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Insights & Thoughts

iPhone vs. CNN News Camera – A Mini vs a Maserati?

By Justin Heyes on November 23rd 2014

Smartphone cameras have vastly improved in the last few years. The iPhone, in particular, has improved so much that people use them for studio work, to film full length movies, and music videos; even some newspapers use iPhones instead of professional DSLRs. Using the images shot on this smartphone may be fine for the low-res images in a newspaper or a compressed video on YouTube, but it can’t handle the quality that major broadcasts require. In the following clip, Harvey Hogan, a cameraman for CNN, compares an iPhone to a professional broadcast camera.


The field of journalism tends to follow the trend of new technology. Many journalists, ranging from amateur freelance to professionals, are now trading their big box cameras for iPhones. Is sacrificing convenience and quality just to get the shot worth it? Hogan heads to London’s Piccadilly Circus to put the much praised iPhone 6 against his CNN camera kit. Comparing shots of street performers, traffic and crowds of people, the iPhone has washed out colors, poor low light performance, and less detail than the news camera, as to be expected.


[REWIND: Should You Upgrade From an iPhone 5 to an iPhone 6? Austin Mann Compares the Phones in Iceland]

One of the key aspects in comparing the two is a sense of professionalism. A news camera looks more professional and intimidating; you will get more dignified answers or it might scare people off. An iPhone, on the other hand, is more friendly and common place. Interviews will be more nonchalant and real. For a journalist, which one seems better?


The iPhone has a much better approach for journalists to capture the true human experience. How many people do you think played up their reactions because Hogan had a professional looking camera? Our media should be like our world, unfiltered, real and not clouded by a pseudo-personality. Professionalism is sacrificed when using an iPhone, but getting the shot can be more important to quality to a certain degree.

[Via Digital Rev / Images Screen Captures]

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Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Kyle Farris

    I think we all know that broadcast cameras are going to get a better picture–that’s obvious. If you have the option and the gear, a proper camera should always be used.

    A few things:
    1. In some situations a large ENG camera is just not going to work. For example: covert coverage and tight spaces. Sometimes to get the story you need to “fit in” otherwise you might be targeted and/or harrassed.
    2. None of those comparison shots were done with decent lighting (like the hours from 9am to 5pm). I think they iphone would be sufficient (not superior in anyway) but sufficiently close enough that no one would care.

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    • Kasun Meegahapola

      I agree. iPhone needs to have fair amount of light to give a decent image for social media type of sharing stuff. On top of that i use the app “Camera+” at-least to have some amount of control myself on ISO and shutter speed.

      As a fact iPhone has a constant aperture of F2.2 and a fixed focal length of 4.2mm (Correct me if i’m wrong). And as per my testing the max ISO iPhone can go is ISO1600 and pics are not that usable to my taste. So any one who is using an iPhone for any kind of shooting needs to understand these limitation. On my personal opinion as long as i can use ISO32 on iPhone it produce decent pics for social media. (with regard to this topic videos).

      Also sometime i think it’s no point of talking about this as no matter how much we tell or show them comparisons there are people who think iPhone is ‘the camera’ for them. I always think i’m not going to explain this to my friends anymore but i do the same mistake always and end up thinking what a waste of time trying to explain.

      This is just my opinion and i may be wrong. Pls correct me if i have said anything wrong.

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  2. Steven Pellegrino

    “It’s less about the kit and more about the shots.”

    I agree 100% with what he said at the end of the video. You can have the most expensive camera in the world, but if you’re not there to get the shot, it may as well be worthless. We’re at a point now, especially as it relates to journalism, that people don’t care about the quality, they want to see the footage! Was it captured with a $600 iPhone, a $12,000 broadcast quality camera or something else – no one cares. They just want to see it.

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  3. Fernando Lachica

    Some events need CNN camera and every minute, you have to utilize the iPhone. It really depends on your preference, and situation. If possible carry your iPhone always, together with your photo gears.

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  4. Arnold Ziffel

    I may be the only one on the planet that has tired of all these iPhone comparisons. I use mine to communicate with and I have a myriad of cameras to pick from when I want to take a picture.

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    • Al cu

      If i don’t have my camera, then it ain’t picture time. Stupid me I guess

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