Can photos from my cell phone compete against DSLR cameras?

I get this question thrown at me a lot. In fact, people will ask me how this photo they took with their cell phone, is it as good as mine? And I can take a look at their photos and say: Oh, you took this with your cell phone, right? And they say, yes. But, I will be honest, there are photos you have seen on my blogs that I have taken with my cell phone. And why do my cell phone photos look better than their photos? Well, here is what I know will work:

Some cell phones, are made to be good cameras:

Photo taken at night, with my Samsung Note 20 Plus

I often will go on a trip with my work, and ask this question to myself: Should I bring my dslr camera or not. And I have 2 thoughts to this: 1- If I do see a photo opportunity, I can just get it with my cell phone. And 2- My cell phone was designed to be a good camera, so, why not? But, if I am going somewhere really scenic, and a chance to capture photos of wildlife, then I bring my dslr.

So, what then, is the difference between a good cell phone camera and a dslr?

Tulips in the spring, shot with my dslr

I want to explain this carefully, so I hope you will understand this: 1- If you had a cell phone camera that bragged about it having a 24megapixel sensor, vs. a dslr camera that also had 24 megapixel sensor, which one would produce a sharper image, especially in enlargements? Answer: The dslr camera! Why, because the sensor in a dslr is much, much bigger than the sensor in your best cell phone. I like to look at this example:

Size difference between 110 film and 35mm film

A cell phone sensor is small. Look at the size of your cell phone vs a dslr. Now, this is in comparison to the old film days: Eastman Kodak made Kodacolor film in all sizes, with the most popular being the 110 film cartridge (on the left), and 35mm film (on the right). The film is exactly the same. It has the same sharpness. But, if you made an 8X10 from a 110 negative, it really didn’t look very good. But, 35mm film to an 8X10 was magnificent. It’s just that you are enlarging from a much bigger piece of film. It doesn’t have to enlarge as far as the 110 cartridge.

It seems like technology could equal it up.

Another photo taken with 35mm film changed to digital

Technology is amazing today. The question then is: will my cell phone camera be able to compete in sharpness with the dslr? I think that technology will continue to make your photos sharper, year by year. But, also realize that as your cell phone’s sensor gets better, so does the sensor in the dslr. There will always be that gap. And I think the camera manufactures will make sure of it. I am seeing a 30 X 40 print enlargement from a dslr photo that looks amazing. I would never attempt to do that with a photo from a cell phone (unless the viewer won’t ever look at it close).


You want to get the best pictures possible, you still need to use a good dslr. If you want to ever make money with your hobby, then you need to look at a dslr. If you want good photos from your cell phone, get a cell phone where they made a good camera and lens for the phone. Hope that helps.

The fence anchor, shot on a dslr
Frost on a berry bush, shot on a dslr
Photo taken with a dslr, sunset photo with a dslr
Photo of snow on pine needles. Taken with a dslr

All photos provide by Lanny Cottrell except the photo of 110 film and 35mm (and that was provided by Google Photos) and are copyrighted.

Article written by Lanny Cottrell for 123Photogo

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