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Smartphones have come a long way in terms of camera technology. This is one feature smartphone manufacturers are currently developing the most to get ahead from the competition. The recently released iPhone 11 is the perfect example. Ask an owner and the most likely reason for the expensive purchase would because of the camera; it’s features and improvements.
The iPhone 11 is even said and claimed to be a DSLR killer (or mirrorless, they’re technically the same). You can find several articles online comparing side by side photos taken by the latest iPhone and a high-end DSLR. In terms of picture quality, anyone would agree that finally, a smartphone can now outmatch a dedicated, high-end bulky piece of equipment. For the average Instagram-er, this is enough. For those of us who know better, these “comparisons” does not entirely paint the whole picture.
Here are some basic DSLR features that any smartphone simply cannot beat (for now):
It’s all about the camera lens
We have yet to see a smartphone with a single lens that offers a smooth zoom, variable aperture, and accurate focus that is standard among DSLRs. Having control with miniature adjustments can help get the right composition which can truly define a great photo in addition to image quality. DSLRs also have the option to change lenses to suit specific needs.
Because of physical limitations, having an interchangeable lens is still a missing feature for a smartphone. To offer shooting versatility, many implement 2 or more camera modules that have different purposes (wide, ultra-wide, macro, telephoto, etc). For now, we are stuck with this temporary and hideous workaround.
And the sensor
Small and thin smartphones can only hold a given camera sensor size. The most prominent drawback of this is the limited amount of light that a small sensor can collect. We do have sophisticated computational photography capable of taking great photos at night, but this is still not a standard feature and the few good ones can only be found on high-end models requiring steady hands if not a tripod.
Free Photo by Oli Kang
Not to mention ergonomics
If you happen to take photos and videos a lot, you’d probably complained about having to precariously hold your smartphone. DSLRs are built with ergonomics in mind that includes grips so you can even shoot with one hand comfortably, especially during long photo and video sessions.
Physical buttons and dials also provide tactile feedback and always beat touchscreen controls which are awkward to operate while composing your photo. Settings on a DSLR can be easily adjusted without taking your eyes off the viewfinder/live-view screen. This can help you concentrate on getting your composition right than taking the time to fiddle adjustments buried under menus and sub-menus.
But Smartphones will get there
Although smartphone innovation has somehow flat-lined over the past 2 years, it still has very cool features that I wished were present in a DSLR. I am still waiting for an “AI” camera that can also produce artificial “bokeh” without the need for a premium lens, offering on-device “full” image and video editing, producing software-enhanced night mode, etc – basically everything a smartphone can do with photos.
I own a Fuji X-T20 and am very happy with the superb image quality and versatility of a dedicated camera, but I really miss these features that I think are not entirely impossible considering the sophisticated hardware and tech found inside new DSLRs today.
The word “camera” is so ubiquitous but almost everyone now associates it with a smartphone. Smartphone companies are continuously improving camera hardware and software with every new release. If I believe DSLRs can have smartphone features, it’s also true the other way around. It’s not impossible considering the amount of R&D these companies are investing and paying their top engineers to create the next smartphone camera innovation – it’s just a matter of “when” not “how.”
Right now, DSLR camera manufacturers should stop competing with each other for what little demand is left for it but instead wage war on smartphone companies in order to gain back customers, sales, and prevent from being forgotten into oblivion.
Oli is a working mum who has a passion for teaching and all things educational. With a background in marketing, Oli manages the digital channels and content at Courses.com.au.