With the advances of the phone camera is there a place for the DSLR and mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses today?

You will hear many say the DSLR is dead and that even the mirrorless is on the way out due to the smart phone technology.    Do smartphones cameras work well, are they good enough?  There is the iPhone, Samsung and Huawei that come to mind as being the popular smartphones that most will talk about when referring to camera capability.  

Of those three the Huawei P30 Pro is likely the top of any of them with its 40 megapixel camera sensor and low light capability as well as the Leica lens.  So lets focus on that for a bit.  The Huawei, unlike many smartphone cameras allows you to control aperture, shutter speed and ISO making it seem like an amazing camera by any comparison.  At first glance a friend in Barrie who has one and shared the images made them look amazing.  At least enough to make me want to dig a bit deeper.  

Digging a bit deeper – one might think the Pro mode would allow full control but it did not.  Yes I could change shutter speed and ISO but the aperture remained at f/1.8!!  Typical of a lot of phone cameras and not that good at all.  But maybe there are 3rd party apps to fix this.  The only way to change aperture appeared to be by entering the aperture priority mode.  It did go quite low in aperture – but considering the tiny size of the lens that still is not a huge amount of light.   However in aperture priority mode the 40 megapixel size seems to be unavailable to the user.  Maybe I need to look a bit more.  

For zoom it does appear to have a very tiny optical zoom and then that is augmented by digital zoom.  Better than most cell phone cameras but still a serious compromise.  

The camera is a bit confusing to use but it is an amazing upgrade from the competition today.

How are the images?  Well as long as you don’t plan to print and enlarge them then they look great.  High quality images they are not – but then again high quality images are from high quality lens glass and there is only so much physics allows one to do with a tiny lens size.  

The same goes for the sensor, pixel size matters and the larger the pixel pitch generally the higher the dynamic range and the better the low light ability and low noise ability.    And yes they have as may pixels as some of the best DSLR and mirrorless cameras – but the quality is just not there.

Yes the pixels are larger than on an iPhone and do perform better than an iPhone but still only a fraction of even the smallest DSLR or mirrorless pixel size.  This limits their ability and they simply will never be as sharp as a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

However the limitations are physics and a representative from Google said they were pretty much at the limits on physics which is likely true.   However they are attempting to overcome the limitations of physics with computers.  Google called it computational photography – others call it AI or AIS.  Essentially they are taking multiple images very fast, very under exposed with a single shutter click and then stacking these images to increase dynamic range and reduce noise.   There is also the sharpness however and while the system can apply sharpening I am not sure that it will ever get as good as quality lenses.

For some, many in fact the cell phone camera is good enough and even for me as a vacation camera or one to carry with you all the time it will do the job.  It is fine for everyday family events, birthday parties and memories.  But it will never replace a good photograph with a good camera and good lens.   It will get closer as AI gets better – but so will the sensors and capabilities of DSLR’s and mirrorless.  

So if you have a camera in your phone, use it, enjoy it and share the photos. If you are a purist and want the best, sorry to say you still need the bigger sensors and bigger lenses – we have not found a way to fool physics yet and likely never will.

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