iPhones have been called ‘DSLR killers,’ and they got 4k video before Canon’s 5D series. They are pretty capable for point-and-shoot camera purposes and the 7 Plus can even mimic DSLR bokeh so well as to be, at times, though certainly not always, indistinguishable from DSLR photos at web resolution. And if you’ve shot 4K video footage with an iPhone in bright light, there’s a good chance you were impressed with the results.
As much as iPhones are lauded to have a hand in diminishing the usefulness of photographic and video equipment, how would one fare in a head-to-head comparison with a very expensive, very professional video set-up like an Arri Alexa?
Now, a similar experiment was done last October, pitting a $50,000 Red Weapon against an iPhone 7 Plus. The iPhone was taped to the top of the Red which was stabilized on a MoviM5 and both were shot simultaneously, the iPhone shooting 4K to the Red’s 6k. Both were color corrected and edited and the conductor of the experiment, Parker Walbeck, came to the conclusion that while the Red was undoubtedly the superior camera, the iPhone held its own and was very impressive for what it was. In fact, though there were differences to be noted, with the production value applied and the Filmic Pro app being used on the iPhone, it was much harder than one might expect to tell the difference in the side-by-side comparison. You can watch that video here and decide for yourself.
This time around, the YouTube channel, Potato Jet, has upped the ante and gotten his hands on an Arri Alexa for comparison. This particular configuration of the Alexa is worth about $80,000, set up to be used by a single operator, though they can get quite extravagant and even more expensive when they’re set up for a crew. Alexas are used on countless major movie and TV series sets. If you’ve indulged in any manner of modern video entertainment, you’ve probably seen one in action.
Potato Jet mounted the iPhone 7 Plus above the Alexa and shot in varying conditions from bright light at the beach to indoors in fairly low light, and the differences are pretty glaring. The Alexa’s depth of field, dynamic range, color reproduction, and low-light capabilities all blow the iPhone 7 Plus out of the water, as they should. Also, worth noting is the fact that the Alexa was shot in HD, not 4K and it really didn’t make any difference for this comparison.
Where the iPhone has the upper hand is availability to the masses and convenience. It is much, much less prohibitively priced and fits in your pocket. For what it is, it’s quite capable – but it’s no professional video camera.