Bob Nuttmann

How Close In Quality Are High End Smartphones vs High End Mirrorless Full Frame Cameras?

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Using the latest model top end Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max vs the Nikon Z7 full frame mirrorless and Z lenses. If used correctly both are very close in results for stills and video. Our latest trip I took my iPhone and the Nikon Z7 with a new lens, the Nikon 24-200mm f4-6.3. For this last trip I used the new Apple “Pro Raw” setting quite a bit for stills and set video at 4K 30 fps. And for the Nikon I shot raw full size and jpeg “normal”. Video setting was the same as the iPhone at 4K 30 fps.

Apple iPhone jpeg at just over 1 meg.
Nikon Z7 at about 800 kb

The Apple image was taken in with the Pro Raw setting and the Nikon I used the jpg set on medium and edited in Lightroom Classic. The Apple photo was edited using the Apple Photos App.

This is an iPhone shot but with a full 27 mega pixels
Here is a Z7 shot with 24-200mm 4-6.3 lens and is the jpeg out of the camera. Under close inspection using these shots and a couple other from the same shoot I can tell you that details of the rock formations is about the same quality.

Now let’s talk about the featured image at the top of the cactus. That was shot with the iPhone and just regular jpeg. Look at those details. Apple has improved close up photo capability on this iPhone tremendously in the last year. I used to struggle getting close up flower shots and plant shots with my iPhone. I would do all the right things like tap the focus area or even use a tripod. The results were spotty. Sometimes good, sometimes not. Now the iPhone is almost as good as the Nikons. And the only time the Nikons are better is where you have a small object for focus like this.

With the Nikon I could use a single focus point and look through the viewfinder to make sure it was right. On the iPhone this is much more difficult to do.
This is also the Nikon where I focused on the orange cactus flower. It was easy with the Nikon and would have been much harder or impossible with the iPhone. In my opinion.
This is also the Nikon using spot metering and fine single point focus.

My comment on the new 24-200 mm f4-6.3 lens is that it works pretty good, but is not the same quality at the ZS lenses. This is a subjective comment and not based on scientific study. It is a very convenient lens with a wide zoom range, but I am not getting the “magic” out of it so far that I do from the Nikon ZS 50mm f1.8 and ZS 24-70mm f4. Used for standard family type shots this lens is good. The body, face, eye auto focus works well and the quality of the image is fine for anything you are going to view on a phone or TV. But if you are viewing on a good computer monitor, doing a fine print, or using a late model iPad Pro 12.9″ I would suggest a better lens. The thing is a better lens may be more expensive or heavy. This lens is light and mid priced.

This is a family shot edited with Apple Photos. But I used the Nikon 24-200 f4-6.3 and the eye and face auto focus worked well. If I had edited in Lighroom I would have added some exposure to her face.

A significant defect for this iPhone 12 Pro Max that I have is lens flair. Any time you have bright sun hitting the lens you are going to have significant lens flair that is quite distracting. I do not find this to be the case with any of the three Nikon Z lenses I own. I just looked back and found that my previous iPhone the 11 Pro also had the same problems. I just looked at a video from this last trip shot using the Nikon Z7 and the Nikon 24-200 f4-6.3 lens without any filters on it and there was zero lens flair. This is a big advantage when shooting video in mid day.

However, for the most part the iPhone continues on to improve and be very close to much more expensive cameras with regards to quality for most shots. And it fits in your pocket. And it has extraordinary abilities in low light. And example can be seen in the shot above. This was hand held and I just changed the lighting a little when taking it. It was edited in Apple Photos.

I normally use Apple Photos to edit files taken with the Apple phone. There is a version for IOS and one for MacOS. I find the IOS version better and easier to use. For videos shot with the iPhone I tend to use Adobe Rush. I also use iMovie but like Rush better. Rush is to me easier to use and more intuitive. When I don’t use Apple iPhone shots I normally edit using Lightroom Classic. I also use Lightroom CC but I just don’t like it as well as Classic.

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