Three Photographer Challenge: Sony vs Fujifilm vs iPhone

Recently, two photography friends visited the Fstoppers studio on the same day. Of course, this meant I needed to plan a friendly photography competition to see once and for all who is the best photographer in the land! This challenge video comes with lots of twists and turns, but at the core, we ask the question: "can an iPhone beat an expensive $12,000 medium format mirrorless camera?" Today, we find out. 

Besides running around the world in my crazy moon boots, one of my favorite recreational activities is making Lee Morris battle Pye Jirsa in a photo competition. If you haven't seen them go toe to toe in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I highly recommend watching this photographer challenge video from just before the pandemic.

Recently, however, architectural photographer Mike Kelley was on the east coast shooting some television work, and he had the chance to drive through Charleston. It's pretty rare that all of us are stateside let alone all in one city, so instead of hanging out and enjoying each other's company, I figured a photography battle to the death would be more exciting. In the past, we have set up challenge videos with all sorts of rules, but for this one, I wanted to keep everyone in the dark for as long as possible so we could get their reactions on camera.

The Rules

Basically for this photo challenge I wanted Mike, Lee, and Pye to have to shoot the same subject. Since this time of year, it's pretty cold outside, I knew a challenge in the studio where it's warm would be the best option. For variety, I teamed up with a local friend and model Dana Robinson, and together, we came up with the concept of having three different wardrobes. As you can see in the video above, the wardrobe options gave a few of the photographers a bit of anxiety, but that also makes for great entertainment. 

Once the wardrobe was set, the second twist was the gear each photographer would have to use to complete their submission. Since our studio is filled with a good bit of Profoto strobes and a variety of different LED constant lights, those would be the two lighting options. One lucky photographer would be able to use any lighting gear they wanted, including the nice natural light we now have in our newly renovated studio space. 

With the wardrobe and lighting tools determined, I wanted the photographers to draw for who would go first. Much like deferring possession for the second half in a football game has its advantages, going last in a competition like this can give a photographer a huge leg up because you know the results of your fellow challengers. 

The final rules were pretty simple. Each photographer had 30 minutes to complete their single submission, and besides the lighting gear that was assigned to them, they could use any camera system, gear, props, backdrops, or area of the studio they wanted to build their masterpiece. Of course, heckling and sabotage were also highly encouraged.

The Results

Having been in my fair share of similar photo competitions myself, I know that it's pretty rare to come up with a truly outstanding final photograph given the circumstances. However, these contests are much like surviving a wild and hungry bear with a few buddies; you simply need to be faster than the slowest guy in the group to not get annihilated. Who could handle the high stress along with the fortune (or misfortune) of drawing the most photographic wardrobe? Let's see what the three photographers came up with.

Note: These submissions are in order of the previous online voting posts and not the order in which they were taken in the video 

Submission #1

Submission #2 

Submission #3

A Second Challenge Arises

After all the images were taken and submitted on various social media platforms to see who won, a second competition became obvious. Two photographers wound up taking two different images of the same wardrobe and set but with completely different cameras. One of the images below was shot on a $12,000 Fujifilm GFX100 setup, while the other was shot on an iPhone Pro 13. 

Is one of the images below better than the other? Could a significantly less expensive camera produce image quality that rivals a camera that costs as much as a cheap car? 

Camera One

Camera Two

Although the results are revealed in the video above, the number of votes was less than 20 people. We'd love to hear from you. Which image above is the best, and between the two camera images, which one looks the best here on the Fstoppers website?  

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10 Comments
Chris Rogers's picture

Lol this was a fun watch. I think my favorite out of all of them is Mikes. Pye And lee's are good too but Mikes is more visually interesting to me. Good job to all three of you though! The smack talking is hilarious XD

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Submission #1 - Doesn't make sense to me. There's a perfectly good comfortable couch next to her, yet she's sitting on a stool? And, that area is way cramped.

Submission #2 - I think would have been stronger without the reflection, only because of that waving/blurring on the reflection.

Submission #3 - Just nitpicking :), but, there's no excuse to have her toes hidden behind the couch.

Camera One - Would have been my pick of the two, if it didn't look like she was staring at the wall. There's no hint of a window or sun light/rays coming in. The catchlights in her eyes could be anything (eg, another lamp). Her top looks dingy like there's not enough light hitting it.

My picks: Submission #3 and Camera Two.

KDB .'s picture

That brilliantly proves, one more time, that it's the photographer, not the megapixels.
So many so-called photographers (mainly amateurs) think they NEED 100Mpix to make a decent photo... So laughable.

Stuart C's picture

Love comments like this, reminds me that my X-T2 is a perfectly usable camera.

Chris Rogers's picture

Duuuuude I love my XT2 I have an XT1 and and old ( like new :'D) D200 i still love to shoot. Wheni don;t want to carry my DLST i just grab one of my XT cameras and throw it in a small bag and go.It's friggin awesome!

Stuart C's picture

100%, I use mine for Landscape, Motorsport, Street, Birding, Light Painting, Astro, the lot… it never lets me down. Even shot my Sister in laws wedding with it.

Michael Breitung's picture

Mikes is great, but my eye immediately jumps to the foot that is cut off by the couch. I actually prefer Pyes IPhone version to be honest ;-)

And the perfectionist in me also prefers Pyes reflection shot to the other two. Glad he figured out the focus *gg*

For Lee's photo, there is too much distraction in the frame, although there's really not so much in it. But it still feels a bit chaotic.

Ted Mercede's picture

Agree w you on all your comments, with the exception of the reflection shot. The light gap at the bottom of the shot at the split is very annoying to me and kills what he is doing, at least IMO.
Also funny about the foot being cut off on Mike's shot, 1st thing i noticed as well, thinking why he didnt move the couch a bit or turn her to get both feet. Otherwise i like his shot best.

Charles Rogers's picture

If you are wanting a click bait photo to post online, no, there's no need for an expensive camera vs any phone (iPhone is hardly the best). But if you want to print it and hang it on the wall, there will NEVER be an intelligent article written with this "comparison".

Marc Perino's picture

Apart from the challenge I was just wondering the whole time that Mike has a Fuji camera now. 😅 He was a die hard fan of his "old" Canons.
I mean it totally makes sense for his photography but I was also wondering how he does it with this tilt-and-shift lenses because to my knowledge there are no T&S lenses in the Fuji lineup. Maybe adapters?