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Phone vs Camera: 9 Valuable Reasons That Will Make You Stop and Think

Updated on May 18, 2020
Photography Focus profile image

I've used a camera for far longer than I've owned a smartphone, but I love both, for different reasons.

People often ask me, ‘Are digital cameras better than phone cameras?’. This question regarding phone vs camera is usually asked by people who prefer using their photo to take photos with. They are the ones who do not yet own a digital camera.


The best smartphone camera has many advantages over dedicated digital cameras. There are also many disadvantages to only taking photos with your phone, even if it is the best smartphone camera. There are benefits of using a digital camera vs a cell phone camera.


Not every camera vs phone argument is helpful. Cheap phones do not produce good quality photos. The best iPhone camera does a much better job. Similarly, images from a low end point and shoot camera will not meet the quality of pictures taken with an expensive DSLR camera.

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Phone Camera vs Digital Camera: The Pros and Cons

Smartphone pros:

  1. Selfies are Best with Your Mobile Phone

  2. Smartphones are Easy To Take Photos With

  3. You Always Have Your Phone with You

  4. You Can Catch the Moment Quickly On Your Phone

  5. On Device Editing is Best on Your Smartphone

  6. Online Sharing of Photos is Easy from Your Phone

  7. Cloud Backup from Your Phone is Seamless

  8. Smartphones Have Great Additional Features

  9. Your Phone is a Multi-Purpose Device

Smartphone Cons:

  1. Phone Cameras are too Easy to Use

  2. Phone Photos Capture Everything in Sharp Focus

  3. Action Photos are Difficult with a Mobile Phone

  4. Smartphone Photos are Low Quality

  5. Lenses on Smartphones are Limiting

  6. Smartphones Are Bad when the Light is Low

  7. It’s Difficult Creatively Control Your Smartphone

  8. Sensors in Smartphones are Tiny

  9. Small Lenses on Phone Cameras are Low Quality

  10. Digital Zoom Creates Bad Quality Photos

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9 Reasons Your Smartphone Camera Can Be Better

1. Selfies are Best with Your Mobile Phone

Taking selfies with your phone is easy. Compared to taking selfies with mirrorless or DSLR cameras. Some digital cameras have screens you can flip, a smartphone is always better for selfies.


The front-facing camera on your smartphone and the large screen means you can see what you’ll look like before taking the picture. The lens on your phone enables you to take a photo at arm’s length and look great every time.

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2. Smartphones are Easy To Take Photos With

Catching a quick snap shot with your phone is a breeze. You hardly need to think it. Just grab your phone, activate the screen, and tap it a couple of times. And there’s your photo.


You don’t need to worry about settings. It will focus and set the exposure for you. This makes it so easy for you to make your composition and quickly take your photo.

3. You Always Have Your Phone with You

The camera you have with you is the best one. You always have your smartphone on you. Any time you find something to photograph, you can.


You will take more photos with your iPhone because you have it with you. And it’s easy to take photos with. Because you use it a lot your photography will improve. Having a nice digital camera is no use to you if it is on the shelf at home.

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4. You Can Catch the Moment Quickly On Your Phone

Taking a photo with your iPhone camera vs a digital camera is much faster. Using your mirrorless camera or DSLR takes much longer. You have to mess with it more before you can take a photo


You can quickly take a few photos on your smartphone in the time it takes to turn on and focus a digital camera.


Taking photos quickly does not always mean you end up with a better photo though. Mobile phones have the benefit of being quick and easy to use. But don’t rely on this if you truly want to improve your photography.

5. On Device Editing is Best on Your Smartphone

Both Android smartphones and iPhones have fantastic image editing apps. You can filter your pictures with presets or make more manual adjustments. Doing this on the fly before you share your photos is so easy.


If you pick a few of your favorite filters people will begin to see your personal photography style develop.

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6. Online Sharing of Photos is Easy from Your Phone

Social media sharing of photos has become the norm. This is how most people will get to see your snapshots. With any iPhone or Android phone sharing your photos with the world is so easy.


Some digital cameras allow you to share photos online, but not many. Sharing photos straight from your phone is the most convenient way.

7. Cloud Backup from Your Phone is Seamless

Cloud storage backup from your phone is seamless. You can set your phone up to save all your photos to the cloud so you don’t have to worry about losing any of them. Accessing your photos from the cloud is easy from any computer or device with an internet connection. You don’t have to remember to plug your phone in to transfer photos like you do with a digital camera.

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8. Smartphones Have Great Additional Features

Smartphones are capable of doing a whole lot more than only taking photos. This means you can carry one device and multi-task with it.


Your smartphone can even be used to help you improve your photography. Tons of photography apps are available that teach you and show you how to take better photos with your smartphone.

9. Your Phone is a Multi-Purpose Device

I love the panorama mode on my phone. None of my digital camera have this function.


With my cell phone it’s so easy to capture a panorama. It’s all completed by the software in my phone. There’s no need to stitch together lots of photos. I only have to do this when I make panoramas with my DSLR.


Your smartphone will do lots of other cool things that a DSLR or mirrorless camera will not.

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10 Things You Might Not Like About Cell Phone Photos

1. Phone Cameras are too Easy to Use

This may seem an odd thing to include when looking at the negative aspects of using a smartphone for taking photos. In reality, not many great photos are taken by photographers who are in a rush to get the job done.


Taking photos with a DSLR or mirrorless camera vs a smartphone is that you have to take your time. This in itself will help you take better photos. Stop and think more about what you are doing and the photo you want to make. You will become a better photographer because of this one thing. (And it’s not even related to using a smartphone or a digital camera. The same applies to both.)

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2. Phone Photos Capture Everything in Sharp Focus

When you want to get creative and take photos with a nice soft background, you are limited with a cell phone. Some apps are now available and the iPhone has a portrait mode that mimics this look. But it does not yet produce natural looking results.


Because the lenses and sensors on cell phones are so small it makes the blurred background look almost impossible to achieve well.

3. Action Photos are Difficult with a Mobile Phone

Have you ever tried taking photos of sports or dance on your smartphone? You will discover quickly your phone is not cut out for this kind of photography.


Getting your subject in focus and timing right is very challenging. To be a good action photographer you need to practice. Having the right equipment for the task means the results will be much better.

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4. Smartphone Photos are Low Quality

Photos taken with digital cameras will always be better quality than images made with smartphones. All you need to do is enlarge a photo from a smartphone on a computer screen and you’ll notice the lack of quality.


When you’ve taken a wonderful photo on your phone and want to enlarge it to hang on your wall, you will be disappointed at the poor image quality.

5. Lenses on Smartphones are Limiting

Some cell phones have more than one lens. This technology is improving, but still is no match for lenses on DSLR and mirrorless cameras.


Smartphone lenses don’t usually zoom. The fixed, wide-angle lens on your phone is limited. To get closer to your subject you must move. Sometimes this is not possible or means you will miss the moment.

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6. Smartphones Are Bad when the Light is Low

Photos taken on your cell phone at night might look good, if you don’t look too closely. Usually they are bad quality when you check them close up. Low light challenges any camera. Your iPhone or Android phone has such a small sensor and low quality lens. This means night photography with your smartphone does not give the best results.


Algorithms phones use in their software are getting better at enhancing photos taken in low light. But, adding filters or otherwise editing it, photos taken in low light tend to look pretty terrible on inspection.

7. It’s Difficult Creatively Control Your Smartphone

Phone cameras are easy to use. Their automation and software mean you don’t need to think much when you are taking photos. But what happens when you do want to think about taking photos and have some more control over what your smartphone camera does?


Manual controls on mobile phone cameras are limited and often difficult to use. Phones are not user friendly when the user wants to go beyond the pre-programmed features of the device.

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8. Sensors in Smartphones are Tiny

A phone might have as many, or more, megapixels than a digital camera, but the actual size of the sensor is super small in comparison. Even small point and shoot cameras have larger sensors than cell phones.


The larger the physical size of the sensor in a camera, the bigger the individual pixels are. This translates directly to better quality photos. Smartphone technology relies a lot on software to make the photos look good. DSLR and mirrorless cameras have bigger sensors and better lenses so the technical quality of photos from them is superior.

9. Small Lenses on Phone Cameras are Low Quality

Lenses on smartphones are always very small and often made from plastic. Lens quality directly impacts image quality. There is no real comparison between the lenses on a smartphone and the lenses available for digital cameras.

10. Digital Zoom Creates Bad Quality Photos

Trying to get closer by using your phone’s digital zoom function is not worth it. All that happens is the image is enlarged. This results in immediate quality loss. You may as well not zoom with your phone and just enlarge the photo later. But the quality will still be no better.

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Should I Buy a Camera or a Phone?

If you are interested in improving your photography, buy a camera. If you only want to capture snapshots, keep using your phone.


You can get better at photography by only using your phone, but you’ll be able to advance more once you upgrade from your phone to a DSLR or mirrorless camera.


Once you do have a camera you will learn to appreciate the quality difference in photos you can take. You’ll be taking more creative photos and their technical quality will be far higher than photos you take with your smartphone.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Photography Focus

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      10 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Like Bill, I generally use my camera much more often than I use my phone for photos. You presented your case of the pros and cons of using a phone verses camera well.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      10 months ago from Massachusetts

      Excellent comparison. For me I always prefer to use my camera. You can do so much more with a camera than an iPhone.

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