Guess Which Video Is From an iPhone and Which Is From a RED Weapon

Guess Which Video Is From an iPhone and Which Is From a RED Weapon

Yet another challenge for you, gear fans. There is a nice short film shot with an iPhone 7 Plus and a RED Weapon. You watch one of the versions. Can you tell if it's shot with a $50,000 camera or with a sub-$1,000 one?

I know this feeling where you think to yourself, "I can't tell the difference, but I need to find an argument to prove I desperately need a $50,000 camera." It's the situation when you've got decent gear and you want to get something better. You try to find a use case where your existing gear falls apart visually, and this justifies your next expensive purchase. You are 99-percent sure your next video projects will fall into that difficult lighting situation, so surely you need expensive toys. Yeah? Not so much.

Telling a story with what you have is always possible if you know the limitations of your gear and do not pass beyond them. Parker Walbeck knows that and shows his audience how making a high-quality short film with an iPhone 7 Plus is quite a possible mission.

The Setup

Walbeck uses a MoVi M5 where he mounts a RED Weapon which shoots alongside a Duct-Taped iPhone 7 Plus. The RED Weapon shoots in 6K while the iPhone in just 4K. He's using the Filmic Pro app on the smartphone. Both versions of the film are edited Adobe Premiere and color graded to match each other as closely as possible.

The Right Way to Compare the Results

When comparing such pieces of gear, we have to know the limitations of the weaker equipment. The iPhone has a fixed focal length lens (OK, two prime lenses), limited ISO range, and a small sensor. You can't expect to have the same amount of data in every pixel as on a camera that costs much more than your car (unless you drive a Lamborghini). However, on the devices we normally use, we see a much smaller picture than has been actually recorded on both devices. So, instead of comparing pixels, we should sit back, grab popcorn, and see the footage as a normal viewer. In this context, the results from the iPhone are quite stunning.

Look at the amount of data in the shadows when there's direct sun light. Check for blown highlights too. These are the most common things to look for when comparing high-end camera footage to not-so-high-end footage.

Last but not least, the storytelling in the short film itself is great. The video is beautifully shot and puts a smile on your face at the end. Have a look yourself and see if you've noticed which is which.

To see more videos from Parker Walbeck, visit his YouTube channel.


Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Tihomir Lazarov is a commercial portrait photographer and filmmaker based in Sofia, Bulgaria. He is the best photographer and filmmaker in his house, and thinks the best tool of a visual artist is not in their gear bag but between their ears.

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As much as I would love to say a lot of negative things, it's truly amazing what they have and continue to do with a tiny device that fits in your pocket and does tons of other things.

That's far more impressive than I thought it would be and I'm the iPhone fashion shoot guy.

Did you see the Rock's SI cover was done with a smart phone? First ever SI cover with a phone.

The iPhone footage is superb, dynamic range and all. I was thinking of buying a Sony FS5 to create high quality home movies but I'm thinking the iPhone 7 is all i need together with Resolve and some quality LUTs.

A more accurate title:

See how red footage can be graded to look like it came from an iphone


Thank you...

Another religious iPhone propaganda shtick.

Makes me glad I've invested in lenses.

Sure on a computer monitor the iPhone looks decent-but there's next to no detail in the pixels which is apparent when you look close enough/put it on a 40'+ screen.

I may have a iPhone 7 and a RED Weapon... But have no plans to shoot with my phone

How many people who watch a video you produce are going to look at the shadows for detail? Maybe you're not making videos for them? I don't know. What I do know is that your video content is much more important than the pixels that make it up.

In the end content is king over the capture format. However, since I started finishing projects in HDR this year my clients have instantly been awestruck at the new standard replacing the decades old rec709. Which will help push the industry instead of focusing only on resolution (getting people to upgrade to 4K+)
Resolution isn't everything, which is why a 2.8k/3.4k camera like the Alexa is on the majority of Hollywood productions over a Red.
Sure it's impressive what an iPhone can shoot, but for my needs it'll never be used on any of my productions... Not to mention if my clients see me shooting on a phone for their projects I'm sure I won't see them again.

Exactly. The video cameras nowadays are like the DSLRs — more megapixels while it's not that important and most people can't see 4K on their screens anyway.

And I also stronly agree about shooting with a "unprofessional looking" device. That's why I don't use mirrorless... the clients expect a big black camera.

It's interesting about the HDR. I haven't touched this video realm yet.

People notice the details whether they realize it or not.

I really don't want to be the guy to shit on this since it is an impressive example of how far we've come in phone-camera technology, but it's not a good test. First off, the test of a camera's ability should focus on latitude. This entire piece was filmed in a gorgeous view point, entirely at magic hour with a plethora of natural light. Most consumer 4k cameras are going to produce similar results under ideal conditions. That said, the difference was actually staggering. The aliasing on the wheat fields from the in camera sharpening was as unusable as the gopros', and the moire on his pants was extreme in every CU. It's certainly nice looking for a phone, and I agree with the sentiment that it's much more about who is using the equipment (that's true for Red and Arri and any sets of equipment), than what the equipment is, but this doesn't look good to my eye, and is incredibly easy to differentiate from even highly compressed R3Ds.

I agree, the circumstances are very favorable for any camera. Not to mention that the any other decent digital camera produces a very flat, washed out image....which to the untrained eye looks extremely bad but is actually what you want to work with later on in post. I personally see no point in any of these comparison shoots like DSLR's vs. RED vs. Arri vs. Blackmagic......different horses for different courses. Want to make this test realistic ? Shoot footage in low light, underexposed/ overexposed and rescue it in post....put the files from the two cameras through davinci and see how much latitude and grading room you get from either device and so on. Im also not sure if blown out highlights really are the most common things people look for in high end cameras, the people who use this gear usually have a lot more control when it comes to lighting during their shoots, therefore highlight protection is not necessarily that much of an issue. It comes down to bit depth, color science and workability in post. Michael Bay would never shoot his VFX plates on an Iphone for good reasons no matter how good the highlight protection would be.

In the end it's still pretty impressive though what a little cigarette pack sized device in your pocket can do.

Yes, the video has no intent to compare the cameras. It has the purpose to proove if one knows what the limitations of the device are, they can use it at the best conditions to provide excellent results similar to those with high end devices.

I often shoot videos as an amateur for school activities. Most of our pupils watch the contect on their mobile devices and they often can't tell the difference between 4k footage and 1080p footage.
The difference is staggering on my 40 inch 4k computer monitor. But on an older tablet, the difference it is a different matter. And more often or not, I'm amazed about the amount of details NOT shown on the Youtube 4k footage that I can see after uploading but that I am able to see on the original footage. So why bother is a question I often ask myself.


I wish people doing these comparisons would stop pretending that the iPhone is the only mobile phone around. Maybe it's just because they own an iPhone, or whatever.. I'm just ranting because I hate Apple, their closed ecosystem, and everything else about them too. I'm all for open source, tweaking and value for money. Eg, I recently bought an LG G4 for ~€200 that shoots 4K at 200Mb/s. That said, I still enjoyed the article., I'm just having a rant at apple.

I feel you but many Android phones are actually capable of doing the same in these perfect light conditions. I hope we can have a publication like that with Android or Windows phones in the near future.

I think you have to consider that a lot of this look is due to the stabilizer used. Only an iPhone will not bring you anywhere close to a shot with a "real" system.

This is true for any system. Non-stabilized shots *sometimes* look "unprofessional" even with professional equipment

Is there a difference in video capability between iphone 7 and iPhone 7+?

I don't know as I don't own any of them.

Maybe someone else may help?