DSLR vs. Smart Phone Camera

Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels

Before Y2K getting a decent picture with a smartphone was a distant dream. Now Year 2020, with the advent of AI and its integration in smartphones has enabled it to recognize scenes and take the best shot and not to forget increasing MP count day by day.

Nevertheless, the question remains the same can it match the entry-level DSLR camera? For this comparison, we have taken shots from Nikon entry-level DSLR and Vivo smartphones. Let us dig in and find out.

Size and Portability:

Size does matter when it comes to carrying around a camera and shooting in the moment picture. This is where Smartphones excel in comparison to DSLR; However, the market is flooded with Mirrorless Cameras which are somewhat portable and less bulky as compared to DSLR and offer sharp and clear images.

Battery Life and Replacement:

Nowadays almost all smartphones have non-replaceable batteries which means you have to take it to authorized service center to replace the battery while thankfully DSLR cameras still have replaceable battery systems.


DSLRs have an interchangeable lens system which means one can use a specific lens for Portrait shots, Wide-angle shots, Zoom in shots, etc. However, the cost of a lens can range up to INR 10 Lacs. Recently, Smartphones are coming with 4-5 inbuilt lenses enabling end-users to capture wide-angle shots, portrait shots, long-distance shots, etc. Samsung has recently launched the Galaxy S20+ Ultra smartphone which has 108 MP resolutions and 100X Optical + Digital zoom.

Depth of field (DoF):

The most innovative technology integrated in smartphone photography is DEPTH OF FIELD. In layman’s term, DoF simply refers to the area of the scene which appears well focused and anything in front or behind this point will be blurred to a greater or lesser degree.

Now coming back to the point, DoF helps in taking great portrait shots that were otherwise possible only on DSLR a few years back. Thanks to ever-evolving technology, we can now take decent portrait shots through smartphones nowadays.  

* Kindly note that all the shots are taken at the same time from DSLR and Smartphone camera with a time lag of 1-2 minutes.

Let’s compare two images below, image1 taken from DSLR and image 2 from a smartphone. It’s evident that the DSLR image has nice creamy blurred background while the smartphone image is decent one yet there is scope for improvement.

Long Distance photography:

Astronomy, Sports and Wildlife photography requires long focal length lens and here DSLR camera rules the roost because of interchangeable lens features where one can use the zoom lens to capture long-distance objects. Of course other factors like image sensor, ISO, Aperture, Shutter speed, etc. also count. Moreover, the image quality is nearly retained throughout the zooming operation in DSLRs.

Smartphone companies have recently introduced 5x /10x optical Zoom in their top-end models but the image resolution drops once you exceed 5x/10x Zoom range which is basically digital or optical + digital zoom. 

Let’s compare two images below, image1 taken from DSLR and image 2 from a smartphone. A closer look of DSLR image will tell you that leaves and the papaya fruit are in sharp focus whereas the quality of the image is grainy while taking zoom shot through the smartphone.

Low Light Photography:

Though Smartphones have come a long way when it comes to photography yet low light photography can be a slightly tough task. While many companies now offer an option to use the manual mode with finer controls, the auto mode is really what most amateurs use. 

As a thumb rule, a good low light image is governed by three parameters and can be achieved by tweaking all three in a combination or any of the three.

  1. Higher ISO (camera sensor sensitivity to light), 
  2. Large Aperture(lens diameter opening to allow light to reach sensor)
  3. Slow Shutter speed (duration of shutter opening)

Let’s compare two images below, image1 taken from DSLR and image 2 from a smartphone in the night mode setting. the pics are taken in a pitch dark room. Here again, we are getting a lot of details in DSLR image while the image2 is softened however it is still a good and usable image.

Fast Moving Object Photography:

Because of fast shutter speed, continuous shooting mode, and incredibly good Zoom lenses, DSLRs can shoot fast-moving objects effortlessly whereas smartphone cameras are still lagging behind in this domain.

Now what is fast-moving objects; it could be a bird in flight or a speeding bike or you want to capture favorite sports stars in action, etc. Shooting action scenes can be a lot of fun, and you can get some amazing images captured in that split-second

 Macro Photography:

Macro photography can make the image appear several times bigger than it actually is in real life. True macro photography is anything that has a magnification ratio of at least 1:1 – meaning that if the coin you’re shooting in real life is two centimeters in diameter, it will look exactly that big to your camera’s sensor.

Most DSLRs have an option on Dial mode for macro photography but you need a macro lens in order to achieve the desired result. Smartphones have come up a long way over time where one can take close up shots of small objects and some of them are giving good results.

Undoubted DSLR rules here as image1 has a nice out of focus background and at the same time, the object is in sharp focus in comparison to image2.

Final Thoughts:

Does it mean, DSLRs are superior to Smartphones?

Dedicated cameras have a lot of versatility and will always be able to do things that a smartphone can’t. The resolution of photos taken on DSLR and mirrorless cameras is also much greater than the resolution of smartphone cameras thanks to their larger sensors that number up to 64 megapixels or more. What about the megapixel myth? More megapixels do not mean a better photo, but that brings me to my next point. The sensors in dedicated cameras are much larger than smartphone cameras and that means they can let in a lot more light and produce better photos.

So a smartphone can ever replace the DSLR camera?

A smartphone may not be as versatile as DSLR yet it offers portability, spontaneity, quick image editing and sharing on social media a breeze.   

Today’s smartphones don’t have the best camera for professional photography. But it’s also been proven that these cameras are improving and improving fast and that by pairing your smartphone with some 3rd party gear you can get near to DSLR or mirrorless level results.

It is worth noting that as camera technology improves our expectations will increase. By this, we mean, in a few years your phone will perform up to par with today’s DSLR and mirrorless cameras. It is unlikely that the phone’s camera will ever outperform the DSLR. On the other hand, it will certainly be good enough for you to take high-quality photos, edit them, and more easily share them with the world around you.

As rightly said by Chase Jarvis, the best camera is the one you have with you at the moment.

* Kindly note that we took shots under following conditions

  1. Shots are taken at the same time from DSLR and Smartphone camera with a time lag of 1-2 minutes.
  2. Same camera settings being applied both for DSLR and smartphone while taking shots.

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