On my short run today I decided to take along two different cameras and then compare the results. I normally run with my phone stashed somewhere, which means my default camera is my iPhone 5s. I also have an old Canon Powershot a2200, which I decided would be a good test for the comparison camera. I chose this camera because it was inexpensive when I bought it, and it is very compact and easy to carry. It is about two years older than the iPhone, but the electronics should be mostly comparable from a technology perspective. The iPhone 5s is an 8MP camera, and the Canon is 14.1.
Below are some side by side shots of the two cameras. The Canon will always be on the left, and the iPhone on the right. I did no color corrections on any of these pics, and only a little bit of cropping to make the framing line up better.
One of the first things that is apparent in these two shots already is that the color on the iPhone is much better. The Canon brought in a red hue that was not reflective of the early morning sun. Additionally, the iPhone seemed to bring out much more detail of the tree, whereas the Canon appears much ‘softer’.
These next two shots carry on the same trend as the first two. A red-ish hue to the Canon side, and crisper lines on the iPhone side. The next two shots are where we start to see one of the major differences.
This shot was taken from the same bridge as the one above, however I zoomed in on the rock with both cameras. This highlights the biggest failing of the iPhone, digital zoom vs. optical zoom. Despite still having the edge in color, the iPhone pic is very muddy and pixelated. This is due to the iPhone being a digital zoom, meaning that the phone simply zooms in on the larger image to create the effect of a telephoto (without an actual moving lens). The Canon uses a traditional optical zoom lens, meaning that the image is much better and cleaner.
These next two images highlight another difference between the cameras. The iPhone is a slightly wider angle lens than the Canon. This means that perspective shots like this tend to get a slight curvature to them. From a quality perspective, it’s again obvious that the iPhone 5s is sharper and has better color by default.
Another shot from along the path. In this shot the iPhone actually started to tint yellow, whereas the Canon pulled back it’s red tint slightly. However, there are some other differences that are interesting when you zoom in.
I magnified the images along the side of the path where there was a little snow and ice. This shot in particular shows the differences in how the two cameras compress their images. The iPhone has a much more attractive pixel loss, that seems to preserve some of the sharper lines, whereas the Canon simply seems to blur things generally.
This shot was again at full zoom, to highlight the differences between optical and digital zoom. However, the iPhone handled this image much better than the previous one, and the iPhone shot is almost passable.
This final shot is again another zoomed picture. The iPhone shot is passable, but you can certainly see much more detail on the Canon side, despite the softness and red tint.
Overall, this was a fun experiment. It does show that the iPhone camera is actually really quite good. It’s main failings are when you need to zoom into something close. In those situations, there’s just nothing great that can come out of digital zooming. Of course all of this pales in comparison to a fully interchangeable lens camera, but those are much harder to run with.