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
Scott Mosley's picture

but that is kind of (well, not exactly) like saying that a particular raw d750 image looks worse on my computer than the iPhone jpeg does (especially in terms of color reproduction). The d750 image, like d750 video, should be edited to taste, and there is way more image in there than you are able to see by the poor in-camera grading. My biggest problem is that Nikon hasn't created a better system for in-camera processing i guess.
[UPDATE:I added one example of this from a quick youtube search with 50mm @f11 between standard profile and graded flat profile, and even thought the exposure is weird you can see what the difference could be. I will do my own test and post it as well]

Scott Mosley's picture

hmmmn, upload really shrunk it down small...

Scott Mosley's picture

did you export the 6s footage and re-import before you punched in to 200%?

I did not. I considered it but I didn't want to double export it and then have Youtube compress a third time.

Scott Mosley's picture

that is a contributing factor in how the image is actually downscaled, and would hurt your argument a bit. Still, a big fan of this post and think it is a great discussion to have about the future of nikon products

Joacim Schwartz's picture

Lee or Patric: How did the iPhone look when using 1080 instead of downscaling the footage? Just as bad as Nikon or still better? I know that it's not showing of the phones full potential, but still, might be good to know.

I noticed that, even if Nikon looks blurry, some parts has some heavy artifacts/pixelations when there are huge amount and small details, e.g. the grass behind the child that runs. Is that in the video or is it youtube-shenanigans?

I tested this as well but the NIKON was in standard mode and a bit more contrasty than the iPhone. I still think the iPhone looked better though but it wasn't huge.

Henry Louey's picture

The most important question.

What happens if your iPhone receives a call during filming :-p

Anonymous's picture

Great question! I never thought of that.

Facundo Luzardo's picture

I was about to go on a commenting rage when I got to the end and you finally mentioned the the Samsung phone (S6). Still I wish someone would have done this 5 month ago when the S6 came out.
The Verge, in their comparison of the 6s, S6 and LGG4 gave the edge quite a few times to Samsung, a phone that came out way before the Iphone 6s.
I guess is Samsung´s fault for not knowing how to create a fan boy culture.

Hey Hello Lee, well can i sugegst you to amke another test? can you even compare with another phone, for example samsung s6 edge, which many test say is the best camera mounted in phone, or the lg g4 which look also pretty good,
You know, many jsut hate apple so they can think you got pay for this this video or jsut i dont know, people are crazy, they will ever found a reason to insult you , but in any case add more gear to the compairson it will be better :) thanks

I would but there are just a ton of videos online that have already done this. I think it's been proven that the iPhone is not the best camera anymore.

Eric Duminil's picture

Do I really want to look at videos at 200%, though?

Mary Ann Wamboldt's picture

I just got the iPhone 6 last week so I have really been enjoying the recent iPhone posts. I normally take video with my Nikon but decided to try doing video with my new iPhone just this past weekend at a paintball field in Quebec. The video was amazing and the slowmo feature was very cool, especially when the players where running down the field toward me. The video stabilization in the iPhone is fantastic. I can take hand held video with the iPhone with very minimal shake something that is difficult to do with my Nikon.

I really enjoyed the iPhone Bikini shoot video, not because it was done with an iPhone but because it illustrated the point that the camera is not the most important thing when taking a photo, it is knowing how to use it. For a person who loves photography but may only have just camera phone that video proves that you can take fantastic pictures with just some know how and imagination. Sometimes the best camera is the one you have in your hand. :-)

user-55486's picture

Lee, I am not an iPhone user nor will I ever be for that matter BUT I found this article/video to be great! Photography has always been and will always be about LIGHT! I feel you about how Canon & Nikon are being left behind by how far the mobile market has come in the media department. How will Canon & Nikon respond? Probably very slowly unfortunately.

Travis Alex's picture

Hey Fstoppers,

Shut up about the iPhone 6s Plus. No one gives crap. Get back to real articles about professional photography.

Also, your fault for buying into Apples garbage. The iPhone camera has been outdone by the LG G4 and Sony Xperia, you got duped and suckered in by marketing. Deal with it.

My 3 iphone posts are the three most popular posts of the week and they got you to comment multiple times.

Travis Alex's picture

Wait, seriously? That's your comeback?

So the number of comments make for a good article? If that's the case, every Instagram photo is a modern art masterpiece and life's gift to humanity.

Also, because of the giant amounts of apple drones who have no idea what other options their are other than apple? Sorry, I don't have shiny object syndrome. I actually do research before I buy something, and don't just buy what everyone else does because it's easy.

Come on man. You sound like the guy at a get together with friends, who won't stop talking about his new iPhone, because he has nothing else to talk about.

I think your iPhone might start to be representing more than just tech specs for you good sir.

This is a photography/tech blog. We create content that people want to see. This video has more views and interaction than 95% of everything else on this site.

Travis Alex's picture

Considering you are a major photo tech outlet, you can easily sway/manipulate that viewership, so the numbers? Why do they matter exactly or mean anything?

Because we wouldn't exist without readers and so we tend to produce content that the majority of people like. Just because you don't like the iPhone doesn't mean that it isn't worth posting about.

Travis Alex's picture

Not what I am discussing at all. I'll end my thoughts at this point.

Paulo Macedo's picture

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Paulo Macedo's picture

My OnePlus One with a Sony Exmor IMX 214 shoots 4K...it does so since last year...no one bats an eye..
My...well, demonized android phone shoots 4K DCI @ 25fps, quite impressive but I can't focus on a subject leaving the background blured, neither I have f1.2 lenses around for extreme bokeh. It might have better video, and I believe it does, because my phone gets way more detail than my EOS 6D, but the lack of lens choice makes it a no go for me. What makes DSLR video great is the cinematic look, the way you can use Bokeh for your own sake.
But yeah, 4K RAW video would make my day on a DSLR, I don't shoot video, but I would love to play with some RAW footage and color grading...

How are you getting the video from the D750 - are you using the HDMI cable or getting the file off the chip? On my Nikon DSLR, the output that goes to the HDMI appears to be the same resolution as the display on the back of the camera, which is way less than the actual resolution of the file.

Patrick Hall's picture

We film directly to memory cards.

Denis Sokol's picture

Let's wait for the new Sony Xperia first, then will see who is the winner ;)
Actually, honest comparison would be if compare for difficult shooting conditions, such as moon landscapes, long exposure shots, astro, portraits, macro, general HDR, etc. Otherwise, especially if you just posting your travels to socials, you don't need a camera - phone is enough.