iPhone 5S vs Canon 5D Mark III- Which Do You Prefer Here?

iPhone 5S vs Canon 5D Mark III- Which Do You Prefer Here?

This war has been waging for years now, but when it comes down to it and you just want to get out and shoot for yourself, which do you prefer, your phone or your top of the line pro gear? Kim Thomas, an incredible nature and portrait photographer based in New York, has brought the battle to a head up at her blog with some comparison shots taken straight out of camera with both her Canon 5D Mark III and her iPhone 5s. 

I personally love shooting with my iPhone. The ease of use and quick access to apps like VSCO and Snapseed to edit and post to social networks like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are incredible. Not to mention the amount of weight I am saving while shooting with simply my iPhone. Always keeping myself aware of my suroundings for creative outlet and a chance to capture the action anywhere I am. The built in HDR is a nice touch compared to a DSLR and gives you just that little bit more freedom when shooting in difficult lighting situations. 

Below you can see some of Kim's shots along with the simple comparison between her iPhone and Canon DSLR. 

Unedited iPhone 5s // Photo by Kim Thomas

Unedited Canon 5Diii // Photo by Kim Thomas

There are tons of beautiful cameras out there that I dream of, and then I see this jaw dropping photo a fourteen year old took with a little point and shoot film camera you buy from Walmart, and I think to myself, why am I standing in a camera store with no money (or money I shouldn't spend) when I could be out shooting? - Kim Thomas

Edited with VSCOcam App iPhone 5s // Photo by Kim Thomas

Edited in Lightroom Canon 5Diii // Photo by Kim Thomas


Unedited iPhone 5s // Photo by Kim Thomas

Unedited 5Diii // Photo by Kim Thomas


Edited with VSCOcam App iPhone 5s // Photo by Kim Thomas

Edited in Lightroom Canon 5Diii // Photo by Kim Thomas

Bear in mind, the competition really only matters when you're talking about scaled-down web viewing... but is it not arguable that's a majority of where we see photos today?

Kim's approach to the whole thing is quite simple and comes down to the basics of composition, light and subject matter. I would love to hear what you all prefer between your mobile device and your pro gear. Be sure to post in the comments below or reach out to me on Instagram or Twitter

Be sure to check out more of Kim's work at her website along with more unreal shots from her iPhone over on her Instagram page!

[via Kim Thomas Blog]

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Keegan Evans's picture

The biggest difference for me are lens choices, color depth, and dynamic range. The phones just cant compare with that still. It also looks like she took poor photos with a 5DMIII to match the quality of the phone. Not the other way around. So many photos on the internet prove it is not the camera, but an amazing camera in the hands of an amazing photographer yields pretty fantastic results!

Jason Ranalli's picture

Completely agree. Take that iPhone image in LR/PS and start working with it...watch it start showing it's limitations very quickly.

I don't buy a DSLR to take the same crummy pictures I take with my iPhone...I have a DSLR with nice lenses and some decent gear to push things as far as I can take it within the limits of my own talents.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Agree on many levels here using more gear can wield better results in various cases with depth and range but in the end the picture and the story behind it speaks louder than what it was shot with. Some of these examples were tough and yea shooting wide open for landscape shots may not be the best comparison but still comparing the two these days (mobile vs DSLR) is closer than many imagine. I personally have seen great success in shooting with just my phone, do I regret experiencing things and shooting for clients with an iPhone? Heck no, it was incredible and I got some badass shots. Though in most cases when clients are asking for just iPhone shots for events or projects I almost always bring my DSLR gear to get some other shots that are just too hard to snatch up with the iPhone or too limiting.

Keegan Evans's picture

Very true! The technological gap is getting smaller and smaller every day. It is pretty incredible! Also I just have to say this is why I love Fstoppers. Constructive comments and a good discussion. Keep up the awesome work!

Andrew Griswold's picture

Thanks Keegan! I truly believe community is where its at when it comes to the creative field. Thanks for the support and as always keep those comments coming!

james johnson's picture

Agreed, the point of a DSLR is not that the hardware is better (the gap is definitely closing on this), but that it is more versatile.

Need a difference in color, filter it or change the lens. Need to shoot in low light, change the lens. Need wide angle/telephoto... well you get the picture.

Felipe Vargas's picture

Exactly. a good camera does not do miracles without having a good photographer behind.
Compare a bad shot and a bad edit with iphone does not make the iphone better. only easier to achieve "decent" results and requires much less technical knowledge.

Kawika Lopez's picture

I've long been a big fan of using whatever you have to capture the moment, whether its my iPhone 5s or my 5Dmk3. That being said, I would never show up to a gig with just my iPhone, but when I am out shooting for fun, I find my iPhone to be an amazing tool that is so convenient on so many levels. I usually have my 5D with me anyway but I'm not afraid to put it down in certain situations.

Its also a great deal of fun to restrict myself to using the iPhone because I find it sharpens my skills in the same way that I restrict myself to using a single lens or a single focal length. I am forced to use my creativity and skill to compose a shot around the tools at hand.

Karma Wilson's picture

I am in the burnt out on DSLR gear club, and excited about cameras like the OMD for that very reason. The size, bulk and planning required for DSLR shots had me often missing shots that weren't in the perfect situation, because if I was going to the trouble of getting that gear out I wanted to make it count. When I got my iphone I found myself using it more than my DLSR because I primarily show my pics on the web, and for friends and family, and it works very good for that. I finally gave my DSLR gear to somebody who would use it, and he does. He's in the club that he would never take a shot with an iphone unless it was all he had. But we shoot for very different reasons. The key difference is that he makes money with his photos. Every picture for him is an opportunity to get better, to learn more, to try harder. I take pics to capture funny looking faces my kids make, or record a memory of a pretty sunset.

The deal with iphone photos is that many people think an iphone is only point and shoot. It can be, of course, but there are all sorts of apps out there that give manual control and allow you to do some pretty amazing things while taking the shot, and even in post. A photographer who understands light and has a grasp on manual controls can actually push the iphone to some great levels, and produce results that seem almost impossible to people who don't understand that the key to getting acceptable photos on any camera, from the cheapest to the most expensive, is light. Iphones are fun to use and can capture memories. The lens and sensor are GREAT for their tiny, tiny size and their convenience. But they will never compete with pro equipment, because they simply can't. But for any photographer, it's kind of a kick to be asked what lens you use for a photo you posted on FB and it's an iphone shot, which has happened to me. :) But if I wanted to print past the size of say, 8x10, the shot would look dreadful.

Here's what drives me crazy: Photographers who are great at using complicated DSLR equipment and are amazing photographers, but can't produce a decent iphone shot to save their life. It's like all principles of light and photography fly out the window, I guess because they think the equipment is too limited to even try? It's not, and if a photographer is taking a selfie to post on FB I think they should take the time to move next to a window, at the very least. lol I once participated in a disposable camera contest. That's a challenge. The iphone can be hooked up to OCF is you are OCD enough to do it. :)

Jennifer Kelley's picture

I tested the OMD a couple months ago. I really want to be able to switch over to the M1 because it's so light and easy to use - I was in a car accident and the weight of some DSLRs not just to hold but to carry around wears on my back. And to be honest, because I need all new digital gear, it's significantly cheaper than a Canon system. I still think it's a few years away from being usable and practical as a pro camera though. The raw file format isn't widely supported and more of an afterthought for Adobe, so you're stuck using Olympus software. It doesn't work with pocket wizards and has a lot of remote trigger issues regardless of brand. I wanted to take it under water but didn't have a suitable housing for it. Also, the lens mounts are mostly plastic, which bothered me. Little things like that are things Olympus will have to fix before it's really taken seriously. I really did like the camera and thought I was going to buy one for several weeks until I started really digging into the technical junk. It depends on what you shoot though. It does fantastic outside. National Geographic photographers use it and it takes some amazing photos. It isn't practical for studio work due to compability with other gear and anything commercial will take you longer in post processing. Ultimately, because I'm buying all new gear, I'm going for a used Mark ii with a couple higher end lenses, and later convert the camera to infrared when I upgrade the body (I really have not liked Canon for 15 years so this was a painful decision lol).

Louis Leblanc's picture

The differences in field of view, composition and editing are much bigger than the difference in the cameras. The iPhone shot wins in both cases for me. - I guess it does prove a point, small differences in the way you shoot and edit (skill?) have a larger impact on the final image than the gear you use to get the images in some cases.

Karma Wilson's picture

PS: The iphone photography awards have some great examples of images caught on the iphone. I do like that the decent camera phones gives creative people who can't afford pro gear the ability to create, and a lot of artistic people are capturing compelling images with an iphones and other camera phones. Honestly, when you see images from people using DSLRs on auto and editing in Pic Monkey, you realize that camera equipment is only part of the battle. A good eye can make good images even with limited equipment, but a terrible artist can't produce quality even when given $7000 worth of equipment, and will in fact usually do a lot worse than they would on an iphone. Anyway, check out the link if you like iphone pics.


Andrew Griswold's picture

Great addition! The IPPA is an incredible place to find inspiring creatives using absolutely the bare minimum to achieve great images. I have had a few close friends featured on their site and won some awards the past few years. Just incredible!

Kurt Langer's picture

These direct sunlight typical boring tourist pictures are complete shite to compare the two for starters.

Kristjan Järv's picture

Well, phones have deffinetly improved over the past couple of years. Heck, now they even have 4K video on them. If shot in the right light and exposed correctly the images can look amazing. Also they're light weight and it's a blast to shoot with them, not having to worry about any settings and all. The only limitation I really see with these camera phones is the small sensor size and the horrible compression. They break very easily when processing.

Austin Burke's picture

Give me a zoom lens in my phone and then I might actually take photos with it more often, until then I will pass. Dynamic range is nice and so is the higher bit depth but I can work around those, but being stuck with one ugly wider angel lens on a phone camera, no thank you.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Photojojo along with Olloclip both offer budget friendly high quality glass to shoot zoomed in 2-4 times length. Not bad options. I know there are also Canon and Nikon lens adaptors for your phone which may sound rediculous but gives you that depth with the barrel and also keeps the weight of gear down quite a bit. Then there are other brands out there that offer optical zoom lenses to attached for a much lighter set. There are options, though might sound silly I would just rather shoot straight from the phones wide angle lens and zoom with my feet. Keeps me thinking about my shot and less about the gear all the time.

Dave Blinder's picture

Which camera is going to give you a better 4' x 3' print with the appropriate relative aperture of F/22? Nothing wrong with cell phone snapshots or even shooting for small prints/web usage with a decent phone, but future-proofing and making archival-quality images are what a professional strives for. Not always instant gratification and jumping on bandwagons.

Andy Shrestha's picture

Now, learn more about your camera :D

Andrew Griswold's picture

Very important to know everything about your gear either iPhone or DSLR. Being able to manipulate the image to exactly what you want is key. Though the iPhone is simple in point and click ideals it still has its pros and cons. I am playing with iOS 8 currently and its been fun manipulating the expsoure separately from focus and being able to drag up and down to adjust.

Spy Black's picture

The funny part is that people are taking this seriously...

Deleted Account's picture

Maybe. Maybe the real truth is that consumers don't agree with what "photographers" say is a good picture. I remember as a kid, reading my first camera manual. You know, the ones with all those naked African girls... er, wrong book. The one with all those pretty Japanese girls. One pic showing her at f2.8 and everything behind her blurry, and another pic shot at f11. Wow! Everything's in focus! I knew right then and there to always use f11. Fast forward to today and the tiny sensor cameras in phones deliver exactly that, huge deep DOF. To me, it looks a jumble, impossible to detect the subject. To many kids nowadays, that's the "good" picture.

Ralph Hightower's picture

I frequently forget when I don't have my FSLR or DSLR with me and I see something interesting is that my Android smartphone can take photos.
But what I hate with using my smartphone is that darned focus-hunting! I can focus one of my FSLRs (Canon F-1N, A-1) faster manually than the smartphone, and the shutter lag.

Jennifer Kelley's picture

Shutter lag, HAHAHAHA!!! I have about 5 photos from the weekend where I was trying to sneak a pic of my kid and he was already trying to see the screen by the time it actually took the picture.

Andrew Griswold's picture

The phones have their pros and cons. I shoot with my iPhone 5s and it does pretty well when in burst mode to capture the speed and expsoure I want vs just one click. Not sure if the focus works faster in that mode but it seems to for me.

RUSS T.'s picture

judging ONLY by the photos displayed here, I wouldn't use either of the cameras listed above.

Jennifer Kelley's picture

I have never really understood the whole "debate" about iphones vs DSLRs. There is nothing wrong with using phones for snapshots. When I'm at my son's karate stuff, you're more likely to see me whip out a cell phone than an actual camera. The phones do make pretty decent photos for average use. The only problem I see is when "professional" photographers show up to the set of a commercial shoot or to a wedding with nothing but an iphone.

It isn't a professional tool and no matter how many comparisons there are to high end pro cameras, a phone is still far more limited. We are doing ourselves no favors as photographer by trying to say that they compare. Part of what clients pay us for is our gear. They want to know that what we carry is better than what Uncle Bob can shoot with his phone. Let's face it, the majority of our clients don't actively think about composition and lighting, they think what separates us from the rest of the pack is our gear. If we devalue our gear, clients devalue our services.

Andrew Griswold's picture

There lies a great debate and one I was hoping to really spark with this article and will continue to push on as I am a photographer that prides myself in both my skills of photography in mobile and pro gear. To me it doesnt matter what I shoot with as long as my clients are happy and understand that the tools I use dont matter as long as the final product is the best for their needs. Sure I can get a better quality photo with my DSLR from a spec point of view and I can blow it up the size of a bus but in the end if your client (depending on the shoot and client) will ONLY use shots for social media and small print use then why the crap wouldnt I use my phone if they ask for it. I work with many clients simply by my phone and its how I have scored some of my biggest shoots with my DSLR gear. Client with a large hotel chain (Conrad Hotels) just had me shoot with my phones at their Indy location and a few weeks later were blown away with the shots and ask for me to do a pro shoot with models with my DSLR gear for a mag spread and billboard work. I know when I can get away with projects using just my phone and I know when not to. Every client is different. I shoot and manage many Instagram accounts for clients here in Indy and if i can save my back in using large gear I will and bring just my phone and post to their account and my own to share the photos. Its a very interesting dynamic I must say and having been shooting for only 2 years. Now being literally the guy to go to here in Indy for any type of Instagram work and social media consulting for the app in Indianapolis I have that market and my name is known in that right but here I am wanting to pick up a few more higher end gear options like a Canon 6D and maybe one more L prime lens. This is all for the fact I want to get a little more serious in the types of clients I get and the projects I get as sadly it is about gear in some aspects of the game. I was just making a stab at changing the game and showing folks I can do it with the least amount of gear and strongest amount of creative mind. I feel I have done that in Indy and hope to keep the momentum going and pushing the limits of the idea all while starting up larger clients that have to see that big gear set to get me in the door.

Jennifer Kelley's picture

You bring up a really good point about the social media aspect of a shoot. It's really great to be able to provide some social media ready photos (and fast) for the clients when you're on a shoot. I don't really want to mess with cropping and resizing everything in my computer to be not the size of a billboard before posting to Facebook. And they make good teaser shots. Admittedly, I have a client who needs me to shoot something I've never shot before and I'm using my phone for some test shots before I spend anything or quote the production cost. He will likely end up using them for social media as a teaser. But, this is someone I've known a long time and needs cheap photography (and I want his product in my portfolio) so he's willing to do it my way for now. I generally like to give a variety so the photos can be used for social media, websites, print, whatever.

As someone who is starting out in photography as a business, especially going after higher end clients, I do feel that the image of the ridiculously large DSLR is important. It tells people that don't know you from Adam that you know what you're doing. For the consumer market it means referrals and for the business market it means repeat business. Someone may take great wedding photos with their iPhone but chances are they won't get a referral from the couple or anyone there, regardless of how amazing the photos look. There is a whole psychology to image and I've leveraged that over the past 10 years to build several businesses. That's fine, I'll play that game. I'm getting too old to push the envelope :)

Andrew Griswold's picture

Great stuff, I will continue to push the envelope with what I can do with simply my phone. Not saying I will hang up the DSLR or even not bring it to a shoot to have on hand in case I need a little more freedom with the shot. Teaser shots are always great with the iPhone. I have gotten a little more free with an eye fi card in my DSLR and still transferring wirelessly and editing on my phone so they can see the style and process immediately. I am shooting every other week for a pro soccer team here in town with just my iPhone. Its management and shooting for their Instagram page. Intersting work and its been something I have done for a couple years now. Every client is different and its lead me to more projects with them and their own players. The social media aspect is a real thing and it can be a very marketable piece of the photography community

Jennifer Kelley's picture

I think with clients it depends on who you are working with and how tech savvy they might be too. Someone who knows an iphone takes a great photo for certain purposes will be fine with it. Someone who knows very little of equipment and doesn't know the difference in pro and consumer DSLRs is just looking for someone with a big heavy camera to show up lol.

David Stålhane's picture

One important thing I've noticed is that many avid smartphone photographers are much more keen to edit their pictures before they upload whereas some DSLR-users just upload their pictures more or less straight from camera, thereby completely missing out on that half of the creative process. This might be because editing can be a bit of a hassle on your computer, or it might be due to the photographer's overconfidence in his or her gear.

This might be stating the obvious, but to me the most important thing about editing your work is that you get to spend a lot more time with your image, making you think about why you've shot that particular image, what could have been better and how you can avoid mistakes down the road. Even though I sometimes rush through the editing process, I still find that the pictures I've spent the most time on are the ones that I've learned the most from, even if those pictures didn't turn out all that great.

Andre Goulet's picture

Still don't know how to fire off-camera flash from my iPhone. Kind of a serious limitation.

Damith Wickramsinghe's picture

I can't believe. How it is works? sensors are different know.?