Can They Get This Right? iPhone 14 Pro Versus $5,000 Camera

Phone photography has reached the point where it's good enough for online consumption, but can those photos keep up their appearance printed large? 

A few months ago, I posted my annual comparison between the newest iPhone and current professional setup. This year's results from the iPhone 14 Pro blew me away, but still had many people unconvinced. Skepticism was expected when I claimed boldly that I could print some of the photos I took professionally, meaning they were strong enough to end up on a client's wall. Instead of taking my word for it, I decided to find out from random people if they could tell the difference between the images taken with my iPhone 14 Pro or my Canon R5.

Sunrise taken on iPhone 14 Pro | 24mm Apple Pro raw

Sunset Blue Hour taken on iPhone 14 Pro | 24mm Apple Pro raw

I had two different scenes printed by The Print Space, who graciously provided these prints for this comparison. I picked a sunrise and blue hour shot from my comparison, as these are most representative of the iPhone 14 Pro's strengths and weaknesses. If you missed my original article comparing the devices, I edited the Canon R5 image first to the exact point I'd typically edit any of my images, then I did my absolute best to match the iPhone 14 Pro image to the Canon R5 image.

Upscaling Images in ON1 Resize

After processing, I upscaled both images using ON1 Resize to poster size (24"x36"). I highly recommend using upscaling software anytime you're printing large, no matter what camera took the images. This will always give you better results than your printing service sizing the image themselves. The sunrise photo was printed on Fuji C-Type Matte, and the blue hour shot was printed on Hahnemühle Photorag.

Instead of elevating my opinion on the results, I decided to visit my old college campus and see if people passing by could pick out which image was taken by the iPhone 14 Pro and which by my professional mirrorless camera. You can watch that experience and find the results in the above video.

Here are a few more images I've taken over the last couple months on my iPhone 14 Pro. I'd love to hear your thoughts below or even see a few of the photos you've captured with a new phone. It's pretty incredible just how far they've come and how much we can do with a single device. 

Alex Armitage's picture

Alex Armitage has traveled the world to photograph and film some of the most beautiful places it has to offer. No matter the location, perfecting it's presentation to those absent in the moment is always the goal; hopefully to transmute the feeling of being there into a visual medium.

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An interesting experiment to be sure and it highlights how much cell phone cameras have improved over time. What this reveals for me is that for particular applications and with the right light and post processing, a cell phone image can come close to the results of an MILC. It is clear that this wouldn't hold for every case, for example sports, wildlife, racing, extremes of light, etc. Thanks for sharing.

I shot this last year on my iPhone SE2, which is obviously an older phone, but when I post it on Twitter, where I don't indicate which camera I used, it doesn't get noted as being not shot on an ILC. So far (aside from the resolution issue, which now can be dealt with in software), I feel the iPhones work well in ideal conditions, but are beaten by ILCs when more control is needed to overcome obstacles such as poor lighting, backlighting, fast action, and distance (amongst others). The pic was edited in CR and PS, just like I do with my R6 shots.

I really don't like the white edge above the trees.

Yes, I was a bit lazy when editing.

I honestly don’t understand the constant obsession that some people have trying to prove that an iPhone is as good as a proper camera. Really what’s the point? Do you NOT like cameras? Are you just a fanboy and are trying to justify the $1000+ price tag these phones have now a days? Do you NOT like photography so you’d rather just use a point and shoot because in the end that’s all a phone really is?

It’s like being a chef and saying “I don’t actually like cooking or using my quality pots, pans, and knifes, nor using my professional kitchen. No, I’d rather just use this microwave over here.”

Fun comparison. I wonder how much using the tripod is contributing to image quality. I usually decide between bringing the big boy camera + tripod or "just taking my phone", but not my phone + a small tripod.

Really awesome video. I know we've wanted to make a video like this for a long time but using JPEG vs RAW converted images. The fact that most people can't easily tell the difference between iphone and pro camera images makes me think the Raw and Jpeg argument would be even tougher (so long as the photos are captured well in jpeg of course).

I’m amused that because I phones do other things they can’t be proper or real cameras. I’m old enough to remember folks said the same about all 35mm cameras. They were cameras of course (since they didn’t do anything else) but they weren’t real cameras and certainly not professional cameras.

To be fair, 35mm film never did achieve resolution even close to that of larger formats. In fact, the effective resolution ISO 100 35mm film, in terms of line pairs per image height, would generally not even be at the level of the iPhone, to say nothing of dedicated camera platforms. An A7 R2 is a dramatically more powerful camera than any 35mm camera ever was, at least in terms of resolving power.

The images as shown on f-stoppers are less than 1.5 megapixels, so obviously you won't be able to tell the difference on this site. Images are also taken in good light + non-moving subjects, so the weaknesses of the tiny iphone sensor won't be pushed too much.

I think it's widely known that editing, composition, and scene are the most important aspects of photography. That being said, i'm guessing for your professional work you haven't sold off your $5,000 camera.

What stands out to me the most is the quality of light and composition in these photos.

Truly the iphone 14 Pro photos break apart less than before in relationship to ILC, I noticed my 14PM still struggles with exposure in challenging light say photographing tree branches going towards a street light on a winter night gave me unacceptable results and flairs it took a couple minutes of tinkering by moving coser/further, trying out main senser/2x crop vs telephoto to give me a result that looked like what I saw or close enough and with persistence. I was surprised because it wasn't something I was used to with my Nikon Z6, but because I sold it I couldn't supplement my phone in this situation where it was so difficult to get a good result, perhaps that stand alone camera would get an excellent result, like being able to optically zoom to a portrait focal length and not get much flares with it? Or also perhaps benefit from the stand alone cameras much larger senser for detail, although the iPhone has lidar so maybe next time I'll try touch focus.