher-quality digital video.

 

About Jessica

Jessica Peterson is a travel and documentary filmmaker with a background in journalism and marketing. She has 20 years of experience producing content in 114 cities and 25 countries. In 2016, she directed and produced her own documentary about her then-home of Guam. Working under the name Global Girl Travels, her clients include CNN, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Matador Network, and Tastemade.

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