Oct 23, 2020 | iPhone, Street

Why/When to Use an iPhone Over a DSLR camera



iPhone 11 Pro

You may have asked yourself why you would bring out a large, bulky DSLR to take photos of your hiking trip or your child’s softball game.  For most people, the Apple iPhone 11 has become such a good camera system, that there aren’t many compelling reasons NOT to use the iPhone.

When you need to travel light

Let’s face it, DSLR cameras are bulky.  If you are traveling with extra kit: tripod/monopod, lenses, bag, etc. it is even more so.  While you might have to carry a bag of supplies to run that DSLR, your iPhone 11 slips into your pocket.  

Also keep in mind that an iPhone is unobtrusive.  Everyone is walking around with a cell phone.  If you whip out your iPhone 11 for a good photograph at your child’s game no one, not even players, will likely notice.  Pull out a DSLR, monopod and some big glass for actions shots at the game and everyone sees it.  The iPhone 11 Pro comes with three lenses: a 0.5x super wide angle, a 1x wide angle and a 2x telephoto lens.  The iPhone 11 only lacks the 2x telephoto, but is otherwise identical in capabilities.

Some of your best shots will be when you are incognito, grabbing those candid photos that you might not get if you are geared up.  Some of those will end up being truly epic.

Computational photography is the way of the future

A DSLR camera takes a photo and that’s it.  The light goes through the lens, hits the sensor and a photo pops out the other side.  Things are a little different with an iPhone 11.

With the iPhone 11, the light goes through the lens, hits the image sensor and a photo pops out the other side.  Then the Apple software takes over.  Computational photography takes over and decides what needs to happen for a great photo.  

It might take up to nine images, combine the best parts of each of them together and output an image that might even rival those of a DSLR.  That’s the beauty of the power under the hood of the iPhone.  It can make so many decisions, take multiple exposure and blend them together so fast you don’t even know it happened.  All you did was tap the shutter button.

The big camera companies better take heed of this computational photography before camera phones run them the rest of the way out of business.  They won’t survive just selling pro gear to pro photographers.  They need consumer business to survive.

Stabilized sensors make camera blur a thing of the past

Sometime with a DSLR, you will want to bring along a monopod or tripod to keep the camera steady for tack sharp photographs.  Depending on the camera settings, shutter speeds may be on the slower side making a tripod a must.  Longer zoom lenses magnify any camera shake and introduce that into the photo if the camera is not stabilized in some way.

The iPhone 11 Pro has two stabilized cameras on the back of the device: the 1x wide angle and the 2x telephoto.  The stabilization on these lenses means that photos turn out very sharp handheld for all but the longest exposures.  One has to really try to blur an image on the iPhone 11 Pro.

Will your photos be printed or online?  

This is a big one for me.

armchair with cushion in bedroom

Ask yourself, where will you be displaying your photos after you take them?  While photos out of a DSLR will certainly have enough quality to go on FaceBook or Instagram, so does an iPhone 11 Pro.  

FaceBook and Instagram both will take the image you upload and compress it, causing the image quality to suffer.  Those same photos will likely be viewed on a mobile device – a cell phone or tablet in most cases.  After the compression from the social media hosts and the image being displayed on small screens, the image quality of the photo doesn’t have to be great to look great.

Social media is probably the destination for more than 90% of photos taken by most people.  Most people do not take photos and then print them anymore, they don’t hang those photos on a wall or put them in a scrapbook.  It’s just about all social media these days.

The workflow for an iPhone is so much faster and easier to get online.

This is the part that has me using my iPhone 11 Pro most often, the ease of workflow relative to a DSLR.

black and gray digital device
close-up of iPhone 8

So with my DSLR, after I take all the images I want to shoot, I take them home.  I dig the SD memory card out of the camera, transfer them to my laptop, back a copy of those images up and then begin post work on the images adjusting the lighting, color, and other things.  When I finish tweaking the photos, I export them out and then, only then, do I get to upload the photos to social media.  This workflow requires me to wait until I can offload the photos from my camera to do anything else with them.

On my iPhone 11 Pro, I simply shoot the photo, edit it in the photos app or a similar app, and then upload them to the social media platform of my choice.  When I get home, the files will automatically back up as soon as my phone hits my network.  Done.  No laptop needed, no trip home needed.

I could take a photo of my dinner at a restaurant and have it on social media before I take the first bite.  That won’t happen with my DSLR.  This is another area where the big camera companies need to figure some things out.

When do I feel that a DSLR is the superior choice?

There are times when I want to bring my DSLR out for work though.  The iPhone is great and has a lot of things going for it, but there are still some things I prefer to shoot big glass on.

Low Light

Okay, this one is arguable, I admit.  The iPhone takes some great photos in low light with night mode and computational photography.  

Blue clock tower
Blue clock tower at night.

There are times when the DSLR will come out for low light work.  It’s larger sensor allows more light in and does it with less noise in the image, especially in dark areas.


This is the big one for me.  I know it’s always better to just get closer to the subject of the photo if possible, but it’s not always possible.  My daughter would be embarrassed if I was standing by second base trying to take her photo during a game.  In that application, and many more you can imagine, the large glass zooms on a DSLR get you closer to action when you can’t physically get closer.

Canon 70D with 70-200
image of Canon 70D with 70-200

There are some add-on or clip-on lenses for the iPhone 11 Pro that may alleviate that problem, but I still don’t see those clip-ons giving the near the quality that you will get from a DSLR.

Photo is going on my wall

If I’m photographing a subject that I think may lead to me printing the image off and hanging it on my wall, I will usually grab my DSLR.  The image files are larger and if I need to crop the image for the print size, I have a little extra leeway.

That’s not to say that an iPhone image doesn’t hang on my wall now, I just have to be a little more careful framing the image on the iPhone.  Then again, sometimes the iPhone 11 Pro is the only camera on me and I use it to get an epic image.

The camera you have on you is always better than the one you left at home.

Thanks for reading my article.  Be sure to leave a comment down below and if you have suggestions for future topics, hit the suggestion link at the top of the page.

Until next time, go take some photos!



Ralph is an avid photographer in his spare time. He spends a lot of his photography time shooting sports photos of his daughter, who plays softball and swims. He also has a keen interest in mobile photography.


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