iPhone vs SLR

Can you use an iPhone as a replacement for an SLR? These days, the camera on the iPhone is so good it might make sense.

Here’s a table of the benefits of each:

  • iPhone 5 – 8 megapixels, iPhone 5S & 5C – 8 megapixels, but better optics
  • No lens cap to worry about
  • Panoramic mode
  • Photos backed up to iCloud instantly
  • Photos tagged with GPS coordinates of where the photo was taken
  • Light & portable
  • You probably already own one
  • 10 megapixels +
  • Better pictures in low light.
  • Better pictures when the subject is moving
  • Expensive to buy- definitely a luxury item

The old saying goes, ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’. This may be a more salient point than ever before, as typically most of us will be carrying our phones 100% of the time. The saving in bulk of an iPhone, versus carrying an SLR, plus the requisite chargers, cases and accessories, perhaps make the best case for using it for all photo needs.

Although clearly an iPhone will never be better than an SLR for taking pictures, the real question is, is the reduction in quality offset by the gains in convenience?

To find out, I took an iPhone around the USA in 15 days, and used it as my main camera for what would be an epic voyage.


I found the GPS integration of the iPhone’s camera to be a great plus. When traveling, it’s great to be able to pinpoint exactly where a photo was taken.


I also found the panoramic photo mode exceptionally useful; this is something SLRs aren’t capable of, but an iPhone can produce a very dramatic shot with this mode.

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Having the iPhone there, in my pocket, all the time, was great. Having it backed up to iCloud automatically meant I wasn’t worried about losing all my holiday snaps in case I lost my phone.

As expected, when moving, performance was poor, and the photos tended to come out blurry. Equally, in low light, photos didn’t look so good. The flash is useless.

In bright light, when standing still, the iPhone picture quality is almost indistinguishable from an SLR, particularly where depth of field was great, such as landscapes and scenery. It is without doubt the winner here- the compromise is so slight that there is little point carrying an SLR.

One feature of the iPhone was the ability to quickly and easily share my photos. It was nice to be in New Orleans, post up the photos to Facebook, and receive comments from my family right away.


The iPhone is never going to replace an SLR for pro photography. However, for holiday snaps outside in the sunshine, the iPhone makes an excellent substitute, and when factoring in the convenience plus all the iPhone’s extra features, as well as the cost of having to buy an SLR, it’s a clear winner.