Apple boasts that their new phone's cameras are better than ever, but how good are they? In this real-world comparison, I capture multiple challenging scenes with very impressive results. Can you identify which photos are from the iPhone 13 Pro and the Canon R5?
Without diving too deep into the changes from last year's model, one of the major changes is the sensor size of the main camera — nearly double what it was on the iPhone 12 Pro. With a larger sensor, the new iPhone can capture up to 84% more light than last year's model, which inherently provides substantial image quality improvements. Lee Morris covered many of the sensor and camera improvements over last years model if you're interested in a breakdown of everything new. Considering my phone was reaching close to four years old, I was very curious just how good the new cameras could be, and I was honestly blown away.
Throughout these tests, I shot in raw on both my Canon R5 and iPhone 13 Pro. I used the app ProCam to control the camera settings of the iPhone, specifically keeping the ISO as low as possible to give the best results possible. All shots on the Canon R5 were taken at f/8 or f/11, ISO 100, and on a tripod. The wide angle photos were taken with an adapted Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L, and the telephoto photos were taken with an adapted Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II.
All images were edited using only Lightroom Classic. I thought the most genuine way to do this comparison was to edit the Canon R5 photos just as I would if I was editing them for my portfolio. Then, I would do my best to see if the iPhone could match. Lastly, throughout these comparisons, the camera labels change, meaning camera "A" will not be the same camera throughout the tests.
Sunrise conditions can be challenging for any modern-day camera. Scenes can have such large ranges of light that capturing shadow and highlight detail in a single raw file might not even be possible. Such conditions of light are typically not scenes that a phone can capture very well, thus I didn't have high hopes when I was out in the field. I was quite surprised by both images I walked away with involving two different types of light.
This first scene was taken before the sun had come up with some beautiful blue hour tones. This wasn't necessarily a challenging shot for dynamic range, but I was curious how the iPhone would handle the color tones within the clouds while resolving detail in the shadows. Also, note how both cameras captured the soft light on the fence.
About 30 minutes later, the lighting conditions changed dramatically, and this is where I expected the iPhone to fall behind. The results here speak for themselves in that both cameras handled a much larger dynamic range with ease. I'll admit I was even bracketing shots on my Canon R5 in case I couldn't capture it all in a single file, but for this comparison, I only used a single exposure. Can you tell which shot is the iPhone?
I wanted to do a test that gave the best chance for the iPhone to succeed. Midday shots also happen to be when the majority of us use our phones to take photos. It's rare many of us would wake up for sunrise, waiting for the perfect light, and only use a phone to capture a scene. Thus, this comparison was absolutely where the iPhone should have excelled, and that it did.
Even though this was a midday shot, taken around noon, I patiently waited nearly an hour for the clouds to cast a shadow on the road while cascading light onto the Aspens in the distance. This added a bit more dynamic range to the images but nothing either camera couldn't handle.
I wanted to get a sunset shot, but after a few attempts, the conditions never quite worked out; thus, this last test was taken during sunrise. Thankfully, the conditions for this sunrise were different enough than the first test to not overlap too much. This test is also using the 77mm telephoto lens on the iPhone 13 Pro that uses a smaller sensor compared to the main 26mm wide camera. This should mean the image quality isn't comparable, but you might be surprised by the results.
These moody shots were taken with barely any light hitting the valley. The absence of color and stark contrast warranted converting them to black and white as well. Can you pick out the iPhone?
What felt like forever because somehow it got colder as the sun came up and in reality was only 30 minutes, the light finally started to touch the peaks. These aren't award-winning photos by any means but I wanted to test the range of the iPhone's telephoto camera. Miraculously I was able to capture quite a lot of highlight and shadow detail in a single raw to the point where I was incredibly impressed during the edit. The amount of shadow recovery in the raw files felt like more than my old Canon 6D.
Having a capable telephoto camera means in the future that I could capture panoramic images that make up for the missing megapixels of the phone's cameras.
Conclusion and Results
I went into this comparison expecting the iPhone to do well when given enough light but to struggle in conditions such as blue hour or wide ranges of light. I came away being completely blown away by its ability to capture such tough scenes and just how much data was in the raw files. Some of you might want to see the photos a bit larger, so I'm including a gallery below where you can pixel-peep a bit more.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this was as fun to try to figure out as it was for me to make.
The photos that are the iPhone are: A, A, B, B, B. How many did you get right?