$5,000 Pro Camera vs iPhone 13 Pro: Can You See the Difference?

Apple boasts that their new phone's cameras are better than ever, but how good are they? In this real-world comparison, I capture multiple challenging scenes with very impressive results. Can you identify which photos are from the iPhone 13 Pro and the Canon R5?

Without diving too deep into the changes from last year's model, one of the major changes is the sensor size of the main camera — nearly double what it was on the iPhone 12 Pro. With a larger sensor, the new iPhone can capture up to 84% more light than last year's model, which inherently provides substantial image quality improvements. Lee Morris covered many of the sensor and camera improvements over last years model if you're interested in a breakdown of everything new. Considering my phone was reaching close to four years old, I was very curious just how good the new cameras could be, and I was honestly blown away. 

Throughout these tests, I shot in raw on both my Canon R5 and iPhone 13 Pro. I used the app ProCam to control the camera settings of the iPhone, specifically keeping the ISO as low as possible to give the best results possible. All shots on the Canon R5 were taken at f/8 or f/11, ISO 100, and on a tripod. The wide angle photos were taken with an adapted Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L, and the telephoto photos were taken with an adapted Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II

All images were edited using only Lightroom Classic. I thought the most genuine way to do this comparison was to edit the Canon R5 photos just as I would if I was editing them for my portfolio. Then, I would do my best to see if the iPhone could match. Lastly, throughout these comparisons, the camera labels change, meaning camera "A" will not be the same camera throughout the tests. 

Sunrise Light

Sunrise conditions can be challenging for any modern-day camera. Scenes can have such large ranges of light that capturing shadow and highlight detail in a single raw file might not even be possible. Such conditions of light are typically not scenes that a phone can capture very well, thus I didn't have high hopes when I was out in the field. I was quite surprised by both images I walked away with involving two different types of light.

This first scene was taken before the sun had come up with some beautiful blue hour tones. This wasn't necessarily a challenging shot for dynamic range, but I was curious how the iPhone would handle the color tones within the clouds while resolving detail in the shadows. Also, note how both cameras captured the soft light on the fence.

About 30 minutes later, the lighting conditions changed dramatically, and this is where I expected the iPhone to fall behind. The results here speak for themselves in that both cameras handled a much larger dynamic range with ease. I'll admit I was even bracketing shots on my Canon R5 in case I couldn't capture it all in a single file, but for this comparison, I only used a single exposure. Can you tell which shot is the iPhone?

Midday Light

I wanted to do a test that gave the best chance for the iPhone to succeed. Midday shots also happen to be when the majority of us use our phones to take photos. It's rare many of us would wake up for sunrise, waiting for the perfect light, and only use a phone to capture a scene. Thus, this comparison was absolutely where the iPhone should have excelled, and that it did.

Even though this was a midday shot, taken around noon, I patiently waited nearly an hour for the clouds to cast a shadow on the road while cascading light onto the Aspens in the distance. This added a bit more dynamic range to the images but nothing either camera couldn't handle. 

Telephoto Sunrise

I wanted to get a sunset shot, but after a few attempts, the conditions never quite worked out; thus, this last test was taken during sunrise. Thankfully, the conditions for this sunrise were different enough than the first test to not overlap too much. This test is also using the 77mm telephoto lens on the iPhone 13 Pro that uses a smaller sensor compared to the main 26mm wide camera. This should mean the image quality isn't comparable, but you might be surprised by the results. 

These moody shots were taken with barely any light hitting the valley. The absence of color and stark contrast warranted converting them to black and white as well. Can you pick out the iPhone?

What felt like forever because somehow it got colder as the sun came up and in reality was only 30 minutes, the light finally started to touch the peaks. These aren't award-winning photos by any means but I wanted to test the range of the iPhone's telephoto camera. Miraculously I was able to capture quite a lot of highlight and shadow detail in a single raw to the point where I was incredibly impressed during the edit. The amount of shadow recovery in the raw files felt like more than my old Canon 6D. 

Having a capable telephoto camera means in the future that I could capture panoramic images that make up for the missing megapixels of the phone's cameras. 

Conclusion and Results

I went into this comparison expecting the iPhone to do well when given enough light but to struggle in conditions such as blue hour or wide ranges of light. I came away being completely blown away by its ability to capture such tough scenes and just how much data was in the raw files. Some of you might want to see the photos a bit larger, so I'm including a gallery below where you can pixel-peep a bit more.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this was as fun to try to figure out as it was for me to make. 

The photos that are the iPhone are: A, A, B, B, B. How many did you get right?

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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Pretty impressive, the only slight give away is the tonality in the shadows, but that might be how they are edited

Proof positive that my iPhone 13 Max (1TB) is very weak when it comes to dynamic range and sharpness. My R5 is always clipped to the shoulder strap (Peak Design) to my backpack (daily driver) for quick access. If I need just a 'snapshot' for research then I pull out my iPhone. If I plan on editing and/or selling the images then it's no contest as the full-frame 45mp images gets the job done. I love having both cameras with me as I have at least two tools to use for the job at hand.

This comparison would have been a lot more useful if you'd have posted the original images.

I agree. Showing already processed photos doesn't make sense for this comparison.

Personally I disagree because that doesn't show (to me) how good (or not) the final result can be after processing. We don't publish, print or sell original images. What we need to know is how malleable the files are and how close after editing.

actually this is more fair because the photographer shoot RAW on his camera and then edit, so he did the same with smartphone.
1st RAW original unedited files are not photos . original would be much worst then
2nd you probably mean JPG which is how smartphone and point and shoot cameras are meant to be used. But this will not be fair enough except if he shoot JPG on both cameras.
A) If both phones were set on JPG the iPhone would win because its processing straight out of camera is much better
B If he shoot JPG for iPhone and then RAW for Camera , Camera would blown away the iphone sure.
3)RAW files are unprocessed photos which keeps much more information/detail etc to work on post processing. . But because Smartphone uses AI and HDR techniques on pre-processing JPG it means it doesnt when shoot in RAW.

I did like the Canon shots slightly better - simply looking at it on my smartphone.

I don't quite get the matching process. I mean at 72dpi it's not too hard to match things, just like at screen resolution you can get pretty close to matching a cmyk to an rgb if you have the original and experience with cmyk. In fact color matching isn't something to hard at any resolution if you have a good starting point. I would have preferred a true independent process from a R5 Raw and I iphone 13 raw without trying to match. Make the 2 RAW files available. I see many comparison tests but extremely rarely have I seen someone actually provide the raw files.

I could share a few RAWs from the comparison! Just need to figure out where I can host them.

well, i've checked the exif data and it says it a iphone 13 pro and canon r5. they both been edited in lightroom. But from what i've noticed their is a gap of about one hour between the shots of the iphone and the canon. the canon been shot in about 1 hour difference. the canon been shot earlier when there have been less light.. and the iphone an hour later. by looking into the data it seems that in comparison there are shots on the iphone that needed to drop more than 10 percent of the highlights and bring up about 33 percent of the shadows, while the canon didn't need it.

Everyone can check this at https://pixelpeeper.io/

If I could take these photos an hour apart from each other and have the lighting look even remotely similar, I think I'd be an actual wizard!

It's a lot more likely my camera's time just wasn't set correctly :P

I think you're right. I looked at exif on the first 3 sets, and the Canon was consistently 1 hour ahead.

Like I said. If you can take some landscape shots that are an hour apart and have the lighting look that similar, I wouldn't believe you!

It would make it a lot easier to get sunset photos!

I also feel like this is more of a showcase of the photographers editing skill, than it is a showcase of the difference between the two cameras.
Granted, that you can make the iPhones photos to look that good, is a positive tribute to the iPhone's RAW files.

The question is though, how many iPhone users are going to do that mush editing to their photos compared to a "dedicated" camera user?

For me the test was more about how much can I push the images in the edit. I never post unedited photos from my R5, I push those in the edit as well. That to me is a lot more important than how an image comes out of the camera.

You're absolutely not wrong that most people won't be putting this level of effort into photos taken from a phone, heck even I won't be! But knowing I can is what I wanted to find out. My phone will still just be taking quick shots from the side of the road :)

I got none of them right. At 1.0 to 1.5 mp resolutions, I couldn't tell them apart. Any difference in highlights, shadows, tonality, color, etc, etc could have been in editing and timing. At least a couple of the side by side shots were about an hour apart. So, at the end of the day, the Canon is as good as an iPhone. :P

Hah, none of them were an hour apart. That guy is funny for thinking that would even be possible. That being said, I'll try to share some high resolution shots when I can!

I liked the video and I support all photographers that create entertaining content. Just one thing, cut back a little on the "thanks for watching" save that for the end.
Good luck.

Totally agree and thought the same thing while I was editing. I do it out of habit, one I need to break up!

I love it. Granted, at this resolution (which, let's face it, is how the overwhelming majority of humans view photos these days), it's nigh impossible to tell the difference. So the fact that you can get wonderful photos from such a small device that you practically always have on hand is fantastic.

On the other hand, landscape photography makes for pretty much a best-case matchup for an iPhone against a full-frame mirrorless or DSLR. Try the same comparison with, say portraits... and I suspect it would be pretty obvious which was the R5 and which was the iPhone. But even then... at the resolution most people view photos these days... smartphone cameras are great even for that.

The test proved that whether a pic is good or not depends on the viewer, size, intended use, media your showing it on. Live prints in large size would show all the flaws. Looking at it on the phone would make the difference bigger. If you don’t get paid to take pix I’d use the phone. For critical work I’d use the R5. I own both and use both.

A useful comparison would be to also include pictures from the iPhone 12 or even the iPhone 11. I owned a 13 Pro for about a week and returned it to Apple because, outside of very low light situations, I saw no improvement in image quality with the main camera compared to the previous generation. You'd think there would be a clear difference with the significantly larger sensor, but I didn't see any. Anyone else notice this as well? None of the review sites mention this at all; I'm waiting for Anandtech's full review to see what they find.


I'm still not gonna buy an iPhone, no matter how good their camera gets.

I got four out of five right (the burn out in the first R5 shot threw me). I was looking for dynamic range, sharpness, tonal subtly. I'm surprised that I was able to tell the difference at web resolutions, but I did better than I would expect by luck alone, so I must have been doing something right!

Nice test David.

For me it came down to tint and detail. The tint could easily be worked out in post, detail of course not. However a lot comes down to the medium being used to view and / or size/print. Since most shots only end up on computer/phone screens then the iphone is going to do well. Of course when we need to sell/print then the difference should be obvious. Still the iphone is a very useful tool for blogging/video etc.

On the video itself I'd cut out the extraneous commentary (re. road noise, voice overs, horses, florida etc.) as it lengthens the video whilst not adding anything relevant or amusing.

Cheers !

I think it's pretty obvious which one is the iPhone Photo, there's a very obvious blur to all of the iPhone Photos and if you really zoom in you can see millions of artifacts that lower the definition, there's really no comparison here.