Poll: iPhone a Threat to the DSLR?

Over the last few months I have been getting rather tired of the types of photos taken with an iPhone. I feel they can be spotted easily with over processing being a route to conceal noise and what otherwise would be a bad photo.

This view is a complete contrast to the fact that the iPhone is becoming one of the most popular cameras on flickr.

So what do you think? Does iPhoneography undermine or threaten traditional photography?

Also let us know what you think? Are you tired of the retro camera look?



  1. says

    It will never threaten a proper SLR, simply because of the quality, lack of different lenses available and how difficult it is to hold steady. It must be said though that the best camera is the one you have with you. Since most people have their phone on them, it makes sense that they would take photos with it. The amount of practice people can get with composition means that when they DO pick up their SLR they will have better shots for it.

  2. says

    I agree with Chris. I love shooting with my iPhone and i think there are some iphoneographers out there who creative amazing art with theirs, but I wouldn’t give up my DSLR for it. The iPhone’s image quality is severely lacking and there’s no way to alter aperture, shutter speed, ISO etc. It’s great for some images, but for sports, portraits, macros, a DSLR really can’t be beat.

  3. says

    Absolutes rarely hold up over time. Are there bad, over-processed iPhone images everywhere? Yes. Right next to the crappy HDRs and the tiresome bokeh for bokeh’s sake shots, and the conventional photos without a clue shots. Images are everywhere and many of them suck big time. Probably because more people are more involved with photography than any other time in history. That’s a good thing. If I have to wade through the detritus to get to the good stuff, okay. As you say, it’s easy to spot. Does all this mean the camera phone will replace the SLR? No, because those devices are adjuncts to rather than replacements for a standard kit. It’s like asking if sneakers will replace oxfords. Both have their time and place. And there is a time and place for a retro look iPhone photo that is done well. I have a hard time understanding the contingent of photographers who want to limit our options and seemingly want the photographic arts to be frozen in one moment in time. Most of the masters of the past, were they alive today, would be having a blast with iPhones and all the apps. Photography is a LIVING art.

  4. says

    I’m shooting with everything that I’ve got in my hands on that moment. Agfa Click, Cellphonecamera, Pinholecamera, Rolleicord, Nikon F100 it does’t matter. The picture is made in the head of the photographer, the camera is only a tools to make it visible.

  5. Sean McGowan says

    Not a chance, the iPhone is just not versatile enough to be a rival to the SLR.

    I use my iPhone as a compact camera for those situations where using an SLR isn’t ideal and for that it’s great. However, I won’t be trading in my 20D anytime soon!

    I do like the fact that the iPhone and it’s numerous apps have opened up the word of photography to a wider audience which in my opinion, can only be a good thing.

  6. says

    If the DSLR doesn’t do something soon.

    I’ve been thinking for more than a year now that the iPhone could easily surpass it.

    I’ve been trying to write an article for a long time on the subject and it’s getting close to me needing to just put out the thoughts and refine later.

    The iPhone is outstanding and interesting innovations are happening because of it.

    • says

      Scott, please write those articles. My iPhone is often the only camera I want with me. The point-n-shoot that my wife and I bought two years ago? Sitting on a shelf gathering dust. With the availability of photography and social apps we can instantly share interesting moments of our lives.

      In the past we had to wait until the film was developed to see and share our photos. Digital reduced the view time from days/hours to now (on camera LCD) or soon (on the LCD). Mobile photography will reduce the share time to zero.

  7. Ian says

    The iPhone is simply not as versatile or as high quality as a DSLR. That doesn’t mean it’s not a suitable tool.

    I have a 20D, a TZ10 and an iPhone.

    The iPhone is always with me; there are shots, especially of my daughters, that I would have missed otherwise. If I’m out for the day with the family and everything else you need to carry, the TZ10 is on my belt. Otherwise I take my 20D.

    Horses for courses.

  8. says

    I think your asking the wrong question since the term “traditional Photography” is a rather nonsensical.

    Photography has already gone through so many changes from its origins that to call anything in photography traditional you could only refer to the triangle of ISO, aperture, shutter speed since its the only things that all forms of photography share and that isn’t a tradition its just how it works.

    The question you should be asking is will iPhones and other phone cameras undermine the DSLR and consumer camera market and that is already happening.

    The camera in your hand is the one you take a picture with and I see that the snappy and family camera will eventually go away.The differentiation between a small snappy and the Cell camera is almost non existant to the average consumer especially with the increases in sensor sizes. When the price point drops enough to allow them to put in higher end chips that are equivalent to the higher end consumer camera it will cease to exist.

    Anyone who defends the consumer camera market with the argument that cell phones dont have removable lenses or that they only have fixed lenses has no idea of the camera market. Remember that Kodak, Fuji used to own the world with disposable fixed lens film cameras, Polaroids line of cameras were mostly all fixed lens camera; when they went the way of the Dodo was because of the immediacy and simplicity of digital, I can have it now and send to my family and friends now.

    Will it change photography? absolutely not! will it change what a camera is? absolutely! the argument that keeps running around about what DSLR’s and consumer cameras will look like in the future isn’t being answered by the camera companies but by the consumer buying the camera of choice.

    On a hopeful not I have more friends who have gotten interested in buying better consumer or pro-summer cameras because having that cell phone to take images with spurred the desire to do more with what they want to shoot and to actually learn photography.

    As cell cameras get better they wont have to make that choice in the future, I am just waiting for a cell phone camera to come out with a built in zoom and zeiss lenses.

    • says

      Dov, I think cell phone cameras have improved to the point that they threaten the market for disposable cameras and point-n-shoot cameras. However, I’ve seen many more consumers buying low-end DSLRs while I’ve seen more experienced photographers switching to micro four thirds camera.. So the market is in flux.

  9. says

    I think people use what they have. The problem is they become complacent and do not use the correct tool for the job sometimes. Just like you don’t bring a knife to a gun fight you don’t bring an iPhone (or any other smartphone) as your only camera when you know you are going to be taking serious photography. The fact that people do is kind of a treatise on societal ills.

  10. David Bennett says

    I shoot with a dSLR and I am using the Camera+ app on my iPhone.

    I wish I had actions in Photoshop that were as good as some of the app filters. I don’t care what makes the image, just what the results are like.

    As for what I like, that moves with the times and with exposure to new things. So bring on more apps, more cameras, and more images!

  11. says

    No! They are two mediums and function quite differently. Personally, I don’t think DSLR photos are done justice online. They belong on walls, in a specific size to affect the body. iPhone is beautiful for social media purposes because we always have them and they have the ability to upload without a computer or cable handy, a.k.a. they function immediately to tell the story.

    This poll is as boring as the one that suggests Kindle will replace books, or MP3 files will replace vinyl. The defensive position is a normal response for an artist who relies on a particular medium. But I assure you, the two objects produced with these two photographic tools are not in the same category and therefore cannot be appreciated the same way, if one was to be appreciating them in the more “traditionally photographic” way. However the objects produced can be pitted in the same category of “art”, but then would not be judged on their technical “superiority”, necessarily, but on how these tools and the visual language produce help to further the subject matter.

  12. Roar Engen says

    No the iPhone won’t replace a DSLR, maybe simple compacts over time, but not advanced compact like the Canon G12 or Nikon P7000 etc. Because the everlasting evolution to keep tings small, thinner and lighter means that the cameras where there is less of that compromise will remain considerably better, let’s not forget that DSLRs and compacts will continue to evolve alongside the iPhone and other cameraphones.

    But that doesn’t mean that there wont be room for iPhoneography, both as a snapshot camera that you have with you, and as an art form.

    But the most interesting aspect of this is what can traditional cameras both compacts and DSLRs learn from the iPhone and iPhonography. I would love to see camera producers learn something from Apples strategy of allowing apps in the cameras, including 3rd party apps, along with an appstore like that makes it easy to extend the cameras software functionality by downloading and upgrading apps. Also I would like the camera, like the iPhone, to become more connected with the other gadgets around us through more widespread use of WI-FI, and come on, there is GPS in everything by now, it should be standard built in to any DSLR and advanced compact.

  13. Antonio says

    Frankly, I’m just getting tired of people saying their getting tired of iPhone photography. Just pick up a camera, *ANY* camera, make a good picture and move on. I mean really, who really cares *what* camera you do it with.

  14. Jai Grieve says

    When apple incorporate a less than a 100th of a second shutter lag, a”real” sensor and a 600mm f/4 into that compact size of a phone, I’ll buy one! :)

  15. says

    Who cares? SLRs are NOT the end all, be all of photographic equipment. View cameras were the forerunners of traditional photography, and, well, we see how popular those are today. Photography is forever mutable, always changing. If it creates a good image, why does it matter if it’s a phone, an SLR, a TLR, a rangefinder, a point and shoot, a field camera, a press camera, a view camera, a pinhole, etc.? It doesn’t matter. It’s never about the camera.

  16. says

    The Iphone is teh most popular ‘camera’ on Flickr as it’s probably the most carried around and easiest to upload (instantly).
    Yes the newest model has a decnet enought camera (see http://www.petapixel.com/2011/10/24/a-look-at-how-much-the-iphone-camera-has-improved/ ) but it’s not a threat. it makes photographing easier and sharing easier. That’s it. not even going to get into quality etc.
    As they say “the best camera is the one you have with you”.

    For me there’s a certain fun in having to/wanting to change settings etc.

  17. says

    I think the question totally misses the point – in fact, it asks a silly question – it basically says does this technology x threaten the art form of photography? no, of course it doesn’t. There will still be the masters of the art form, the experimenters and the noise.

    The traditional “form” can continue to exist for as long as we want it to. New forms may emerge as a result of new technology – any new technology – I bet most people on here are using DSLR and not film. Did that kill photography? No – it opened up some new possibilities, it made some techniques almost obsolete, but it vastly expanded the possibilities.

    The iPhone and DSLR do not directly compete. They overlap in functionality, yes, but outside of that they do not compete – there is room for both. I couldn’t have shot my best pictures of bumeblebees this year without the DSLR – and in fact, even that was letting me down in some circumstances.

    On the other hand, I couldn’t have got my DSLR “inside” my coffee machine to shoot some video from a very quirky angle the other week.

    They both have a role.

    But for those who say “never” – well, never say never. Who can predict the future? Who’s to say that smartphone functionality won’t one day offer all the flexibility and power of current DSLR capability (including what the ‘glass’ can do).

    Who’s to say that the physical advantage that DSLR’s currently offer won’t be superseded by computational photography that can do the same and more? (take for example the forensic processing systems that can remove camera shake and blur)

    You only have to look at the Lytro to see that there is amazing scope for the technical side of photography to still evolve.

  18. says

    For true professional photographers that are about the business of photography we know this will never happen but for the “shooters” in the world who like to WOW everyone with the latest photo-app they downloaded for .99 cents I am sure they will agree that the IPHONE is going to take over the DSLR, hahahahaha

    I own an iphone and Canon 5D Mark II and Iphone has a long way to go before it will surpass a DSLR! A few reasons why this will never happen: Iphone can’t shoot RAW, has no interchangeable lenses, adjustable ISO, adjustable strobe or tripod mount lol. It can however take a photo just like any other camera on the market.

  19. says

    You’re comparing apples and oranges. A minivan will never go as fast as a sports car, but most of the time you don’t need that extra speed. Sure, it’s fun, but it’s not nearly as practical. A DSLR is awesome for those people who want to capture a great shot, or a beautiful moment, but as mentioned above, the best camera is the one you have with you – and let’s be honest, a DSLR isn’t exactly portable.

    I definitely think that a good cellphone camera can replace a small point and shoot. It does the same thing, with similar results and similar quality. However, it’ll never replace the DSLR.

  20. says

    I don’t think the iPhone necessarily threatens high-end cameras, but it will force them to get there act together and add both editing and sharing capabilities. For example, Samsung makes the best android phones and also makes some decent cameras – stick them together, literally glue them together. You’d get instant access to the android AppStore and could edit and share high quality images. There are plenty of shiny concepts floating around, the first to the market will make a killing. Oh, and mobile phones have already killed compact point and shoots.

    Photography is evolving, mobile is changing its worth, people want to share, talk and learn about taking pictures. People are caring less and less about gear. I know a few professional photogs who shoot mobile because it frees them from the burden of their equipment.

    The thing that interests me most about mobile is how it is changing the value of an image. Is a mobile phone image worth anything? Can it be a fine art print? Can a print be acquired by a gallery (yes if you are Sion Fullana). Are people even interested in a physical image anymore? Are we happy for them to exist on screen, to be seen for 4-5 seconds and then forgotten? Sorry, am getting off topic.

    So, in summary, i think that mobile phones and dslrs will be one and the same in the next few years, with the phone body functioning like an interchangeable lens.


  21. says

    Oh and yes as a self proclaimed ‘mobile photographer’ I’m exhausted by the retro imagery, but there is plenty of quality work out there if you are willing to look. First up you could check out our site http://www.mobilephotogroup.com – there are 11 of us shooting street and documentary photos. There is also the duo from http://www.lofimode.com who are challenging image processing and sharing conventions. Oh and if you think mobile photos are not good enough please check out Oliver Lang’s work @oggsie on instagram or twitter. He is shooting exceptional street with his 4s.

  22. says

    I think a tool is a tool is a tool is a tool. It doesn’t matter what you shoot on. You can capture a beautiful image using a matchbox. Take Moriayama, for instance, he uses a simple point and shoot camera and can create magic: http://strtgr.fr/sk2Z5t

    I personally shoot with both a Leica M9 and an iPhone 4. I can take great shots (or crappy shots) with either camera.

    I’d like to see “serious” photographers stop the arguments for or against a certain type of camera and just let their work stand on its own.

  23. says

    Interesting that we’re debating whether the iPhone will threaten the DSLR.

    Surely a good artist creates art with the tools around them. Some of the most powerful images have been created on kit that today we’d consider to be low grade (fixed lenses, flashes mounted on camera, ISO determined by who happened to put what in the camera that morning etc).

    Yep, there’s a lot of pure pap out there – but I guess the person who took it likes it (surely the most important measure?)

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