Is the iPhone 7 going to be able to compete with my Canon DSLR?

edited August 2016 in Filmmaking


I'm curious, or if this is yet another marketing move to make their product stand out, very Apple-move to do that. My Canon 600D is now 5 years old, and with the new "redisigned" iPhone, will it be able to compete with an actual DSLR?

I find that VERY hard to believe, I completely understand that cameras get smaller as we advance in tech, but even modern DSLRs have parts that simply wouldn't fit in a phone.

I understand that the iPhone 7 isn't out yet, but I thought it would be interesting to discuss. I would feel a lot better if it wasn't true though! :)

Just realised I compared a DSLR to a phone's mirrorless, well modern mirrorless cameras have still bigger parts that wouldn't fit in a phone. 



  • edited August 2016


    • Very tiny sensor in any phone. 1/2.5"(?) vs APS-C
    • Aperture control.
    • Focus control.
    • Interchangeable lens.
    • Variable ND filter support on DSLR.
    • On Canon you can select picture styles and upload a special very flat picture style for post capture grading. You can even define you own. It's not "log" anything but unless your software support the specific log of a specific camera this is moot. Hitfilm does not support any log types. Vegas supports a number of them.


  • Yes but they said that it's going to use 2 lenses, so I wonder if they could make it work. I'm glad it sounds ridiculous, makes me feel a lot better now. :)

  • Any CCD or CMOS sensor can gather light.  The quality of the image really comes down to the glass.   So two plastic lenses may sound awesome, but that will never be able to compete with a larger sensor and a good lens.

    However for run and gun or as a B-roll you might get by with it.    In the end, if you have a good story and can tell it well visually, that is more important than if you shoot on an iPhone or a Red.

  • I really got mislead by the "DSLR quality" articles and posts. My bad, Im going to take my stupidity with me now. )

  • @KevinTheFilmmaker No worries, dude!  We're all looking for the next big breakthrough.  You're pushing the boundaries - that's a good thing.  :)

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator
    edited August 2016

    My "snotty answer" is "Hell, no!" 

    Blah, blah, physics, blah, blah, sensor size, blah, blah, lens size and quality. Everything Norman and Stargazer said, plus... 

    But...It's still more about the artist than the tool, and a gifted filmmaker will push the limits of the tool. 

     Kevin, don't beat yourself up over falling for marketing hype. The people who put ad campaigns together are professionally trained bullshit artists, and most are very good at their jobs. "DSLR Quality" is a meaningless term (a Canon Rebel t3i has very different capabilities to a Sony a7sii, yet both are DSLRs), but it works.

    Other examples of effective hype surround 4K and 60fps video... A 4k computer monitor is largely useless as the human eye can't tell the difference between 1080p and 4k at the normal 2-foot viewing difference on anything smaller than a 28" monitor or so, yet everyone is pushing for it. Ever notice how many people come on here with scaling issues because they have a 4k monitor but have the scaling factor up at 200% which turns a 4k monitor into a 1080p monitor but uses extra system resources to do it? ;-)  Then someone makes a 4k, 60fps video and uploads it to YouTube, which compresses it down to 16-20mbps... This is a Netflix-to-Blu-ray encode rate for 1080p 28.97 video, but now with 8 times the pixel data, leading to terrible compression artifacts and users complaining Hitfilm has screwed up the render when it's a YouTube issue of stuffing 10 pounds of crap in a 2 pound container... 

    But, I digress. 

    Apple iPhone cameras are always fantastic within the physical limitations of that size camera. They give you the best Samsung has to offer*.... 

    *this may have changed in the last year, but, as of mid-2015 iProduct screens, cameras, RAM and CPUs are all Samsung-built products. Then Apple sues Samsung for ripping Apple off (Samsung ripping itself off?), then, if Apple wins the suit, Samsung raises it's vendor price for the Samsung components Apple uses, causing Apple to raise retail price, thus passing cost on to the consumer... 

    But, I digress on my own digression! 

  • To be honest if you don't color correct or grade at all... the iPhone would likely have better HDR mode than your cannon. Less editing in post and your image would be more subjectively pleasant.

    I prefer HDR over depth of field but its really all opinion and what message you want your footage to convey. Do you shoot short films? Use the Canon and grade the footage.

    Tech videos, vlogs, anything not too extreme... the iPhone would be great. Chances are the phone will have better internal audio as well.

    In all honesty I was happier shooting on my Samsung Note 4 than on my NX500. The only real difference is the focus control and better ISO. Yes, I know phones have focus control, but something about holding a camera and going manual just feels better.

  • @TriFlixFilms

    Sorry buddy, I missed your reply.

    I actually can't have any microphone connected to my Canon, the hiss is just too overpowering, not even removing the hiss is enough. I wonder if that's a design flaw, or if my Canon is defective. When I use the same mic directly to my PC's mic in is clear even without editing, and obviously very clear after editing.

    I'm honestly just happy that my Canon can still keep up after all these years, What's interesting is that from what I've gathered even newer DSLR's aren't worth upgrading to, as long as my scenes are properly lit. That's mindblowing to me, but I suppose it has to do more with the sensor size than anything else. 


  • Stargazer54Stargazer54 Moderator
    edited August 2016

    @KevinTheFilmmaker Nothing wrong with your Canon.  You might consider grabbing a Zoom recorder off EBay or somewhere else cheap.

    Sync sound is the way to go anyway.  Much cleaner than any DSLR, even by this year's standards.  You'll also be way ahead of anybody with a pro-sumer or even pro camcorder.

  • @Triem23 - the Sony a7sii isn't a DSLR, its mirrorless. Which doesn't really alter the point you are making, but I thought I'd split hairs, just for fun.

    In terms of the iPhone competing with a DSLR, the fact is that if you take footage straight from the iPhone and stick it alongside footage straight out of the DSLR, and watch it at typical YouTube viewing sizes, the iPhone footage will probably look better. 

    Especially if you are shooting in HDR mode with the phone. It will look better because there was post processing added to enhance the contrast and color, and multiple exposures combined to improve the dynamic range. Whereas the footage from the DSLR will usually be flatter, with less contrast and color present.

    I was at a video class once with Ryan Connelly where he showed the entire class, on an HD television, three versions of the same shot filmed with an iPhone, a 5DmkIII, and a Canon C100, and almost no one could correctly guess which one was the phone. I guessed right because I picked the one that looked the most finished, knowing that the phone would have added post processing.

    However, this means that the DSLR footage will give you a lot more latitude for adjustments in post processing. Not nearly as much as a camera that records to Raw or ProRes, but more than a phone. The larger sensor in the DSLR also meant that it has more resolving power for details, better low light performance, and much better control over depth of field. But Canon DSLRs are notoriously soft, so you might get a sharper image out of the phone, especially if the phone is shooting 4k.

    Bottom line, if you want to just shoot something and use it, without doing any post-processing, even the current model phones can produce more than adequate footage. But a DSLR will give you better image quality overall, much better manual controls, and give you more range for post processing. 

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator
    edited August 2016

    @AxelWilkinson I stand corrected. :-) Shoulda said Nikon D600.

    (To split hairs, "HDR" mode on a smartphone camera isn't combining and processing two streams shot at differing exposures, OR recording in 32-bit/channel color. This "HDR" mode is just running a set of sharpening, saturation and sharpening features to give a certain look... Which feeds back into the point about how much useless marketing crap is used. Anyone else old enough in the 90's to remember when "digital quality" audio was the buzzword, ignoring the differences between, say, RealMedia and a CD?)

  • @Triem23 when you say "on a camera" did you mean the iPhone? Because this guy here was using twin exposure HDR with the Magic Lantern firmware on his Canon 600D, although that's not a 'marketed' product.

    HDR Video Problems in Hitfilm

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @Palacono caught a typo. That should be "Smartphone Camera,
     and has been edited. ;-)

  • Meh. It's mostly a crock of bull plop.

    No one truly serious about filmmaking uses even a7s as an A camera, because they're not cinema cameras, even though they do an excellent job.

    There's also a reason that even a "cheap" Red costs 5x as much for a starter bundle.

    There are a lot of people who are trying to deceive themselves into thinking that their work is great because they're using this camera or that camera and that camera is so amazing... but in the end, it's all bull plop.

    Give the average indie clod a Panavision Millenium, and they'll produce the same drivel that your cat would if you handed her an iPhone dipped in catnip.

    Give Roger Deakins an iPhone, and he'll produce something that looks better than what most of us could come up with using a Panavision Millenium, even though he probably wouldn't much enjoy the legion of compromises he'd have to make in order to do it.

    Seriously... if you want to make movies on the cheap and have access to professional quality gear, look at the BMD Pocket cinema camera.

    And avoid the cheap Zoom recorders. They're terrible. You're better off with one of the comparable Tascam recorders.

  • Everyone just keeps rehashing what I said in the beginning hahaha. You have a budget, you short a certain type of content. Research and find what features are important to you and your line of work. Then sort out all the fluffy and cameras that are not applicable, you'll probably have 4-20 cameras that would work. At that point it's a matter of finding which camera will offer you the best bang for the buck.

    Strongly suggest you do the research part and get it narrowed down to 2-6 cameras and post them here in addition to the criteria you want met (ex: low light, hdr, raw, interchangable lens ect...)

    The community would love to help.

    Here's a video I made a while back that might help, sorry for wasting your time if it doesn't.

  • Aladdin4dAladdin4d Moderator
    edited August 2016

    So much hair splitting so little time........


    To split hairs, "HDR" mode on a smartphone camera isn't combining and processing two streams shot at differing exposures,  

    One of the iPhone 7 models is rumored to have two lenses which makes for a lot of possibilities like.....

    • combining and processing multiple streams shot at different exposures for true HDR
    • a poor man's version of Lytro re-focusing, depth of field and parallax tricks
    • Better low light performance
    • Noise reduction ala image stacking
    • a poor man's VR capture

    Apple bought LynX a little over a year ago. LynX specialized in making multi-aperture cameras for the mobile market with up to 4 apertures per lens and were already doing all of the above so you're probably going to see all of it in an iPhone 7


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @Aladdin4d I think I can split that hair one last time before it's just a blob of keratin. 

    If/when a phone maker does true HDR I will be impressed. However, rumors and probables mean, at time of writing, I'm correct.

    It'll be interesting to see. Since the smartphone is now a mature tech, the camera module has basically been the main "selling point" for the last two generations of iPhones. 

  • It probably isn't that far off. To be "true HDR" you basically need 12+ stops of dynamic range, though if it's encoded linearly (e.g. AJA Cion) 12 stops is a bit of a challenge to work with. 14+ stops is huge.

    Sony was demonstrating some HDR imagery shot with their F55 and F65, both rated at 14 stops, at NAB last year. They had a Baselight connected to a 10-bit Pro monitor (by Sony, of course) and a 12-bit Pro monitor, and the same set of footage playing on both, graded for Red709 on the 10-bit monitor, and Rec2020 on the 12-bit monitor. It was stunning. The colors were gorgeous.

    And... Sony makes the iPhone6 camera.


    edited August 2016

    Please go into detail on how the new iPhone could wreck my Canon 600D. :)

  • Depends on how strong the iPhone's case is, as well as how strong the Canon's is. ;)

    Given a choice, I'd shoot with the Canon. Though once you shoot with a dedicated cinema camera, you won't want to go back to a dSLR or mirrorless system camera. Especially after tooling around with 16-bit raw footage in post. (Which I'm hoping will become possible in HitFilm before long...)


  • If you had a camera with two capture subsystems. Two lenses and two sensors. At standard/common video shutter speeds it would seem to me that different motion blur in each exposure would be a problem in the merging of the two independent images for greater DR.

    For a GoPro style camera, outdoors (well lit) it would seem a less significant problem to solve.

  • Yes, that is true. Red has developed a system that does it with some clever blending with two frames shot in sequence, but I haven't tried it yet.


  • It's Scribd but here's a LinX Imaging presentation from before they were bought out by Apple. There used to be some videos but they were done with Android devices and are now gone.,+Ltd.&source=impactradius&medium=affiliate&irgwc=1

    edited August 2016

    She looks like bread.

  • As a former early Canon DSLR video camera user who traded out for the iPhone 7 video camera, I can tell you what to expect. The iPhone camera has been on the market in other phones for a year, so indeed I have a plethora of experience with it, even though technically the 7 is not available yet. Just pretend that I came here from the future.

    For non-graded, uncropped in post, reasonably lit footage, video quality will be comparable to your early gen DLSRs. 4K downsampled to 1080 will be even better.

    Yes I know it's hard to believe that a sensor the size of a spec of dust could EVER compete with APS-C, but I compared footage side by side and (again - non-graded, uncropped in post, reasonably lit footage) is just as good IF NOT BETTER as early Canon DLSRs are notoriuos for soft focus issues.

    Grading or enhancing footage is where the house of cards begins to fall apart. Your footage looks so good because it has already been sharpened & contrast bumped. And the compression bitrate doesn't leave a lot of excess data to work with. So... what you see is near what you get.

    But that is all academic when you experience the real issue with smartphone footage. Search these forums for SYNC ISSUES. Phone video files are variable bitrate, sometimes recordint at 29.97 FPS... sometimes at 20... etc. And the audio is variable within the file's wrapper, so it never matches up. This is non-issue when playing the clips back on a phone or desktop player, but video editing suites such as HitFilm work off CONSTANT bitrates.

    Your audio & video will forever be out of sync as they constantly vary in timing. On Apple products you can use the iMovie (IIRC?) app to trim footage & keep it in sync... but that is a very limited video editing system when you're used to HitFilm.

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