Photography is only a hobby for me. I prefer to focus on the composition, lighting, finding a unique point of view, etc, rather than fiddling with manual settings, lenses and post-editing. Moreover, I view my photos on a 19 inch monitor via Google Photos.

This is why, many years ago, I sold my Panasonic Lumix LX5 and been using my iPhone 5c since. I manage to take great photos and people rarely believe they are done by a non professional person on a smartphone.

My phone is showing its age, and I was looking at phones with good cameras. But, since I'm not a smartphone power user, I find all the flagships to be extremely expensive for what I need from a phone: reading books and taking photos.

Thus I was wondering: what if I get a budget smartphone + and ereader + a 300$ camera for point and shoot. Canon T6, in particular because of the big sensor.

I'm basing my thought on the fact that any camera should still beat the most expensive flagship phone due to better sensors and lenses, but wonder if their auto mode beats the smartphones' as well? As far as I know, dedicated cameras are being built for people who understand a thing or two about gear and not for mindlessly point and shoot without much post editing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ it made me chuckle... "what I need from a phone: reading books and taking photos." Imagine saying that to someone 50 years ago :) \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Jul 16, 2018 at 19:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @osullic even 15 years ago. Smartphones didn't really start taking off until the later half of the 2000s. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jul 16, 2018 at 20:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ What's stopping you from making this purchasing decision yourself? \$\endgroup\$
    – Caleb
    Jul 16, 2018 at 23:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ A good camera will let you manipulate a lot of the technical details (e.g. choice of aperture) to get the effect that you want. A not-so-good camera removes the possibility of those decisions for you. Personally, I think if you can take good photos with a phone, you can probably learn to take excellent photos with a camera with actual controls, but whether you are prepared for the extra weight, size and complexity is only a question you can answer. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 17, 2018 at 3:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ "any camera should still beat the most expensive flagship phone" Nope. Good phone always outdid a crappy camera. \$\endgroup\$
    – Agent_L
    Jul 17, 2018 at 14:05

5 Answers 5


The sensors and lenses of even the most humble DSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs) currently on the market are far better than those found in the best phone cameras.

Sensors and glass can only take one so far, though. The current crop of top smartphones have leveraged the power of computational photography¹ in a way that most ILCs don't. On the other hand, most bargain basement phones don't give the same amount of resources, hardware or firmware, to their cameras that the top phones do. Some of the most advanced (and very expensive) cameras do a bit more in that department than the base models do, but they also cost a lot more than the latest top iPhone does. (Compare a Canon 1D X Mark II with an EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II at $7K or a Nikon D5 with AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8E VR at about $8K to the iPhone X at $1K.)

I'm a fairly experienced photographer who uses professional level cameras and lenses. Under some shooting conditions, particularly those with crappy limited spectrum lighting, I have to work really hard in post to beat, in terms of color and contrast, what my friends get with little to no photographic knowledge using their fancy phones. Most of them still don't know how to frame a photo before they take it, though.

Advantages of a good phone camera (including the computational horsepower that requires a higher end phone) vs. an entry level ILC:

  • Better "Auto" color/white balance, contrast, and automatic post-processing of the raw data captured by the sensor.
  • Near instant ability to share photos using various social media and other web-based imaging sites.
  • Convenience of always having it with you in a pocketable lightweight package.

Advantages of a good entry level ILC (and all of the current models on the market are pretty good in terms of image quality) over a good phone camera:

  • Better raw image capture using larger sensors and better lenses
  • Ability to interface with and trigger off camera flash
  • Cheaper than the difference between a $50 budget phone and the price of a top end smartphone with one of the best cameras.

If you have no real interest in learning about how to use different focal lengths, apertures, and shutter times to better control how your images look or how to post process them to get the most out of your camera and lens, you're honestly probably better off with a good smartphone.

¹ computational photography at Wikipedia

  • \$\begingroup\$ I really appreciate this answer. It might just be me but it seems like the discussion is too often about DSLR vs. P+S vs. Phone and the dramatic differences within each mode get lost in the shuffle. The seems especially salient since, AFAIK, the gulf between cheap and expensive camera phones is massive in comparison to cheap and expensive DSLRs, even relative to the cost difference. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16, 2018 at 19:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice answer! I'm wondering though, how it compares with a premium compact camera like Fujifilm ones, which are optimized for jpeg as well. I guess they should make it a bit easier to get it right \$\endgroup\$
    – clabacchio
    Jul 17, 2018 at 7:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @clabacchio Maybe I'm mistaken, but aren't the premium compact Fujis a bit more than $300? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jul 17, 2018 at 8:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well that's for sure, but in general that should be a kind of third alternative which is not ilc but neither point and shoot. Besides, maybe one can be found second hand for a more affordable price \$\endgroup\$
    – clabacchio
    Jul 17, 2018 at 9:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GentlePurpleRain That's really all under the banner of computational photography where often images from more than one exposure, either via the same lens or more than one, are combined in some way. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jul 18, 2018 at 0:19

The fact that you appreciate the advantages of a 'big sensor' answers your question. But also remember, the best camera in the world is no use if you're not carrying it. You WILL have your phone in your pocket.


It's the route I took with a Moto G5 I bought last year and a Lumix T70 I bought a few months ago. I paid €450 in total, which is half the price of a high end smartphone as the iPhone or Pixel 2.

I connect my Lumix via USB and google drive automatically copies my pictures to Google Photos. The intelligent automatic mode of the Lumix is already very good, but there is also the option of choosing more manual settings as aperture and shutter speed in P mode. Uploading the P mode pictures in Google Photos allows me to let Google Photos and their crazy algorithms and powerful servers to do the post editing (contrast, brightness, ...) with a tap of a button.

Today you can get the Moto G6 which has a dual camera for that bokeh, and will let you do anything else you want. I was looking at the RX100 for a long time because of the 1 inch sensor, but changed my mind towards the T70 for its 30x zoom, price and great reviews. It's a bigger compact, but still kind of fits in your pockets. I went to a wolf sanctuary 2 weeks ago and that 30x zoom was amazing to capture those shy animals.

Another benefit of having 2 dedicated cheaper devices over 1 more expensive multi purpose is in case you break or lose something. Replacing a €250 device is a lot easier than a €900 device.

Every one has their own requirements and budget. This is what I ended up with and I'm happy with it, so I thought I'd share my experiences.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point about breaking. My search started after I broke my iphone 5c screen. The replacement costed only 50$, but while I was there, people brought broken flagships which screens cost over 200$ to repair. \$\endgroup\$
    – user76552
    Jul 17, 2018 at 14:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Juggling two devices = twice as easy to break one of them. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Jul 19, 2018 at 21:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xiota Then don't juggle with them. If you only use one at a time, you only have half the chance of breaking one of them. \$\endgroup\$
    – LVDV
    Jul 20, 2018 at 7:38

Why not just get a decent phone that can do all those things? If you're not going to spend any time learning and have no interest in using any of the features of a camera and don't do any post processing, I can't recommend you get one as you'll probably just leave it at home more often than not because of its size. All 3 of the things you mentioned buying would end up being about the same price as a good phone, and the phone is easy to take with you wherever you go.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree. The 300$ p&s are going to have a similar sized sensor to a cell phone but without the great photo processing done by apple or google. If op was willing to go used they could get a decent older entry-level dslr like a (Canon t4i) though. From what they wrote they'd be better off just saving up a little more and getting a flagship phone that does everything they want. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16, 2018 at 19:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ No they're not. It's amazing what phone cameras can do, but there's just no room in them for anything but a miniscule sensor. \$\endgroup\$
    – Laurence
    Jul 16, 2018 at 23:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ so what would you say is the most popular sensor size for a 300$ p&s right now? @laurencepayne \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16, 2018 at 23:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Under $300, the most popular sensor size is 1/2.7". However, if you can up your budget by just $68, you can get a Sony RX100 which has a 1" sensor. IMHO, that would be a very well spent $68. \$\endgroup\$
    – Frank
    Jul 17, 2018 at 0:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was thinking about the Canon 6t, ain't if have a APS-C sensor size? \$\endgroup\$
    – user76552
    Jul 17, 2018 at 5:03

Photography is only a hobby for me. ... This is why, many years ago, I sold my Panasonic Lumix LX5 and been using my iPhone 5c ...

You got rid of your camera in favor of using the iPhone. Most likely, you were just not using your camera. Rather than let it collect dust and grow mold in a dark corner somewhere, you sent it off to a new home. No problem with that.

what if I get a budget smartphone + and ereader + a 300$ camera for point and shoot.

If you were to buy a (non-phone) camera, would you use it? Or would it share the same fate as your Panasonic Lumix LX5? Would you really carry around three separate devices (phone, ereader, camera) where you now carry only one?

As far as getting a "budget" phone running Android, iPhone users are rarely happy switching to Android. Save yourself unnecessary pain, and stick with an iPhone.

any camera should still beat the most expensive flagship phone due to better sensors and lenses, but wonder if their auto mode beats the smartphones' as well?

There are still a wide range of cameras. Low to mid-range cameras tend to do worse than the best smartphone cameras. The cameras and processing of iPhones tend to be pretty good, which is why many people appear to be abandoning compact cameras, as you yourself can attest.

Photo quality is also a product of the photographers experience and knowledge. When you use a (non-phone) camera, your brain becomes the processor that must perform many of the tasks the phone had been doing for you. I can hand anyone an iPhone, and as long as they point it in the right direction, they will take better photos with it than I can. But if I hand them my camera, unless they know what they're doing (or I put the settings in for them), pictures have a good chance of coming out mediocre.

Auto mode on "good" cameras is often lackluster compared with that of the most advanced smartphones. A feature that tends to be prized by "photographers" is the ability to function as if it were one of its most primitive predecessors ("manual mode"). If that isn't what you want, a (non-phone) camera may not be for you.

Why are you really dissatisfied with the pictures you are getting from your iPhone 5? Have finally been bitten by the photography bug? Or are the photos simply lacking in comparison to an iPhone 6/7/8/X?

I haven't written anywhere that I am dissatisfied with the pictures from the 5c, on the contrary. But, the phone is almost 5 years now shows various lags and bugs from time to time. During the last time, in which the technician barely managed to bring it back to life, I started to wonder what should I do, if I have to buy a new one. – Riddle-Master

Since you are satisfied by the photos coming from your phone, why bother changing anything? Should your phone fail, you can replace it with the same model or one of its successors. The process of moving files and settings to a new iPhone is fairly straightforward. Apple store employees will gladly assist you when you purchase the new device.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I haven't written anywhere that I am dissatisfied with the pictures from the 5c, on the contrary. But, the phone is almost 5 years now shows various lags and bugs from time to time. During the last time, in which the technician barely managed to bring it back to life, I started to wonder what should I do, if I have to buy a new one. \$\endgroup\$
    – user76552
    Jul 17, 2018 at 5:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Riddle-Master It sounds that your problem #1 is getting replacement for your aging iPhone 5C. Fix that problem first (you don't get options other than getting a newer iPhone here) and then evaluate if you still need a camera. I'd say "if it ain't broken, don't mess around with it", speaking about iPhone shooting in general. \$\endgroup\$
    – Agent_L
    Jul 17, 2018 at 14:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I thought lots of iPhone users were switching over to Android now that Jobs is gone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Octopus
    Jul 17, 2018 at 17:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ iPhone sales are substantially higher now than when Jobs was alive. But it's not really the device/operating system, it's the entire environment. Whichever platform you are on, you have learned to use their specific features, have favorite apps, have photos, files and other data in their formats, etc. Switching is hard in either direction. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 17, 2018 at 18:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Octopus You can think what you want, but that doesn't make it true ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – user428517
    Jul 17, 2018 at 20:14

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