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A Photography Shootout: the iPhone 11 Pro vs the Canon 5D Mark IV

The iPhone 11 Pro has just been released, with a triple-camera setup (including a telephoto lens, a wide-angle lens, and an ultra-wide lens), a new Night Mode, and an upgraded front-facing camera.

A Photography Shootout: the iPhone 11 Pro vs the Canon 5D Mark IV

But despite all the new bells and whistles, iPhone image quality continues to lag far behind that of full-frame DSLRs and mirrorless bodies. And professional photographers simply don’t find iPhone photos up to their standards.


That’s what wedding photographers, Lauren and Jamie Eichar set out to test. They did a photoshoot with their new iPhone 11 Pro and their top-of-the-line Canon 5D Mark IV, then compared the images.

And the results are surprising.

In fact, this is relevant to anyone wondering about the future of smartphone photography.

So I suggest you watch the video to see the images, side by side. As you look at the images, see if you can tell the difference. Ask yourself:

  • How would I feel about my images if I were only shooting with an iPhone 11 Pro?
  • How would I feel if I had my wedding photographed by an iPhone 11 Pro?

I’ll admit:

I’ve never been a fan of iPhone image quality. Low light performance is, frankly, terrible, and even the noise levels in good light leave a lot to be desired. Plus, the tiny sensor makes good bokeh practically impossible to achieve, and Apple’s attempt to rectify that (Portrait mode) is frustrating and unpredictable.

That said, these photos left me pleasantly surprised.

For one thing, Apple seems to have given Portrait mode a significant upgrade. Portrait mode on the iPhone XS frequently failed to find the edges of the main subject, which resulted in strange spots of blur and other image inconsistencies. But in the hands of these professional wedding photographers, the iPhone 11 Plus Portrait mode performs well. Certainly better than on the iPhone XS – though you’ll notice that zooming in on the Portrait mode shots does reveal frequent problems along the subject’s edges.

Also, the Portrait mode blur looks more authentic. While the bokeh produced by the Canon 5D Mark IV setup is clearly superior, the iPhone blur isn’t as far behind as it once was.

As for noise and sharpness, I don’t notice any issues when viewing the photos at a normal viewing size. But viewing the images large (which can be done here) shows significant noise and lack of clarity in all of the iPhone images. While this might not seem like a problem when posting small files on the internet, it becomes more serious if you decide to print your photos, especially if you’re looking to print large.

Also, note that Lauren and Jamie tested the iPhone in good light. My guess is that noise levels would increase significantly if doing photography indoors.

So again, ask yourself the questions I posed earlier. How would you feel about your images if you were only shooting with an iPhone 11 Pro? How would you feel about the results if you had your wedding photographed by an iPhone 11 Pro?

And share your response in the comments!

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Jaymes Dempsey
Jaymes Dempsey

is the Managing Editor of Digital Photography School, as well as a macro and nature photographer from Ann Arbor, Michigan. To learn how to take stunning nature photos, check out his free eBook, Mastering Nature Photography: 7 Secrets For Incredible Nature Photos! And to see more of Jaymes’s work check out his website and his blog.

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