iPhone 6 Plus vs. Canon 5D Mark III

In Gear by Jim Harmer

Unless Canon and Nikon change their course immediately, they are soon to be eaten up by camera manufacturers who are implementing technologies made cheap by the smart phone industry.

Unless Canon and Nikon change their course immediately, they are soon to be eaten up by camera manufacturers who are implementing technologies made cheap by the smart phone industry.

Relax, trolls. I'm not suggesting that a phone can compare with a DSLR in terms of image quality.  And yes, I recognize that you could make a comparison like the one below with different stats and show how the 5D Mark III would kick the iPhone's butt.  That's not the point.

However, a growing contingent of photographers is quickly becoming discontent with Canon and Nikon for refusing to implement now-mainstream technologies into our DSLRs.  The incredible amount of money being poured into the cell phone industry has made many of these technologies very inexpensive, yet Canon and Nikon refuse to implement them even in their $7,000 high-end DSLR bodies.

I hope this post illustrates some of those points.

iPhone 6 Plus vs. Canon 5D Mark III

Battery Life : The iPhone 6 Plus has a 2,915 mAh battery, yet the Canon 5D Mark III only has a 1,800 mAh battery.  Your DSLR would last 40% longer on a charge if Canon would include a battery that is more in line with the price of the device.

Worried that the better battery might increase the cost of the camera?  Nope.  The iPhone 6 Plus's battery is a cheap $6 part available from many different manufacturers that Canon could purchase from.  Oh yeah, and the battery is also a lot smaller.

Yes, I understand that the batteries offer different amperages, but if you look at the third party batteries available for DSLRs, you'll quickly see that MUCH better batteries can be put in our expensive cameras with little cost.

LCD Screen Resolution: The iPhone 6 Plus has a resolution of 1920 x 1080, which is the same as a full HD flatscreen TV.  The resolution on your Canon 5D Mark III's screen?  It has fewer than HALF the pixels.  Wouldn't a high-end imaging device maker find it important to show the image clearly on the device?

By the way, improving the display on the camera would cost the camera manufacturers very little.  Even the highest end cell phone screens at much higher resolutions cost about $55 for the part and are available from many different companies.

Wi-Fi: The iPhone 6 Plus not only has wi-fi, but 802.11ac wifi!  That's the fastest and latest spec.  Your 5D Mark III?  Nothin'.  That's sooooo 2004!  Even my bathroom scale has wi-fi these days.

Durability: If you were to hold your 5D Mark III and iPhone 6 over a concrete floor and drop them, which would you expect to receive more damage?  I thought so.  The 5D is very unlikely to take the fall, but we've all dropped our phones countless times.  iPhones certainly break–no doubt!  But I guarantee that if you were faced with the choice, you'd drop the phone.

Updates: The iPhone is updated with the latest technologies once per year.  The 5D Mark III hasn't been updated in 2 and a half years.

Storage Space: The iPhone 6 Plus can be purchased with 16gb, 64gb, or 128gb of drive space built in.  If you forget your memory card, your 5D Mark III won't take even one picture.

Price:  Even if you pay the full sticker price with no contract, your iPhone 6 Plus will only cost $800.  The 5D Mark III costs $3,400 and doesn't even come with a lens.

Flash: The iPhone 6 Plus has a small LED flash that can adjust to the color temperature of the room.  The Canon 5D Mark III doesn't have any flash.

Video: The iPhone 6 records video at 1920×1080 at 60frames per second.  The Mark III?  Half the frame rate (30fps).  The iPhone 6 also allows lower resolution video at up to 240fps, something the  Mark III doesn't.

Weight: iPhone 6 Plus weighs only 172 grams, while the 5D Mark III tops the scales at 950 grams.  That's insane when you consider that the iPhone has a bigger battery, internal storage, comparable processing power, and tons more connectivity.  When it comes right down to it, cameras are all little computers.

Want to blame the increased weight on the sensor size?  You may be interested to know that the sensor weighs under 50 grams.

Thickness: iPhone 6 Plus is an anorexic 6.9mm thick, while the 5DIII is 76.2mm thick.  I would understand if you felt that too thin of a camera would be too hard to hold.  On the other hand, I've never felt the need to bolt a handle onto a Pop-Tart just to keep from dropping it.

Frames Per Second: The Canon shoots 6 frames per second.  The iPhone shoots 10 frames per second.

Apps: The iPhone allows you to download thousands of free apps any time you want to give your camera additional capabilities.  Good luck doing that on your $3,500 Canon.

Mobile Data: Want to upload a quick shot of the happy couple to their Facebook page during the wedding shoot?  Not on a Canon.  In fact, you'll have to bring out a laptop and transfer over the photos to do that.  You can connect to the internet most anywhere in the world from your iPhone using LTE.

Bluetooth: The iPhone has it and some other cameras have it, but even the most expensive Canons don't.  The reason bluetooth is a useful technology aside from wifi is that when you use wifi to sync things from a cell phone, you have to set up a private wifi network on either the phone or camera and then attach the two. Bluetooth can connect automatically when they are in range and immediately sync settings.

Including basic bluetooth would also add tons of capabilities for firing flashes remotely, firing the camera remotely, transferring photos, using a cell phone or tablet as a remote viewfinder, etc.

Many of the things you can do with Bluetooth you can also do with wi-fi.  So why use both?  Because you have to connect to an ad-hoc wi-fi network on the devices to make the wi-fi work.  Bluetooth can just quickly connect whenever the camera turns on without needing to mess with your settings or stop using your phone's main wifi.

Interface: Ya know, we've all become accustomed to what a camera interface looks like, so we don't really think of it as antiquated.  We're all used to the black screen with a bunch of seemingly random numbers splattered all over it.  However, if you step back and look at it with fresh eyes, you'll see that the camera interface in the menu system looks a LOT like Windows DOS did in 1990.  Time for a modern refresh?

GPS: A GPS antenna would cost the camera manufacturers a whopping $5 for the part to include in the camera.  Just about everything has GPS in it these days, but few high-end cameras include this feature.

But even if the camera manufacturers didn't integrate GPS, if they included Bluetooth, the camera could grab this data from your phone in your pocket and put it in the metadata of the photos.

Clock: Not only does the iPhone 6 set its own clock, it adjusts to time zone changes immediately.  The DSLR?  Not so much.  It can be annoying when traveling to do photography to not have the clock set properly because the DSLR photos don't sync in proper order with photos from a phone or other devices when trying to keep travel photos organized.

Also, I use the metadata from my photos to know more about the light in different locations as I travel, but it's difficult when your clock is off on the camera.

Multi-Touch LCD Screen: We all know that the high-end cameras don't have touch screens?  Why?  Because Canon and Nikon said “no.”  Stop questioning them and fork over thousands of dollars.

Even the few lower-end camera models that do offer touchscreens usually don't include mult-touch.  Wouldn't pinch-to-zoom on your photos be nice to quickly check sharpness in the field?

NFC: Okay, I'll admit it.  This one is unnecessary, but Samsung has decided to include this in one of their newer camera models.  A cheap NFC chip would allow photographers to put stickers on their devices to quickly change camera settings for different situations.  Neat, but gimmicky.  We can deal without this one.

Conclusion

No, I'm not switching to the iPhone for my serious photography, and no I don't think the iPhone is even in the same ballpark of image quality as any DSLR.

However, after compiling this list, I can see now more than ever how ripe the photography industry is for change.  It's madness that many of these technologies that are now commonplace have not been made available in even the highest end $3,500 to $7,000 DSLRs.  If Canon and Nikon refuse to keep up with today's possibilities, they'll soon go the way of the Polaroid.

Just as many camera companies were left in the dust during the digital revolution, I expect Canon and Nikon to die out over the next 10 years during the connectivity and portability revolution unless they change course immediately.

Further, I am very well aware of the companies that are working to change all of this.  I'd put Sony at the top of this list, followed by Fuji, Samsung, Olympus, and others.  Each camera release from these innovative companies has pushed me one step closer to that Amazon “buy now” button, but the most significant drawback for me is the meager lens lineup on many of these systems.

Some people call these new cameras “mirrorless” as if removing the mirror were the most significant technological advance.  The mirror changes the form factor, but it is the list above that changes the way we approach photography.

But soon, very soon, the connectivity and portability revolution will dramatically change the way serious photographers practice our craft.  There has never been a more exciting time to be a photographer.


About the Author

Jim Harmer

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Jim Harmer is the founder of Improve Photography, and host of the popular Improve Photography Podcast. More than a million photographers follow him on social media, and he has been listed at #35 in rankings of the most popular photographers in the world. He blogs about how to start an internet business on IncomeSchool.com..