Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links.

iPhone vs. DSLR/Mirrorless Cameras - Which Should You Buy?

Are iPhones better than DSLR or mirrorless cameras for photography and recording videos? Learn about the benefits of iPhones and digital cameras to find the best one to get.

iPhone vs. DSLR/Mirrorless Cameras - Which Should You Buy? Jack O'Rourke / Unsplash

Last Updated: March 18, 2023

Written by Brandon Jones

Many people still debate whether or not a DSLR or mirrorless cameras are still worth getting while iPhone cameras are improving so much. Since there are many differences between the two, it's good to know what to look for before deciding.

In this article, I'll go over the main qualities and differences to help think about when deciding which one to buy. I also list My Recommended DSLR and mirrorless cameras below to make it easier.

Image Quality

Section Link

DSLR/mirrorless (I'll mention only DSLR cameras from now on, but I mean both DSLR and mirrorless since they have similar benefits and drawbacks) cameras have much better image quality when compared to iPhones. At first glance, iPhone photos may look great on a small screen, but if you enlarge the pictures and compare them with DSLR photos, you'll see a clear difference. Colors are more accurate with DSLR cameras, and much more detail is retained in the image because it has a higher resolution and image sensor to capture the detail.

iPhones can automatically process a picture (computational photography) to make an image look great, but the overall quality is lower on an iPhone than on a DSLR camera. Of course, it still matters if you use a DSLR camera correctly to get a better image than an iPhone. You can also enhance the image further if you shoot photos in RAW format and edit the image (more about that below).

Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Background Blur (bokeh)

Section Link

Background blur, or bokeh, happens when you take a photo while focusing on a foreground subject with a wide f-stop, which causes the background to be out of focus because of a low depth of field.

iPhones have some blurring when taking pictures of close-up objects, but it renders a fake blur to make it look similar for farther away subjects. The blur iPhones add isn't nearly the same as a natural bokeh effect from DSLR lenses.

Background blur/bokeh when using a DSLR lens is much better and more natural, with a cleaner and smooth blur without any weird effects/artifacts around the outline of a subject.


Section Link

Since the lenses on an iPhone are so small, it limits what's possible. iPhones are suitable for wide-angle and some zooming but could be more natural-looking. There are only fixed lenses on iPhones, with no option to change them later.

DSLR cameras have lenses for all purposes and can zoom into subjects far better than iPhones. There are also various lenses for wide-angle landscapes, portraits, or adjustable zoom. Many lenses are made of quality glass, which can improve the clarity, color, and overall image.

Ease of Use

Section Link

Taking pictures on an iPhone is easy since you can point and shoot with them. On the other hand, DSLR cameras take some skill and learning if you want to get the most out of the camera. While iPhones are more accessible, learning to use a DSLR camera can be a satisfying experience that can help you become a better photographer. You will learn about the aspects of what makes a photo great.

Go with an iPhone if you want something easy and care little about the quality or more control and flexibility over your photos. Otherwise, DSLR cameras are worth the extra effort since you'll get amazing-looking images.

iPhone Photography For Dummies iPhone Photography For Dummies Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link


Section Link

DSLR cameras have many more settings to adjust everything to create an image you envision, adding more flexibility than the iPhone camera app. There are designated buttons just for changing specific settings on a DSLR camera, making it easier to use and adjust than everything on a touchscreen. With that said, some DSLR cameras now have touchscreens in addition to physical buttons.

iPhones don't have many settings to change in the stock camera app, but some "pro" camera apps add flexibility.


Section Link

An HDR image enhances the darks and balances the whites to create a colorful and balanced photo. Cell phones made HDR even more popular, with them able to do it quickly. iPhones can automatically take HDR images by taking many pictures and then combining the bright and dark images into one.

DSLR cameras have some automatic HDR features or can be manually done, but that's sometimes more challenging. If you want a similar experience and quickness, getting a DSLR camera with the highest dynamic range is best.

Dynamic range is the maximum range between dark and light, so the higher the dynamic range means it can capture a broader range of the two extremes. If you capture a picture on a camera with a high dynamic range and use RAW format, you will have the flexibility to edit the image later without many limits.


Section Link

Taking pictures on an iPhone can cause a lot of wear and tear on the battery over time. It can also become an inconvenience if you need access to charge your phone while taking many pictures or videos.

DSLR cameras have replaceable batteries, so you don't have to worry about wearing out the battery without being able to get another one. It can also be easier to charge DSLR batteries since you can have multiple batteries to swap out, so you can take pictures freely while an extra battery is charging for use later.

Anker PowerCore 20,100 mAh Power Bank Anker PowerCore 20,100 mAh Power Bank Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Photo Storage

Section Link

iPhone storage is fixed and can be expensive for larger storage options, and there's no way to upgrade the storage later. Having photos on your phone can make it easier to back them up.

DSLR storage can be unlimited since you can buy multiple memory cards. Memory cards are also much less expensive, so you can freely take as many photos (or videos) as possible without worrying about using all of your phone's storage.

SanDisk 256 GB Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Card SanDisk 256 GB Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I Card Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Weight / Size

Section Link

DSLR cameras are much heavier and bigger than an iPhone. You can't just slide it into your pocket like with phones. You also probably need a bag with more accessories and lenses (if you have more than one) that you'll need to carry around with you. Needing extra items can make it more challenging to carry around with you all of the time. Mirrorless cameras are smaller, so they might be a better option if that matters to you.

iPhones are much lighter and easier to transport since you most likely carry your phone around with you every day.

MOSISO Waterproof Hardshell Camera Backpack MOSISO Waterproof Hardshell Camera Backpack Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link

Editing Images

Section Link

You will have a lot more flexibility with editing DSLR photos. DSLR cameras can store more information in the image file, especially if you take them in RAW format. RAW images are uncompressed photos that keep all of the data when taking a picture.

You only know how much editing is possible with a photo once you try editing a RAW image. For example, if you take a low-light picture in JPG format, you can't brighten it up without causing artifacts and losing detail. With a RAW format image, you have the flexibility to brighten darkness much more and balance the highlights.

Editing photos on an iPhone might have less flexibility or ease of editing, but most of the editing is done automatically by the phone's processing. While this is nice, it still removes the flexibility if you want to edit it further later unless you take a picture in RAW format. With that said, it is easier to do quick edits to an image on your phone.

Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Camera Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Camera Check Price on Amazon Amazon Affiliate Link


Section Link

DSLRs have a lower starting price for beginner cameras, but they can be much more expensive if you get a higher-end camera and multiple lenses. Despite the increased cost, DSLRs can hold onto their value over time. These cameras can also do more and still work great years (or decades) later. If you get a good camera lens and a good DSLR, it's worth the price in the long term.

The downside to getting a phone over a DSLR is that you may want to upgrade sooner since phone technology keeps improving rapidly. Since you'll most likely be using a phone anyway, getting an iPhone with a good camera can save you money. It's always an option to get a phone AND a DLSR camera, though! iPhones have a fixed starting price, so you know what you're getting in one package.

Section Link

Nikon D850

Canon EOS Rebel T8i

Section Link

Sony a7 III

Sony Alpha ZV-E10

A Note From the Authors

As technology experts, we are dedicated to providing accurate and helpful information on various technology products and services. Our goal is to provide valuable insights and recommendations that help our readers make informed decisions.

We understand that the technology industry is constantly evolving, and we strive to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments. However, we recognize that there may be occasions when errors or inaccuracies slip through, despite our best efforts.

That's why we welcome feedback from our readers and encourage them to reach out to us with any corrections or suggestions they may have. By working together, we can ensure that our content remains accurate, helpful, and up-to-date.

If you have any feedback or suggestions for us, please don't hesitate to get in touch. We value your input and look forward to hearing from you.