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I know this is silly. The Olympus has a far larger sensor and a big glass lens. I am trying to prove to myself how much better the images are on the Olympus and I am not seeing it. Why am I doing this? When I travel I take my Oly and a few lenses with me and as time goes by I've gotten less patient carrying the gear around. So, I want to know - how much better are my images?

  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO Lens shooting raw or jpeg, Olympus OM-10 Mk1 body
  • iPhone 11 Pro

I've tried looking at the images without any processing. I've tried processing them with MacOS Photos and with On1. (Admitedly I am a newby at the processing part) Yes the images look different but not better. If I enlarge them a lot looking for details neither one is necessarily better.

Edit

I realize that my Olympus OM-10 Mk1 has manual control ahead of the iPhone and also that I can use other lenses. After all I am using a fairly expensive "Pro" Olympus short zoom in this particular example. When zooming in close (e.g. a 300mm equiv zoom lens) then the Oly is an easy winner. But in the common range of say 24-160 equiv zoom, I can't prove that one is better than the other.

In practice, even when I am taking photos that I hope will be great and ready for enlarging and hanging on the wall, I don't use many "features" of the camera. I might purposely underexpose a litte, I might pay attention to the f-stop for depth of field, I definitely note the shutter speed. But that's about it. So that is the use case I am most interested in. And in that use-case, I cannot prove for myself that the image coming from the Oly is better than the one coming from the iPhone.

Edit

My question has gotten lost in the words and discussion. Bottom line:

  • I can find no clear difference in photo quality between a micro 4/3 camera and an iPhone 11. (Specifically photo quality. I understand the advantages of interchangable lenses and far greater manual control). Have you looked at this and is your experience different?
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    One thing you are missing is the processing capability in the phone. It can take multiple shots and stack them to get a better image. This can be focus position to get more depth of field, multiple exposures in dim conditions to get proper exposure and compensate for camera motion, high dynamic range, etc. I believe cameras are not as sophisticated in these areas, though they will do some of it For me the "killer app" that makes me want a "real camera" is the narrower angle of view of a longer lens. May 29 at 3:24
  • "I believe cameras are not as sophisticated in these areas" @pitosalas mentioned he had an Olympus, although didn't mention the model. Olympus is generally regarded as having the best "computational photography" of the cameras out there, and I can assure you, it is is at least as sophisticated as an iPhone 11. May 29 at 3:57
  • It's an Olympus EM-10 MK1.
    – pitosalas
    May 29 at 15:16
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    Please take a look at my edit of the original question where I add details and sharpen my original question in response to these comments
    – pitosalas
    May 29 at 15:24
  • 1
    This question has no real (non-rhetorical) question.
    – xiota
    May 29 at 17:50

2 Answers 2

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The image quality may not be that different.

You're comparing a 2014 micro four-thirds camera to a 2019 iPhone. A lot of camera sensor tech and computational imaging advances can happen in five years. And sensor size only means so much in certain shooting circumstances. And while your big 12-40 is an f/2.8 pro-quality zoom, the lens on your standard ("wide") camera on an iPhone 11 is f/1.8. 16MP (O-M10) vs. 12MP (iPhone 11) isn't that large of a resolution difference.

Throw in the fact that an iPhone 11 nannies in a ton of computational stuff you'd have to do independently in post on RAW files from an O-M10, and it can look that much better, particularly when it comes to stacking features, such as HDR/Night mode or long-exposure simulation from live photos.

There are only certain situations where the larger 4/3"-format sensor (2x crop) in the Olympus is going to look better than the 1/2.55"-format (6x crop) sensor in the iPhone 11, and that's going to be in higher dynamic range scenes (hence the existence of HDR/Night modes on your phone) or at higher ISO, or printing situations where you need higher resolution for larger prints, or want thin depth of field from the lens (though again, computationally, Portrait Mode exists for this reason).

Print at 8x10 or smaller, deliver online, shoot landscapes with the sun at your back, or indoors at ISOs 800 or below, and it's very likely you'll be hard-pressed to see the differences. It's why back in 2009, Michael Reichmann of Luminous Landscape was able to compare prints from a Canon Powershot G9 (1/1.7"-format sensor) head-to-head with medium format digital [13"x19" prints; medium format was a PhaseOne P45+ on a Hasselblad H2] and have a lot of experienced medium format shooters unable to tell them apart, other than by the rendered depth of field.

Small sensors are a lot better than the online camera messageboard size queens would have you think.

6

It's true that better phones are often "good enough" for general photography.

But an interchangeable-lens camera is going to be much more versatile. For one thing, depending on the model, you probably have 20 Mpx, compared to the iPhone's 12.

The iPhone's sensor is tiny, and if you try to do night photography, chances are it will look noisier than the Olympus. Again, depending on the model, the Olympus probably has better image stabilization — I can take ten second exposures, hand held, with my E-M1 Mark II!

Depending on the model you have, the Olympus probably also has many niceties that the iPhone lacks, like

  • multi-shot capability for increased resolution up to 80 Mpx, (HR),
  • multi-shot dynamic range improvement (HDR),
  • close-up (macro) multi-shot focus improvement (focus stacking),
  • multi-shot long exposures for outstanding night photography (Live Composite),
  • multiple shots before you trip the shutter (Pro Capture), up to 120 images in a second, which is great for getting the exact instant desired, like when the football touches the receiver's fingers, or when your toddler has the perfect facial expression.
  • don't underestimate what you can do with different lenses, from near-microscopic photography, to extreme 210° super-wide angle, to extreme telephoto.

You'll really appreciate the differences as you do more specialized things, like sports, wildlife, or extreme close-up.

But if you're just taking "ordinary" photographs, of family, for example, then you'll probably do just fine with a phone.

Here's some pictures that may be difficult to do on a phone, that were fairly easy to do with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II:

Taken with a 350mm ƒ/2.8 lens and a 1.4x teleconverter at a range of a hundred metres, this would be impossible on a phone. Taken with a 350mm ƒ/2.8 lens and a 1.4x teleconverter at a range of a hundred metres, this would be impossible on a phone.

This was taken in a dark theatre, using a 35-100mm ƒ/2 lens with 1.4x teleconverter; your phone can't get close enough with so little light. This was taken in a dark theatre, using a 35-100mm ƒ/2 lens with 1.4x teleconverter; your phone can't get close enough with so little light.

Taken with a 210° 3.5mm ƒ/2.8 circular fisheye lens, which you can't find for phones. Taken with a 210° 3.5mm ƒ/2.8 circular fisheye lens, which you can't find for phones.

Taken with a wide-aperture, super-wide angle, non fisheye, 7mm ƒ/2.8, this allows great subject isolation. Taken with a wide-aperture, super-wide angle, non fisheye, 7mm ƒ/2.8, this allows great subject isolation.

Industry-leading "In Body Image Stabilization" allows for hand-held creative effects that previously required a tripod. Industry-leading "In Body Image Stabilization" allows for hand-held creative effects that previously required a tripod.

Using a special "tilt" adapter allows for foreground-to-background sharpness. Using a special "tilt" adapter allows for foreground-to-background sharpness.

Special "macro" lenses allow for much closer photography. Special "macro" lenses allow for much closer photography.

An inexpensive 500mm "mirror" lens allows you true telescopic images. An inexpensive 500mm "mirror" lens allows you true telescopic images.

A "Live Composite" shot automatically takes and stacks, in-camera, over a hundred night exposures. A "Live Composite" shot automatically takes and stacks, in-camera, over a hundred night exposures.

In short, you don't choose a conventional camera over a phone to make ordinary images better, you do it to make extraordinary images that the phone simply can't do!

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  • Your first five bullets are in the later camera phones automatically. The phone companies work hard on this because cameras sell phones. Yes, a "real camera" gives you more control. I know there are many options in the phone cameras that most people do not take advantage of. I am that way. I have spent a lot of time learning to use my "real" cameras and can show better images because of it. I have not spent the same learning to use the phone so do not really know what it can do, but it can deliver very good images without any effort. May 29 at 3:32
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    @Ross Milikan, yea, but there's a huge difference, in my experience. pitosalas mentioned Olympus; they pioneered multi-shot computational photography before phone companies were even thinking of it. I looked at the specs for the iPhone 11; these items were not mentioned. And I challenge a phone user to do the sort of photography I provide in my examples. May 29 at 4:06
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    Please take a look at my edit of the original question where I add details and sharpen my original question in response to these comments
    – pitosalas
    May 29 at 15:23

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