The topic may appear light to a DSLR/DSLT/Rangefinder/Mirrorless user. But many users are keen to learn, yet fumble with options. Everyone knows that DSLR/DSLT/Rangefinder/Mirrorless camera not cheap. But counter argument will be – is modern smartphone cheap either? Unless Tight in Budget, a Standard Camera Should Be Used For Learning & Archiving. Here is a Detailed Discussion on Smartphone Camera Versus DSLR/Mirrorless Camera. Again, the topic is not closest to light – even the camera manufacturers like Canon have detailed article, many question answer websites have questions with long answers. There are many myth around DSLR/DSLT/Rangefinder/Mirrorless. Kit lens (which are supplied with camera) although not best, they are enough combined with body to learn about photography. Indeed, newbies are discouraged to start buying random camera accessories. Long term benefit from a DSLR/DSLT/Rangefinder/Mirrorless pushes Smartphone Camera to “casual digital camera”. Of course, with Smartphone Camera there is big thing to learn – many aspects of composition. Android Smartphone is good companion of DSLR/DSLT/Rangefinder/Mirrorless. We are no way closest to anti-Smartphone Camera. Indeed, we have published tips on phone photography. For our site, we sometimes do use Smartphone Camera for electronics DIY works. It is far easy to put a Smartphone inside an odd place. Use case of Smartphone Camera and DSLR/DSLT/Rangefinder/Mirrorless camera is different. Of course just purchasing a DSLR/Mirrorless camera does not make anyone a great photographer – all of us do see odd quality photos out of DSLR on social networks. DSLR/DSLT/Rangefinder/Mirrorless are just artistic tool. Canon has an informative webpage with comparative photographs.
Smartphone Camera Versus DSLR/Mirrorless Camera : Technical Part
First is ergonomics and design. DSLR/Mirrorless camera is designed hold properly to have steady handheld shot. For portrait mode, there is battery grip accessory providing better grip in portrait. There are different tripods (or monopod) to rest the camera.
Second is huge learning resources. DSLR/Mirrorless camera falls among the professional cameras and from manufacturers to zillions of blogs, forums, books have extensive peer support.
Third part is technical superiority of DSLR/DSLT/Rangefinder/Mirrorless camera. Which is actually our main point of discussion. Output from even 2 decades old professional camera is still of standard quality for enough big print, or viewing on monitors. Yes in the year 2118, RAW image from professional cameras will have value, just like today photography of 1918 has.
Smartphone Camera’s biggest limiting factor is their small size. The sensor size of a most smartphone is not even in inches on diagonal measurement, which is than near 6-20 times smaller than a sensor of professional camera (we went in to sensor size detail for separate matter). Bigger the sensor, then it has more physical surface area to pick up light, and thus ensuring better picture quality, even on low light. Sensor is simply digital form of film. There is no marketing part in it. Manufacturers wrongly market the phrase “megapixel”. A basic DSLR can have a crop sensor or APS-C sensor and it sizes about 23.6 x 14 mm (varies from manufacturer to manufacturer) but it’s build quality is very high. Some premium phones today have a 1/2.6″ sensor, which is again 1/40th the size of sensor of professional camera. Cost of camera body hugely depends on that sensor quality. Most of the smartphones use BSI (Back-Side-Illuminated) or Stacked sensors. In front-side illuminated sensor, the photodiodes (light sensors) share surface area with electronics, wiring, etc. On a BSI sensor, the photodiodes go on the bottomside, the electronics on the top surface, much as a FSI sensor. But the back side of that sensor is polished, the sensor flipped and bonded to a substrate, and you have the photodiodes on top, with nothing in their way. There is also 3D stacked sensors.
Now the core optics. The lens on a smartphone camera is physically quite smaller. Light captured to take the photo comes through a small area. Minor defect of lens will have a much greater effect on photograph. Probably te real lens of smartphones is behind a transparent plastic on the body.
There are really lot of matters to learn around DSLR/Mirrorless camera lens to only pick a good lens for a purpose. Diaphragm blade is a big topic, highly complex. At end, that diaphragm controls light and we can control that diaphragm opening on DSLR/Mirrorless camera. These days, some smartphone manufacturers market f number. Lower the f number, larger the maximum opening of lens. f/1.4 lens of full-frame DSLR/Mirrorless camera will have big hole. The opening is so big that sensor is easily visible. We can not use so big hole for very long distance shots. Very low f number usually for portrait, close shot, macro. In telephoto zoom lenses, that f mechanically adjusted by design. For higher control on f, we need prime lenses. Set of good lenses often more costly than camera body. Old good lenses sells at high value in market. Long term return from good lenses is not less. It is needless to say that professional lens can reach you a bird to moon. Only watching through viewfinder like telescope delivers huge fun. Light has a property called diffraction. It goes worse wit small, compact space. It is never possible to make a 135mm professional camera lens just thin & flat.
The viewfinder of DSLR/Mirrorless camera is another big topic. It is not only helpful in composition, but also viewfinder is helpful in providing information. Viewfinder has a meter. We adjust ISO, f number, exposure time to keep it in a balanced condition. Those things are under exposure triangle. Professional photographers set exposure triangle on the go. We commonly need various tools to get idea of what is perfect.
Now about the camera hardware, software. DSLR/Mirrorless Camera have dedicated image capturing, processing units. Day by day focusing systems of DSLR/Mirrorless cameras reaching sci-fi level. The software of DSLR/Mirrorless is embedded operating system. It is designed for one type of work. Of course, the menu of DSLR/Mirrorless is for more manual optimization.
Obviously there are other matters like manual or auto-focus control, image stabilization, modes of each and every possible parameter, battery, flash units.
Is it possible to distinguish between photograph from smartphone camera and DSLR/Mirrorless camera? In certain lighting situations in used hand it is no. But to learn that level of control, one need to use some manual control camera.
Another part is output and editing. DSLR/Mirrorless gives RAW format output and also JPG upon selection. RAW is digital negative file. Real image editing with Adobe Photoshop like tools actually go with RAW files. Compressed image formats deteriorates upon manipulation.
DSLR/DSLT/Rangefinder/Mirrorless are exactly handy, their cost is huge, cost of accessories is huge. It is not practical to always carry few lenses & a camera body. Good smartphone camera is good companion with a professional camera.