The O’Brien condo overlooking Lake Michigan is home to cameras. Many cameras. Some cameras so old they used film. Seriously. That old. My husband does the occasional wedding photo shoot and has an array of DSLRs and appropriate lenses. We both have iPhone X. Can you guess which cameras take better photos?
Like, duh, already. The DSLRs, of course. The problem we’ve run into since getting the new iPhone on the iPhone Upgrade Program is that photos from both DSLR and iPhone look very much alike. In fact, side by side, photos taken with iPhone at a wedding look much like the photos taken by a DSLR. Yes, there are differences and trained eyes can tell rather quickly which is which, but most people cannot (assumes good lighting and conditions for both, of course).
What that means is the smartphone camera wars have come to a screeching halt. Wait. What? No way, right? Isn’t Samsung’s new Galaxy S9 camera better than iPhone X? So it would seem according to a few recent reviews and the standard DXoMark testing. Good for Samsung. This leapfrog competition with Apple means the world gets a better smartphone camera every few years.
So, why the screeching halt in the smartphone camera wars?
If you can’t tell the sides apart, what good is a war? I can take a quick shot out the condo window of Michigan Avenue toward Lake Shore Drive with both iPhone X and a mid-range DLSR in the O’Brien Collection, and display both photos side by side and, and first glance, my husband can’t tell which camera took which photo. If he digs in real close, zooms in here and there, differences begin to appear but that’s to a more trained eye than mine.
I don’t expect the smartphone camera battles between Samsung, Google, and Apple to end any time soon. Despite the laws of physics regarding camera lens size and sensors, computational photography is a trend with legs. That means next year’s iPhone XI will have an improved camera. Six months later Samsung’s Galaxy S-whatever will have a better camera. That’s the nature of the technology industry. Iterative improvements.
That also means the days of disruptive camera advancements may be at an end. The camera wars have reached a point where the average everyday iPhone or Samsung customer can’t tell the difference between photos and videos. Don’t misunderstand. There are differences. They are visible. But not easily determined which smartphone camera took which photo.
Check out Sudhanshu Singh’s comparison of the Galaxy S9 Plus camera to Google’s Pixel 2.
Here’s a sample.
Can you tell from looking which is from Samsung and which is from Google? No. And that’s the point. For a few years new iPhones and Galaxy models had ever improving cameras which were notably improved over previous models. They improve each year but their respective photos and videos are so good that they look like last year’s and are not easily differentiated by cameraphone brand.
The battles are not over but the smartphone camera war has ended. They’re all pretty damned good.