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The iPhone XS vs a Cinema Camera: Can You Tell the Difference?

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As a filmmaker, I come across many different types of cameras, lenses, and of course all the peripherals that come with movie making. For commercial shoots I am currently shooting on a Canon C200 cinema camera using the Canon RAW lite codec. The results are incredible.

A few weeks ago I picked up the new iPhone XS max and as a photographer and film maker the first thing I did was open up the camera app to see how it looked. To be honest, I was actually shocked. It looked awesome.

Over the next few days I took a few videos and found myself actually watching them back on the phone and being pretty impressed. I would then watch a video I shot on the C200 and to be honest I would question which one I liked more. So that was it, I just had to test them out.

It was pretty simple. I stripped back the C200 to the body the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art as this gave me a pretty similar focal length to the wide lens on the iPhone. I attached the iPhone XS to the top of the C200 and placed them both on the DJI Ronin-S (I cant believe I actually got this balanced). I used the regular Apple camera app and spend an hour shooting to see what I could come up with.

Back at may studio (In Color Studios), I put the footage together and threw on a color grade. The iPhone footage took almost no work to color grade whereas the C200 to a lot of heavy lifting which is one of the joys of shooting in RAW.

When viewed the footage on a small iPhone scene they both looked fantastic. I was impressed to say the least but it all fell apart when viewing in fullscreen on my 27-inch iMac. Too much sharpening meant the details just got lost and all the leaves with details just got smushed together. The C200 still looked great. You can see the results for yourself in the video.

The dynamic range of the iPhone XS is super impressive. It’s able to keep the highlights on the bright sun while keeping details in the shadows. This is some crazy multiple exposure processing that’s been done. Considering this is all being done in real time in the palm of your hand, it’s super impressive.

In conclusion, the iPhone camera is a smartphone camera and always will be. It is incredibly small but gives completely mind-blowing results. If you are shooting to video that is intended to be viewed on a smartphone and you don’t want to do any post processing then the files strait from the app are impressive. Apple has done a great job of optimizing the output to make the files look great instantly.

Does it come close to a cinema camera? Not at all. Is it as good as a cinema camera, not at all. Is it the best camera I have ever seen on a smartphone? 100%.


About the author: Ed Gregory is a photographer and the founder of Photos in Color. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Gregory teaches tutorials on Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography, and you can find more of his videos on his YouTube channel. This article was also published here.

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