Blurring the Lines Between Smartphone Cameras and a DSLR

  1. KeBlam
    US Brand Ambassador Nov 19, 2020

    KeBlam , Nov 19, 2020 :

    Hi everyone!

    I am @KeBlam and I’m here to discuss how blurry (or not) have the lines between Smartphone Cameras and a DSLR become. Before we debate whether or not photos taken from a smartphone camera will ever reach the level of a DSLR, allow me to present my piece!

    OEMs have been making major strides when it comes to smartphone photography. By taking a software approach, computational photography has brought many new capabilities, allowing amateurs to produce photographs rivaling the quality of professional photographers. Computational has allowed the software to do much of the heavy-lifting, allowing for an unparalleled photography experience in the hands of users.

    Computational photography allows for new experiences such as digital panoramas, high-dynamic-range processing or HDR, light field cameras (which allows one to capture 3D images), Electronic Image Stabilization, and amazing digital zoom capabilities. As one can tell, computational photography opens the doors for a whole new world of photography that makes photography fun and accessible for all by lowering the cost of hardware and focusing more on software. A simple example would be buying a wide-angle lens for a couple hundred dollars when there’s a built-in wide-angle on the OnePlus 8 Pro!

    Here, I will compare two of my favorite (and dearest) pieces of tech: OnePlus 8 Pro and the Sony A7RIII equipped with a Tamron 28-75mm.

    To start, the 8 Pro is equipped with a 48 MP Main Camera f/2.2, a 48 MP Ultra Wide Angle lens with 120º field of view, 8 MP Hybrid Zoom (up to 30x Digital Zoom) and a 5 MP Color Filter Camera. For a price of $899 to $999, you can get 4 different lenses for multiple purposes (though you’re probably not going to use the color filter one!).

    On the other side, the Sony A7RIII sports a 42.4 MP sensor and my Tamron 28-75mm has an aperture of f/2.8. While it has a hefty price tag in the beginning, the price has since dropped from 2017! And if you’re the type of person who likes the versatility but doesn’t have the money, it's best to save up a couple hundred or even thousands for multiple lenses, or else, stick to the smartphone for now. (Or in my case, get one lens that's great for multiple occasions!)

    Let’s compare a few photos shall we?




    Feel free to guess which device took which!

    If you guessed that the DSLR took the first: top, second: bottom, third: top, you're absolutely correct!

    Smartphone photography has came a long way. As you can tell in the first example, the OnePlus 8 Pro offers a wide-range of colors and amazing exposure throughout the whole photo. While on the DSLR side (top photo), the trees can get slightly dark, but the colors are a lot closer to the real-world colors.

    Whereas in the mouse example, you can see that the photo taken by the smartphone (8 Pro) is slightly distorted but provides a much sharper purple than the DSLR.

    Lastly, if you don't play League of Legends, this creature is called a Poro! The image on the bottom is much brighter, while the image on the top (DSLR) is much darker and would take quite a bit of editing before getting a great photo!

    In terms of price, the OnePlus 8 Pro seems like a steal now! You can take amazing photos and have 4 amazing lenses. While for the DSLR, you have more features, controls, and options, but that comes at a massive price. Computational photography has made photography, which once used to be an expensive luxury, is now a lot more accessible to various individuals!

    So, what's your take? Can smartphone cameras ever reach a point where the photos they take are indistinguishable from one taken with a DSLR? Let us know your thoughts.

    Thank you for reading!

    This is a Writers' Club thread. OnePlus is always looking forward to highlighting great content from its community. If you have an amazing idea for a new thread you'd like to share or have already written an engaging thread you feel like everyone would like to read, please use this form to let us know.

  2. GuitarBart
    Jelly Bean Nov 19, 2020

    GuitarBart , Nov 19, 2020 :
    Smartphones are a lot handier to carry around and deliver great quality overall. I do feel the larger the sensor size and depth of field of DSLR and mirrorless camera's is still way better (in video for example where most phones lack depth of field).
    Also in low light I think a camera will still get the best results.

    For posting on social media however most people will not notice the difference due to compression etc. Just owning a good smartphone could be enough in that case, especially with how fast cameras are improving.

  3. Philip_Han
    Gingerbread Nov 19, 2020

    Philip_Han , via OnePlus Nord , Nov 19, 2020 :
    I don't think smartphones will ever reach DSLRs in image quality, but i think they will surpass them in nearly every other aspect! Such as portability.

  4. jlasensiofi
    KitKat Nov 19, 2020

    jlasensiofi , Nov 19, 2020 :
    Thanks for the post @KeBlam. Really interesting ;):)

    Personally I opted for mobile photography for years with my OnePlus One. The reason, or reasons, were several. The portability and ease of always carrying a camera wherever you go, my amazement to see that some photography professionals opted for mobile phones and see that they made authentic works of art. What's more, I've seen magazine covers and movies shot that nobody could believe were made with mobiles.

    I am not going to argue that the quality of a DSRL is much higher than that of a mobile phone, if only because of the very definition of its elements and even the advantages of being able to check in situ some parameters that have not yet been implemented, at least in the OnePlus.

    The quality of the photos that you put and that are taken with the OnePlus 8 Pro are astonishing. There is no doubt that to be taken with a mobile they are a real success.

    I don't think mobile photography, at least for the moment, can be indistinguishable from DSRL photography. That would be more than desirable, but there is a downside to achieving that.

    And that inconvenience I call software. Mobile phones, at least our OnePlus and specifically our OnePlus 8 Pro, which do wonders of photos, do not have software that allows us not to distinguish that line that you say. In my opinion, for them to be able to approach it, it would be necessary to add powerful software to good sensors and good optics, software with advanced controls and it does not seem that nowadays they are willing to implement it. Professional modes with advanced software, and good hardware, is the only way that can lead us to get those lines closer.

    As long as we are more concerned with automatic photography so that it looks beautiful on our social networks and we do not bet on professional modes, that line will continue to be totally distinguishable.

    And I say all this while being delighted with the photographs that I take with my OnePlus and some of which have won a contest or have been in the TOP 20 several of them.

    Hopefully one day I can say... @KeBlam, the line cannot be distinguished.

  5. __RAYZAR__
    Gingerbread Nov 19, 2020

    __RAYZAR__ , via OnePlus Community App , Nov 19, 2020 :
    I personally think smartphones are slowly getting on a dslr level. But not with hardware...with software. Thanks to all the processing happening photos from a phone can get on a level to look almost like a dslr.

    Biggest thing holding phones behind is that the physical size of the sensor can't be as huge as on a DSLR

    Bouncer71, dsmonteiro and p51d007 like this.
  6. hojsimpson952
    Ice Cream Sandwich Nov 19, 2020

    hojsimpson952 , Nov 19, 2020 :
    Customization whise indeed smartphones are catching up.
    But DSLRs are in my opinion still superior in Sensor Size and thus in pixel distance which results in better photosensitivity.
    On the Other Hand in daily simple Photography Smartphones are capable enough to do everything for you.
    DSLRs have their special Usecases in which they will still be Superior until some major Breakthroughs in Sensor Technology will happen.
    But i like my 8T. I haven't encountered a case where it didn't do the job.
    So at least for me a Smartphone is enought, but there might be People who think differently depending on their Usecases.

    Y1531508033555, Bouncer71 and otto2 like this.
  7. Rajnish_Dhull
    Ice Cream Sandwich Nov 20, 2020

    KluGe, script and p51d007 like this.
  8. p51d007
    KitKat Nov 20, 2020

    p51d007 , Nov 20, 2020 :
    LOL, for a person that is serious about photos, a smartphone just ain't gonna cut it. Until the smartphone manufacturers get finished with the thin, colorful & stylish aspect of phones, and put a REAL lens, with a minimum APS-C sensor in it, they will still be forced to use goofy multiple lenses, software tricks to make an acceptable photo.
    The size of a smartphone sensor, is MANY times smaller than even a consumer grade camera, not to mention a full frame camera. The purpose of the image sensor, it to capture as much light as possible. Also, that huge thing sticking out of the camera, called a lens, is very expensive. There is a reason they are so expensive. Some have upwards of 10-20 separate glass lenses inside. I have a couple, that just the lens alone cost more than the stupid iphone. But, the images it captures are stunning.
    Yes, smartphones do an adequate job for "snapshots", and the old saying any camera you have with you, is better than none at all, but, every time I hear "smartphone cameras are just as good as a d-SLR, I just break out laughing.


    Honeycomb Nov 20, 2020

  10. U1596185789185
    Donut Nov 20, 2020

  11. dsmonteiro
    Community Consultant Staff Member Nov 20, 2020

    dsmonteiro , Nov 20, 2020 :
    Just to get the discussion flowing. The image you posted there doesn't really reflect the current size of modern flagship camera sensors. Many phones start having sensors that are close to the 1" sensor. Sure, this is far from Micro Four Thirds and APS-C.

    The question isn't whether smartphones will ever be as good as DSLRs. That's impossible from a physics standpoint. You simply can't have the same lens systems or sensor size than on a DSLR.

    But computacional photography does help blurring the lines a bit. It's capable of removing lens aberrations, denoise, upscale, straight up guesstimate color in extreme low light.

    No, the question should be "can a smartphone camera ever be good enough to trick you into thinking it's a DSLR?". And that question definitely has a far more complex answer.

  12. cdnfarmer
    Photography Expert Community Expert Nov 20, 2020

    cdnfarmer , Nov 20, 2020 :
    Good / interesting question. I don't think that it is a straight answer. Yes the DSLR has bigger sensors ( critically important) and multiple lenses are options (when excluding the cost) allowing for many possibilities. It's digital so also has electronic. /computer processing influence as well. I would say for now and foreseeable future DSLR will probably give better resolutions, clearer shots more details etc. And until smartphones are able to have considerable larger sensor, better hardware and like jlansiofi said better pro mode capabilities it may take time to out reach the DSLR. However, astonishing pictures are possible with a smartphones currently...

    In the meantime, great and award winning pictures can be taken with a smartphone. I have taken pictures of auroras with my OnePlus 6 that rivals shots from DSLR (depends on evaluation criteria too). Alot of it is understanding and applying photography principals such as, lights, angle, composition, etc, and finding out the best way to handle the phone.

    We can recall (via history as don't think anyone here is old enough for the entire time period:D:)) the evolution of the camera over 100+ years. Lots has changed in phone photography in the past 15-20 years and made great improvements but still needs some. Just imagine where smartphone photography will be in 100 years!
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2020

  13. Vijeyavelan
    Cupcake Nov 20, 2020

    Vijeyavelan , via OnePlus Nord , Nov 20, 2020 :
    Well distinguished between a phone and a DSLR. Yeah, the phone camera's are getting better. At the end, everything has it own speciality. DLSR >< Phone Camera.

  14. cdnfarmer
    Photography Expert Community Expert Nov 20, 2020

    cdnfarmer , Nov 20, 2020 :
    it is possible imo. And probably be moreso in years and decades to come with all the potential enhancements or developments. Yes, hardware and software make a difference but also the handler or photographer too.for example
    1. Knowledge of Photography principals: light, angle , composition, framing, perspectives etc
    2. Skills
      • Seeing the beauty around and able to capture it giving the observer the emotion and feeling that they were there.
      • Knowing their phones and how to position it and capture the right subject, depth, focal point etc.
    I think those aspects are probably the most influential parts to produce a high quality pictures capable of making the observer think it's taken by a DSLR.

    TibiTibi, woSch, Bouncer71 and 5 others like this.
  15. Venky61
    OnePlus TV Expert Community Expert Nov 20, 2020

    Venky61 , Nov 20, 2020 :
    The smartphone cameras have really come a long way and makes it very easy for even an amateur/beginner user to capture good pictures and in many instances the smartphones make it very convinient to be used than DSLR. Having said that, sorry to say that comparison of a Smartphone and a DSLR with the provided photos in the post seemed to me like the most incomplete one.

  16. otto2
    Photography Expert Nov 20, 2020

    otto2 , Nov 20, 2020 :

    I totally agree here- and maybe we should check the pictures in the opening thread again- but this time we should not check for a "It looks good" but more for a " this looks naturallly, just really like the original situation have been". And suddenly some of us might change their minds. Oneplus - same like all other smartphone manufacturers - are aiming for good looking pictures, because majority of users want to click and shoot. Post processing with snapseed, photoshop, gimp or whatever tool you prefer,is not an option for the masses. Same for shooting in pro- mode and editing the RAW output- this is too difficult and complicated and time consuming for users, who just want a fast click.

    Smartphone photography got a lot better, but it s still bound to physics- and all that software processing can not help ,when you want to zoom into a picture. Compare an optical zoom picture from a DSLR with 10X zoom of a smartphone and you ll know ,what i mean - check for finest details of a picture - and most probably the dslr will win again.
    But as long as you aren t printing your pictures in A4 or bigger formats this won t hurt you.

    ( I ve printed some of my travel shots and the result was good enough for my personal usage, as far as i remember some other users did same with their Macro shots and no one was able to recognize them as mobile phone shoots.)

    Posting your clicks in Facebook, Insta, Whatsapp etc. - your pictures will get compressed and all quality is gone.

    So it s up to our demands- sometimes i d like to have a big zoom lens, to catch a mountain summit in it s beauty or a bird , sometimes i love it to have a handy,small smartphone as an universal tool in my pocket, fast to get out ,with options to share the pictures right after shooting with my family and friends. Sometimes a prefer i big, heavy DSLR body,so i can keep it calm in my hands, but carrying all this stuff is not funny and travelling through the world with just some hand luggage isn t possible with a DSLR.

    I curious about the camera hardware in the next device series, ( Optical zoom instead of a telephoto lens with hybrid processing??? ) and i hope, Oneplus camera team will give us a decent software setup with a neutral image as a result. :):cool:

    TibiTibi, woSch, Bouncer71 and 4 others like this.
  17. dsmonteiro
    Community Consultant Staff Member Nov 20, 2020

    dsmonteiro , via OnePlus 8 Pro , Nov 20, 2020 :
    I was surprised back in 2017 when Kevin Abosch told me he had taken some of his portraits from a smartphone.

    Now, I get. While it definitely won't cover all lighting scenarios, a smartphone can handle perfect lighting conditions in such a way that allows you to do professional-grade level photography.

    TibiTibi, woSch, Bouncer71 and 4 others like this.
  18. otto2
    Photography Expert Nov 20, 2020

    otto2 , Nov 20, 2020 :
    Partly i agree, but i would say: " This picture was made by a good photographer"- because when you use a DSLR and click a bad framed,bad exposed picture without any feeling you ll get almost same bad result.
    Of course a good DSLR will be able to correct some exposure fails, maybe the autofocus might work a tad better, but the picture will still be bad. :eek:

    Knowing the basics of photography will always be an important part of photography ,and the most important one is the ability to see the beauty around and the creativity to transfer your emotions into the picture.

    ( Here i totally agree with you!!! ) :)

    TibiTibi, woSch, Bouncer71 and 4 others like this.
  19. cdnfarmer
    Photography Expert Community Expert Nov 20, 2020

    cdnfarmer , Nov 20, 2020 :
    Yes I agree. It is amazing what the smartphones can allow someone with skills and knowledge capture professional level pictures.

    Alot of it is knowing about photography and understanding the phone's strengths and limitations and working with them.

    I find it a challenge to get pictures with my phone in different settings and conditions and critically evaluating the pictures and see where improvements are possible, what worked best, and whether holding the phone in different ways changes the output... It's probably why my phone storage fills up quickly. :D
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2020

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  20. otto2
    Photography Expert Nov 20, 2020

    otto2 , Nov 20, 2020 :
    A smartphone is better in some situations, when it s about time ( Catching the moment ) or nervosity- a big camera setup with flash etc. will generate a different atmosphere and the ",model" might get irritated. People are used to smartphones and wont get as nervous .;)

    TibiTibi, woSch, Bouncer71 and 4 others like this.