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See how the iPhone 7’s camera stacks up against a $9,000 Leica

Published Nov 3rd, 2016 4:51PM EDT
iPhone 7 Camera
Image: Apple

The iPhone 7’s camera is good. We know that much, through our own extensive dog-photo testing procedure, and from the results that owners have been posting all over the internet.

We’ve also all heard that one day, smartphone cameras will replace DSLRs and mirrorless cameras altogether. We’re not quite at that point yet, but as one comparison between the iPhone 7 and a $9,000 Leica kit shows, it’s pretty close.

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On PetaPixel, well-known street photographer Shin Noguchi has a pair of photos of the same subject. One’s taken with the iPhone 7, while the other is shot on a Leica M9-P. That’s a camera with a 35mm sensor, compared to the 6mm sensor on the iPhone 7. The Leica uses a much bigger dedicated lens, which should also improve sharpness and image quality. In theory, the gap between the two should be huge.

But in practice, it’s difficult to tell between the two images. It is a shot that favors the iPhone: a subject at medium distance, with rain obscuring the subject somewhat and preventing us from pixel-peeping the sharpness. Even examining the much closer crops, you can barely tell the difference in detail between the two.

Sure, the Leica would win taking photos that require a shallow depth of field, good low-light performance or a better dynamic range. But for the majority of photo-taking, the raw image quality you get from the iPhone’s sensor is on par with the much more expensive camera, and that’s seriously impressive.

At this point, image quality is starting to become more normalized between different camera platforms. Smartphones are still a worse tool for photographers, as they lack the quick access to options, speedy autofocus and interchangeable lenses that you still need to get good photos. But in terms of just producing good-looking images, there’s not much in it any more.