How good are smartphone cameras

There are lots of good ones, but these are tops for photos and video

Smartphone cameras might not produce photos with the image quality of a great point-and-shoot, but in certain situations they come close.

Those featured below have been singled out by Consumer Reports’ testers as the best smartphone cameras in our ratings. When it comes to portability and photo-sharing options, they make dedicated digital cameras seem cumbersome.

Go to Consumer Reports’ Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more.

Smartphones these days tend to have high-resolution sensors (12 megapixels or more) to produce sharp cropped or enlarged prints. They have optical image stabilizers to help minimize blurriness from a shaky hand. And they can capture spur-of-the-moment video with high-definition clarity.

Most new phones offer two or more rear-mounted cameras in addition to one or two front-facing selfie cameras. One rear camera delivers typical shots, and the others work as a zoom or wide-angle lens. Some phones use the cameras together to produce a stylish bokeh effect, which blurs the background while leaving the subject in sharp focus.

Storage is another thing to consider if you’re planning to shoot a lot with your phone. Images and video captured by the best smartphone cameras are relatively large, up to 5 megabytes per still image and several hundred megabytes per minute of video. There’s a real advantage to choosing a phone that accepts microSD memory cards. Cards with 64 gigabytes of storage are easy to install and cost as little as $12 at most retailers.

If you buy a phone that lacks this advantage—Apple’s iPhones have fixed storage limits, for example, because they don’t support storage cards—you can probably get by with 64GB of internal storage, especially if you’re comfortable using cloud storage. But if you’d rather play it safe, a smartphone with 128GB should do.

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We investigate, research, and test so you can choose with confidence.

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10 Best Smartphone Cameras

When we took a close look at our ratings, these 10 phones were at the top for camera quality:

It’s worth noting that the popular iPhone SE and Google Pixel 4 XL failed to make the list.

But just because a phone doesn’t make the cut here doesn’t mean it has subpar cameras. Our head of electronics testing, Richard Fisco, says that from a camera-quality standpoint, there’s very little variation among the top-tier smartphones.

In fact, the differences among this group are so small that they could be chalked up to variations in our test samples, he says.

Here’s a deeper look at what we found.

New smartphones come out every year, and it seems like the cameras included within the devices are one of the most important upgrades. Sure you have CPU upgrades and better internals to give better performance, but whether it’s optical image stabilization, slow-mo, or better low-light detection–smartphone cameras are becoming more and more popular. Often times the smartphone that has the best camera is given the most credit as the best smartphone.

With each new smartphone that comes out, people brag about how good the cameras are. But at the end of the day, are these flashy new smartphone cameras as good as other forms of cameras on the market today–DSLR, expensive compact, and cheap compact cameras?

Before I actually started to get into taking some good pictures, I had always believed that smartphone cameras had caught up in most areas. Some of the pictures I took looked GREAT on my phone’s screen, and pretty good on my monitor’s screen too.

However, I was going on some trips and getting a new animal, so I decided that I wanted to step up my game. I hadn’t owned a REAL camera since I was younger when I first started getting into photography.

iPhone 6S sample shot:

How good are smartphone cameras

Some websites claim that smartphone cameras are just as good, while others are obviously just trying to sell expensive cameras through affiliate programs. One reason it’s hard to compare smartphone cameras against other cameras is that there a lot of phone cameras with variations of quality as well as other types of cameras that perform differently.

For the purpose of this article, I’ll be using an iPhone 6S as the marker for a phone camera, not to mean that I have a preference for the device since I do think that the Samsung Galaxy S7 produces similar pictures of the same quality.

What’s the difference between an $800-900 DSLR camera and similarly priced iPhone?

Well, the main difference comparing DSLR and iPhone is that DSLR cameras have a broad range of customizable lenses and settings, better color detection, low light shots, less glare in sunny shots, and the ability to zoom.

With a DLSR camera, you can buy specialized lenses to get certain kinds of shoots making beautiful macro shots that give great depth of field for up close product shots or even face shots with a 50mm macro lens, or wide angle shots with something like a fish-lens.

One other key area that you’ll notice between the two cameras in comparison is that DSLR’s are great at focusing where you want them to, and their colors are more vibrant and real than you’ll find in an iPhone camera. Flash is often very noticeable and can ruin photos in something like an iPhone where a flash from a DLSR camera can look quite good.

DSLR sample shot:

How good are smartphone cameras

Camera recommendation:

An expensive compact camera wins against the iPhone for similar reasons as the DSLR–just less of them. With an expensive compact camera, you get key features like a bigger image sensor that gives your MUCH better low light performance, better image focusing, better flash performance, and color detection.

Expensive compact camera sample shot:

How good are smartphone cameras

Camera recommendation:

Lastly, we have the cheap compact cameras that range in the $100-300 range. These cameras are similar to what you would find on an iPhone since they have better flash performance, lower quality image sensors, and variable zoom quality.

However, in this category, the iPhone wins since it has better color detection and more features than most of these cameras would have as well as the convenience factor of online integrations and pocket size.

If there is an image difference, it’s not big enough to make it worth carrying around another camera if you have your phone with you.

Cheap compact camera sample shot:

How good are smartphone cameras

Camera recommendation:

Smartphone cameras aren’t as good as REAL cameras. That’s the verdict. If you are willing to spend some money, you WILL notice a difference.

If you want a better camera than your iPhone or smartphone camera, you will need to pay upwards of $400-500 to get something like the RX100 that has a bigger image sensor to notice significant image quality improvements in coloring, focus, and low light performance as well as zoom functionalities.

Low-end compact cameras aren’t worth the addition of another camera if you have a smartphone. DSLR cameras, on the other side of the spectrum, like this one, can give you much better features and image quality (image focus, coloring, zoom, customizability) than you will likely see in smartphones for many years.

How good are smartphone cameras

Tom Spark is a chair researcher, VPN expert, and a geek product extraordinaire. When he’s not spell checking his articles with Grammarly, he’s playing video games, watching too much Netflix, and deciding if he likes his current chair or not.

How good are smartphone cameras

Smartphone cameras have never been better. The technology has come a long way. They’ve been used by professional photographers to shoot magazine covers. Apple has built a billboard advertising campaign around photos taken with the iPhone. Obviously smartphone cameras can be used to take good photos in the right circumstances, but how good is the actual camera? Let’s find out.

The Spec Sheet

Before digging in to any comparisons, let’s have a look at what we’re working with. For this article, I’m going to use the camera in the iPhone 7 as the base for a smartphone camera. It’s one of the best available, although most high end Android have cameras that are as good, or almost as good. Mid-tier Android phones are only a year or two behind.

The iPhone 7 has a 12MP camera with a fixed focal length lens that’s equivalent to 28mm on a full-frame camera, with an aperture of f/1.8. The camera has a shutter speed range of 1/3rd of a second down to 1/8000th of a second. It’s got an ISO range of between 34 and 1500. The sensor is 6.25mm by 5.16mm.

We’ll come to what those specs really mean in a moment, but let’s set a baseline to compare them to. Compact cameras are pretty much dead, so we’ll use an entry level DSLR. This DSLR is obviously going to be better, but that’s the point: we’re just interested in how much better it is.

The Canon EOS 80D has a 24.2MP sensor and can use any of Canon’s EF and EF-S series of lenses. It has a shutter speed range of 30 seconds (even longer with Bulb mode) to 1/8000th of a second. The ISO range is 100 to 25600. The sensor is 22.5mm by 15.0mm.

Your Smartphone Is Great…If Conditions Are Great

In the right conditions, smartphone cameras are great. To anyone who’s not a professional or zooming in incredibly close to inspect every, they’ll be difficult to tell apart. Look at the two photos below, can you tell which one was taken by a $5000 camera and lens and which one was taken with an iPhone 7 Plus? I can barely tell, and I took them! There are obviously some slight differences in color and framing, but that’s just in how the cameras handled different things. Neither photo is clearly superior to the other.

How good are smartphone cameras

How good are smartphone cameras

(Answer: the first one is the iPhone with the white balance set to daylight and everything else on auto. The second is a Canon 5D MKIII with a 17-40mm f/4L lens set to 28mm at f/11 in aperture priority mode with the white balance set to daylight.)

That’s because these photos were taken in pretty ideal conditions. There’s lots of light, no really deep shadows or bright highlights, and I’m not looking for a shallow depth of field.

The DSLR file is about twice the size of the iPhone file, in pixels, so I can zoom in closer and see more details, as you can see below.

How good are smartphone cameras

Megapixels, however, really don’t matter that much. The iPhone image is still large enough to be used on a billboard. If I needed to crop a little tighter, I’d have more flexibility with the DSLR photo, but as long as you get the shot you want in camera, it makes no difference.

Your Smartphone Has Harder Limits

The problem with smartphone cameras isn’t that they take bad photos all the time, it’s that they struggle at the extremes. The most obvious one is in low light.

While megapixels don’t really matter, the size of the photosites on the sensors—each one of which is responsible for a single megapixel—do. The 80D has twice as many megapixels on a sensor roughly ten times the size of the iPhone 7’s, which means each photosite is about five times the size. This means five times more light fall on each one. This makes a huge difference in low light.

Let’s compare two photos again. Rather than try to match things exactly, I took the best possible picture with each camera. For the iPhone, this meant 1/30 a second at f/1.8 and an ISO of 1250. For the DSLR, this meant 1/20 a second at f/3.5 and ISO 1600. Both were shot as RAW files. I tweaked the exposure and white balance a little in Photoshop to make them easier to compare.

How good are smartphone cameras

How good are smartphone cameras

With all that done, it’s pretty obvious that the first one was shot with a DSLR and the second with the iPhone. The iPhone photo is a lot rougher and grainier, even though it used a wider aperture and lower ISO. I didn’t even use a modern DSLR for the comparison; I shot this with my four year old Canon 650D, a predecessor of the 80D. With a newer camera, the difference would be even starker.

Your Smartphone Camera Is Less Flexible

Smartphone cameras are also a lot less flexible. Pretty much everything about the iPhone 7’s camera is more limited than on a DSLR.

The maximum shutter speed on both the iPhone and the 80D is 1/8000th of a second, but the minimum on the iPhone is only 1/3rd of a second. This means you can’t take nice long exposure shots—like the one below where I used a shutter speed of 30 seconds.

How good are smartphone cameras

Similarly, the 80D has a much wider ISO range. Although the iPhone can go lower to 34, which means the fixed aperture f/1.8 lens is still usable on bright days, it’s maximum ISO is 1500, and the photos you get, like the one below, are noisy and practically unusable. An 80D will take decent images at ISO 3200, and usable ones even higher.

How good are smartphone cameras

Finally, the biggest difference is that a DSLR allows you to change lenses. If you want to take portraits you can use a telephoto lens with a wide aperture. For landscapes, you can go with a wide-angle lens. If you’re not sure what you’re going to shoot, grab a nice zoom lens that gives you a huge amount of flexibility. Although the iPhone 7 Plus makes some move to fix it with it’s dual cameras and portrait mode, you’re always going to have more options with a DSLR.

What Does This All Mean?

My iPhone 7 Plus is one of my favorite and most used cameras. I take a few photos with it most days. I’ve taken plenty of photos I love and that are as good as the ones I’ve shot with my DSLRs.

How good are smartphone cameras

As long as you work within the limits of your smartphone, it’s got an incredible camera. Even smartphones that are a year or two old have great cameras. You might hit a few rough spots if you’re working in low light or just can’t get close enough to your subject, but otherwise you’ll be good. The days of having to slap an over the top Instagram filter over every image to make them look good are well gone.


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Smartphones are expensive these days, which makes choosing one a major decision. Aside from price and performance, features like 5G, durability, and cameras are all important to consider.

Smartphone cameras are good enough today that they can replace point-and-shoot cameras for many people. Some are even sufficient for business and work purposes. Tap or click here to see how to turn your smartphone into a webcam.

All of the top-tier smartphone brands come with great cameras, but which ones are the best of the best? This new ranking of the best-performing smartphone cameras can help you narrow down your choices.

Which smartphone cameras are the best?

Are you trying to decide on a new smartphone with a killer camera? Reviewers from “Consumer Reports” have put together a list of their favorite smartphones regarding camera quality and performance.

These phones offer cameras on the front and back sides, and many include premium features like image stabilization, telephoto zoom and wide-angle lenses. Like the iPhone 12, some phones use multiple cameras at once to produce sharper images with blurred backgrounds that look like professional portraits.

If you’re comfortable with the storage options these phones come with (as low as 64GB on the iPhone), a device from this list could be the perfect candidate to replace your digital camera. Otherwise, you may want to invest in cloud storage or memory cards.

The top 10 best smartphone cameras

“Consumer Reports” rated its 10 favorite phones based on performance, photo quality and video quality. You won’t go wrong by choosing any of these photo-friendly picks.

  • Apple iPhone 12 Pro: $999
  • Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G: $1,299
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max: $999
  • Apple iPhone 11 Pro: $899
  • Apple iPhone 12: $799
  • Samsung Galaxy Note20 5G: $999
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: $1,399
  • Samsung Galaxy S20+: $1,199
  • Samsung Galaxy S20: $999
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+: $849

Interestingly enough, both the iPhone SE and Google Pixel 4XL failed to make the cut. These phones are not bad choices, but their cameras failed to compete with the top 10 winners.

“Consumer Reports” even says that the differences between this group’s cameras are small enough to be variables in the test phones.

The iPhone 12 Pro remains the best choice in both still images and videos thanks to its unique multi-camera array. The previous year’s iPhone 11 models also beat most of the latest Samsung phones in video quality, but not photo quality.

Which phones are best when it comes to camera performance? Every phone on the list received top marks during individual reviews, but we’d say the iPhone 12 Pro is your best bet if you want a truly future-proof smartphone camera.

All you need to do is decide which iPhone 12 model is the best for your budget.

You might be quite excited to get your new laptop and there are obvious reasons to be excited about it. With a new laptop, you can break through all your limitations, that you have faced with your previous desktop or laptop. A new laptop means more RAM, a better processor, and sometimes a new GPU to break the 60 FPS mark why playing your favourite game and there is a lot of other things to cherish about, on your new laptop. But in spite of all that, there is one single thing, which you may or may not pay important to at the time of purchasing a laptop and you might end up not getting the best of that.

I am talking about the webcam on your laptop. You might pay thousands of dollars for getting a new laptop that will definitely offer you lightning-fast speeds and can also have an eye-catching design at the same time, but the performance of the webcam on your laptop is not going to impress you in any way. On the other hand, even if you pay half of the amount or even less for a smartphone, you can get a great camera that is going to take for better photos than the inferior webcam on your laptop. Why can’t the laptop webcam be better or at least as good as your smartphone camera? I will talk about that here today.

Laptop Camera vs Smartphone camera

So, without any further delay, let’s get started with why you cannot get the best camera on your laptop, even if you can get a far better camera on a smartphone that is priced much less than that of your laptop.

Why laptop webcams should be good, as per users think

Talking about the laptop inbuilt webcam, a question might come to your mind, why they are not as good as smartphone cameras when they look similar. Furthermore, talking about the space available to keep the cameras, the top of a laptop, where most laptop cameras are housed, has more space and comparatively more bezels to connect a high-quality camera. Coming to price, the price of even a decent laptop is far higher than even mid-range smartphones, which also has great rear as well as selfie cameras. I will try to answer all the questions that you have in mind today here in this story.

Internal connectivity and post-processing

Even though a smartphone Camera looks similar to that of the webcam that is connected to the laptop, the reason why the photos captured by your smartphone camera are far better has a number of reasons. The first big reason is connectivity and the way post-processing is carried out on the photos that are captured by your smartphone camera.

After a photo is captured by a smartphone camera, the smartphone uses a number of post-processing algorithms to make the photo look the best. Most popular smartphones will even capture multiple photos of the same subject as soon as or before you even press the shutter button on your camera and it uses data from multiple photos to give the finished product, which is undoubtedly going to be better than just single photo without any fancy post-processing which is the case with laptop webcams. Modern smartphone cameras also use artificial intelligence to find out what exactly a user is looking for within the photo, and it can also tweak several parameters of the photo so that it looks the best after the photo is captured.

Coming to the laptop webcam there is hardly any kind of post-processing that goes on, and I’ll talk about the reasons later on, in this story. Another big problem with laptop webcam is the connectivity of the webcam with the actual system.

Even though the laptop webcam might be present on top of your laptop monitor, and that might make you consider, that it is connected internally to your system, which it indeed is, but there is something else that you should keep in mind. The laptop webcam is connected to the system using a serial port, typically USB, which is the same interface that you use in order to connect external peripherals to your laptop. The USB standard isn’t anything fancy and it is far slower compared to the communication between the smartphone camera to a smartphone’s mainboard.

So, even if you are laptop has the latest Intel or AMD processor overclocked, the images do not reach the processor fast enough, and thus, complex post-processing algorithms cannot be carried out and that is the reason, why photos captured using your laptop webcam doesn’t go through intelligent post-processing algorithms.

Talking about videos, which the laptop webcam is frequently used for, in the case of smartphones it is a different story. As I just said, the communication between the camera of a smartphone and the actual system is very fast, you will hardly notice any kind of lags while recording a video. But in spite of that, if you are capturing a video on an entry-level smartphone, you can sometimes find lags, and that is caused by slower communication or due to the inefficient processor used on the smartphones to carry out intense video processing tasks back to back.

Talking about the laptop webcam, I just said, the communication between the laptop webcam and the actual system is very slow. Thus, in order to capture the video or capture 30 images per second, each frame or individual image in the video has to be compressed and thus, you come across a not so good video and that too with lags.

Economic perspective

It is not always the fact that the use of low-quality hardware or the the the technical bottleneck that make laptop web cameras bad. Laptop manufacturers do not invest a lot of money, time and programming resources to make the laptop Camera perform its best. Talking about smartphones, a smartphone is used in a different perspective compared to that of a laptop.

Modern smartphones are concise devices, which can be used in parallel with a computer to carry out simple to most complex activities nowadays. That said if a smartphone has a great camera that becomes a unique selling proposition for that smartphone and that is the reason why smartphone manufacturers do a lot of hard work to make the smartphone cameras perform its best.


Lastly, flexibility is one of the biggest reasons. When it comes to a smartphone, smartphones are not at all flexible. You cannot add more RAM to a Smartphone and talking about external peripherals, you can do connect external peripherals using and USB OTG cable, but that is going to make your smartphone look bulky, and thus, it is not the way to go. It can be a temporary solution to hook up a mouse or keyboard if you want to type a letter quickly but it is not a permanent solution. If your smartphone had a bad camera hooking up an external webcam every single time you want to take a groupie, your friends that groupie will keep leg pulling you for that one photo for the rest of your life. Thus, as smartphones are hardly flexible, manufacturers strive to offer the best hardware at a particular price range.

Talking about laptops, they might not be as flexible as a desktop but you can at least add additional peripherals quite easily and you can also use an external webcam or even a DSLR for the same purpose, and go live on YouTube, or do a lag-free Twitch stream. An external webcam is far better than the internal webcam on your laptop and most of the external webcams come with better camera lenses, better processors that use better image processing algorithms to offer you better overall image quality. As a result of the added flexibility on laptops compared to that of smartphones, the laptop manufacturers leave it to the users so that they can choose the best camera for their own requirements instead of investing extra to offer a premium webcam, which some users might not use at all.

How good are smartphone cameras

Since the P20 Pro, Huawei’s flagship phones consistently rank as some of, if not the best, smartphones around for low-light photography. The latest Mate 30 Pro won praise for improving this formula further, but has stiff competition from Google’s new Pixel 4, which also boasts excellent low-light photography capabilities.

Samsung’s Galaxy flagships offer good low-light results too and it’s an increasingly important feature in the race to produce the best smartphone camera. Especially given that shots in good lighting already look excellent. Let’s investigate exactly what companies are doing to produce such great low light shots.

It starts in hardware

The key to taking great pictures in the dark is to capture as much light as possible with the camera sensor. That’s more easily said than done with small smartphone sensors versus a DSLR. There are three key parts of all camera systems that help with this light capture: the quality and size of the lens opening (aperture), the size of the sensor and its pixels, and, of course, exposure time. Phone manufacturers have a few tricks up their sleeves for each of these factors.

Wider aperture = more light

The first is offering a wide aperture. The Huawei P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro started at f/1.8, while the P30 Pro and Mate 30 Pro have an even wider f/1.6 aperture. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 has a switchable f/1.5-2.4 aperture, the Google Pixel 3 is f/1.8 while the Pixel 4 moves to f/1.7, and the iPhone 11‘s aperture is also f/1.8.

With more light entering the camera, the best way to capture this light is with a bigger sensor.

A wider lens opening allows more light to hit the sensor, but high-quality, wide, small lenses are very difficult to build without introducing lens distortion. Hence why not every manufacturer offers such wide apertures. Wide apertures also produce a slightly softer depth of field effect, making the cameras look nice in macro, but they’re not necessarily the best for keeping focus in landscape shots.

Aperture is just part of the picture, as phones like the OnePlus 7 Pro match Huawei’s aperture but aren’t as good in low light. Next up is the size of the image sensor.

How good are smartphone camerasHuawei P20 Pro f/1.8 Huawei Mate 30 Pro f/1.6

How good are smartphone cameras

Larger sensors and pixel binning

With more light entering the camera, the best way to capture this light is with a bigger sensor. A bucket analogy is usually invoked at this point, and it’s a pretty decent way to think about collecting light. The bigger the bucket, the more light collected in a smaller time frame and thus better low-light pictures. In other words, you can get away with a shorter exposure and lower ISO, resulting in less blurry and grainy pictures even in dim light.

Huawei has been leading the way with larger image sensor sizes. The last two generations of P and Mate series phones include a 1/1.7-inch sensor. This is notably larger than many of Huawei’s rivals, such as Apple, Google, and Samsung, which opt for 1/2.55-inch sensors. Huawei claims its sensor captures 137% more light than the iPhone 11 Pro Max. If accurate, this clearly has big implications for the amount of light captured in the dark.

How good are smartphone cameras

However, Huawei’s sensor features 40 megapixels, compared to the 12 megapixels typically offered by its rivals. This makes each individual pixel 1.0µm in size, compared to the 1.4µm of its smaller sensor rivals. At face value, this suggests that Huawei’s rivals will offer lower noise in low light. However, Huawei’s image sensor uses a technique known as pixel binning or quad Bayer filter technology. It’s not a true 40MP 1.0µm sensor, but rather closer to an enhanced 10MP 2.0µm sensor.

Pixel binning is becoming an increasingly popular camera technology. You’ll find it in flagships from Huawei and OnePlus, through to mid-range and low-cost phones from Realme and Honor. In theory, this allows photographers to have the best of both worlds – a high-resolution mode for daylight and larger pixels for low light. However, pixel binned cameras certainly don’t retain all their quality when switching into the full resolution mode, as our testing of the 64MP Realme XT camera points out.

What really matters is the size of the individual pixels. Apple, Google, and Samsung have settled on 1.4µm as the sweet spot and achieve great results. Huawei is pushing the boat out further with large 2.0µm pixels, albeit with a quad-Bayer filter laid over the top.

The art of mixed and long exposure

The original Google Pixel’s HDR+ technology laid the foundation for today’s low-light techniques. HDR+ combines multiple exposures together, improving the detail in highlights in both well and dimly lit shots. With the P20 Pro, Huawei introduced its own “one-shot HDR” technology that is useful for low light as well. This takes the pixel binned 10MP image for color information but uses the 40MP worth of pixels for exposure. Half of the pixels shoot with long exposure and the other half use a short exposure. The luminance data is combined to produce an HDR result with just a single rather than multiple images.

The same year, Huawei and Google launched their own long-exposure Night modes. This technique combines several short- and long-exposure images together to provide even more dynamic and well-lit night shots. You just need steady hands to hold still for several seconds.

The original Google Pixel’s HDR+ technology laid the foundation for today’s low-light techniques.

Multiple exposure or Night modes are now mainstream camera app options. No longer reserved for flagship phones, you can find plenty of inexpensive phones offering the same idea. However, results do vary based on the quality of the camera and the software algorithms. Night mode can’t fix a poor low-light camera, but it can turn passable pictures into exceptional pictures. Google arguably leads the way here with the implementation of Astrophotography in the Pixel 4.

How good are smartphone camerasOneplus 7 Pro Nightscape Off Oneplus 7 Pro Nightscape On

December 30, 2010, marked the end of an era. On that date, Dwayne’s Photo in Kansas developed the last roll of Kodachrome film. Its rich colors had made it a favorite of professional photographers since the 1960s. But those same photographers had started switching to digital. Kodachrome couldn’t compete with the lower cost and ease of use.

A similar shift is happening for amateur photographers today. Cell phone cameras have become so good that people aren’t buying as many digital cameras as they used to. Your smartphone is with you most of the time anyway, so why carry around another device? What kind of camera you need depends on what kind of photographs you want to take.

Smartphone = Convenience

Unless you’re a pro, you probably don’t slip a camera around your neck before leaving the house. But if you carry a smartphone, your camera is available whenever you need it. Plus, smartphone cameras can do some things cool things that regular cameras don’t.

  • Editing: Dozens of free photo apps let you play with exposure settings, attach stickers, or add filters like portrait mode to your photos. Some apps even let you edit video while it’s still on the phone.
  • Sharing: Photos taken with smartphone cameras are much easier to share with friends, family, or social media. You don’t need a Wi-Fi® connection, and you can add captions on the fly.
  • Viewing: Large smartphone screens let you see photos and videos at a higher resolution. Digital cameras have much smaller preview screens with lower resolutions.
  • Pricing: Most casual photographers don’t want to spend $150 or more on a digital camera—especially if they’re happy with the photos taken by their smartphone.

Digital Camera = Versatility

The photo quality of smartphone cameras gets better every year. But digital camera quality is improving at the same time. If you’re a photographer who wants more choices, investing in a high-quality digital camera can give them to you.

  • Interchangeable lenses: Smartphone cameras have fixed lenses, so they’re best with mid-range photos. You can change out the lens of a digital cameras to zoom or take macro close-ups.
  • Action or low-light shots: Smartphone cameras take wonderful pictures when the subject isn’t moving and is in bright light. Digital cameras give you manual control of settings like shutter and aperture. This makes it easier to take beautiful pictures when the subject is moving or in low light.
  • Long-lasting battery: Have you ever seen the perfect shot, pulled out your smartphone to take a picture, and discovered your battery is dead? Most smartphone users have had this frustrating experience, but it happens less frequently with digital cameras. Most cameras can take up to 500 pictures on a single charge.

The bottom line

If you want to take great photographs and share them on your blog or on social media, a smartphone camera should give you everything you need. Just be sure, when you’re buying a smartphone, that the camera is high quality. Look for these important features.

  • Overall picture quality
  • Low-light performance
  • High-end photo effects
  • Optical zoom
  • Variable aperture/lens feature
  • Ability to take high-quality portraits on both front- and rear-facing cameras

If you’re already a serious photographer—or you want to improve your amateur skills—go for a mirrorless or DSLR camera. You can experiment with shutter and aperture settings or add more lenses as your skills improve. Make sure you don’t bust your budget—look for sales or shop on discount websites. You can even get a refurbished digital camera that costs much less than a new one.

And remember, you can improve your skills by taking a class. Some classes even teach photography tricks just for smartphone cameras. Check your local colleges, rec centers, or photography clubs to find classes near you. You can even find online classes on Lynda or Udemy. Happy shutterbugging!

This article was written by an AT&T employee. The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent the positions, strategies, or opinions of AT&T.

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

How good are smartphone cameras

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Smartphone cameras are great, or at least close enough to great that you don’t notice the difference. We’ve reached the point where you’ve got to work pretty hard to find a phone with a mediocre camera, and when you do, it is an anachronism to be mocked and derided—and passed over for a phone with a better one.

It wasn’t always this way, of course. There was a time, not too long ago, when smartphone cameras sucked. They took genuinely bad photos that were underexposed or overexposed or grainy or . well, you remember. And if you don’t, consider yourself lucky. It’s taken a few years, but nowadays people take a great camera for granted. Thank companies like Nokia, which started pushing that envelope in 2007, and Apple, which gave the iPhone 4 the first camera that made people go, “Daaaaaaaamn.”

How did this happen? When you consider things like sensor size, pixel density, controls, and optics, smartphone cameras should be pretty lousy. Compared to a DSLR, they still are. But the camera in your pocket is crazy good considering the limitations manufacturers work under. And the advancements keep coming. As we look to the future, the cameras in our phones are only going to get better.

No matter what kind of camera you’re talking about, there’s a universal truth: the bigger the image sensor, the better the image. A bigger sensor will capture more detail with wider dynamic range (the detail in dark and light areas), offer superior low-light performance, and focus more sharply on moving objects. However, with few exceptions, smartphone cameras have tiny sensors.

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We do a lot of stupid things with our smartphones, like taking millions of selfies or slavishly following the GPS off a bridge. And we often forget that these palm-sized devices pack more computing power than a NASA spaceship (let alone PCs of years past).

But while I like to joke about how smartphones are making us stupider…they’re actually not. Smartphones improve our lives in ways we never even think about, and I’m not just talking about sending us a Google Calendar alert so we don’t forget our anniversary. Here are 9 crazy ways smartphones are changing the world for the better:

They keep you safe, even if you’re alone

Walking home, alone, at night, through a bad part of town is not nearly as dangerous as it was 10 years ago, thanks to the tracking device you always carry with you. For extra protection, personal safety apps like bSafe have additional features, such as a “Follow Me” live GPS trace so your friends can make sure you get home safely, and an automatic alarm that triggers if you fail to check in at a specified time.

They can detect earthquakes

Your smartphone contains a Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) accelerometer that tracks movement and keeps your map rotated to the right direction. But scientists have discovered that these sensitive accelerometers can also accurately detect earthquakes of magnitudes greater than 5 when located near the epicenter. In other words, smartphones could soon replace traditional seismometer networks.

They give sight to the developing world

A company called eyeNETRA has invented the NetraG, a $2 smartphone attachment that, when paired with a mobile app, can accurately measure farsightedness, nearsightedness, astigmatism, age-related blurriness, and pupillary distance. According to the company, 2.4 billion people in the world need glasses but cannot access testing tools or afford pricey exams—the NetraG will change that.

They make doctors mobile

Apps like Doctor on Demand bring qualified doctors right to your smartphone screen, even if you’re holed up in your bedroom with a bucket of chicken soup. But smartphone convenience is not just for you: Harvard prof George Whitesides has developed a paper chip that, when dabbed with blood, creates a colorful pattern that diagnoses diseases such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and hepatitis. The chip displays its results visually so that a doctor viewing it on a mobile device can make a diagnosis.

They’re always on the scene

Smartphones are everywhere, and that’s a good thing in an emergency. Authorities can tap into the network to issue alerts, such as severe weather alerts or Amber Alerts (kidnapping). Smartphones are also handy in a disaster, such as the 2011 Japan earthquake, where they were used for communication (the landlines were down) and search and rescue operations.

They’re changing our brains

Researchers have found that smartphones are such game-changers that they’re actually changing the way our brains work. Constant access to databases and search engines have changed the way our memory works. Instead of remembering information, we now remember how to find that information. If you don’t think this is a good thing, think of it this way: Instead of clogging up your brain with useless facts, you’re now clogging it with information on how to get useless facts, so you actually know more (it’s just filed differently).

They help people cope with illnesses and disabilities

Being sick is no fun, but being sick in the smartphone age is considerably more fun (relatively speaking). There are apps for everything: Managing illnesses, addressing learning disabilities, teaching sign language, even finding accessible restaurants, hotels, and attractions in your city. And for people who can’t use their hands, there’s a hands-free Android phone called the Sesame Enable, so anyone can stay connected to the world around them.

They bring information to the developing world

Smartphones and tablets as textbook replacements might sound luxurious, but this strategy actually saves schools money. The reason? For the cost of a few static textbooks, students can get an entire internet’s worth of dynamic information in a mobile device. So it’s no wonder that schools in developing continents like Africa are opting for this high-tech alternative to traditional media.

They save time

According to a study by Harris Interactive, the convenience of smartphone apps saves people an average of 22 days per year. That’s right; checking your email, scheduling appointments, grocery shopping, texting your buddies, and checking the weather all in one place means you have almost an extra month’s worth of free time compared to your 1990’s self. Note that “saving time” doesn’t necessarily mean “being more productive,” however, since you probably just use those extra 22 days to play Clash of Clans.

Sarah is a freelance writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She has a love/hate relationship with social media and a bad habit of describing technology as “sexy.”

Smartphone or DSLR camera, which one is better for you?

On the surface this question may seem very straightforward. A real camera is going to take better photos and better videos. But that is not the only thing to take into consideration. Sometimes the weight and size of a camera can be inconvenient. For some folks cost of buying a DSLR may be prohibitive, but through their telephone carrier they can easily finance a high-end smartphone with a great camera.

There are many reasons why someone could decide to choose one over the other, and in today’s article we will explore these options to help you make the best decision for your situation. Here are the advantages of each:

Advantages of Smartphones

There are many reasons that some people would prefer to shoot with a smartphone rather than a DSLR camera. Mostly this choice comes down to overall weight, as well as convenience. DSLRs sometimes just feel like overkill if you’re not doing photography professionally. A smartphone is something you’re likely to have on you and doesn’t require any special accessories most of the time.

With each new generation of smartphones adding more features, higher resolutions and expanding into high-quality video, there is a legitimate argument for the average person not needing a “real camera.”

  • Lightweight and fit in your pockets
  • Uncomplicated and easy to use
  • Images are immediately usable
  • Apps in the phone allow for easy editing
  • Pictures can immediately be shared online
  • Capable of easily shooting slow-mo and time-lapse
  • Create easy panorama images without complex editing
  • Small and unintimidating for models and small children
  • Affordable 4K video footage

Advantages of a DSLR Camera

Whether you are shooting photography or video a DSLR camera is a powerful option. These cameras are enjoyed by enthusiasts and professionals for several reasons—from the ability to adapt the camera by using lenses and accessories to knowing that one has complete creative control of their image. DSLR cameras have many great features, but the trade off is weight, complexity, and cost.

  • Interchangeable lenses give you more options
  • Zoom lenses give you the ability to shoot further away
  • Superior image quality overall
  • The ability to have artistic control over the exposure
  • More options for shooting in low light situations
  • Better overall build quality (some are weatherproof)
  • Larger image file-size capacity
  • Higher resolution images and more detailed photos
  • Better dynamic range and color accuracy
  • The ability to create high depth of field with wide apertures
  • Faster shutter speeds for shooting action or sports
  • Capabilities can be enhanced with a variety of accessories

Which Camera Solution is Right for You?

The best camera is the one you have with you and the one that you know best. If you don’t have the ability or the patience to use a DSLR camera you shouldn’t feel pressured to do so. There can be other valid options for you including smartphones, point and shoot cameras or mirrorless cameras. It all comes down to user preference and your individual needs, not unlike my Mac VS. PC argument.

If you find yourself wanting to get shots in the moment and they don’t need to be professional then a smartphone is the convenient option, and still capable of producing a level of quality that is more than acceptable for prints.

When you are shooting professional photography or video that you’re being paid for, the reality is that you should probably be shooting on a DSLR (or Mirrorless) camera. The interchangeable lenses and ability to shoot in low light situations will matter. This is particularly true if you are shooting portraits and need to consider lens compression and distortion, or if you’re shooting events where lighting will be an issue.

Final Thoughts on Smartphones vs DSLR Cameras

As technology advances, there may come a time when smartphone cameras are truly competitive and offer the options and quality that allow them to replace a DSLR or Mirrorless Camera. For now, traditional cameras still produce superior quality and provide the versatility the professionals need in order to capture moments and create beautiful imagery. For the everyday consumer, a smartphone packs more than enough pixels and features to be fun and affordable.

Which one is right for you and why? Let us know in the comments section!