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How Does the iPhone 4S Video Quality Compare to the Canon 5D Mark II?

10.17.11 @ 1:20PM Tags : , , , ,

The new iPhone 4S shoots 1080/30p video. No, I’m not saying you should use it to shoot a narrative film, but in terms of ubiquity we’re going to see a lot of footage from the 4S going forward — as an indicator of this ubiquity, the iPhone 4 is the single most popular camera on flickr. Those blurry cameraphone videos used on the news for eyewitness reports are certainly going to be a lot sharper, but how does the much-hyped new lens fare against the video quality of a Canon 5D Mark II? Here’s a shootout video from Robino Films, who set both cameras up on the same tripod and rolled simultaneous video:

No, you’re not going to use the iPhone instead of a dedicated video camera, but along with the glut of new Android phones, cameraphone video is leaps and bounds better than it was just a year ago. You can also download the 1080p source file on Vimeo (right-hand side).

UPDATE: Check out this short film shot on the iPhone 4S. Yes, if you get really close to objects, you can get a shallow depth-of-field look even with a sensor size this small.

As a sidenote, a recent commenter accused me of covering Apple products too much on this site, but my Google Analytics data shows that a whopping 63% of visitors here are on a Mac or iOS device (54% of which is a Mac proper, compared to 13% Mac marketshare in the U.S.). Given NoFilmSchool readers are four times more likely to use a Mac than the national average, I think it’s safe to say I’m not pushing a personal agenda but rather trying to serve my audience. So, Apple users, here is another video comparing the iPhone 4S’s video quality to that of the iPhone 4:

I’ll also be curious to see how far third party apps are able to push the sensor, hopefully brining more manual controls to the table. And not to make this post too Apple-specific, here’s a shootout video from Engadget comparing the iPhone 4S’s video to several other current cameraphones:

[via @setla, Mashable, and Macrumors]


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Description image 38 COMMENTS

  • This is really an article on the website?

  • wots the actual focal length of the iphone 4S camera eq to 35mm sensor? is it 28mm or 35mm?

  • Not bad is it? Not bad at all.

  • Jacques E. Bouchard on 10.17.11 @ 1:59PM

    There’s a saying that goes “The right camera is the one you have with you”. On the other hand, comparing the iPhone to a 5D is silly in the extreme. Maybe this was meant as a joke and we missed the tongue-in-cheek?

    And as for your Mac user-base: we settled on a computer platform years ago not because it’s what every other kid on the block used or because we read about it in a magazine, but because we did side-by-side comparison and decided on a PC platform. We constantly need to accommodate technical problems and compatibility issues from our Mac-based clients who have decided to run FCP because “that’s what everyone else uses” but don’t even know what pixel aspect ratio is. We never have any issues with Premiere, Vegas, Avid or any other editing suite used by a client, but we had to put together a hackintosh only to run ClipWrap for clients whose $10,000 Mac workstation can’t handle HDV without transcoding. The operative sentence being “We [...] accommodate”, because the limitations are never at our end.

    So please, be more considerate to your PC user base. If it weren’t for us you’d never get off the FCP island.

  • John — yes, yes it is. Glad to clarify.

    Robin — my thoughts exactly!

    Jacques — I’ve been using Premiere since version 4. At no point do I say “PCs suck” or anything that would be inconsiderate to a PC user base. I’m on an Android phone, not iOS.

    That said, feel free to take this iPhone video as a jumping off point to start a flame war…

  • Flimic Pro would be a great 24p Matte-Enabled (S35 and 2.35:1) app for the 4s. Their update is coming soon so as to suit the flu 1080 of the 4s instead of the 720 from the 4. Allows variable frame rates up to 30, uncompressed sound (if you want; i’d just get a zoom h1 or rent an h4n), matting to your liking, and if you can rent one of those slr-to-iphone lens adapters, i’d be VERY interested to see what could be produced (especially once color corrected, and once the rolling shutter had been corrected and the sound from the sound recorder mastered. Really with this an a steadicam merlin and good tripod, it’d be a reasonable idea to do very good-quality vodcasts and vlogs without breaking the bank too much.

  • The iPhone 4S holds up surprisingly well. I’ll still take the DSLR, of course, but this is impressive none the less.

  • Thanks, Koo. I was afraid you had run out of informative pieces for us.

  • Alberto De Jesus on 10.17.11 @ 4:01PM

    Thanks, Koo.

    I appreciate both the PC and MAC coverage you provide. I am grateful for all the coverage you provide and hope you continue to keep the posts diverse.

    I wish people could be more tolerant of both MACs and PCs. I see no reason for anyone to get upset. No one said that Macs were better or that PC coverage was taking a dip. I wish people would understand that what works for one person may not be the answer for the next.

  • I am totally impressed by the iPhone 4S. It’s only a matter of time until someone uses it to create a film that makes a lot of noise.

    As for the Mac vs. PC argument. I use FCP on a Mac. Not because everyone else does or because it bloats my ego and gives me a fuzzy feeling of being a proper filmmaker. The reason is simply that my Windows PC wasn’t working for me when I started doing “serious” film work. I bought a second-hand PowerMac back in 2004 and a new world opened up. It just worked for me. I’m not sure if it made my work any better, but it certainly made it certainly made it easier to create. Some of my friends use Windows because it works for them and that’s fine. Don’t see the big deal.

    Oh, and the HDV on a Mac thing? I edited a two hour + concert shot on six HDV cameras. Used an early-2006 20″ iMac. And a lot of other stuff.

  • Granted this video is compressed for online viewing, but the quality compared to the 5D is remarkable for an iphone. I have the iPhone 4 and it would look nothing like this. I say it’s a great improvement by Apple!

  • If I had not been told which was which, I doubt that I would have scored well where I had to pick one over another. And I don’t think the vast, vast majority of people would have scored well either.

    Don’t have an iPhone 4s yet, but that video convinced me to buy one. And I gotta say, for those of you who don’t know, focus is a pretty darn big problem with the Canon 5D Mark II, 7D, and 60D video. It doesn’t auto-focus when your subject moves closer or gets father away. For instance, I filmed a dance group and they went out of focus when they moved from their start positions to a position close to the camera. My little Canon camcorder adjusts the focus, but the 5D does not. And believe me, if you don’t have good focus, you’ve got nothing. Manually focusing using the focus ring is what many folks will tell you to do, but now that’s not always so easy, now is it? Generally speaking, the results are not what you’d like.

    I wonder if the iPhone auto-refocuses?

  • How much manual control is there? It looks like fast shutter speed which is a no go for me. Otherwise, the overall quality seems very nice. It is great to see this in a way because it represents the ever decreasing cost of robust imaging.

    I still prefer the Barbie camera though….

  • Wow… won’t be long now!

  • An app with shutter speed control, aperture control, and ISO control.. DSLRS are dead! The same issue of crappy audio still continues.

  • I’ve never had an iphone. Any idea as to how much footage the phone could hold? Would clips be limited to like 30 seconds or something like that?

    • I’m sure the iPhone 4S compresses the video in H.264, just as my Canon XA-10 does. The XA-10 has a 64 GB internal flash memory card built in that will hold around 5 hours of 1080p at 24fps. Depending on the capacity of the iPhone 4S that you choose (I got the 64 GB), I’ve got to assume that the 1080p footage the iPhone will shoot would be somewhere less than 5 hours, given that the iPhone 4S only shoots in 30fps. Still, I agree that it holds up quite nicely. Here’s a short video I made comparing my new iPhone 4S with my Canon 7D. Mind you, I didn’t spent a lot of time dialing in the settings on the 7D. Rather, I just dialed it in enough to get an exposure that was in the ballpark of being acceptable. One clip is in shadow, the other in bright sunlight. Then there is a series of a few stills shot with both cameras. Here’s the video:

  • Cool! There are some big issues with specific shots from the iPhone, but I’d say it looks very respectable and is a great harbinger of things to come. This is such an exciting time to make films.

    I don’t own any Apple products and probably never will, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything.

  • Is this really a comment

  • Arthur, what’s your problem man? Doesn’t the iPhone look professional enough for you? I know it just has one button. So I feel sorry for you.

  • What’s with all the hate? Why are people surprised that this is an article? Where exactly do said people get off?

    No, seriously, I genuinely would like answers to these questions. I absolutely do not see what’s wrong with anything in this article.

    • Thanks, yeah I don’t get it either. I watched the video and was surprised at how well the iPhone’s video held up. That made it worth posting.

  • another great posting Koo. Keep up the good work.

  • First of all: Thx for this Blog! According to the iPhone Video: Yes, it would be the only Reason for me to upgrade from my iPhone 4. But one Thing is missing in this Compare-Discussion: Price! It’s not that you get an iPhone for 100 Bucks! Without Contract you pay more then for my EOS 550D/T2i (in Germany). I just love to do some Clips with my iPhone 4 but would I pay over 600 Bucks for the new 4S? No! I would rather invest that Money in a new Lense ;-) But nevertheless it is amazing to see where Technology is going!

    All the good for your Future and this Site. I like it a lot.

    Greetings from Germany


  • Man I’m super impressed… gotta be honest, the video quality does make me consider getting one at some point. Now, quality filmmaking is even MORE accessible :-)

  • …Film…to Red….to 5D…to IPhone4…… free cameras that come in a cereal box….

  • C’mon… use an iPhone to shoot video? That’s like using a DSLR instead of a dedicated video camera.

    Oh… wait… it’s exactly like that. – Tim

  • someone shoot this Arthur C. and John guys.

  • I just ordered my iPhone 4s. I’m using 5MKII, but for spontanious shots this is priceless… It’s always with your in your pocket ! Long life the simplicity !!

  • One thing is for sure, the color rendition of the iPhone video is much better than the 5D. Maybe Canon should look into the iPhones AWB settings.

  • Wow. Great comparison. Well done.

  • And how easy is it to use an external mike on the iphone 4 and 4s? I’m sure I saw a cable that would enable that…which along with a tripod called (I think) the gmble would make this a really useful tool for me as a diary cam

    I host/present documentaries, next up is The Witch Doctor Will See You Now on National Geographic – you can see a bit of my iphone 4 footage in that when we got arrested in Cameroon

  • SterlingRex on 03.24.12 @ 5:21PM

    Piers Gibbons, this sounds fantastic!
    And the author is correct; such advance in technology will make it increasingly difficult for bad guys to get away with crime or government oppression.

  • One thing i did notice was the obvious strobing of the iPhone 4s on the large outdoor screens and even the florescent lighting when there is none in the iPhone 4 :-)