Is there still a place for DSLRs as Smartphone Cameras become ever smarter?

As technology mimics, if not replaces, more traditional approaches towards creativity, a conversation has raged on about the various merits of those methods in light of their newer competition.

In every field, from journalism to art to music and especially photography, there is a quiet, and sometimes not so quiet, revolution taking place. Newspapers have been subsumed by blogs and on-line sites, the creation of art is just as likely to be a digital process as an organic one and only a few years ago, the idea of a photograph taken with a smartphone achieving pride of place on the front page of a reputable newspaper or magazine would have been ridiculed. Now it is an everyday event.

Just look at sites like Flickr, the top two places for the number of photographs taken on the site go to smartphones with the more expected names of Canon and Nikon only coming in third and fourth. But even though technology always moves from the larger and more technical to the smaller and more instantaneous, there are still some areas where the more traditional methods are winning out. So, with this in mind, here is a quick look at the relative merits of both DSLRs and smartphones.

Smartphone portability vs DSLR size

That said, one obvious place where smartphones have the advantage is in the size department. Just face it, sometimes size really does matter and often the smaller the better. Professional DSLR set ups are usually large and heavy and even with recent innovations that have seen lighter mirrorless cameras becoming more prevalent, there is still nothing in the traditional range that can compare to the compact nature of the smartphone.

Whilst the smartphone may lack some of the technical capability of its larger rivals, it is nothing if not inconspicuous. A photojournalist in a crowd thus armed is indistinguishable from any other everyday person in the street, a real boon if security, police or demonstrators are looking to keep photographers at arms length. But beyond mere practicality, when it comes to the manipulation of the finished picture, particularly with the very specific creative aspects that there seems to be one clear winner.

Bokeh, background blur and how best to deal with it

Bokeh, or the out of focus areas in a shot, is always dealt with better by the device with the larger sensor. Larger image sensors will be able to create a shallower depth of field and thus help separate the main subject from the background. The control and manipulation of Bokeh is an art in itself, from its use to frame portraiture to more artistic applications, this is an area where the smartphone is out performed by DSLR cameras.

Bokeh can be added after the event via post-processing techniques but it is often poorly done and the end result likely to be inferior. And after all, the art of photography for many is capturing the image in real time rather than after hours manipulation.

Control or convenience, you decide

DSLR’s are also dominant when it comes to control. Even the lowest-end DSLR will allow for a much higher degree of control than its smaller competitor. A smartphone camera app may allow you to adjust white balance and give some degree of control of the flash setting, but a DSLR will mean that everything from shutter speed to ISO  and from aperture to shooting in RAW format are all at your fingertips. Quite literally. And whilst some smartphone apps do allow some degree of similar control, the quality, as things stand, has not yet reached the benchmark of its big brother.

So in conclusion, whilst smartphones have their merits and the speed of their improvement is impressive, it is still to the DSLR set up that photographers look to best cover all the bases.

If you would like to understand more about the capabilities of your own DSLR camera and learn how to take stunning pictures, check out our beginners workshop and book your place today.