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iphone photography


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I am an old schooler using film cameras that are renown for sharpness and detail (leica, mamiya,...).

I have come increasingly upon some impressive iphone photos and serious photographers who use iphone.

For my intellectual curiosity, I wonder where does the iphone7 (and other smart phones) stand in comparison to professional cameras in terms of sharpness? Given that these are tiny lenses (I am assuming fixed length) what is the technology behind this? Any resources on the matter.

Thank you


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If "Sharpness" is your main concern, i would not think the tiny sensor of a Cell Phone would be at the top of any list.?

Where do you think they "stand".?


On the other hand, if the main Concern/Thought is regards to the photography and composition...what does any of it matter.?

For that matter, what is a "Professional Camera".?.....a camera used by professionals.?

You say you have (increasingly) seen Phone Photos that impress you. What else is there to say.?

When i look at photos in Magazines, Books, Gallery's.....the "Sharpness" is the last thing that i concern myself with. Most any Holga will take a picture that would be adequate to convey, most, matters of import.

Perhaps i am in the Large Minority, but.....if i never read the word "sharpness" again in a discussion about photography, it would be much fine by me.

I get the feeling that photography, for many, is a series of lab tests...... Sharpness, Barrel Distortion, CA, etc etc.

Unless a given frame is very poorly focused, i look much harder at the subject matter, light, shadows, humor, angst of life...things like that.

I never care if a persons eyes should have been, or could have been "sharper" if they had been shot with a Bigger, Newer, Different technology..

I shoot film because of the "Blue Collar" aspect of having a darkroom in my house, and not having to be chained to a computer to practice my hobby.......not because of any renowned sharpness or detail.

That is my take on the whole Digital, Phone, Sensor, Technology issue.

Cell Phones are fine, they are awesome. They are small and light of weight and damn near work in the dark.....something your Leica and Mamiya will be hard-pressed to do. :)

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Smartphones are OK, they getting better, for family snaps and selfies you don't need camera anymore. Some pros were shooting whole campaigns with cellphones , but it looks more like cellphone promotions, sponsored by respective manufacturers.
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Good grief! We haven't even touched on all the variables yet! When you compare digital to film, final output counts. Magazine? Gift book? Fine art print? Ink jet? Silver? "Sharpness" is meaningless in this context. An extraordinary hand-coated platinum print might not be as sharp a phone photo, and it's a huge and tough task to make a beautiful art print from a phone.


I will say this though; if all you care about is "sharpness" in its measurable forms, you are wasting your time with film. Digital is where the action is when it comes to tech specs. It's just that tech specs are rarely a reason to choose a workflow.

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I'd say that most images will look good when viewed in a small size and on a screen. The question is whether or not the way an image looks in terms of its sharpness or lack of sharpness is acceptable or preferable (basically straight photography vs pictorialism) when viewed larger and/or as a print.


Phil, perfectly put.


Cellphone technology is changing rapidly and the OP should become familiar with the ergonomics of them as, to me, that is one area I struggle with.

Edited by Norman 202
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Most of the technology in smartphone cameras is now about software and algorithm improvements…

and that will change rapidly. i, hope, that google et al will soon make the 35 mm ff sensor and a 1.4 lens redundant. but that’s a whole new can of worms (in terms of aesthetics)


edit: well, actually, it isn’t as almost all of the world’s best photos were shot with apertures less than f/2

Edited by Norman 202
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dpreview.com tested most photo heavy phones and provide galleries full of downloadable full resolution sample pictures. They are testing digital cameras too, so maybe take a look and compare yourself?

I don't own any smart device with a camera worth mentioning or using myself. I simply don't see a need to spend on that stuff. OTOH: Less photo enthusiastic friends and co-workers ditched their old dedicated cameras on me, because they consider their cake cut splendidly by phones.

Sorry for dodging any straight answer so far, but there isn't even a clear question. What might be a "professional camera"? - I own some Polaroid Miniportrait and guess it used to be one? The headshot on my health insurance card was done by an employee's smart phone and looks recognizable, so I shall answer "yes"? (I brought some digital cameras of my own too, but the nice guy considered his phone the easier way to a result).

On the pixel level phones seem surely still limping behind. I usually see JPEG artifacts and similar in images that I am not used to looking at RAW files from APS & bigger sensors.

Phone camera sensors are even smaller than Minox negs. Using a similar sized faction of a really expensive camera's sensor might not provide better resolution.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I think the problem is form factor. Phone sensors and lenses are roughly the size of the nail on your pinkie. Current phone photo technology is insufficient to create images of the same quality as can be achieved with a basic DSLR and a kit lens. I've done some remarkable things with an iPhone SE (12mp f2.4 lens) and I am impressed with in camera image adjustments, but ultimate quality is worse than my old c2008 Kodak 6mp point and shoot. I am intrigued with the MOTO Z line of phones. This line has dedicated accessory backs, including a Hasselblad branded optical zoom lens. Reviews say it is about as good as a good point and shoot, which is to say better than any other phone, but not as good as a basic DSLR (or better point and shoot). One day phones cameras will be better, but that day is not here yet.
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