The Latest iPhones More Than Compete With the Dynamic Range of a Full Frame Camera

See examples of how Apple’s latest computational photography technique, Smart HDR, allows the iPhone to compete with the dynamic range in several of the top full frame cameras on the market today.

In his latest upload, Tyler Stalman proposed an answer to the question: could the latest generation of iPhones produce a level of dynamic range that really competes with that of the full frame sensor cameras on the market today? His key takeaway, backed by several examples, is simply that the latest iPhones are able to produce, in a lot of situations, more dynamic range than even the much larger full frame sensors can turn out. And this all comes down to the rapid advancements that are being made in computational photography versus sensor performance gains.

Dynamic range aside, it is still quite clear to me that mobile photography, albeit iOS or Android based, has a ways to go with overall image detail and usability in anything other than casual use. And really, in most arenas, it should not be taken seriously against a full frame camera. This is still especially evident when the images are viewed on anything other than the phone screen it was captured on. But with these rapid gains in computational photography and the overall prowess of these ridiculously powerful mobile processors that now easily handle the merging of a multitude of image exposures in real-time, it shows us all today a glimpse of the exciting future of photography, mobile or not, that awaits just over the Smart HDR horizon.

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56 Comments

Jared Wolfe's picture

Smartphones really have come a long way. Won't be replacing my big camera anytime soon though. Still no hotshoe or ability to change lenses and larger sensor cameras resolve wayyy more fine detail in images.

The title of this article is just a lie! I don't care that you clarify it in the article. Just stop!

Sky Simone's picture

they're making a joke out of the industry - This is why the cheaper photographers struggle to get clients because their target client thinks they can do the job with a phone! - I use my phone all the time for quick photos of the cats and I've tried printing one in a small 4x6 and it was just horrendous! iPhone photos are a complete joke - and so is fstoppers if they think this is a valid article

Not true, I work in a photo lab and iPhone images print well and look great at sizes much larger than 4x6...

You can't refute the printing part of her statement since she's referring to *her* photos from *her* phone. I can't refute or confirm any of her comment since I've only taken less than a dozen photos with my phone and then, only because my wife makes me! :-)

In good conditions (light ...) Phone Cameras are good (above level of mid-priced compacts). However, our "big boys" are still far ahead.
You just cannot trick physics (yet).

that's what click bait trashy gutter writers do these days.

Misleading title that's what click bait trashy gutter writers do these days.

Every example photo is taken in good light conditions, try using this iphone in interiors or after sunset and show us results.

Also who on earth expose for darks to bring down highlights by 100 and expects good outcome? At the end he mentions about doing opposite e.g. exposing (properly) for highlights and then bringing shadows up and says this is bad. Why is it? Because it works and ruins the hypothesis?

Why doesnt he show example photos in enlargment to see how much detail are there in photos taken with iphone?

And why doesnt he mention you can buy decent dslr with one or two primes for the price lower than or equal to the price of this iphone?

If you want camera for selfies to put on instagram then go for iphone. Its convenient, you always have it with you and it has internet connection so you can upload photo right after you took it.

Dylan Bishop's picture

As far as him saying that underexposing is bad he means that it’s not ideal to have to underexpose your shots since you’re not getting the proper image until it’s been edited on a computer. To have a properly exposed shot before you take the shot is an advantage.

Blowing the highlights because you exposed for the shadows is not properly exposed.

Michael Jin's picture

"Proper exposure" depends completely on what your objective is. There's no such thing as a universally accepted "proper exposure".

Kyle Medina's picture

"Smart HDR, allows the iPhone to compete with the dynamic range in several of the top full frame cameras"

No, you can't compare HDR vs standard raw. Regardless of source camera.

dont think apple slave knows what raw means nor they care, they just open up swallow everything apple poop out as gold, for someone with a slr and fail at getting a simple exposure is just hilarious and sad to see.

Kolade Agunbiade's picture

Manual cars would always be better for racing.

gabe s's picture

Except when they are not. Drag racers are using automatics because they shift faster. While drift racers almost have to use manuals. Depends on what you are using it for.

Kinda like this article. Sure, the range is good enough for posting on the gram and boasting about it on FB, but try blowing those images up to a decent sized print.

Maybe not for winning but I always feel a lot cooler, driving a fast car with a manual transmission! ;-)

Michael Jin's picture

Yeah. Stick shift is definitely more fun (at least outside of gridlock traffic).

I disagree ... i have more fun driving with paddles (so I decide when to shift, but the car does the magic of clutching).

Philipp Pley's picture

The 5D Mark IV can shoot in HDR too, at least compare apples with apples

Dylan Bishop's picture

To be fair he does mention that and points out that with the 5D there would be ghosting.

Maximilian Sulzer's picture

How exactly does the iPhone produce these HDRs? Doesn't it also take several pictures?

Also the iPhone image processing adds a ton of saturation and color changes to get this color in the sky, he doesn't even touch that with the raw.

Yeah he's right. The Phone can produce wonderful snapshots. They sometimes look cooler than what you can get on camera (that quickly). With the premise that you never ever zoom in, look at the edges or god forbid open the file on a decent computer screen.

Philipp Pley's picture

I own both an iPhone and a 5D. The iPhone has a much faster fps so it is less prone to ghosting, but it still does ghost occasionally. Saying 'there will be ghosting on the 5D' is only true in the context of moving subjects: HDR is the wrong technique for that anyway.

Mark James's picture

Is comparing it to a Canon sensor really fair to the rest of the FF market? :-)

nope, you don't showcase dynamic range on Canon :) but for this comparison it doesn't really matter... Also he didn't pick Pixel 2/3 so it is kind of fair (ignoring that comparison doesn't make sense at all and title is misleading clickbait ;) )

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