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Why Is My iPhone XS Taking Better Photos than a $5,000 Canon?

Published: 03/11/2018

I couldn't resist passing this on because I have both of these cameras (5DMKIV and iPhone XS) and noticed this phenomenon when I started using my iPhone XS. The XS produces better video at a higher frame rate than the 5DMKIV too. Pretty amazing.

Larry Lohrman

16 comments on “Why Is My iPhone XS Taking Better Photos than a $5,000 Canon?”

  1. That is very intersting. Get it to straighten verts and you could have a very powerful exteriors real estate camera 🙂

    Many new cameras do have in camera hdr, and maybe if you played with the camera profiles you could get a similar look? I haven't played with in camera hdr too much so i would not know.

    What i feel is an even greater advantage over avergae dslrs are the video options you have on iphones.

  2. I thought this was about RE? OK, for the people who want to just point and shoot, the iPhone is a good choice. Although, in another breath many of the "up to date" cell phones can also provide similar results.

    Getting back to RE, no way could you use such an instrument for clients images that are straight out of the camera. Post would have to be carried out in order to achieve horizontal and vertical lines. So the argument, you don't need a computer is not valid.

    I have an iPhone to make telephone calls and check on my emails, more not (oh yes, an alarm clock as well). Oh, that reminds me, it is my birthday this month and I bought myself a present yesterday. I hung up my original A7 M1 and bought myself an A7R II. Why not the A7 R III you may well ask. As good as it is, the extra 1000 bucks is not worth the investment for me. I would sooner use this money towards upgrading my lens collection.
    SO, was this camera worth the investment? I let my biggest critic, my wife (in this respect she is unmerciful) view the first photo of my living room - her comment? W O W!!!! I think that answers the question.

    I know someone will say, yes but the M3 has dual card slots. For RE I don't need that. I always have a backup camera with me as well as transferring the files from the shoot direct to the laptop. Now with the A7R II I can tether with preview).
    Back to dual cards, if I shoot a wedding, I would hire an A7R III for the shoot.

    Bye from Munich

    To the moderator:
    The email field would not accept my original email address, - I had to use the one with .EU - email addresses with a suffix of more than 3 characters are becoming more and more popular.

  3. @Andrew - Yes, the iPhone Xs shoots beautiful real 4K video at 60 and 120 fps. With a Moment 18 mm wide-angle lens the video my Xs shoots better video than my 5DMkIV shoots.

    @Desmond - The point I wanted to make by posting this video is NOT that everyone should go out and start shooting real estate with one of these new SmartPhones but rather SmartPhone hardware and related software is evolving MORE rapidly than the traditional cameras. This evolution will continue and accelerate because of the user base for SmartPhone cameras is way bigger than the user base for other cameras. This shift will eventually change our world!

    On the comment email address field not accepting your .press email address. My guess is that WordPress is expecting valid domains to have 2 or 3 characters after the "." and doesn't recognize ".press" to be a valid domain. This problem will probably be fixed in future WordPress updates.

  4. While at this point there are phones, some even better than iphone, that do a lot better job than the older generation. It will only keep evolving and it is something to keep an eye on if you are on top of your game.

    Even if you did a side by side comparison with a pro shooting (stills) a phone, than a Dslr set for simple jpg, you would see many differences in how wide, perspective, etc. The post would probably be about the same when all is said and done. A Dslr shooting raw opens a whole set of opportunities that the phones lack.

    The real problem as I see it, is the newbie agents that are trying to save a buck and think they can get by with it. So, we lose a new source of clients, until they mature enough to understand the benefits of hiring a pro.

  5. "Better" is a relative term. Some elements may be better, but for video, having a fixed lens with a focal length in the 35mm equivalent range isn't better. And while you can cobble together a wide angle attachment lens, it's certainly not better quality then the lens you shoot RE with. Not corrected for barrel distortion, and probably not for CA's or flair. I like the Moment lens for exterior stuff, but not necessarily for passing though a doorway in the interior.

    Secondly, there are still limitations in the apps that control the smart phones. If you use Filmic, you may be able to stop the phone's built-in annoying focus racking, but you might not be able to take advantage of all of a handheld gimbal's features at the same time. There are just enough trade-offs to make using only your phone not feasible. Like Larry said, that will come in time. I'm a little surprised those things aren't taken care of. There have been movie festivals dedicated to phone video productions for probably 10 years now.

    But there are some things that are super convenient - slowmo is awesome on phones, and quick to use.

  6. That is truly fascinating in many ways. I have been on the fence to purchase an iPhone for a long time (I currently use a Samsung Galaxy), and this would certainly push me closer (except for several other remaining constraints).

    However....considering I already have a large investment in some pretty stellar camera gear, I think the $1200 price tag for another "phone" (remember, these can call folks so you can talk and text and stuff like that - Cool, Huh?!) is enough to buy some other needed camera gear.

    VERY impressive, though. Canon and Nikon better wake up! Space Alien technology for sure.

  7. I shoot all my stills with my 5diii and sony 6500. But RE video ... I use an 8 plus with Moment wide angle and a Movi Cinema Robot. I went this direction because the kit is great lightweight option and the quality is improving incredibly fast. The Movi App and the Moment App are both great options to use. The new Xs Max has an even higher dynamic range and capabilities than the 8 plus, particularly if you're shooting at 30fps. Just to see what the reaction would be, I entered one of my videos into the most recent PFRE contest. I'm always seeking feedback, but was also curious to see if the iphone footage would be called out ... it wasn't. Did I win? No. An incredible video, with gorgeous footage, and beautiful lighting won. Am I still satisfied with the quality of my work for RE? For now, yes.

  8. Is the new iPhone better than a "XXX" for every image/sequence on a typical shoot? A couple of years ago somebody (Scott H?) posted some side by side comparisons between an iPhone and a DSLR. For the exterior images, the difference was hard to tell and not much for an image posted on a web site. It was a completely different story inside the home. Video cameras (I recommend those if you are doing video) and DSLR's/Mirrorless are built to be flexible with all sorts of mounts, shades, lens choices, remotes, etc. Mobile phones? Not so much. Excuse me, my camera is ringing and I need to take this.... ok, back.

    If there are a slew of articles praising the iPhone video as being "on par" with mainstream video cameras, there will be plenty of agents that will think they can just get one and produce their own videos which will look fabulous and save them all sorts of money by not having to hire a pro. It will take some time until they figure out that it isn't going to work out that way (again). Just over the past couple of days I have seen several listings where the agent has had an entry level DSLR (usually a Canon. I think that Sam's and Costco sell them locally) with a kit lens and have made yet another horrible gallery of photos. How do I know? I can see them in the bathroom mirrors holding the camera out and using the rear screen to "compose". They have obviously put the camera in an auto mode since windows are either blown out or the interior is light like a cave. And, they still have no idea what is good to point the camera towards. At least I have some better quality rotated images of an electrical panel and a water heater in my gallery of shame to use at presentations.

    I know I'm getting repetitious, but if you show up to a job with a mobile phone to make images/video, no matter how technically good it is, you aren't going to be taken very serious by the vast majority of agents. It can also be very tough to deal with those times when you really need all of the control you get from a proper camera and the accessories that are available for them.

  9. I can't speak to the video capabilities, but that comparison for still photography is stupid. Anyone who has a reasonably strong understanding of the range of capabilities of modern digital cameras should understand why. In the hands of an experienced and knowledgeable photographer, an iPhone will not create photos that are technically superior to those of a conventional digital camera that can do in-camera HDR, which many (most?) can do these days. The comparison did not take that into account and it is a major flaw of the comparison. The fact that the in-camera HDR is more easily accessible with an iPhone than with most conventional digital cameras may make it easier for many amateur photographers to get technically better photos with an iPhone, however. In addition, the ability to capture multiple exposures and selectively blend these together in Photoshop can sometimes (often?) achieve superior results to any form of HDR software, when done by a capable photographer.

    In short, that is a video mostly for amateurs, though it does help to illustrate the current state of the art for mobile-device imaging, which can be suitable for professional use in certain limited circumstances.

  10. The newest / next generation of phones have / will have multiple cameras, one of which is a wide-angle with approx. 120-degree field of view and a bright f/1.9 lens. Add a cheap hand-held gimbal and the ability to live-stream and save tours on YouTube and other platforms. That combination can be very disruptive technology for agents who develop clever ways to exploit it - and maybe even for some real estate photographers.

  11. Exteriors shot shot on phones on sunny days can absolutely be more than adequate for real estate photography.

    Interiors are quite different. In my opinion the average interior image is not able to be simply shot as is, especially quickly. It will need lighting in conjunction with things like use of blending modes in photoshop. Skills no real estate agent will want to be bothered with.

    My opinion is it essentially does not matter what it was shot on. I know this is a real estate photography blog, but bear with me. If you have your phone and a dslr and a momentous event unfolds in front of your eyes, what is the key? The real key is not making sure you are at your base iso or that you grab your dslr. The key is that you capture the moment. And, the phone may very well have been a better, and thus preferred, tool to do that.

    Likewise, shooting exteriors on your way out of a home, sure, a phone could possibly be the ideal tool to walk around the home with after you have loaded your heavy gear in your car. Think about it. Maybe you have five minutes to shoot the exteriors. You are MUCH more nimble with the phone. Maybe the best angle was climbing up a little wall and up by a little knoll behind some trees. Guess what, we are coming back to that same premise: the best tool is the one that will allow you to get the shot.

    Absolutely an iphone can be the best tool, and do not let anyone ever tell you differently.

  12. My two cents:

    If a good client sees you shooting their real estate listing with an iPhone, even just the video portion, they probably will not be your client for much longer. Agents hire a professional photographer for the finished product first and foremost, but also because it helps their marketing appeal to show they care about putting in the time and resources to bring in professional assistance to market the listing. That word spreads from the sellers and it helps the agent gain more listings.

    If an agent wants to shoot their own listing with an iPhone now, then they probably aren't a great client to begin with. Good agents OUTSOURCE professional services so that they can free up time to earn listings and make money. Agents that dedicate a lot of time to their own marketing probably aren't doing a ton of business, hence why they have the time to do their own marketing. I've had a few clients that are actually decent photographers hire me despite their ability to take reasonably good RE photos of the listings, simply because the post processing and overall workflow took too much of their time. Just like good RE photographers that usually end up outsourcing the post-processing or other areas of their business to free up time to shoot more, good agents hire professionals in their respective craft so they can focus on the meat of their business, getting listings.

  13. @Darren - You are right on! This may be the most important point so far. Looking professional is right up there with producing professional results!!

  14. @Andrew, The saying that "the best camera is the one you have with you" doesn't apply here. I've never just stumbled onto a RE job where all I had was my phone. I am not putting all of my gear away and then discovering that I need to photograph the exterior of the home. If I were to see that the light was particularly good as I was getting ready to leave, it's no problem to get my DSLR out in about a minute. My camera/lens bag is last in/first out so it's never buried. I have come across news stories traveling on a RE job and taking the seconds to get my DSLR out and maybe putting on a telephoto lens really quick is a huge advantage over the person that might be standing next to me with their phone. If it spotted something newsworthy and didn't have my DSLR, yes, I would be using my phone if I had any tickle that it might be worth the time but I also understand the it would be something of a long shot.

    If all you have when you arrive at a scheduled job is your phone, you are in a bunch of trouble.

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