Why Can't My DSLR Shoot 4K 60p, but the iPhone Can?

In the last decade, cell phones have made huge leaps forward in technology and capability. It's simply incredible what they are capable of these days, and the amount of processing power and features they have would have been unimaginable not so long ago. The latest iPhones are capable of shooting beautiful images and video up to 4K at 60p. Further, still, the iPhone 8 and X are capable of filming at 240 fps when shot at 1080p, which is very impressive indeed. Both of these features are currently not available in any other similarly priced phone, DSLR, or even most mirrorless cameras. Even popular DSLRs like the Canon 5D Mark IV and Nikon D850 aren't able to shoot at the same frame rates as the iPhone. The question that many people ask is, why?

In a recent video, Max Yurev explains why he thinks this may be the case and discusses how the processing power in the latest iPhones enable these amazing features. Yurev describes how many DSLRs currently do not have the processing power to be able to perform at those levels and, although the sensor size plays a part, the processor is ultimately the reason.

Cameras such as the 5D Mark IV need to heavily crop the sensor in order to shoot at 4K and, even then, can only do so with a much older, inefficient codec. Other cameras such as the Sony a7R II and Sony a6500 are able to shoot without cropping the sensor. However, they generate far too much heat, causing them to inevitably shut down. Currently, only the Panasonic GH5 is able to shoot 4K 60p using the whole sensor.

The iPhone may not be able to fully match the quality, look, and feel of video coming from a camera with a much larger sensor, but it's still very impressive to see these features in a very pocketable and capable device.

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19 Comments

Aaron Bratkovics's picture

Good Share <3

Usman Dawood's picture

Thank you Aaron.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Yeah I wonder why a tiny piece fits in an iPhone but not into a DSLR...
How hard can it be? If someone is doing it then someone can simply copy and paste the technology.

I think it's the expense of the hardware, not the size

The design of the CPUs and GPUs in phones, and most any other product, is not something you can just "copy and paste." The most advanced part of smart phones are the CPU/GPUs running them, so Jonathan is likely correct that it is simply too expensive.

The sony xz premium is already shooting in 4k long before the i phone. Secondly ,it can shoot at 960 fps, so i don't see whats the big fuss about the i phone.

Usman Dawood's picture

If I'm not mistaken the iPhone is the first ever phone to shoot 4k at 60p which I think is definitely something to make a fuss about. There are more practical uses for that instead of 960p at a much lower resolution.

The Sony only does 30 fps at 4K resolution, and only 720p resolution at 960fps.

Spy Black's picture

What isn't obvious to people is that some cameras are simply interpolating footage up to 4k, as their sensors don't have enough resolution to record true 4k. I don't know if that's the case with the new iPhone, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Norbert Tukora's picture

"DSLRs currently do not have the processing power to be able to perform at those levels"
WRONG! Wrong on so many levels...
Cameras have way more powerful processing units then phones do because they are ASIC.

The 5DM4 has dual processors, one DIGIC 6 for metering and a DIGIC 6+ for image processing.
And the EOS-1D X Mark II has dual DIGIC 6+ processors, "allowing for a capture rate of 170 consecutive RAW images at 14 fps or 4k Video with up to 60 fps".

Even the old 5DM3 can be used with custom firmware to shoot uncompressed 1920x1080 raw, which is around 120MB/s to the card.

1. So it's not a question of processing power...
2. FF sensors record way more than those tiny ones in a phone do. They even shoot films with them, for example: 11 5DM2 was used to shoot some scenes in Mad Max: Fury road.
(http://www.recordingreviews.com/shot-on-cannon-5d-mark-ii/)
3. This article is a click bait, because you just shared a video, without adding any solid research info to back up the claims in it...

Usman Dawood's picture

It may be an idea to quote the article correctly and use the whole sentence.

Norbert Tukora's picture

Won't change the fact.
You chose a question for the title, and answered it with "the processor is ultimately the reason", which is false. And failed to provide evidence to your claim or do any research on your own.
In the end, you just made an "article" about someones youtube video.

Usman Dawood's picture

It completely changes the fact.

"Yurev describes how many DSLRs currently do not have the processing power to be able to perform at those levels and, although the sensor size plays a part, the processor is ultimately the reason"

These are not MY claims for me to defend or back up with research.

Norbert Tukora's picture

So you just copy & pasted what some random guy said on the internet and called it an article. I get it now!

I don't see the point in people dissecting semantics. The bottom line of having an iPhone 8/X that can do 4K 60fps is absolutely amazing. Pair it with a gimbal for consumer video in good light, apply LUTs, edit in iMovie and share right on the phone. There's no such dedicated camera that can do that, it's a handheld computer with networking, and we know a smartphone is not for commercial production so it's Apples to oranges anyway, no pun. Of course there are lots of other qualities beside resolution and frame rate, but 4K at 60 friggin fps in my palm! While I shoot with two 5DIVs for weddings, X+gimbal will be my go to for vacations and family memories.

1Dx mkii can shoot true 4K at 60p not UHD

Tiny compacts costing a fraction of a DSLR have enough processing power to shoot 4K and run IBIS and in some cases film simulation at the same time. The idea that a processor that Panasonic can afford to put in an LX100 - half of the cost of which is probably the fast zoom, and the next biggest cost will be the sensor - is too expensive for the 5Div requires deep idiocy. Based on industry norms for retail chain markup etc, the LX100's cpu probably costs no more than 1/20 of its selling price - and 1/50 is more likely.

And no, you don't need more CPU power for a bigger sensor - not if you skip read. Each pixel simply returns a value.

Conclusion: some hit-seeking idiot writes brainless crap, fstoppers repeats.

Usman Dawood's picture

Thank you for taking the time to read the article and leaving a comment.

A difference that has not been cited relates to the bandwidth (data rate) sustainable into the storage system. The Apple operates to internal flash, allowing (potentially) very high data rates. Most cameras write to external flash memory elements (e.g. SDXC). These memory devices be internally bandwidth constrained. More importantly, very few cameras even implement UHS-II bus interface, so they cannot leverage peak speeds of some of these external memory devices. While one can argue that intra and inter frame compression can reduce the required data rates, most of the DSLRs are targeting image-quality-conscious applications (shooting movies when one is too cheap to rent expensive Arri or RED equipment). These folks typically want to shoot RAW. The data rates for RAW 4k high frame rate are staggering. I am waiting for the DSLR makers to switch over to using an M.2 nVME memory solution. (Cheap commodity flash storage with enormous I/O bandwidth. But even with the IO rates of a Sammy 960 Pro, you'd need to stripe across at least two, to sustain uncompressed 4k RAW at 60fps.)