Smartphones are some of the fastest improving cameras on the market – it certainly helps that millions more are sold compared to cinema cameras. The iPhone 12 is actually now capable of recording 4K HDR footage in 10-bit, which is frankly a bit surprising for something we throw in our pockets every day. Can it take on a traditional camera like the ARRI ALEXA Mini or Canon EOS C70 or Panasonic Lumix S5?
Well, if you want to see how that comparison goes, you’ll want to check out this Indy Mogul video hosted by Dave Maze where they put the iPhone in a few head-to-head tests and had experts attempt to pick out the differences.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max has the objectively best camera system and that was the choice for these tests. The first round pits the iPhone against an ARRI ALEXA Mini, but there is a bit of consideration to trying to make the footage match.
Stopping down the ALEXA’s lens helped mimic the iPhone’s naturally deeper depth of field and the iPhone had the Filmic Pro app to get maximum image quality. Also, Maze used the FilmConvert Nitrate plugin to soften the iPhone’s image slightly to cut down on the slightly unnatural sharpening that was applied.
There’s a little bit of fun added with some challenge, but we are still looking at the footage as normal if you want to join in the fun. After the first round with disadvantages they both actually got the answer wrong. Second and third rounds went to Armando easily.
After watching the footage it’s actually easy to pick out the differences, but the differences are more in how the cameras render the scene and not that the iPhone is performing that much worse than the ALEXA when it comes to how it handles certain areas. It’s a closer comparison than it should be.
Following the ALEXA comparison is a test with the Canon C70. This one does not use a model like the ALEXA’s tests, opting instead of wide, bright landscapes.
This will test the dynamic range and challenge both cameras. Maze also points out that he was able to match the two cameras extremely well, making the challenge even more difficult.
They definitely look very, very similar in this test. The giveaway in round one is the stabilization, as the iPhone has a much more aggressive stabilizer compared to the C70, meaning it was able to look incredibly stable.
Round two and three were just color comparisons. And while yes there are differences I think you could definitely get them matched even better if you wanted. It’s impressive performance from the iPhone.
Last on the comparison list is the Panasonic Lumix S5, a full-frame mirrorless camera with top-notch in-body image stabilization. Being a handheld test, this will hopefully eliminate one of the iPhone’s advantages.
First round is interesting. I would say you can identify the iPhone by how it does perform a bit of sharpening to get it looking “good” for the average user. The ferris wheel in particular stands out.
Round two requires a bit deeper look, though I think the iPhone’s deeper depth of field gives it away. The final round was very tough. With movement and smaller subjects, it is tough.
What’s the takeaway from all this? I think it’s that the iPhone 12 shows how good phones have gotten at shooting video.
You could absolutely shoot some footage for a project with an iPhone and make it fit in with other cameras, especially if you are cutting in short clips where people really won’t have time to notice. Don’t be afraid to use a phone to get some extra shots on your next production.
Have you ever used a smartphone as part of a project?
[source: Indy Mogul]
- ARRI ALEXA Mini Cinema Camera (B&H)
- Canon EOS C70 Cinema Camera (B&H)
- Panasonic Lumix S5 Mirrorless Cameras (B&H, Amazon)
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