Poll Results: iPhone Photo Beats DSLR

A few days ago Patrick and I posted two images and asked you to vote on your favorite. What we didn't tell you was that one was taken with an iPhone and the other was taken with a Nikon D850. The majority of you chose the iPhone shot as the better photo. 

This idea came about after Profoto released an update allowing many of their strobes to sync with a smartphone. The ability to add lighting to a photograph outside was only possible with cameras with physical shutters until recently. With adequate light, shots with today's smartphones really do look amazing and combined with strobe light, it's really hard to tell that they weren't taken with a professional setup. 

For our shoot, we both used a single Profoto B10 and a large softbox. My photo was taken with the new iPhone 12 Pro's "telephoto" lens/camera. 

Patrick took his photograph with a Nikon D850 and Tamron 24-70mm lens. 

My shot, taken with the iPhone, received 55% of the votes while Patrick received 45%. We also mentioned in the previous post that there was a "twist" involved in this shoot. Cristiano Uyeno was the only photographer who guessed that my image was taken with an iPhone. 

Does this mean that the iPhone is a better camera than the Nikon D850? Of course not. The D850 is superior in literally every way. But it is pretty telling that cell phone photos taken with adequate light, and displayed on the web (like 99.99% of photos) can look just as good, or even better than, professionally shot and edited photos. 

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72 Comments

Matthew Mastrandrea's picture

I would be curious to see a similar poll, but with more specific criteria for "better". I think the iPhone photo is better, but that's just because I like the composition and more muted approach to value a bit more. Or, if you didn't want to poll users in multiple categories, take the same poses/compositions from both cameras.

Lee Morris's picture

Here's a more apples to apples comparison https://youtu.be/gxhvZfLm5xs

Ed C's picture

OK thanks for this final nudge to make sure I never read any of your posts again. Everyone knows that the vote had nothing at all to do with the technical quality of the photo yet the headline is implying the iPhone is technically superior to an 850.

Alex Reiff's picture

Headline may have been clickbaity, but the last paragraph of the article does explicitly say the exact opposite.

Lee Morris's picture

Lol. I love that showing poll results sends gear loving photographers into a rage.

Ed C's picture

LOL who said anything about rage? Sensitive much? If you are so comfortable in your skin why are you responding to everybody that doesn't agree with you? Bye.

Lee Morris's picture

You refusing to ever click on my posts again is definitely rage and I always respond to the craziest comments.

Ed C's picture

Nope. It is definitely your insecurity. Have fun with that. I also refuse to walk out in traffic because it is stupid. Not clicking is simply not doing something stupid.

Lee Morris's picture

You keep walking back into traffic to respond

Carl Marschner's picture

Mediocre gear used well beats great gear used poorly.

William Faucher's picture

You're supposed to read the book, not the cover

Ed C's picture

I obviously read it or I wouldn't have known that detail would I?

Dan Ostergren's picture

"Does this mean that the iPhone is a better camera than the Nikon D850? Of course not. The D850 is superior in literally every way."

Rappaport Arts's picture

But he also says, and I quote: "... cell phone photos taken with adequate light, and displayed on the web (like 99.99% of photos) can look just as good, or even better than, professionally shot and edited photos." There, he is alluding to the technical aspects.

The "comparison" is downright stupid. Two very different images. Someone can vote for the iPhone photo because, for example, the model's facial expression, which has nothing to do with the gear or technique or the art of photography. The poll only ask which one the voter prefers but not the reason. Then how can you use this poll to claim that ".. cell phone photos taken with adequate light, and displayed on the web (like 99.99% of photos) can look just as good, or even better than, professionally shot and edited photos." Make absolutely no sense. It's an apple to orange comparison.

Mike Robinson's picture

I voted for the pose.

Kirk Darling's picture

As long as we stay within the limitations of the cell phone, sure. If the situation pushes it beyond its capabilities, no.

This kind of comparison means close to nothing. I remember back in the 70s, the self-proclaimed "professional amateur" Herbert Kepler of "Modern Photography" magazine used to make the same kind of comparisons between Kodak Instamatics and his own professinal Nikon cameras to the same end. Within it its capabilities and cheaply printed in halftone, he could make the Instamatic shot look as good as a Nikon shot.

Andy Day's picture

I demand a recount.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

I also wondered if the count included Pennsylvania or not.

Andy Work's picture

They probably used Dominion software.

Matt Barr's picture

Wait for it (angry D850 owners)... All is not lost though, iPhone 12 is still a $1K camera if you really think about it.

Alex Yakimov's picture

Love d850, but I take pictures with whatever I have at hand. Love for gear does not interfere with desire for taking a great image. Perception is the key. Lighting on the first one rather added to the whole appeal, on the second one artificiality looked more apparent, sorry Patrick. Although it could've been an artistic intent.
On the side note, does the profoto app triggers the modelling lamp instead of main flash if used with the phone on B10? It used to.

Alex Yakimov's picture

I found the reason for the image from d850 to underperform!
Whats up with legs on the bottom picture? There is a miss-match while moving the slider.

William Faucher's picture

My guess is the legs were intentionally stretched to make the model feel taller, more elegant?

Bruce Grant's picture

The legs are explained in the video.

D Man's picture

if you also look at the models hips, looks like the photo was cut and pasted...that was what I originally thought...

RD Gerdes's picture

different feet, longer toes...in the left image, she has webbed feet. Probably a mermaid...

William Faucher's picture

This is hilarious. I actually voted for the iphone 12 shot myself. When I voted, I didn't even think twice about what the photos were shot with because they were both very well lit.
This just goes to show that gear really doesn't matter as much as we would like to believe.

Now, of course, we are viewing these photos on a small desktop screen. OF COURSE the D850 will outperform the iphone in harsher situations, lowlight, and have a better ability to deliver incredible, huge, prints.

But damn I'd be lying if I said I wasn't surprised. What a plot twist. I'm quite amused by the amount of haters in this comment thread.

Triztic Photography's picture

That had to be the worst comparing ever. Its not the same basic photo at all. Wow, this site is really going down hills.

William Faucher's picture

Genuinely cannot tell if you're being sarcastic or not. It wasn't a comparison, it was a contest between Lee and Patrick to see which photo people liked most. At the time of the vote, the cameras used were not known. This article posted the winner with the most votes, and funny enough, more people liked the shot taken with the iphone.

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