13 Reasons Why it’s No Good to Use Your Phone to Take Photos

Singapore in the evening for camer or phone article
by
Kevin Landwer-Johan
Kevin Landwer-Johan

Should I buy a camera or use my phone? This is a common question asked by people who do not own a DSLR camera or good quality mirrorless camera.

There are many benefits of not using your phone. Your iPhone is easy to use to take snapshots. But knowing how to use a DSLR camera well you’ll be equipped to take better photos.

In this article, you’ll learn why it’s good to use a camera instead of a phone. You may have read another article on my blog, ‘11 Reasons a SmartPhone is Better: Phone vs Camera’, and wonder am I being serious! I am on both counts. 

The discussion about the camera or phone is common and relevant, so I want to address both sides of the argument. Sometimes knowing a few cell phone photography tips will get you some good snapshots. Often, a DSLR camera in good hands will produce much higher quality photos. The choice is yours. Do you want to take snapshots of photos?

How To Know What To Take Photos Of
Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 35mm, Settings: f1.4, 1/4000 sec, ISO 400

1. Do More Megapixels Mean Better Photo Quality?

Not always. A smartphone vs DSLR comparison of image quality is interesting. The same goes for mirrorless cameras. The sensors in these cameras are physically larger than the sensors in phones. 

The megapixel count on your phone camera may be the same or greater than on some cameras. The tiny size of the sensor in a smartphone means the image quality is always lower than photos taken with a DSLR camera or mirrorless.

Cramming in more megapixels means each pixel is smaller, not that the quality is any better. This is one reason why it’s good to use a camera instead of a phone.

2. Is a Smartphone Camera Lens Better than a Digital Camera Lens?

No. The small wide angle smartphone lenses are very small and not often made of glass. Even the add-on type lenses for smartphones are poor quality. 

Lenses for smartphones don’t need to meet the higher standards of camera systems with interchangeable lenses. This is because the picture quality is never going to warrant the need for better lenses.

Camera lenses can be very expensive. You usually have to pay a reasonable price for good quality camera lenses. When you do you can be set for life if you care for your camera gear well. I am using Nikon camera lenses that are over 40 years old.

Silk Worms for article on camera or phone
I took this photo with a lens that’s over 40 years old. Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 55mm, Settings: f3.5, 1/100 sec, ISO 1250

3. Which is Better Optical Zoom or Digital Zoom?

Optical zoom always produces higher quality photos than digital zoom. 

Smartphones don’t often come with lenses that zoom optically as many digital camera lenses do. Smartphones use technology that zooms into the image digitally. All that’s happening is the picture is being blown up.

When this enlargement happens, quality is sacrificed and the photos are of poor quality.

Optical zoom is possible because of the configuration of many glass elements inside the camera lens. The magnification of the photo happens before the sensor records the image.

Using digital zoom photos loose resolution. With optical zoom, there’s no resolution lost.

4. Do Digital Cameras Have More Versatile Lens Options?

Yes. Most camera manufacturers offer a large selection of lenses for their cameras. This gives you much more versatility than the lens on your smartphone.

Many photographers prefer to work with two good quality zoom lenses. The most popular zooms for DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras are the 24-70mm and 70-200mm. These two lenses cover most of what many photographers want to take pictures of.

At the widest option of 24mm, you have a lens that gives the same field of view as many cell phone cameras. Zooming in a little to 50mm makes for a good standard lens. Zoom in more to around 85 – 135mm and you have a great portrait lens. Magnifying even more than this you can get in close to what you want to photograph without moving and without including too much of the background.

The little wide-angle lens on your iPhone is never as practical or versatile as good camera lenses.

Kevin Landwer-Johan Using a DSLR Camera

5. Is a Camera Easier to Hold than a Smartphone?

Yes. Using a smartphone for more than a few snapshots at a time it becomes uncomfortable to hold. A good digital camera will be comfortable in your hand for hours.

DSLR cameras can be a bit big. Many people find them too bulky. I like a big camera because I am very used to it and it fits in my hand well. Many people prefer a smaller mirrorless camera because the find them more comfortable to hold.

Before you buy a camera you should pick it up. How does the camera feel in your hands? Buying a smaller, mirrorless camera is a smart option if you have small hands.

6. Do You Have More Creative Control of a Camera or Phone?

You have far more creative control with a digital camera than with a phone. The comparison of a camera or phone for creative control is somewhat misunderstood.

Using your smartphone it’s easy to take a few snapshots and apply a filter or two before posting them to social media. I don’t consider this to be particularly creative.

First, your phone is making the exposure choices and you’re limited a lot by the small wide-angle lens. Applying a filter does not require any particularly creative thought process.

With a DSLR camera or mirrorless camera, you have many options for creative control. Many people who own this type of camera have not learned the full creative capacity of how to use the camera settings creatively.

7. Blurred Background Photos, Which Makes Them Best, Camera or Phone?

A camera will always make better blurred background photos than a phone. 

Your iPhone may have a feature that fudges a blurred background. This is a cure gimmick, but the quality is often poor.

A camera with better lenses and a larger sensor will always make a blurred background better than a smartphone.

Hand folded flowers made from leaves at a Chiang Mai market for How to Analyze a Photograph: Critique Your Own Photos
Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 35mm, Settings: f4.5, 1/200 sec, ISO 400

8. Which Makes Better Motion Blur in Photos, Camera or Phone?

A camera controls motion blur much better than a smartphone does.

With a DSLR or mirrorless camera you can control the shutter speed precisely. This is the setting you need when you want to capture motion blur. Everyone has seen the silky looking waterfall photos and action pictures containing blur. These are made with a carefully controlled slow shutter speed.

Controlling the shutter speed on your phone is challenging, if not impossible.

9. Can a Smartphone Take Better Action Photos Than a DSLR Camera?

No. Often timing the precise moment when your cell phone actually takes a photo means you  miss the decisive moment. This is when the action you are photographing is at its peak.

With a digital camera, you have more precise control over the timing of when you take photos. You also have the option of using the burst mode that allows you to take many photos per second. This allows you to capture a lot more of the action than you will using your smartphone.

Having the option to use longer lenses on a camera also makes them a better option than a smartphone for action photography.

Karen woman processing rice for camera or phone article
Camera: Nikon D800, Lens: 105mm, Settings: f5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO 200

10. Does a Camera or Phone Take Better Photos in Low Light?

A good DSLR or mirrorless camera will take better photos in low light than a cell phone will. At a glance, the smartphone photos may look better, but there is no real quality about the images. 

The problem is the small sensor and small lens on a smartphone. Photos taken in the dark may look better on the phone screen. But when you look at them closely or on your computer, it’s easy to see they are technically inferior.

11. Can You Post Process Photos from Your Smartphone?

Yes. Bu the quality will not be good. Post-processing photos from a digital camera will always produce higher quality results. When you set your camera to save RAW files they are best for post-processing.

Applying filters to smartphone photos is easy. Filters may make a photo look better on your phone monitor, but they also often degrade the image quality. Look closely to any smartphone photo that’s been heavily filtered and you’ll see all kinds of blemishes appearing.

Post-processing RAW files can make a dull photo truly pop without losing quality. It takes time to learn how to do this well, but it’s worth it to get your picture looking great. Beware! Post-processing photos can become addictive.

Portfolio of KevinLJ © Kevin Landwer-Johan Evening Iron Bridge Chiang Mai
Camera: Nikon D7100 Lens: 35mm, Settings: f3.2, 2.5 sec, ISO 100

12. When You Want to Enlarge and Print Photos, Which is Better, Camera or Phone?

Photos taken with your camera will always look much better than enlargements of photos taken with your smartphone.

It comes back to sensor size and quality and lens quality. You’ll be able to blow up a photo you’ve taken with your phone a little. There really is no comparison when you compare these to enlargements of photos taken with a good digital camera.

13. You Will Not Be Distracted By Your Camera

Smartphones are about the most distracting thing on the planet. They rob us of our attention so often if we let them.

Turn your phone off. Pick up your camera and enjoy photography. Take your time to immerse yourself and revel in creativity. 

Whether you are beginning to learn photography or have been passionate about it for years. Slow down. You will begin to experience the world in new ways when you concentrate and are not looking at your social media feeds.

Photography is a creative experience. When we are constantly distracted, often by the smartphone in our hands, we do not focus for long.

I love to be out with my camera with my phone turned off. At these times, nothing else matters. In the pursuit of good photographs for me, there is no question of which is better, camera or phone.

Further Reading

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post you will also enjoy my previous article on a similar topic “11 Reasons a SmartPhone is Better: Phone vs Camera”

Kevin Landwer-Johan photographer
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