“DSLR” quality or “high-quality photography” are terms that we have got mused to hearing during the camera part of smartphone presentations. Every manufacturer and their granny claim that their device is capable of taking pictures that would either match or put a “real” camera (read DSLR, mirrorless or high-end point and shooter) to shame.

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And whenever that claim is made, you can see most media persons (we included) shake their heads in mild disapproval. For, while there is no doubting that phone cameras are better than ever before, DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and prosumer cameras have dedicated processors, better and larger sensors, and jargon apart, are dedicated totally to taking pictures, unlike phones for which photography is just one of many features. So no matter what the claims made by the manufacturer, most people who know photography will generally know that a dedicated camera in most cases will take a much better photograph than a smartphone camera.

Or will it?

Well, Akriti (the resident camera wizard at TechPP) and Yours Truly had taken a brief break from work at Dunkin’ Donuts in Central Delhi. And when we entered the place, the first thing we noticed were the fancy new lights, which had rather oddly shaped bulbs. Akriti’s first reaction was to snatch the team’s iPhone 7 Plus and take a couple of snaps from relatively close to the lamps. The results were astonishingly brilliant. Here they are:

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iPhone 7 Plus – Take 1

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iPhone 7 Plus – Take 2

Not to be outdone, I pulled out our Sony A6000 (a highly acclaimed mirrorless camera with the world’s fastest autofocus at the time of its release) with a 24.3-megapixel sensor (twice that of the 12.0-megapixel one on the iPhone 7 Plus) and which had a 50mm lens attached to it. “Now, watch this,” I said and took two shots myself. Yes, I could not get as close to the lamp because the camera did not focus from as close, but even then, logically the A6000 should have outgunned the iPhone 7 Plus easily.

Well, it did not.

Yes, the pictures taken were not too bad. But they did not have the sort of detail and color that the iPhone 7 Plus had captured.

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Sony A6000 with 50mm Prime Lens

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Sony A6000 with 50mm Prime Lens

Try it with a Macro sometime,” Akriti suggested, referring to the macro lens we have for the camera, dedicated for close ups – the 50 mm lens we had used was supposed to be better for portraits. Surely that would take better snaps. Next day in the evening, I went into Dunkin’s again, this time with the macro lens fixed on the A6000. And again took two shots of the lamp – we were able to get much closer to the lamp this time around but the glare of the light meant that we had to be just a little further away than we had been with the iPhone. Perhaps because it was later in the evening than when we had taken the iPhone shots.

The results were much better than what the 50 mm lens had captured, but surprise, surprise – the iPhone 7 Plus’ twin shots still were waaaaay ahead in terms of quality.

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Sony A6000 with Macro Lens

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Sony A6000 with Macro Lens

Logically, that had NO business happening, but the iPhone 7 Plus seemed to have handled glare, detail, and color better than a camera that many consider being among the better mid-segment mirrorless cameras in the world, and good enough to beat many DSLRs. You can click on each image above and look for the EXIF data on Flickr if you doubt us.

Just for the record, all images were shot in auto mode, with no changes made at all.

No, we are still not going to blindly believe those “DSLR quality” claims made by phone manufacturers about the shooters on their handsets. In fact, we still believe that in most cases a proper camera will comfortable outgun a phone one. But we definitely not dismiss those claims totally now. For sometimes – sometimes – the phone’s camera can win too.

We now know.


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Nimish Dubey has been writing for more than a decade now (well, Windows 3.1 was around and Apple was on the verge of being finished when he started). He has been published in a number of publications including The Times of India, Mint, The Economic Times, Mid-Day and Femina on subjects that vary from tech write -ups to book reviews to music album round ups. He managed to interview Michael Schumacher once and write two books for young adults along the way.