It was the best of shots; it was the worst of shots. But when it comes down to the debate over whether your cell phone or the traditional DSLR produces better photos, this tale of two cameras increasingly blurs the line of quality.
Enthusiasts of DSLR will point out that their cameras produce higher resolution, are more adaptable, and offer more creative flexibility. Phone aficionados are likely to point to the compact, light-weight nature of their device, which offers the spontaneity of always having a camera available. So what’s the true story?
In answering the question, it may first be helpful to understand why phone cameras have fallen short of DSLR in the past. Photo enthusiasts know that light often makes the picture and DSLR cameras have long had larger sensors that produce higher resolution photos. They have also had better lenses and the ability to swap out a variety of lenses. In addition, DSLRs shoot in RAW format, which are uncompressed images that offer greater flexibility for editing, while phones have been limited to JPEG format. Finally, DSLRs have offered the artist more control over aperture settings, shutter speed, focus, and more.
But here is where the tale takes a twist. Sony recently announced that as early as 2024 “still images are expected to exceed ILC [interchangeable lens camera] image quality.” Skeptics may point out that Sony has a stake in the market and has a history of making big claims about technology in which they have a hand.
However, much of their claim is based on development of a sensor that is twice the size of previous phone camera sensors, which have already largely closed the resolution gap. New smartphones now also have multiple lenses, with additional clip-on lenses available to purchase, and the ability to shoot in manual mode, giving the photographer the ability to control variables such as shutter speed and aperture. Another interesting development in smartphone tech is the ability to shoot in RAW footage. Perhaps the most decisive conclusion to the story is that major manufacturers of DSLR, such as Nikon and Canon, have stopped production of the cameras and focused energy on new mirrorless cameras.
So does this mean that DSLR cameras are done for. Probably not. Professional photographers still find greater artistic freedom in their use and can still produce high resolution photos for large format print that cell cams can’t. But like vinyl albums and DVDs that came before, the DSLR camera is becoming a part of a niche market that caters to enthusiasts.
Written by Ivan Young