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Smartphone or SLR?

by Samantha Lee (follow)
Blog (393)      Articles (166)     
Image taken by Gabor Hajdufi

People take photos with their smartphone now more than ever. That’s because the advent of smartphones with high quality sensors have increased. You may have seen Apple billboards around the city that features photographs taken with an iPhone. That’s right, the iPhone can take photos with such high resolution they can be used on huge billboards!

What I love about smartphone cameras is that they are simple and easy to use, plus they fit in your pocket. This accessibility is the feature that I – and everyone else – love most because it saves me the trouble of having to carry around two devices at a time.

Smartphone cameras are generally for people who want to capture everyday moments. The amount of photo editing apps available across different smartphones to improve photos, also adds to the appeal. Gone are the days when you need to download your photos to a computer just to edit them. Nowadays you can crop, filter and sharpen your photos and post them to social media in real time.

Image taken by Davide Gabino

However your smartphone camera still has a smaller sensor than a SLR which means that it will still take lower quality photos. This is especially evident at night when smartphone photos tend to be blurry or grainy.

Another con is the battery life of your smartphone. If you’re travelling and you are constantly using your smartphone to take photos, you may find that after a few hours, it has already run out of battery and this can be really inconvenient especially if there are still sights or landmarks that you were looking forward to taking pictures of.

Digital SLRs may not be the poster child of practicality but there’s no denying they produce the best possible photographs. You get a wider coverage of highlights and shadows and they’re able to capture a broader range of colours as well. They also give you lots of options in terms of changing the settings, but of course they don’t fit in your pocket, can be quite heavy and it takes a while to learn how to use them.

It’s best to use a SLR when you’re trying to capture really special moments and locations. The advanced settings customisation of SLRs allow you to take really good night shots without even having to use a flash. SLRs also have a really long battery life which will come in handy when you’re travelling, or at events where you want to take lots of photos, and video too – especially if you have plenty of memory cards and spare batteries.


At the end of the day, it’s best to have both, especially if you want to get really serious about photography. Below are some common situations where it’s more ideal to use either a smartphone or a SLR:

Use your smartphone for:
- Spur of the moment photos – this is especially useful for capturing kids.
- Self-portraits – the self-timer mode on SLRs is useful but takes longer to set up (especially when using a tripod) compared to using the reverse camera on a smartphone.
- Situations where you want to use the built-in features on your smartphone, such as the time-lapse, slow motion or panorama modes.
- Photos being taken in really bright midday sun – unless you have accessories such as reflectors or filters, you probably won’t get better results using an SLR than you would with a smartphone.
- Visiting places when your SLR can get dirty, damaged or stolen – for example, it’s not ideal to take your SLR to the beach or anywhere else you have to leave it unattended such as at theme parks.

Use your DSLR for:
- Locations with really lovely light – such as during sunrise or sunset.
- Any low light situations (not just night). This includes dark venues such as churches and theatres.
- Capturing portraits – because you’ll get much better skin tones and catchlights in people's eyes with an SLR.
- Photos that will be printed and framed – you’ll be grateful you used your SLR later, because the photos will generally be clearer than those taken on smartphones.
- Heavily editing photos using editing software (not just apps) and for shooting in RAW. Smartphone photos are PNG files so they won’t be able to be improved as much with programs such as Photoshop.

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Top Answers
It's a difficult decision!
With greatly improved sensors and the availability of manual settings on some smartphones, the difference is slowly getting bokeh'ed :)
The battery is still a big problem though, and you have rightly described it!

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