The Canon 5D vs. the iPhone camera for interior photography

Last week I traveled to Rhode Island with two friends for a fun co-blogging adventure. Our destination was the Attwater Inn in beautiful Newport RI. I had heard so much about the new boutique hotels from Lark and I was excited check it out. The Attwater was designed by Boston’s own Rachel Reider and it is colorful, fresh and unexpected.

Myself and Susan Kanoff (AKA The midlife fashionista) along with architectural photographer extraordinaire, Emily O’brien, were let loose for a whole day to shoot fashion and interiors. Susan and I will be co-posting a fun fashion/interior blog soon but today it is all about Emily’s professional DSLR camera vs. my iphone camera.

If you follow me on Instagram you know that I only use my iphone camera these days to photograph due to restrictions caused by arthritis in my neck. I can no longer carry around or use my heavy DSLR cameras. I was therefore really curious to see how much of a difference there would be between Emily’s full frame professional architectural camera and my simple iphone camera. Our plan was to match up photo for photo and keep everything the same except for the cameras.

Here are the details of our camera smack down.

In Emily’s corner:A Canon 5D MarkII with two set of lenses; a 24-70mm and 85mm plus a tripod. Price on the Canon Mark 5D II: $2,300-$2,500 for the body only.

In my corner:An iPhone6 Plus (no additional lens or attachments). Price on the iphone6 Plus: $199.00 at Walmart 2 years ago.

First up for our camera smack down was one of the bedrooms at The Attwater. The lighting was good and there was plenty of space to move around and choose our favorite angle. Here is Emily’s image using her Canon 5D and tripod.

The Attwater: Emily O'Brien photo

The Attwater: Emily O’Brien photo

Now compare to my hand held iphone camera

The Attwater: Linda Holt Photo

The Attwater: Linda Holt Photo

Pretty darn close don’t you think? If you look closely you will see the color of the wood wall in Emily’s photo is slightly warmer than in mine but that color difference is to be expected between any two cameras. We could have color corrected them to look identical but for this smack down our images are not enhanced or color corrected. We are really just comparing the overall quality of the images right out of the camera.

Here is another bedroom and again, the lighting was good. First up is Emily’s image

Atwatter: Emily O'Brien Photo

Atwatter bedroom: Emily O’Brien Photo

and below is my image:

Attwater bedroom 2: Linda Holt Photo

Attwater bedroom : Linda Holt Photo

Then a detail of one of the bedrooms. Emily’s Canon photo is up first

Attwater: Emily O'Brien photo

Attwater: Emily O’Brien photo

And below is my iPhone photo is below:

Attwater: Linda Holt Photo

Attwater: Linda Holt Photo

Almost indistinguishable…right? At this point I will admit I was feeling a little smug. My iPhone camera was holding it’s own in this DSLR vs. iPhone smack down.Then things went a little down hill and that hill was called bad lighting. The iPhone is great when the lighting is good but when the lighting is poor then it is hard to compete with a high quality camera on a tripod.

First is Emily’s image taken in a very dark corner of the bedroom. Since she was using a tripod and a manual setting she could do a long exposure so that the colors are still bright and there is good contrast.

Attwater: Emily O'Brien Photo

Attwater: Emily O’Brien Photo

Below is my image. Unfortunately it is flat and grainy and the colors are not saturated like they are in Emily’s.  At the very least I needed a tripod. I could boost the contrast using one of the camera apps but it is still going to “read” grainy and again I wanted to compare the overall quality.

Attwater Inn: Linda Holt Photo

Attwater Inn: Linda Holt Photo

Next up was the most difficult challenge yet. A dimly lit room with bright light streaming through large windows. This is the WORST lighting scenario for an interior photographer so I had to work really hard on this one. Emily did not bring in any additional interior lighting to keep the match fair. I was not surprised that Emily’s Canon nailed it on this room smack down as well. The colors are strong and the image is crisp. Again, she used a tripod with a long exposure and allowed the windows to blow out.

Attwater Inn: Emily O'Brien photo

Attwater Inn: Emily O’Brien photo

Comparing Emily’s image to my image below I will concede mine is not terrible but it has some quality issues. The iphone image is very grainy (look at the wall to the left of the sofa) and the sofa is blurry because I didn’t have a tripod (and in this case I definitely needed one). I did use the iphone exposure lock feature to manually adjust the exposure to get it as close to Emily’s photo as possible. For posting on instagram or Facebook my image is actually fine. Any larger though, forget it.

Atwater Living room: Linda Holt Photo

Attwater Living room: Linda Holt Photo

Another big difference between the two cameras is that the iphone 6 plus has a fixed focal length of 29mm. This is wider than most interior photographers would choose to use unless they are shooting a very tight space such as a small powder room. I would have to stand way forward from where Emily positioned her tripod to get the approximate same angle. Another problem with such a wide focal length is that it can cause distortion so that is another area where the iphone can’t compete with a camera with interchangeable lenses.

One last detail shot where the iPhone did a great job. The iPhone really excels in close up or detail shots. The first image is Emily’s

The Attwater: Emily O'Brien Photo

The Attwater: Emily O’Brien Photo

and below the same image shot with the iPhone

Attwater: Linda Holt Photo

Attwater: Linda Holt Photo

The Final Results: Emily for the Win!

I was under no allusion that the iPhone camera would come out the winner…I mean come on, it’s an iphone camera…but the results were actually surprising. Some of our images are very close but you can also clearly see where the iphone falls flat. If your end goal is to post on Instgram or your blog then I think the iphone is totally sufficient. If you learn how to use all the features the phone offers it can rival an expensive DSLR as long as the lighting is good. However, if you are a designer photographing for your portfolio there is no better money spent than on a professional interior photographer. So there you have it!

I have shared several tips in past blogs for getting better iphone photos and if you missed them you can check them out below:

  1. Taking better iPhone photos
  2. Best way to photograph furniture with an iPhone
  3. Taking better photos of kids and pets with the iphone

How do you think the iphone camera did? Does it change your thinking about your own cell phone camera?

12 Responses to The Canon 5D vs. the iPhone camera for interior photography
  1. nancy Reply

    me thinks i need private photography iphone lessons. i’m doing the light sun toggle thing you posted about previously {seriously the best iphone tip EVAH!!!!} but mine still don’t look like yours…one day i hope though…keep the tips coming! pretty please and thank you 🙂

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Nancy and I will keep the tips coming!

  2. sharon Reply

    Very Interesting and fun information! I often am surprised by how great my iPhone takes pictures and when it does not I know why know!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Yes, the iPhone is great for most things but falls short when the lighting is bad. Thanks for taking the time to comment Sharon!

  3. Crystal Ortiz Reply

    Your iPhone held it’s own for awhile! My iPhone shots never come out as well, but I always seem to forget my nicer (not as nice as Emily’s) camera when I’m on-site. Sounds like ya’ll had a great day though!

  4. Deborah von Donop Reply

    This was a fun article comparing two very popular devices with varied results. I really enjoyed comparing the two devices. Thanks. I especially enjoyed color and settings at the Atwater Inn.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so much Deborah! It was a fun snack down for sure!

  5. Nancy Powell Reply

    Fantastic post Linda and the iPhone does an impressive job for sure! Brilliant read- thanks so much for this! Co
    Nancy

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so much Nancy!

  6. Tina Gleisner Reply

    Linda, Love your photography tips & the most important lesson is … it takes practice, practice & more practice to learn how to use any camera. Sorry you can’t carry your DSLR which adds to why I should learn how to use, although I still call the phone my pretend camera. As I’m trying to learn Instagram, I am taking more photos with the phone – this week I learned I have to shoot photos from Instagram, not the phone app … LOL.

    • Linda Holt Reply

      That’s so true Tina. It takes lots of practice not only to learn how to use the camera but to learn how “to see” in order to take a good picture.

  7. […] One final note: For those of you that think your iPhone is no match for a professional with a DSLR y... lindaholtinteriors.com/2016/09/how-to-take-better-interior-photos

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