Can Your Smartphone Replace a DSLR Camera?

Smartphone camera

Can Your Smartphone Replace a DSLR Camera?

Ever since the first iPhone was released in 2007, smartphones have steadily changed the way we live. Not only have our mobile phones become a beloved crutch, helping us dodge awkward social interactions or pass time in a waiting room, but they’ve also made many things obsolete. The all-purpose mini-computer that you’re likely holding in your hand right now has replaced everything from mirrors, alarm clocks and calculators to maps, flashlights and according to some, high-end digital cameras.

Every year, a new slew of smartphones hit the market, and buyers rave over the built-in cameras. To be fair, with features like Astrophotography mode, ultra-wide angle cameras and smart exposure control, the latest smartphone cameras are pretty impressive. So much so, that some are even claiming that the death of the DSLR camera is imminent.

However, in spite of their advances, there comes a point when a smartphone’s limitations become apparent. For those who enjoy photography as a hobby, investing in a DSLR is still a smart move for a variety of reasons.

Sensor Size

The primary difference between a DSLR camera and the fancy camera on your smartphone is sensor size. The size of the sensor determines how much light is used to create an image. Large sensors are able to produce a more detailed image with a greater dynamic range of tones, even in low-light.

DSLR camera sensor sizes are typically as follows:

  • Full Frame: 36 x 24 mm
  • APS-C: 22.3 x 14.9 mm or 23.6 x 15.6 mm, depending on the brand
  • 1.5 inch: 18.7 x 14 mm
  • Mirrorless cameras: 6.17 x 4.55 mm or 12.8 x 9.6 mm, depending on the brand
  • High-end point-and-shoot cameras: up to 116 sq. Mm


The iPhone 11 Pro Max, arguably the best smartphone camera today, has a 12-megapixel sensor. As impressive as this is, it still isn’t a match for the high-resolution full-frame sensors on DSLR cameras. Regardless of home many pixel sensors there are, the pixel sensors on a DSLR are physically bigger, giving them a significant advantage.

Megapixels Aren’t Everything

The average consumer who’s looking for their next camera generally isn’t an expert, so they rely on specs to guide them when they’re shopping. They may or may not know what a megapixel actually is; a fact that marketers and retailers take advantage of. By inflating specs like megapixels, manufacturers convey to consumers that the higher the specs, the better the photos will be.

Unfortunately, more megapixels don’t automatically make a better camera. For most people, between 5 and 10 megapixels is the “sweet spot” and will yield the best digital pictures that are easily shared online.

Optical Zoom vs. Digital Zoom

The ability to zoom in on your subject is important, and it’s necessary to recognize the difference between optical zoom and digital zoom. Optical zoom is the “real” zoom; it uses motors in the camera lens to physically move the lens and focus on a far-away subject. Digital zoom, on the other hand, simply magnifies the image. Unsurprisingly, quality is compromised and images are distorted with digital zoom. While some high-end smartphones now offer optical zoom, a 2x optical zoom is currently as good as it gets. For reference, an entry-level DSLR features a 60x optical zoom.

Ultimately, the best camera is the one that you have with you. For many people, the convenience of a smartphone camera outweighs its downsides, and technology truly has come far in the last few years. However, DSLR cameras still produce quality images that your smartphone camera can’t touch, making them a great investment.

Mike LaTour

By Mike LaTour  | Owner Soundwave Art

I spent 17 years in the music industry and have always had a love of art. Combining music, sound, and art was a perfect fit. With the success of Soundwave Art™ and our augmented reality app we felt that Star Map Art needed an upgrade so we launched Augmented Reality Star Map Art!