Skip to main content

iPhone X = DSLR-quality... Maybe?

Ever since the iPhone X came out, almost everyone under the sun has been fixated on one thing: the camera.

Is the quality as good as a DSLR? Will you no longer have to tote around your Canon or Nikon to a photoshoot? Will there be cool lenses to add on to your iPhone X to take your mobile photography even further? (That's mainly a question I'm asking, though…)

Well, okay, for the sake of transparency, no — your iPhone X will not be able to replace your DSLR, but as the people at CNET discovered, you can get photos that are really, really close.

The photographer can manipulate focus, aperture and distance of the lens from the subject on a dSLR to control depth of field. A shallow depth of field makes the subject look sharp relative to the background. The iPhone uses a combination of software and hardware to achieve a similar effect. It makes a depth map with its dual cameras to separate the subject from the rest of the scene, then blurs out what it perceives as the background. (CNET)

To test the iPhone X camera against a DSLR, both devices were used to shoot portraiture, and while the results are quite similar, there were also stark differences that proved that the iPhone X isn't quite up to snuff in more than one area.

The iPhone X produces pleasing portraits in optimal conditions, but where it can't keep up with the dSLR is in low light. In extremely low light the iPhone can't even activate portrait mode as you'll see below, whereas the dSLR is able to take shots regardless. (CNET)

But is the iPhone X close?

Absolutely.

In ideal conditions, the phone mimics the bokeh effect well and Portrait Mode has come a long way since the iPhone 7 Plus. If you're posting on social media or viewing on a phone screen, the shot may look pretty close to what you would get on a dSLR, especially if you're viewing photos at a reduced magnification. But if you look closely, you can see where the processing still needs to improve. (CNET)

What do you think?

Do you think the the iPhone X's camera measures up to a traditional DSLR? Or would you much rather stick to shooting with your Canon?

Let us know what your thoughts are in the comments below!

Cella writes for iMore on social and photography. She's a true crime enthusiast, bestselling horror author, lipstick collector, buzzkill, and Sicilian. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @hellorousseau

12 Comments
  • Sticking with my Oly for now. The bokeh is just more natural still even with these compared. It simply isn't just identify a background and blur it, there is some gradient you can see with backgrounds that offer a deeper z-axis. Look at the equipment in the Sue's Kitchen example photos. The equipment in the shop is blurred more because it's further away. Most people I think wouldn't notice this, and I'm just an amateur at this stuff so there's probably more to it than that bleak example. All this AI just makes me question, when do we stop applying these things to our photos because basically the devices themselves are redrawing what we want to see; might as well not go there, and just tell it to draw the photo we want.
  • DSLRs come with image processing features already. It seems adding these features are the only way for camera makers to keep up with smart phones. at what point did DSLRs take away from “our creativity” with all of the auto mode software compared to film cameras ? Camera phones will replace DSLRs. Probably within a few years. it sure has replaced my mirrorless camera in many scenarios.
  • If you're serious about image quality there's no way a phone camera will replace a DSLR at least not any time soon. You can't get large high quality lens glass for a phone and even if you could, until they start putting DSLR size sensors in the phone, you just can't get that same image quality. You can get close sure, especially for the things most people do with photos like social media/etc. but if you want to print it, be prepared to do a LOT of editing. If it's a low light shot forget it. I've managed to print a couple decent 8.5x11's off my Canon Pro-100 from my 7+ that were taken with a 3rd party camera app, but the pics had great lighting and I did a good bit of adjustment in Lightroom first. Once the lighting goes down though, there's just no way.
  • Betteridge's law applies, so the answer is "no." Period. There is no comparison with DSLRs, or high-end mirrorless cameras and a phone camera. And it's clearly not going to be a gap that closes until focal length doesn't matter any more because we're using lenses that can do telephoto or wide angle without any increase in size in the zooming process. It's just silly to even bring this up. Fake shallow depth of field, for example, that the iPhone does is no substitute for the real thing. Shoot, after all these years Photoshop still sucks at determining the edge of an object, even when the color difference is significant. How is a processing chip in a phone going to do even close to that? So your fake aperture effects are going to look wonky compared to real cameras. And there are plenty of examples of how lenses render unsharpness, and the transition from sharp to soft (bokeh - a Japanese word pronounced "bo-kay") is determined by the optical forumula of the lens, how many aperture blades there are, is the edge of the aperture round or octagonal, is it a mirror lens, the list goes on and on. Secondly, anyone who thinks the actual image quality of a phone, even my fantastic iPhone X, is going to compete with a real camera - say my personal Olympus OMD-EM1 mark II, or my work horse on the job – a Canon EOS 1DX, they are either blind, or have very low standards for quality. It's a silly question to ask, it's an even sillier claim to make. In the real world, where people have standards of quality, and they understand how photo equipment actually works, and who have a bit of understanding on how light moves through optical systems, it's a massive waste of time, and it is deceptive in the way that it's becoming a meme with no legs.
  • Apple just bought an image sensor tech company called InVisage Technolgies with improved image sensor quality. Nano tech will what replaces DSLRs. Also check out the L16 Light Camera.... this is at least on par with mirrorless / DSLRs. The tech is already here.
  • RE:"anyone who thinks the actual image quality of a phone, even my fantastic iPhone X, is going to compete with a real camera - say my personal Olympus OMD-EM1 mark II, or my work horse on the job – a Canon EOS 1DX, they are either blind, or have very low standards for quality." I think it's a matter of what they're viewing the image with. Most people these days only ever view their photos on their small smartphone screens. At that size, most untrained eyes wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Heck, most people I've spoken would probably think Apple's janky Portrait Mode equaled the output from a dedicated fast lens mounted on a Full Frame 35mm or even a Phase One system.
  • I don't think so........
  • Not to mention the fact the iPhone x absolutely butchers the edges in portrait photos
  • In a nutshell? No. But when we get there, I'll buy it.
  • They’ll be replacing DSLRs when I can shoot a wedding for the same price with an iPhone X. I can imaging the face of a bridezilla when all I show up with is a smartphone.
  • Not in the slightest. That's not to say that the X doesn't take excellent photos because it clearly does. They're just not a patch on an entry level DSLR or mirrorless camera from the likes of Fujifilm or Sony.
  • “iPhone X = DSLR-quality... Maybe?” Um, no. I’m guessing that Cella Lao Rousseau has never used a real camera.