iPhone 6 Plus vs. Canon 5D Mark III

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.

22 thoughts on “iPhone 6 Plus vs. Canon 5D Mark III”

  1. Good comparison, Jim, but I have a few nits to pick.

    I wouldn’t expect a DSLR to have the same battery capacity as an iPhone. The DSLR has much lower energy consumption compared to an iPhone. I can shoot hundreds of photos on one Canon battery, and unlike the iPhone, I can swap batteries.

    I wouldn’t want pinch and zoom on my DSLR, unless the screen size was dramatically larger.

    Not a good comparison on the storage space. The iPhone’s space is fixed and unchangeable, whereas I can swap cards on the fly.

    I totally agree on the GPS and Bluetooth, and wifi. It’s inexcusable that the latest Canon and Nikons don’t have them.

    1. Hey Steve,

      Good points. A few things to consider, though.

      You’re right, I wouldn’t want a glued-in battery in my camera. That would be ridiculous. But my point is that for only a couple dollars Canon and Nikon could include a battery with a lot more longevity, and still make it removable. An 1800mah battery is pretty low.

      About pinch to zoom, I guess that’s part of the problem. The camera manufacturers are giving us TINY LCD screens and asking us to judge sophisticated aspects of the image quality from that little thumbnail. It’s time for bigger LCDs so we can see the image, AND so we can use easy multi-touch features.

      Again, I’m not saying we should ONLY have built-in storage in the cameras. That would suck. But we have ALL gone out on a shoot and forgot a card before. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a tiny 16gb storage capacity in the camera to save you in a pinch?

      Good comment, Steve. Thanks for reading.

      1. Unfortunately a larger LCD means less battery life – more reason to put a larger capacity battery in our DSLRs!

        Early digital cameras did have built-in storage plus expansion slots… I think I still have an ancient Sony 1 megapixel camera that had some storage and also had the hated Memory Stick slot (and a floppy drive!). The problem with built-in storage is that you have to tether it to your computer.. unless you have Bluetooth 🙂

    2. “””I wouldn’t expect a DSLR to have the same battery capacity as an iPhone. The DSLR has much lower energy consumption compared to an iPhone. I can shoot hundreds of photos on one Canon battery, and unlike the iPhone, I can swap batteries.”””

      Yeah, but those batteries we swap could also hold EACH 40% or more power.

      It’s not like the battery being swappable is some excuse to having a less durable one.

      Plus, you forgot that people also use MkIIIs for video — there you’re lucky if the Canon battery lasts you an hour.

  2. I started the article thinking: what the hell do you mean!? And the more I read the more I had to admit that you have a valid point!

    To play the devil’s advocate, I would just add that such communication tools, while making one’s life easier, are still not the main point of buying a camera. Besides, while a 2 year old iPhone feels like an old piece of crap, I’m still happy to use 30 year-old lenses on my cameras, and have fun with it 🙂

    1. @Benoit – Thanks for your comment. Good point. There is plenty NOT to like about cell phones.

      It’s true that none of these features are the PRIMARY reason for buying a camera. But at the same time, my PRIMARY reason for buying a camera is still photography, but I still wouldn’t buy a camera that doesn’t do video these days. Sometimes the little things make a big difference.

  3. Hi Jim,
    Good article. I always love your article and you come up with some strange/weired/knowledge subjects.
    Good coparision between iPHone and Camera, I agree some of the points but Camera has only one function to take a picture while phone has some other functions in the same device.
    To take a good picture Camera has to justify its use. I always like to use camera either it is point and shoot or DSLR such as Nikon D7000.
    But thank you

    Rajendra

  4. Fun comparison and good points. DSLR days are numbered? Personally I think so given the quality of the latest EVFs.

    It would be interesting to compare the iPhone with the earliest DSLRs. And if Apple follow Google in enabling RAW files access, that would take them one more step closer.

  5. All good points, most of which are also true of automobiles. Technological progress, especially in the areas of user interface, has varied widely across industries. Cell phones are cutting edge (or nearly). Other industries, like cameras, are far behind.

    But it’s worth noting that some of that is because some industries focus on other technological areas to innovate.

  6. Great article Jim! Very insightful. Refuse to change will die out eventually. Hope Canon and Nikon will invest more on the usability part of the cameras in the future.

    Regarding the size and weight of the camera, mounting a 70-200mm lens on an iPhone sized camera would make it very impractical.

  7. Last week u and Dustin’s rich , 6d toteing, loves to shoot with his photog retired travelij dad with no personality, dude. Lots if things like why buy a $7100 c camera for sports and no built in wifi? Or $7,000? And lenses I have to pay so much I a dslr c or n lens that’s 2.8 my iphone is like 2.0 app and ISO of 6400!
    It would be a steal to have a company do everything canon or nikon do basically at half the price of a dslr even and 2 x the features of the current dslr

    So Jim what hasn’t this happened?
    Dslr technology is so slow I mean 12 fps is high? Really as opposed to like my point n shoot can make a lo movie of a burst and then ask me which pics I’d like to keep in any burst I any? C and n make that hard to delete an on and on !!!!!
    Jim if it’s really just about the lack of lenses of mirror less cameras then that’s simple switch! How hard can u use what they have and wait till they make more ….lack if lens choice from nikon and canon should not dissuade u and tell us what’s the best mirror less to get u mean mirror less are just as good as a sdlr? Only lack I lens choice tuen I’m switching tomorrow
    U always say to buy 2 youn g yo flash speed lights as apposed to 2 Paul c buff’s in action mode ? ( with or without the vagabond) u are biased because u only shoot nikon a pro can shoot both and describe why besides pixels he chioss that cam and etc come on Jim u can get 10,009090.999 on Pix soto

  8. The things I agree with you on are the wi-fi, bluetooth, battery life and the GPS (although it seems gimmicky).

    Would you compare a Honda Civic to a track ready Ferrari? Both can go around a track, but which does it better in the hands of a
    skilled driver? Sure, the Honda Civic might have features such as heated seats, in dash GPS and a good speaker system, but is it the right
    tool for a race? It’s about having the right tool for the job, not having a tool that can do the same job, just not as good of a job.

    The 5D Mark III is the Ferrari of taking pictures compared to an iPhone. iPhones have yet to let you take a picture in RAW format. They can’t
    trigger multiple flashes, their sensors aren’t great in low light and the list goes on….

    I respectfully disagree with the following:

    “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.”

    Technology in the pro-sumer to pro DSLR world doesn’t change fast enough to warrant an update every year,
    or even 2 years. Those cameras are meant to outlast any cell phones being made. The iPhone technically only
    gets an update every 2 years since the 5s is barely a stepup from the 5, as was the 4s and 3s.

    Durability: The iPhone has no moving parts and is much lighter. Find me a piece of hardware that is as complicated as the 5D Mark III, and could survive many impacts that isn’t an absurd amount of money.

    Screen Resolution: It seems adequate enough. You’re not editing on the back of your camera. The last thing I’d want is them to increase the screen size/resolution to make the battery last even shorter.

    Price: You’re kidding right? You’re seriously comparing a phone that has a camera on it that takes 2MB pictures that you post to instagram to a pro-sumer level camera that can make a picture the size of a billboard?
    Again, like comparing a Ferrari to a Honda Civic.

    Flash: Name me one person that buys a 5D Mark III that would use an on camera flash? No on camera flashes can even
    come close to the performance of a hot shoe flash. People would just look like deer in headlights with an on camera flash.

    Video: The video quality of the iPhone 6 isn’t even close compared to the quality of the 5D III in the hands
    of someone knowledgable in how to do video correctly on a DSLR. The difference is especially profound in low-light.

    Weight: Have you seen what’s inside a DSLR? If you’re worried about weight you would get a Mirrorless camera. If those
    were really as capable as a pro camera, you’d be seeing those used by pros at sporting events left and right.

    Thickness: Since when are you planning on buying a DSLR to fit into your pocket?

    FPS: Each 5D Mark III image is around 25MB, while the iPhone’s is less than 2MB. The processor is the limiter. That’s
    one of the reason the 1DX costs twice as much more, since it has 2 processors.

    Apps: What kind of apps would you need on a DSLR? It would be a total gimmick. It’s a camera. It shoots pictures….

    Mobile Data: I’m not aware of any professionals that would want to post up an unedited picture directly from their camera onto facebook.

    Interface: I personally want simplicity when looking at something. I wouldn’t want fancy backgrounds or fonts distracting me from the information on the camera. Does having a fancy interface make you a better photographer?

    Multi-touch LCD Screen: My sister fell for that Nikon point and shoot that Ashton Kutcher advertised that was touch screen only, and it was a huge POS.
    The only function I can see it working with is the pinch to zoom. Other than that, the touch function would just get in the way by accidently
    being activated by my face while looking through the view finder. I believe all those touch screen cameras didn’t have a view finder.

    Most gimmicks take a longer time to make it to the professional level of cameras, if they ever do.
    One gimmicky thing that I would be wary of adding to the 5D Mark IV is a flip screen. It seems nice, especially if you’re holding your camera above a crowd at a festival, but it seems to make the camera less durable.

    You have a great site with very informative articles, but this article is not one of your best.

    1. I think you’re looking at it from the wrong angle. This is not honda to ferrari comparison – an iphone is not a camera. it just so happen to have one.

      The comparison to the iphone is done only to highlight the difference in tech and effort – what DSLRs these days HAVE and what sorts of tech are available these days.

      on Weight & Thickness > Thickness: Since when are you planning on buying a DSLR to fit into your pocket?
      Again wrong way of looking at it. I think DSLRs these days DON’T have to be THAT big. With all the tech advancements here and there – why are they still the way they are?
      They are getting outpaced by technology and they are not showing any signs that they are coping with it. In fact the reverse seems to be true.

      Right now Jim is the proverbial canary in the coal mine. The telltale signs are there – its up to Canon and Nikon to react. And from what i can tell – Sony, Panasonic, Samsung etc – have started to make for the surface…

      On another note – i’m pretty sure air cons, radios, and roofs were considered gimmicks once.

  9. Hi Jim,
    I love your show and your site and use it for a lot of research and learning.
    I have recently upgraded to a 70d and that has a touch screen with pinch to zoom and swipe to move between images on the LCD to view once shot.
    It is great, what I cannot understand is why Canon didn’t put that technology into the 7d MkII, very strange.
    An enjoyable read however I felt it is an interesting post for someone who shoots Nikon and not really a Mac/Apple fan. 🙂

  10. I have just as of two days ago sold my latest nikon dslr and after viewing the video captured from an iphone 6 have bought the phone instead……I have shot with a variety of dslr since there arrival on the market….I simply have had problem after problem with the video function of these cameras both Nikon and Canon…..I am currently living in Brasil and to bring out only a dlsr in ghetto streets for filming just does not makes sense any longer to me….the iphone 6 if held steady or used on a small tripod allows me to shoot most anywhere…..After years and years of Hassleblad/ Canon/ Nikon…. I have ditched the all for the moment…..Photography business is suffering in regards to events. weddings ec….due too all of the phone held by the guests……For the style I am shooting I have found i need no super shallow DOF on cameras impossible to focus at f1.8 with out a larger field montior……..I agree that the image quality does not match the dslr….but my primary purpose of owning camreas of any make or model is the shoot video, and the quality of my Nikon setting in a closet is no match for slightly lessor quality of the new apple phone and without all of the support items needed to capture the same footage, which the public will most likely not notice the detail. Cal me crazy if you want…i am moving on.

  11. I am at a loss to see why anyone would want to use a phone as primary for any kind of work. I love my phone, but it’s a small computer not a camera. The camera is an app. I think CanNikon is far from being an Edsel. Show me one serious photographer that would turn down a 5D3 if they could afford it. I would love for my EM-5 to have apps. Maybe a way to computerized ND filters. A GPS would be great. I think the camera industry is broad enough to give all of us what we want. Heck, some of us are still using film! If someone wants to be a Luddite on purpose, why not?

  12. I still love using my entry level DSLR over my cell phone when I’m out specifically to take photos even with all the great points you made. I just think that DSLRs are still way to expensive. Expensive is the wrong word. It’s more like overpriced. I would forgive them totally if say a 5D Mark III were $1,000 TOPS with a starter lense and the T3i went for $100. As someone who doesn’t use their camera to provide income I can’t ever see my self buying a full frame camera and I think that’s a shame.

  13. Interesting comparison. However, there is little information on the image quality that IPhone 6s Plus would offer in comparison to established DSLRs or high end mirror less cameras. I am indeed confused whether to switch over to iPhone 6s Plus which offers great image quality and performs many other functions or continue with bulky DSLRs that I have to carry all the while. One great disadvantage of latter, I have realised, is that it alerts the subject, when pointing huge lenses in their direction.

    Cheers, JS

  14. You know where it starts, with the so-called pro-photographers. They just keep on buying the alledged best gear without even thinking twice, here just take my money and let me have it please. That’s where the problem lies, do you know why iphone and all smart phones for that matter evolve, because people who buy them complain, and at the end of the ride it’s those complains that make the manufacturers change their products and improve upon them. That will never happen in the high-end camera spectrum, cause most pros will just mindlessly spend their thousands of dollars without even questioning what they get in return. Do you see what I’m gettin at. If nobody would buy into their shitty marketing nonsense, we would already have cameras decades ahead of our time, but since none of the prop community complain and keep buying really expensive BS camera’s they will not change untill less known brands will do that for them. Look at LG for example a 4k smartphone, which blows any cameraphone out of the water. I have yet to see Canon or Nikon do that. But hey it’s like preaching to the choir, nothing will change there because most pros just get off by merely showing up with their multi thousand dollars gear. Hey look at me and my mark III instead of asking themselves why the hell he just paid over 3K for all this when manufacturing those parts cost less than $200.
    Just to lay it down for you, the pros are inclined to buy the high-end gear and never complain about said gear, hell even the bigger budget amateur still spend the cash to be able to say they own the best.
    Yes, a full frame dslr, is better in image quality then an iphone, and of course an interchangeble battery on a dslr makes sense. But to have a built-in battery with an added interchangeble battery to have internal memory on top af an added interchangable memory feature, built-in wifi, a bluetooth feature, simle high res bigger screen and a touchscreen to me still makes a lot of sense. Just having a full fledged modern tech camera would make sense. But even here in the comment section I see a lot of dinosaurs walking still forking over massive amounts of cash without thinking twice and not even knowing why they did what they just did. Think people, think for yourself.
    If you want shit to change, you have to ask for it. Just look at the gaming industry, if people are not happy, they complain and get shit changed, just look at what happened to mass effect 3. To give you just one of the many examples, and we are talking about bigger companies then Canon or Nikon here, a billion dollar industry and developers took their time to make their players happy. We the people, now more then ever have the power to change things, it ‘s just a matter of doing it. If you want the Dslr’s to change, make it happen. Stop excepting the way thing are, stop buying their marketed shit they are selling you and demand better. Eventually they will have to listen or they themselves will die off like the dinosaurs they are. Rant over

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