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DSLR or iPhone Camera??



The selfie is something that has become hugely popular. People are constantly taking pictures with their phones and this has become a common part of our culture. With all these people taking pictures on their phones, the question arises, is it worth it to buy a camera or just use your phone?

The major camera type is a DSLR ( digital single lens reflex). The DSLR I use for comparison is a Nikon D80 which is a pretty average DSLR so it will be a good representation of the average. There are many differences between the two. the first difference is in the lens structure. The iPhone has a five element fixed lens system. This means that there are a total of 5 lenses in the iPhone camera and they cannot move independently. This limits the phones ability to focus at different ranges. The average DSLR has a 16 element detachable lens system meaning that it has 16 lenses that can all move independently from each other. This allows for a much greater focus at every distance.

The cameras also have different sensors in them. The iPhone has an 8 megapixel CMOS sensor. A CMOS sensor is cheap to produce and has a low power consumption, however, it isn't nearly as sensitive to lighting and contrasts in brightness and colors. The DSLR has a 10.2 megapixel CCD sensor. They are more expensive and less efficient but do better with contrast and are more sensitive. The difference is most notable in pictures with very dim lighting. This also has to do with a larger aperture on the DSLR too. The bigger the aperture, the more light that is able to come in.

Lastly, there is a large discrepancy in pixel size. Contrary to popular belief, the amount of pixels doesn't really matter after you get above 8 megapixels because we cannot develop pictures and display pictures where anything past that would make a difference, unless you are printing a giant picture, which would be doubtful. Pixel size makes deeper colors and makes the camera able to display more contrast. The bigger the pixel size, the more photons the pixel is able to collect, ultimately leading to a better photo.

One important note to add is that the processing on the iPhone has gotten very good. Many of the flaws in the camera can be fixed in the post processing. There are many apps and filters and such that can hide and fix any blemishes in photos. All in all, a DSLR is a better camera. It takes better pictures. However, for a phone, an iPhone camera isn't bad. So if you want to take serious pictures or are going on a trip and want clear vivid photos for your memories, a DSLR is the way to go, but for casual pictures, an iPhone will be more than suitable.

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Great post Dan -- as an engineer who spent more than 10 years building and refining CCD image sensors for DSLRs (competing with cMOS sensors), your summary and comparison is spot on!

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