Can a Canon EOS R5 Stand Up to an iPhone 12 Pro Max?

It's the battle of the best of the best from two titans of the photography industry. No, I'm not talking about Sony versus Canon. I'm talking about the Canon EOS R5 versus an iPhone 12 Pro Max, and the results are surprising, to say the least.

YouTuber Matti Haapoja pits a Canon EOS R5 against an iPhone 12 Pro Max in this video, where he asks viewers at home to play along with him in a blind test of both cameras in various shooting situations around Toronto. He takes you through a series of seven photos shot with each camera to look almost exactly the same, and in the end, even he himself doesn't get all of them right (I ended up guessing five out of the seven photos correctly).

There are a couple of shots that are easy to spot, such as when they outfit the R5 with a Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens against an iPhone with not a lot of space for the background; almost any photographer could spot the difference in depth of field when the iPhone's portrait mode was not used.

What's surprising, perhaps most of all, is how close the iPhone's computational-imaging-powered portrait mode got to the Canon EOS R5. Much of my research for a doctorate degree has been in the area of computational imaging, and I had a hard time telling the difference because the new iPhone seems to have gotten rid of a lot of the tell-tale signs of portrait mode, especially when it comes to edge detection around people and objects.

What does all of this say for those of us who just spent north of $4,000 on a camera and lens? Should photography purchases begin and end with an iPhone? For one, I'd say no.

Haapoja correctly points out that while in many situations and in the right conditions, an iPhone will come pretty darn close or even beat a "real" camera, but for other situations, like the shot where there is no leeway to move the subject from a busy background, a DSLR or mirrorless camera will always show its strengths. I'll add to that situations such as sporting events or weddings, where a zoom and fast autofocus are critical.

Did you play along with the video? Which ones did you guess wrong? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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13 Comments

Hector M's picture

I know we are not here for Samsung and Canon, but I can say that my Samsung S21 Ultra unequivocally beats the pants off my Canon M 50. If it had interchangeable lenses, it would be even more amazing.

Marek Bromberek's picture

I have never been satisfied with my phone pictures (Android). They looked good on the phone and when the device was new but whenever I open them op on a computer I was very disappointed. Ultimately the best camera is the one you have with you so it is great that those pocket devices age getting so good.

PAUL GILBERT DE OCA's picture

True Cameras are still the best!

Andrew Eaton's picture

I think the power of having such a capable camera in your pocket all the time is the iphone's greatest strength. Can you put a 800mm lens on it while saving 2 copies on different memory cards... no... i would say its right tool for the right job. Having Apple's algorithms doing half the job for you might not end well :-)

Greg Wilson's picture

No wonder, R5 wins. Still iPhone is one of my favorite cameras of all times because it's so accessible and is always in my pocket.

Costel Nicolaie's picture

Phones are great if you consume the content on phone screens. Even on a laptop monitor, the image quality falls to pieces compared to a camera.

I guess you just can't beat physics ..

David Pavlich's picture

NO IT WON'T!!!! Everyone...sell your gear and get the latest phone. Maybe then we can rid the internet of these inane comparison. Good grief!

Indy Thomas's picture

That is a false choice.

iPhones are brilliant picture takers as are many of its competitors. However, this comparison devolves largely to bokeh questions as if that is the defining characteristic of an advanced FF camera.

The phone is an excellent device for the average person. The FF camera is a different tool altogether in that it is designed to be an enormously flexible platform for lenses producing consistent results for sophisticated users.

The automated nature of the phone means that on average it will calculate an excellent result. However, the camera is designed to make that result repeatedly and predictably.

Any user of an automated image capture device will recount instances of failure due to the camera's inability to understand the conditions and make the correct decision. It also cannot be reliably set to create consistent creative results that go against the calculated intent of the phone camera.

The purchase of a traditional camera is motivated by the needs and perceptions of the buyer. Pros need features and performance unavailable with a phone. Enthusiasts want the performance of a camera because they like the results, some like to look cool.
The drop in the digital camera market is a consequence of so many buyers of DSLRs who grew disenchanted with them after their initial excitement and the realization that their results were not much better than what they were getting with their phones.

Hans J. Nielsen's picture

I wish youtubers would stop making those stupid videos, course the truth of the matter is, that you loss so much information from when the camera took the picture til you see it on your screen, that they might as will have used an old 6MP camera instead.

They start out with making the video 4K. you think that is great until you realize that 4K is only around 8.5MP.
So, what does that tell us when they start by throwing half of all the information the R6 (and 1/3 the12 Pro Max) can produce out the window?

Then there is you monitor. Mine is a 1920x1080 monitor, or 1080p = 2.1 megapixels. That is literally all it can show no matter what you throw at it. A 20MP file? It just removes 18MP of information and show me the rest.

I can really not tell the differens between a 12MP phone and a 20MP camera when all am seeing is two 2.1MP pictures Oh yeah, they show the two pictures side by side, which mean each picture only gets half of my screen's resolution. Thats around 1MP.

But I guess it makes traffic on their site.

Don't get me wrong. I don't care if a smartphone can make as good pictures as my camera, course that has never been a problem. In my youth, people wanted to take pictures just as much as people do now a days, and back then, they had two options. Buy an SLR or buy a point and shot camera.

And many of those point and shot cameras could take just as good pictures as most SLRs and they evolved to have good metering, motordrives and zoom lenses and people loved them for what they could do. But that didn't kill the SLR or system camera off. Not in the 70s, 80s, 90 and not even now, where we don't have point and shot cameras no more. We have smartphones.

Get over the idea it is a fight between smartphones and cameras. It is not. And no one is going to lose.
People that like to take pictures today have two choices, buy a smartphone, or buy a MILC. The concept is the same, it is just the name of the toys that have changed.

Kenneth Rose's picture

Another clickbait title from Fstoppers, with a completely stupid premise. The only thing that video persuaded me of was never to waste any time watching anything by Matti Haapoja ever again.

Sridhar Chilimuri's picture

Yes