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

Previous comments

"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.

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.

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"

Aaron Bratkovics'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. :)

"Because there are more photo cameras which has the same or better results in photo and video"

^^^^ If you and a number of people are so SURE of that statement, then PLEASE help us Apple Idiots™ and point us to some verifiable and/or authoritative comparison links.

Did I say PLEASE?

Patrick Hall's picture

The reason we used the iPhone is because......it's the one we own! It's the same reason we tested the D750 instead of the 5DRs or the MK III. It's crazy how people think our videos are an advertisement for this or that brand when if push came to shove I bet most of the companies would prefer us NOT do the videos we are producing.

Anonymous's picture

Here you have one link which is comparing Cell phones cameras...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aybrBYKmqZg

You`r welcome

Seriously: THANK YOU! That was exactly what I was looking for!

They 6s and S6 are BOTH great camera-phones, each having unique strengths and weakness... yet more than capable when averaged together for a score. I do believe the 6sPlus should've received more screen time... but regardless, a really thorough GREAT review(!)

I was really impressed with the front-facing camera and overall better mic quality on the S6. And of course the natural color rendering of iPhones. Camera RAW format for Samsung would alleviate that advantage, and also IMO put the S6 ahead of the iPhone.

If these were only going to be used as cameras, dare I say it would be the same Canikon debate and war. But these are NOT only camera systems, so now it all depends on which OS you're most invested in, feel comfortable with AND you can trust that you will receive at least 2 years worth of security, support and updates.... and a little love from developers and usable apps.

Anonymous's picture

I can not help you anymore ..... you already chosen your path ...

Felix Wu's picture

There are so many iPhone articles in a short period of time, too many that I actually missed the last one! But honestly while it's entertaining to watch your videos the result from the iPhone6s shoot wasn't what I'd hope for. I mean those shots were heavily retouched even though you tried to BTS your setup. I think they were a bit too complex and unnecessary for iPhone snaps. Snap with natural light and find natural reflector and call it a day. The model (or neighbour your called) look good partially due to retouching.

In short, I was hoping to see you guys could jump out of the box to shoot it differently from what a normal fashion photographer would have done with their camera. I'm being critical i know. ; )

Did you or anyone stating "those shots were heavily retouched" take a look at the model's profile photos on Facebook? , Mel T - https://www.facebook.com/the.mela.t

Not all, but a fair number of her pictures are retouched with a very "heavy hand" to say the least, and any of the pictures that Lee took would fit in far better with the "natural but enhanced" editing that many people including the models like rather well.

AND... for the 50% of the people that can only exclaim "I wish I had a top-model looking neighbor":

1) creativity knows absolutely no bounds whatsoever regarding the subject. YES.. even a granny, "odd-looking" or simply everyday face in the crowd can be photographed to be interesting and go viral. No bikini necessary... uh... well they should be wearing something(!)

...and...

2) step up your game, work your butt off, take chances that your vision or idea might cause controversy... stand behind it 100%... and maybe YOU TOO can afford to live in an area where the chances of ***having a neighbor like Mel T*** are slightly better than average.

*** Seriously, I'm not sure if it's an advantage at all, and very well could be an unwelcome distraction to getting things done... but y'all have to ask Lee on that one, and individual preferences and discipline might vary ;)

Felix Wu's picture

There are many different ways of retouching. What I was saying was that instead of using good lighting to shape, much contouring was applied to make (or enhance) model's face look more 3D. It's fine since almost everybody does fashion retouching is doing it but I guess I was expecting a more creative SOOC approach since we are using iPhone.

There's no need to live in a rich area to get model neighbours. If the photographer is good models will find you. Maybe Mel moved in there because of Lee. ; )

Patrick Hall's picture

I think there comes a point when you begin to realize that everything you see has been retouched. Even the most chiseled faces still have dodge and burn done to accentuate the contours. I'm not much of a retoucher but what I did was very very common in the industry. I tried a few new techniques that altered tone a lot but I never used any liquifying or cloning tools to change Mela's face in anyway (except maybe some hair here and there). Making a person's face look 3d is a skill that every photographer should invest more in because like it or not it is the retouching that will take your work and business to the next level. Don't get left behind in the game, make sure you get the best models, the best locations, the best concepts, and the best retouching.

Felix Wu's picture

Where is the line though? I agree that every photographer should be able to make the subject look 3D, but that's by carefully placing the light, choosing the modifiers and positioning your subject. If your article and videos were about photographic skills then it should have been proven on set, not in post. Yeah we live in a world that Photoshop seems to be able to achieve everything but that's not the point of why photography was so fascinating at the first place. Don't let the world drift you, aim high and set a high standard.

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