The iPhone 6s Takes Better Video Than My Professional Nikon DSLR

Yesterday we released the iPhone Bikini Shoot, a video in which I do a professional quality photoshoot with minimal gear. The point of the video wasn't to say that the iPhone was a better camera than a professional DSLR, it was meant to inspire photographers to use the gear they currently own to create beautiful images. Obviously the iPhone is infinitely worse than any current DSLR for stills but surprisingly it appears to be a far better video camera than my $3000 DSLR when there is enough light present. 

You may have seen my 4k comparison video released last week in which I put the Sony AR7II up against the iPhone 6s. Thankfully the $4500 Sony 4k system out performed the iPhone but the footage from the phone was still incredible. Someone suggested that I compare the iPhone's video footage to our go-to cameras (Nikon D810s and D750s). I used a Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 lens and locked it at around 35mm. I did some color/contrast tests and found that the footage out of both cameras looked about the same if I set the Nikon to "neutral." I then walked around a park near our office and grabbed a few shots. It was impossible to tell which footage looked best in the field but once we got back to the office the comparison was pretty shocking. The iPhone's 4k footage downscaled to 1080p was significantly better than the Nikon D750.

"You're an idiot, the iPhone sucks in low light and you can't capture shallow depth of field or easily add lenses."

Thanks for your brilliant observation, stereotypical internet commenter. Obviously image quality in bright light is only one of many details to consider when it comes to comparing video cameras but it's still pretty freakin' important. 

I'm not mad that the iPhone can take amazing video, I'm totally impressed with it. I'm just mad that consumer level products are getting features that professionals have been wanting for quite some time. Sony has been taking over the market by adding the features that photographers and videographers really want while Canon has been putting 4k footage in their ultra expensive line of cameras and Nikon is leaving it out altogether. 

Usually new features cost a premium at a professional level and overtime the technology trickles down to the affordable consumer level. Why is it that 4k and Raw video seems to be showing up in the ultra expensive and ultra cheap markets while completely skipping the mid level products? I just want my camera to shoot footage that is at least comparable to the world's most common smartphone. Is that too much to ask? 

And let me remind you. I don't want 4k video so that I can export video in 4k. There are many other reasons to shoot 4k

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117 Comments

Anonymous's picture

I'm too lazy to upload an obligatory "I just came here for the comments" meme

Austin Rogers's picture

I bet you thought it was going to be Michael. Instead, I give you Dwayne.

Ernesto Gonzalez's picture

Ouch Lee, it looks like Sony is making waves in the Nikon market. ;-)

Michael Kormos's picture

Dear fstoppers,
As a your reader, I write to your editorial staff with much concern. I think the # of articles written lately about the greatness of the latest iPhone is starting to outnumber the # of articles written about the greatness of buying gray-market professional camera equipment.

Frankly, I don't know which is worse..

Alex Xander's picture

Agreed, fstoppers is starting to turn into click bait.

Patrick Hall's picture

Ha this would only be true if the content wasn't true. Unfortunately the iPhone takes better slow motion and ultra HD video than most every DSLR out on the market....and that in my opinion is news worthy.

Qashrul Hidafi's picture

I agree with you Patrick and I agreee with Lee for doing this video in the hope that Nikon (and Canon) would introduce 4K video into their next line of DSLRs because obviously they can!

Doc Pixel's picture

I sincerely tried warning you guys that this was about to happen. I guess I need to use less snark to be taken seriously around here.

Y'all need to "lighten" up! (D*mn it... there I go again!)

shane daly's picture

hey here is a novel idea... how about a DSLR that is only a DSLR... if you want video go buy a video camera.. I hate that the cost of a new still camera includes video, something I will never use it for.

Mateo no's picture

Yea. The first 5D retailed for $3,300 body only. The second added video and retailed for $3,000 body only. How dare they add features and... lower the price?

Ok, Nikon tended to charge more money when they went from no video to video, but even still: The Nikon DF tried the whole "no video" option, and it was significantly MORE expensive than the closest Nikon to it, the Nikon D610.

Video is 90% software, 10% a button. In truth, since any given brand's cameras run the same basic software underneath, they have to pay engineers and/or programmers to change all the menus and adjust it for remove said feature. So if they remove it, it would actually cost them man hours.

Now, if they removed all of the features that facilitate video, or come somewhat from attempts to make the cameras able to shoot good video, you might be able to reduce the price. Features such as the HDMI port, live view, "silent shutter". Not to mention faster processors and memory card access, which also help still images. Also, add that (good/high quality)video feature and MORE people will buy said camera to use for video, which means economies of scale will REDUCE the price. Seriously, you will never be able to remove a feature you don't want to make a camera cheaper. The more niche a product is, the less it will sell. The broader audience it appeals to, the more it will sell, the cheaper it can be.

Anonymous's picture

I think you should focus of the topic of fstop-ers... so if this think can not manage or adjust f-stop is not worth to be reviewed .... as simple as it is.

Nathilien Thilsa's picture

As any flagship Android phone would do.
Telling just half of the truth is not telling the truth at all, rather shilling a bit on the side.

Travis Alex's picture

I agree with your feelings on this. One is because of their giant Bias towards Apple, two is because the iPhone 6s photo and video quality is crap compared to the LG G4 and Sony Xperia, but also because of this junk lately.

Matt C's picture

You can't put the D750 on neutral and then complain about color, contrast, etc. Neutral is going to have less contrast, less color, on purpose. That's the point of the mode. I'd be very interested to see this comparison done with proper settings.

Lee Morris's picture

I had it set to standard at first and the blacks were too crushed. It looked even worse in "standard"

Matt C's picture

Fair enough

Mister Mike's picture

Eh, kinda. He still could have gone in post to adjust the colors. It's also crazy to complain about a D750 not shooting 4k. 1) it's a photo camera first, 2) it came out at the end of 2014 when 4k still wasn't the primary resolution for most video (and still isn't), and no full-frame camera was doing 4k internally.

Eric Lefebvre's picture

"1) it's a photo camera first"
And the Iphone is a phone first a camera second.

"it came out at the end of 2014 when 4k still wasn't the primary resolution for most video"

My Galaxy Note 4 does 4K and it came out in October 2014.

4K has been in cellphones for two years or more but even brand new DSLRs form canon or Nikon don't have internal 4K.

Mister Mike's picture

1) [Smart]Phones have become far more than just a calling feature. They're more of a media device than they are a communication (calls). Apps have been on phones forever, too, so are you going to rail Nikon for not having apps yet? Honestly, receiving an uncompressed 1080p is still an issue/rarity for most home consumers.

2) Dude, come on. 4K in a small sensor is not the same as 4K in a large sensor. There are far more issues with heating in a large sensor than a sensor the size in a phone.Even Sony didn't do it (internal 4k) until this year, and they have troubles with it in full frame. Not to mention they compress the file more than larger cameras that do 4K.

Eric Lefebvre's picture

1) And just like smartphone evolved into more than a simple communications device, DSLRs have evolved from simply a stills device to video.

2) Yes ... there are more issues such as heat but you also have a casing that is 10X bigger and pros who wouldn't really mind a small increase in the size of a dslr body to accomodate needed changes.

It's true that 4K from a phone suffers fromt he pitfalls of a small sensor but other DSLR manufacturers are somehow managing it ... the GH4 for example (yes, I know it's a M43 ... still intergeangeable lenses and same form factor).

It's annoying that Canon and Nikon are crippling their pro and prosumer tier gear.

Mister Mike's picture

No one is disagreeing that DSLR are for more than stills. However, I'm still willing to wager that a majority of DSLRs are used for stills FIRST. I'd be more willing to wager that people uses their SMARTphones for other things (surfing internet, apps/social media/texts) than they do to make actual calls. There was even a recent article saying DSLRs being used for video is trending downward (however, that could be b/c of mirrorless).

The GH4? The sensor is smaller, you even said it yourself. Not to be rude, but it kind of brings an end to the argument. The amount of information and the transferring rate needed for that information (esp if pixel binning is involved) generates more heat with larger sensors.

It IS annoying that Canon and Nikon cripple their cameras. However, I'm not going to freakout over camera released in Septer 2014 and base it off 2015 standards. Even Sony users are running into issues with 4k video, and are "restricted" to crop mode 35mm. I whole-heartedly agree that CanNikon need to step it up, I'm just not in the mindset that 4k video in an older body is reason to write an article about. If the D5, D820, 5DmkIV don't have it, then I'd have to raise an eyebrow.

Josh Diaz's picture

My Gh4 released mid 2014 shooting not only 4k but it is still head to head with the Sony a7rII. So hey, don´t say the cost goes up or that its unfair. Shame that micro 4 3 is doing 4k and the "beautiful low light" full frame market isn't.

shane daly's picture

hey here is a novel idea... how about a DSLR that is only a DSLR... if you want video go buy a video camera.. I hate that the cost of a new still camera includes video, something I will never use it for.

Alex Xander's picture

It would be a lot more interesting to see a colorist work with both files. I have a hard time believing the iphone would hold up to much grading, not that the Nikon would either, but would at least fair a bit better.

This is like comparing point and shoot cameras to DSLRs. You can get similar results in ideal conditions, but that doesn't make the point and shoot better.

Patrick Hall's picture

I think the problem is most photographers want to believe that fancy glass and larger sensors actually makes a HUGE difference...but at f5.6 or 8 it actually makes less a difference than you would think. Also with video, so many pixels are thrown out for the final image. This is where smaller sensors like the iPhone are actually beating quality cameras because they have fine tuned their sensors with their file compression. Unfortunately Nikon seems to careless about making quality files for their video users.

Matt C's picture

I think with the upper-tier nikons especially they're more geared for just making great photos. The D750 in particular is going to basically kill anything else image quality wise, with a few notable exceptions. I think you'd have a lot more luck with mirrorless cameras vs. the iPhone 6s, since SLRs are just not really built with video in mind.

Patrick Hall's picture

I don't think it's fair to say because a camera doesn't have a mirror then it must be intrinsically better at video than a DSLR. The Fuji X-t1 was horrible with video and didn't even have manual control until the last firmware upgrade. The truth is, the image quality on the d810 and d750 really are about maxed out for the typical application. Video shouldn't be neglected and in Nikon's case, they outsource their sensors from Sony so it's even more crazy they can't improve their video quality.

Travis Alex's picture

I completely and utterly disagree with you in all shapes and forms. You are kidding right?

Doc Pixel's picture

You mean like this one from the guys at RGG EDU?

iPhone 6S Plus Review | Initial Thoughts, Color Grading, Dynamic Range, & 4k Quality

https://youtu.be/JcOhZMvhxkw

Joacim Schwartz's picture

I have to say, when there are loads of small details (like the gladiator scene) the iPhone looked horrible, even in some part of the darks the noise and pixelation is unusable.

Other then that, impressive for being h.264.

August Young's picture

"Thanks for your brilliant observation" lol ignorant newbs

Spy Black's picture

"The iPhone 6s Takes Better Video Than My Professional Nikon DSLR"

So does my Sony RX100 III. Probably better quality than the iPhone too, and it far more versatile than the iPhone.

Patrick Hall's picture

Doesn't that kind of piss you off though Spy? Your cheaper camera can out do the professional and more versatile option?

Spy Black's picture

Not really. Time and technology march on. Let's face it, DSLR video was an afterthought from the word go. It was end-users that made it the cottage industry it became. Camera manufacturers just went along for the ride. When users started demanding more video quality from their DSLRs, they were either ignored (Nikon), or scheistered on (Canon). Ironically enough, it's been the 4\3rds market where video technology has gone where it should have gone in the DSLR market.

Travis Alex's picture

RX100 M3 is amazing.

Kawika Lopez's picture

Im glad articles like this are coming out not because I'm an Apple fan boy, but exactly what Lee said at the end. I hope Nikon and Canon wake up and really start to recognize some of the features that are becoming standard in the industry. It would be so great to have these features paired up with Nikon optics or the Canon color. If a cell phone is out pacing them in any way, that deserves a little attention.

Boyd Marcotte's picture

It might be just a matter of semantics, but I think what you've really proven is just that 4K is better than 1080p which I don't think anyone was arguing against. Yes, DSLRs should be offering 4K but to frame it as Nikon/Canon sucks and Apple is da bomb is a little disingenuous. My old tube TV isn't as good as my high tech flat screen but I never expected it to be.

I do agree that the old school SLR makers are behind the ball with video, but the results of your test should not be the devastating, unexpected shock that it appears to be to you.

Lee Morris's picture

I don't think it's a simple as "all 4K is better than any 1080". I can make any video 4K by interpolation. Older cellphones used to have huge megapixel ratings but they still couldn't capture any detail. The iPhone is actually capturing an amazing amount of detail.

Anonymous's picture

Did you really just equate recording at a given resolution to using software to increase resolution?

Christopher Camp's picture

There's no way I'm the only one who preferred the Nikon footage over the iPhone here. However, I'd prefer the iPhone footage if I wasn't shooting something pro. Pretty simple.

Patrick Hall's picture

Did you really? Our whole office watched the footage Lee shot and we were all like "woah, the Nikon footage looks horrible next to the iPhone"

Christopher Camp's picture

The sharpening is what makes the iPhone footage unusable professionally. If I was candidly recording life's moments, sure I'd go with the iPhone. But anything pro...I don't know. Motion also looked terrible on the iPhone due to the shutter speed.

Bryan Dockett's picture

No it's doesn't bother me at all. We're at a point were smartphones not just the iphone (because apple is kinda late to the party) are using and pushing the bleeding edge of tech and usually within 6 months there's an spec bump or refresh. I do applaud Sony for what they are doing but the camera industry in general doesn't work like that. And if it did people wouldn't possible be more pissed because they upgraded too soon.....
Also isn't comparing 4k to 1080p like saying hey my 16mp file is sharper then your 4mp. But IDK i'm not a video guy.

Travis Alex's picture

I don't think your Canon Fangirl status could be showing any harder here.

When canon offers a free form/non locking AF point system, when they get on the level of Nikon's Dynamic range and ISO performance with photos, when they stop trying to shove Megapixels down peoples throats instead of the best of quality of images they can, when they improve that garbage auto focus system, I'll gladly consider them.

You are not wrong about the consumer features to some degree, however, a lot of the consumer features offered most do not take advantage of.

To say the 750 is not a professional grade camera though? You're out of line and completely wrong. Get your facts straight.

Travis Alex's picture

You're adorable!

Question: Are you a sheep in human clothing? Judging from your port here, I'd say you fit right in to the average Canon user. All tech, mostly lifestyle, no substance. Exactly what I expect...Puppet.

Second question: How often do you shoot above 4000? Are you shooting sports? If you were, cool, I agree with you, since you don't, your argument has 0 ground. Sorry you need the 8000th of a second so you can always keep your lens at 1.4-2.8. Have you shot any other aperture? Judging by your highlights and over exposing, you probably have never heard of an "ND" filter either.

If you are going to insult me, please try harder. My impression of you is as followed after your glorious display:

Jaron Schneider's picture

Panasonics aren't DSLRs. They're mirrorless. Stop using DSLRs and you'll be a lot happier.

Though the next Nikon camera is going to use the Sony a7R II sensor so you'll probably get your 4K wish.

Patrick Hall's picture

I don't understand this argument people are making that because something is mirrorless it is better at video. At the end of the day it's just a sensor with a lens in front of it even for a DSLR in live view. The Fuji mirrorless cameras are horrible for video and the Canon 7D was really good. The issue shouldn't be "don't shoot on DSLRs because mirrorless do it better"....it should be "DSLRs need to up their game because they can actually produce better video than 4/3 mirrorless cameras if given the research and development"

aaronbratkovics's picture

Well it will make me capturing footage at my local crossfit box easier. Come onnnn upgrade haha.

Anonymous's picture

I just want to ask .. Is this all a Iphone advert ?
Because there are more photo cameras which has the same or better results in photo and video ... but you are mentioning only iphone....
Why not call it all My cellphone can do better then.....

Eric Lefebvre's picture

Because the word "IPhone" draws more eyeballs than just "Smartphone"? Aldo, probably because that's what he owns. :)

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