Photos – Sony A7iii vs iPhone XS Max vs Kodak Ektar vs Sony HX99

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The top shot was Kodak Ektar and this one iPhone XS Max.  Taken at the same spot one day apart.  

Both of these photos are basically as taken.  I used Apple Photos to edit the iPhone shot and Lightroom Classic for the Ektar one.  But other than hitting auto on the iPhone shot that was about it.  I can tell you that both look better in full resolution and on a high quality monitor.  If you want full size copies let me know in the comments.  I am undecided which I like better.  And my wife was the same.



iPhone is the top one.  The bottom one was the Sony A7iii with 55mm f1.8 Zeiss lens.  If you pixel peep with the full size file on a good monitor you can see just a bit more detail in the Sony shot.  The iPhone one is warmer.




The three shots above are not the same perspective, but the closest ones from my files.  The top one is Ektar, middle is Sony HX99 pocket camera, bottom iPhone.  I much prefer the top shot, but a lot of that comes from the light when taken.  Of the two lower ones I like the Sony color better than the warmer iPhone.

All the Ektar film shots are taken with a 1980 Olympus OM2n and 28mm f2.8 lens.  The developing and scans were done by North Coast Photographic in Carlsbad CA.



I much prefer the Ektar shot at the bottom.



Again I much prefer the Ektar shot at the top.



This is to show how advanced the iPhone exposure can be.  The top shot is with the iPhone.  It did this automatically with a bit of editing.  The bottom shot is with the Sony A7iii.  I shot this in raw and tried to do as best as I could but just went with the iPhone when I saw how much better the exposure was.  iPhone was 28mm and Sony was 55mm lenses.


All three of these are film shots.


And all three of these are iPhone XS Max shots.  I suppose I prefer the iPhone shots ever so slightly.  I love the colors in all of these.  The iPhone shots I knew immediately that they were iconic beach shots in mid coast California.  I did not edit them at all except I think I had to level the horizon a bit.


The Sony A7iii did a very good job too and these are some of the shots I liked the best.  The Sony A7iii was the best in low light when using the f1.8 lens.  It gave the sharpest results and best video.  The exception was when you needed a longer lens.  The Sony HX99 gave the best seals on the beach video.  But the A7iii had the best quality image video.  You could tell when waves broke that the Sony A7iii was doing the best render job.

I did not get the film developed until two months after the trip.  I was happy with the digital shots and so was not in a hurry.  When I got them back a few weeks ago they just put a smile on my face.  Film still does a great job with outdoor landscape shots.  If you use a good film like Kodak Ektar, a good camera like the Olympus OM2n, and have the film developed and scanned by a high quality lab you will not be disappointed.  To my eye the film shots are not better or worse than the digital, but they do look different.  In this case I loved the sunset colors of Ektar.  In the shots where there were structures there just seemed to be more texture and depth to the film shots vs digital.  I think they can turn somewhat mundane subjects into interesting ones, or at least more interesting than digital.


It is a challenge to use film.  When you find film types you like, stick with them.  When you find cameras that expose correctly, stick with them.  When you find a lab that does a good job, stick with them.  I almost never use film indoors any more.  Too many different types of light sources these days, incandescent, LED, fluorescent, natural.  But for outdoor natural light most film works well.  I especially like Ektar and Ektachrome.  Fujicolor 200 is pretty good too.  And black and white Tmax 100 is a great film as is Tmax.


4 Replies to “Photos – Sony A7iii vs iPhone XS Max vs Kodak Ektar vs Sony HX99”

  1. Just found your site by chance looking for some info on the HX99. I have just gotten into film myself as well as owning a DSLR and it was fun reading the comparison here. Even more as I have also been trying to decide if a compact camera is the right purchase for my partner or if phone cameras fill that function.. Thanks for writing this, it was an interesting read!

    1. Thanks for your kind comments. I used to use an Olympus XA and then an Olympus Stylus Infinity, both pocket compact cameras. I sold both of those on eBay about 3-4 years ago. But from about 1982-2000 I shot many many rolls of film through them. If I were buying a compact film camera again I am not sure which one of those I would re buy. The Olympus XA has a slightly better lens and is mostly manual. Manual focus but with A setting so you can set the aperture and it will set the speed. The flash is separate but very compact. The Stylus is fully automatic with auto focus, auto built in flash, auto film load, auto film advance and rewind. Both give good results.

      I sold them for three reasons. 1. I prefer a walk around 50mm lens to the 28 or 35 those compacts came with. And the compact camera zoom lenses of those days were not very good. 2. I had/have a very nice Olympus OM2n SLR with several lenses that is will not fit in your pocket but is not big. And I also have a Minolta and Voightlander SLRs with a bunch of lenses. 3. Back before 2000 film and developing was cheap and pretty good. So you could shoot lots of exposures and some would be good enough. Today film + developing costs quite a bit and I get more consistent results using higher end SLRs.

      Every year for the last 4-5 I buy a new iPhone. Before that I got a high end Android with a good camera. I currently have an Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max. It takes excellent photos and video. However, after spending lots of thousands of dollars with both Nikon and Sony in my opinion cell phone cameras do not replace regular cameras, but in many circumstances they are good enough or have some special features that work really really well. Like the newer iPhones low light ability or the iPhones ability to take 10 shots and then blend exposures. But iPhones do not fit in your had the way regular cameras do and iPhones (or other cell phones) do not have look through viewfinders like DSLRs or compacts like the Sony HX99 or HX80. And you cannot easily put filters on cell phones. Even $1,200 iPhones have cameras that flare in full sun. A big problem with my latest iPhone. So here is the bad news (or good if you are well off and like to buy cameras) a bunch of cameras helps you get good photos and video. Latterly I have been shooting more video after a lifetime of mostly taking still shots.

      Film is in my opinion a different art form than digital as the results are different from digital. I still have 5 SLR sets of bodies and lenses. I love the results I get sometimes. The colors and look is not the same as digital and in many cases is better or more pleasing. However, everything depends of using a good lab if you are not developing yourself. I recently took my 9 year old and 11 year old grand daughters out and the three of us all had identical Minolta SLR cameras with similar lenses. These are full auto film SLRS. We all shot one roll. The lab muffed all three rolls and the results were poor. But I have found that when you use a good lab many many times you get some absolutely wonderful results you just could not get with digital.

      BTW – I really liked the Sony HX99. I used to have it in my pocket and paired it with a cell phone. The compact Sony is a great hiking camera with a long lens and good stabilization. It also has very good focus. I gave mine to my daughter and I keep thinking of buying another one.

      1. Wow, it is fun reading what cameras you have used in the past. I hadn’t yet come to exist in this world in 1982. I bought a DSLR just 1 year ago, so I am new to photography but it has been a fun process learning. I have now been waiting for warmer weathers so I can take what I have learned so far outside.

        I also bought my first film camera just recently, a Pentax Super A (Super Program). It is a SLR with full auto programs, but no autofocus. Shot my first two rolls with it and waiting on the results now -you’re right, processing isn’t cheap. One good thing, I have a Pentax DSLR, so I can share lenses between the film and digital cameras. I am considering looking for a Pentax film camera with autofocus but that might be a thing for later. I am curious, what Minolta camera is it you like so much that you have three identical copies of?

        I am glad to hear that you liked the Sony HX99. I actually bought the DSLR for both my partner and myself. But it became that I found it more fun and I was the one who learned how to use it, so I want to see if a compact camera would suit her better as she still does like taking photos. But with phone cameras getting better I wanted to research if it is worth buying a separate camera. I was looking at the RX100 series but they are expensive!

        A positive we both find with a dedicated camera is the experience itself of shooting with it, unlike shooting with a phone. On the other hand, a phone gives really pleasing results right away while a cameras results often need to be tweaked afterwards. A compact camera with a good, not too small sensor that also gives pleasing “modern” results comparable to what iPhones can give you would be perfect. It is hard finding something with so many different models out there, and we are also a bit on a budget with some purchases at the moment as we are saving up for a new family member that is on its way. But a good camera can be an exception since my partner can then take photos of this new family member.

        Another thing, we both like traveling so a heavy DSLR is not always the optimal choice of camera. A good compact would be good to have for us both when traveling also.

        I really like the rest of your site here as well, already saved for future reads!

      2. Thanks for the nice long comment. Sounds like you are on the right track to getting better at photography. I strongly suggest you add video to your stills. When my latest grand child was born about two years ago I met her when she was an hour old and took a bunch of short video clips with just my iPhone. They came out great and now that wonderful event comes alive before my eyes whenever I want to view it.

        The auto film Minolta I like so much is the Minolta 600si. My Dad when he passed away in 2008 left me one. My first two rolls of low cost Fuji 400 film came out so good I immediately really liked this camera. I have written a bunch of posts about it on my web site. Just put 600si in the search box and you will get a bunch of hits. Minolta was an excellent camera brand that was bought by Sony in 2006. The 600si was just before that and is so easy to use plus has a lot of very good AF lenses. Both the camera and lenses are quite low cost. And if you get a Sony digital you can easily adapt the Minolta lenses to it.

        I have had a bunch of the Sony compact cameras. I originally bought them to take thousands of stills and videos to put on my web site for used printing machinery. They worked well for this and I still like them. My only problem is that I am 6′ 2″ and 210 lbs and my fingers are a bit big for the small controls. The HX99 is very small but very powerful for not so much money. My sister has an RX100 series 3 camera and it is almost identical to the super zoom HX99. The RX100 has a better lens but the final product is not that much better at 1/3 the price.

        You are certainly right about the experience of using a dedicated camera vs a phone camera. I agree. But, with my last four iPhones, iPhone X, iPhone XS, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max Apple has added computational software to the phones camera systems that add tremendous features that are in a small package, you can edit on, send your stills and video to the cloud automatically, and so on. I keep looking for a case for the phone that would make holding and using it better but so far I have not found one I really think helps. I have the very capable Nikon Z7 and Z50 mirrorless cameras and some lenses. I like Nikons as I have had three of their DSLRs and now two mirrorless and I know their controls. I also had a Sony Z7iii which worked very well and could use the Minolta lenses, but I did not like the Sony fit in my hands, their controls, or their menu system. When you are shooting mostly auto with a Sony HX99 controls and menus don’t matter that much, but when you are setting aperture, ISO and so on all the time like on a big mirrorless, they do.

        If you do not have a good smartphone camera system that would be likely the first thing to start with upgrading. I hate to say it but in many ways smartphone cameras are taking over. My latest iPhone 12 Pro Max is pretty amazing once you learn it’s many systems and quirks. But then again my 45 mega pixel Nikon Z7 with Z lenses gives just phenomenal results in both stills and video. Plus is even easier to switch from photo to video than my iPhone. I personally really really like the Nikon Z50. I have both the kit lenses, the 16-50 and the 50-250. It is a crop sensor camera but gives just great results in a very light rig that is quite capable. To me the Nikon Z50 is much superior to the similar Sony’s in handling, controls, and ease of use. The menu on the Sony’s except for the new expensive A7Siii are hard for me to use. You can get the full Z50 package at a reasonable price.

        Like a lot of things these days photography and video is changing a lot and rapidly. Hard to stay on the cutting edge unless you have a lot of time and budget. The time is to learn the systems.

        Bob Nuttmann

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