Smartphone Camera vs DSLR: What’s Your Pick?

From accuracy and quality to convenience and simplicity, it's all about making what you’ve got work for you and your clients.

I’ve always had a penchant for old things. I like the way they’re built; the more basic approach resulting in solid products with unusual aesthetics that have escaped dereliction and stood the test of time. As a writer, I’m more likely to feel creative using a manual approach: a pen and paper rather than a computer. Similarly, in photography, I find the manual process of choosing exposure, focus area, etc. more appealing. In fact, when I want to fully indulge in a creative process, I take one of my medium-format cameras out for a spin. It’s a bit more laborious, but I like the process almost as much as the results. But content curation plays a part in what I do on the job, and how I personally build my online portfolio, so I certainly don’t dismiss mobile photography by any means – I embrace it for its one-stop-shop simplicity. Let’s explore.

DSLR Cameras
Given the choice, I would almost always pick my Nikon D7000 over my iPhone camera when time allows. The quality you get from a DSLR is much better – the depth of field, the control, and the ability to experiment with the settings and hardware in an effort to capture exactly what you see in your mind’s eye is something smartphones haven’t been able to achieve (yet). Take a look at the images below. The photo on the left, taken with an iPhone, isn’t a bad shot by any means. There’s even blurriness in the background, making the lobster rolls stand out and look extra-yummy. The colours aren’t terrible either, and with the right app(s)/editing software, it could be enhanced even further. But if you compare it with the one I took with my Nikon (on the right), you can see a pretty striking difference between the two.
iphone vs dslr

Pros and Cons of DSLR Cameras for Content Curation

  • A higher-quality photo can be modified later with better results, which ultimately gives you more flexibility after the photo is shot.
  • DSLRs offer much better results than smartphone cameras when it comes to low-light photography, because nobody wants a grainy photo (unless you’re going for that look on purpose).
  • Content curation is even more enjoyable when you’re using a tool that challenges you and is fun to play with (many lenses = much fun).
  • They’re bulky and heavy, which isn’t so convenient when you’re on the go, travelling, etc.
  • Instagram “purists” don’t always embrace DSLR photography on the app because they feel it should showcase mobile photography only. #hatersgonnahate
  • Affordability… enough said.

With advantages and disadvantages in mind, there’s no question DSLRs create beautiful results for social media portfolios (particularly handy for professional photographers, bloggers, and brands). If you’re wanting to really spend time on your photos and have a foundation in photography (or a willingness to learn), this is the tool for you.

Smartphones are really lightweight – by far one of the lightest cameras on the market. Because so many people carry them already, they’re handy when photo ops present themselves. Not only is it easy to snap pictures, it’s also super easy to share them when you’ve got the Internet at your finger tips. Despite their compact size, they can render quality photos given the right conditions. There are also a number of add-ons to help you compensate for some of their physical shortcomings and countless apps that let you gain some control. And of course, you can also edit your photos right from your phone before sharing.

Pros and Cons of Smartphone Cameras for Content Curation

  • Content curators often work together and need to be able to share content in real time – one may be out “in the field” taking photos and video, while the other is at a desk waiting for those assets to arrive. Transferring files is relatively easy, and convenience for curators means faster results for clients.
  • Smartphone photography accessories won’t break the bank. There are a multitude of little affordable add-ons like lenses, battery packs, cases, external mics… I could go on.
  • By their nature, smartphones are less intrusive than DSLRs, so your subjects are less likely to feel uncomfortable or awkward around them. This is a huge advantage for curating content in social settings and capturing authentic moments.
  • Because photography is all about light, and the amount of light you can capture with your phone’s tiny lens is fairly small, your phone’s physical limitations are the bottom line (reviews are popping up about iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus camera improvements, but noise in low light still seems to be an issue).
  • Sometimes variety is a good thing, sometimes not so much. When your phone is buzzing, ringing, and flashing notifications at you, it can be hard to get in the creative zone. If you can, put it on airport mode so you’re not disturbed while taking photos.

Content curation is a breeze on a smartphone. If you’re less concerned about high-quality files and more interested in in-the-moment, spontaneous photography, this is the device for you.

The Verdict
A tool is only as good as the person wielding it. I’ve seen photographers take stellar shots with the most basic equipment and, and others wasting their time, energy, and money taking poor photos with complicated cameras. Interest, practice and talent are key factors in pushing devices and photographers to their full potential. At the end of the day, content curators will tell you it’s about making it work with what you have available, because the best camera is the one you have with you.

Sarah Brideau

Sarah Brideau

Sarah is a bilingual content creator with over 10 years’ professional experience in creative writing and translation. She is a seasoned traveller and passionate creator/communicator who loves crafting with words and images. Sarah brings her unique French language skills and perspective to the team.