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iPhone 12 Pro VS Nikon D850 DSLR Camera

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review

One of the questions I get asked the most is “What do you take your pictures with?” I very rarely answer to that specific question — except in this article about my camera gear. I truly believe that the best camera is the one that’s with you. That’s why I took all photos with my iPhone on my last trip to Mexico City.

In this article, I will compare Apple’s newest iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850. While the iPhone 12 Pro starts at 1399$ plus taxes for the 128GB model, my DSLR camera on the other hand is much more expensive. The body itself goes for 4000$ plus taxes;  my 16-35mm lens which goes for 1500$ plus taxes; my Sigma Art 50mm goes for 1200$ plus taxes and my 64GB memory card goes for 160$ plus taxes. That’s a grand total of 6860$ plus taxes and it probably only does 1% of the daily tasks an iPhone can do. 

Is the DSLR photo really better than the iPhone one? Can you achieve similar results with both? All these questions and more will be answered by myself, a professional photographer that makes a living creating pictures. Let’s see how the iPhone 12 Pro cameras compare to a 7000$ DSLR camera kit.

Note: None of the photos were edited. I only applied automatic settings on the RAW files taken with my Nikon D850. I also cropped the DSLR pictures to fit the iPhone’s crop ratio. Also, the titles don’t match the order of the photos, look below each set of 2 pictures to find out which one is which.

Landscape using iPhone’s Telephoto Camera (2X) and a 50mm prime lens on Nikon D850

In this first scenario, I think the iPhone did a great job at capturing the colours of the scene. However, I tend to like my pictures less sharp and straight out of camera, the iPhone picture looks a little too sharp to my taste. On the positive side, I believe the iPhone did better at colour rendition — I would’ve need to edit the DSLR picture more to achieve the same look.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Landscape Telephoto 2X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Landscape Telephoto 2X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Landscape Telephoto 2X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Landscape Telephoto 2X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: iPhone 12 Pro / Bottom picture: Nikon D850


Portrait Mode 2X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 50mm @ f/2.0

iPhone is getting better and better with Portrait Mode. I remember when it first came out on iPhone 7 Plus, sometimes, it was looking quite rough around the edges. Aside from the hair part where it’s a bit choppy, I think it rivals really well with the DSLR picture.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Portrait Mode 2X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Portrait Mode 2X- All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Portrait Mode 2X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Portrait Mode 2X- All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: iPhone 12 Pro / Bottom picture: Nikon D850


Landscape using Telephoto 2X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 50mm @ f/2.0

This kind of scene is exactly the type I love to take while I’m travelling. I think the iPhone did better than my DSLR, especially in the top right corner where there is bright reflections.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Landscape Telephoto 2X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Landscape Telephoto 2X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Landscape Telephoto 2X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Landscape Telephoto 2X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Landscape using Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 16-35mm @ f/4

The Ultra Wide Angle camera on the iPhone 12 Pro comes in really handy when you wanna capture a large scene. To achieve this with a DSLR, you absolutely need some kind of expensive ultra wide angle lens, like the Nikon 16-35mm. I think the iPhone really performed well — however zooming in the corners, I still see a bit of distorsion and it’s not exactly ultra sharp.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Ultra Wide Angle Landscape 0.5X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Ultra Wide Angle Landscape 0.5X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Ultra Wide Angle Landscape 0.5X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Ultra Wide Angle Landscape 0.5X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Landscape using Telephoto 2X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 50mm @ f/2.0

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Landscape Telephoto 2X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Landscape Telephoto 2X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Landscape Telephoto 2X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Landscape Telephoto 2X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Closeup with Portrait Mode 2X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 50mm f/2.0

As I mentioned earlier, Portrait Mode has come a long way over the years but one area where it still disappoints a bit is with irregular objects. At this point in time, I have to give this win to the DSLR which creates a very smooth and dreamy bokeh whilst the iPhone one is really bumpy and edges are quite sharp.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Portrait Mode Bokeh Closeup
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Portrait Mode Bokeh Closeup – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Portrait Mode Bokeh Closeup
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Portrait Mode Bokeh Closeup – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Landscape using Wide Angle 1X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 16-35mm @ f/4

In this one, I think the DSLR did a great job in regards to lens flare, but it was outperformed by the iPhone in terms of dynamic range. You can still see details in the clouds in the iPhone version but it’s overexposed in the DSLR version. Lens flares on the iPhone are still very present in some occasions.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Landscape Wide Angle 1X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Landscape Wide Angle 1X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Landscape Wide Angle 1X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Landscape Wide Angle 1X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 16-35mm @ f/4

I love shooting architecture with the Ultra Wide Angle camera, it really gives a fresh new perspective on buildings. Both photos are very similar but the DSLR did slightly better with the noise in the shadows.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Portrait using Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 16-35mm @ f/4

Taking portraits at this field of view is not particularly flattering but I had to try it. I really hope we will be able to focus on the future iPhone’s Ultra Wide Angle camera because it’s not possible right now.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Ultra Wide Angle Portrait 0.5X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Ultra Wide Angle Portrait 0.5X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Ultra Wide Angle Portrait 0.5X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Ultra Wide Angle Portrait 0.5X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: iPhone 12 Pro / Bottom picture: Nikon D850


Portrait Mode 2X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 50mm @ f/2.0

In this photo, I could hardly tell the difference between the DSLR and iPhone version after I imported in Lightroom. I think the iPhone did a really great job with this one.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Portrait Mode 2X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Portrait Mode 2X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Portrait Mode 2X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Portrait Mode 2X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Snapshot using Wide Angle 1X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 16-35mm @ f/4

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Architecture using Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 16-35mm @ f/4

While the iPhone version looks more appealing right away, I think the Smart HDR 3 is a bit too strong here and I wish we could control the intensity in some way. The advantage of the DSLR here is that you can capture the same scene in a flat RAW version and there’s room to edit afterwards.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Architecture using Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 16-35mm @ f/4

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Snapshot using Wide Angle 1X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 16-35mm @ f/4

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Architecture using Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 16-35mm @ f/4

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Architecture Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Urban scene using Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 16-35mm @ f/4

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Object closeup with Portrait Mode 2X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 50mm f/2.0

I was really impressed with the performance of Portrait Mode on this one. It is very close to what the DSLR version looks like.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Portait Mode Object Bokeh Closeup
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Portait Mode Object Bokeh Closeup – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review - Portait Mode Object Bokeh Closeup
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – Portait Mode Object Bokeh Closeup – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Top picture: Nikon D850 / Bottom picture: iPhone 12 Pro


Portrait using Telephoto 2X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 50mm @ f/2.0

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Architecture using Ultra Wide Angle 0.5X on iPhone 12 Pro and Nikon D850 + 16-35mm @ f/4

Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 - Real Life Review
Apple iPhone 12 Pro VS DSLR Camera Nikon D850 – Real Life Review – All photos are under Copyright © 2020 Jeff Frenette Photography / dezjeff. To use the photos, please contact me at dezjeff@me.com.

Conclusion of the iPhone 12 Pro VS Nikon D850 comparison

I was happily surprised at how the iPhone 12 Pro performed compared to my very expensive Nikon D850. While it lacks in some areas, it clearly outperforms a DSLR in many regards like dynamic range, automatic settings and ease of use. At the end of the day, as a professional photographer, I still need my big DSLR to achieve my clients’ expectations but this new iPhone makes me think that the future of mobile photography is looking very promising.


Jeff Frenette - Signature
Jeff Frenette – Signature

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