Compare cell phone to pro camera

You can’t compare a $3,000 digital SLR to a $500 cell phone from Nokia, can you? Well, look at these two photos. Which one was made with the Canon 5D with a 50mm F1.4 lens and which one was made with a Nokia N82 cell phone?

You can visit my Flickr account to see which camera made which images and you’ll see some other comparison photos and other images that I’ve made with the Nokia N82. Make sure you click on the “All Sizes” option to see the full resolution images to really compare.

Yes, if you look closely the images made with the pro SLR are nicer, but that isn’t the point. The point is that photos made with cell phones are getting to be darn good. The worst photo you’ll ever take is the one you don’t take because you didn’t have your camera with you. I don’t know about you, but only photo geeks like Thomas Hawk take their pro cameras everywhere (he shoots with a Canon 5D). I know I carry my cell phone everywhere, but only have my 5D a small percentage of the time, so I’m far more likely to get a shot of something interesting with my cell phone. Speaking of Thomas, he wrote two great posts yesterday. First is on the 10 things he learned from Ansel Adams. The second is about 12 ways to never miss a photo opportunity.

How does the N82 compare to the older N95? The camera is better and I like the phone overall better with one glaring problem: it doesn’t work with AT&T’s 3G network, so doing video on Qik on the N82 isn’t nearly as nice.

Canon 5D beach shots

Beach shot at sunset with new Nokia N82

82 thoughts on “Compare cell phone to pro camera

  1. A common misconception: more megapixels = better camera. Do your research. It’s not about megapixels, it’s about censor size. We have the technology to pack 5 million pixels (or photodiodes; the things that sense the light) on a tiny censor the size of your fingernail, but even with a Carl Ziess lens, the image is not as good. Why? Because the image censor is TOO SMALL. As the photodiodes get smaller and smaller, the more errors you get: hot pixels, noise, etc. Our ability miniaturize is not perfect.

    The second thing you need to consider is the physics of the thing. The lens has to be positioned a certain distance from the censor to focus properly. With everyone demanding smaller and smaller phones/cameras, we don’t have the ability to stick bigger censors in them because we’d need a bigger lens and body. This is why cell phone cameras will never be as good as true DSLRs. The cameras are big for a reason: physics demands it.

    Here’s a good article to read if you want to know about censor size and how it affects image quality, lens and body size: http://luxars.com/index.php?http%3A//luxars.com/matrix/articles/sensorsizes/index.html

  2. A common misconception: more megapixels = better camera. Do your research. It’s not about megapixels, it’s about censor size. We have the technology to pack 5 million pixels (or photodiodes; the things that sense the light) on a tiny censor the size of your fingernail, but even with a Carl Ziess lens, the image is not as good. Why? Because the image censor is TOO SMALL. As the photodiodes get smaller and smaller, the more errors you get: hot pixels, noise, etc. Our ability miniaturize is not perfect.

    The second thing you need to consider is the physics of the thing. The lens has to be positioned a certain distance from the censor to focus properly. With everyone demanding smaller and smaller phones/cameras, we don’t have the ability to stick bigger censors in them because we’d need a bigger lens and body. This is why cell phone cameras will never be as good as true DSLRs. The cameras are big for a reason: physics demands it.

    Here’s a good article to read if you want to know about censor size and how it affects image quality, lens and body size: http://luxars.com/index.php?http%3A//luxars.com/matrix/articles/sensorsizes/index.html

  3. Well, the problem with the N82 and N95 is that their JPG compression overcompresses (and no setting to change it) creating lots of blurriness in places with a lot of detail. Take a picture of a field of grass or trees at a little distance and you’ll know what I mean. It’d only take a firmware update to fix that, but I figure with the N85 coming out soon, Nokia doesn’t really care.

  4. Well, the problem with the N82 and N95 is that their JPG compression overcompresses (and no setting to change it) creating lots of blurriness in places with a lot of detail. Take a picture of a field of grass or trees at a little distance and you’ll know what I mean. It’d only take a firmware update to fix that, but I figure with the N85 coming out soon, Nokia doesn’t really care.

  5. Can someone give me an idea whether or not I should go for a smart phone or just use a more stylish phone and wait for some better technology? I am on the Sprint network, and was referred to http://www.sanyowireless.com, but I’m not seeing any options that look like smart phones. I don’t need an MP3 player or a camera, I’d rather have a phone that is lighter and easier to carry. Any recommendations would be welcome.

  6. Can someone give me an idea whether or not I should go for a smart phone or just use a more stylish phone and wait for some better technology? I am on the Sprint network, and was referred to http://www.sanyowireless.com, but I’m not seeing any options that look like smart phones. I don’t need an MP3 player or a camera, I’d rather have a phone that is lighter and easier to carry. Any recommendations would be welcome.

  7. This is not a fair test.Obviously the nokia n82′s exposure value has been increased thats why its images looked washed.My nokia n82 takes far better pictures than that.And for the canon 5D,you used the optical zoom and less light entered the lens thus it makes the images look higher in contrast.Do try and create another comparison.

  8. This is not a fair test.Obviously the nokia n82′s exposure value has been increased thats why its images looked washed.My nokia n82 takes far better pictures than that.And for the canon 5D,you used the optical zoom and less light entered the lens thus it makes the images look higher in contrast.Do try and create another comparison.

  9. Yes, the Canon 5D is now obsolete.

    Since it’s a bit too big to be practical for use as a paperweight, I suggest that 5D owners consider donating theirs to a worthy charity (namely me).

    Seriously though, resolution is not the most important factor when capturing images. The N82 has blown out a tremendous amount of the highlight detail. At first glance it looks like it simply used a brighter exposure, but looking at the higher resolution files reveals that it loses shadow detail in the same places where the 5D does, it simply doesn’t ahve the range to also capture highlight details. The N82 appears to have a dynamic range of about 4-5 stops of light vs. 8-9 for the 5D and vs. the 13 stops that your eye can discern.

    The N82 has trouble with color tones too, due to the JPEG format’s 8 bit color. Current DSLRs have 14 bit processing, resolving 16,000 shades of red, green and blue vs. 256 in a JPEG file. That’s 64X more color available to provide subtle transitions in a sunset, or even a blue sky.

    In short, the N82 won’t be producing images like these any time soon:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/23183960@N00/sets/72157603822583160/

  10. Yes, the Canon 5D is now obsolete.

    Since it’s a bit too big to be practical for use as a paperweight, I suggest that 5D owners consider donating theirs to a worthy charity (namely me).

    Seriously though, resolution is not the most important factor when capturing images. The N82 has blown out a tremendous amount of the highlight detail. At first glance it looks like it simply used a brighter exposure, but looking at the higher resolution files reveals that it loses shadow detail in the same places where the 5D does, it simply doesn’t ahve the range to also capture highlight details. The N82 appears to have a dynamic range of about 4-5 stops of light vs. 8-9 for the 5D and vs. the 13 stops that your eye can discern.

    The N82 has trouble with color tones too, due to the JPEG format’s 8 bit color. Current DSLRs have 14 bit processing, resolving 16,000 shades of red, green and blue vs. 256 in a JPEG file. That’s 64X more color available to provide subtle transitions in a sunset, or even a blue sky.

    In short, the N82 won’t be producing images like these any time soon:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/23183960@N00/sets/72157603822583160/

  11. I have always taken good photos, but when I got my sony walkman cell phone, with 2mp I was getting extraordinary pictures. I went from starting to get into photography in august 2007, to having my 1st show in April 2008.

    Yes they are only 8×10 size, but they are unabelievable.

  12. I have always taken good photos, but when I got my sony walkman cell phone, with 2mp I was getting extraordinary pictures. I went from starting to get into photography in august 2007, to having my 1st show in April 2008.

    Yes they are only 8×10 size, but they are unabelievable.

  13. I have always taken good photos, but when I got my sony walkman cell phone, with 2mp I was getting extraordinary pictures. I have alway been told I have a good eye, but I never pursued it until these photos. I went from starting to get info in August 2007 to having my 1st show in April 2008. I also had an executive producer of a bigger gallery contact me during that show.

    I think that I finally found an area that is worth getting into with my photography.

  14. I have always taken good photos, but when I got my sony walkman cell phone, with 2mp I was getting extraordinary pictures. I have alway been told I have a good eye, but I never pursued it until these photos. I went from starting to get info in August 2007 to having my 1st show in April 2008. I also had an executive producer of a bigger gallery contact me during that show.

    I think that I finally found an area that is worth getting into with my photography.

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