I'm an amateur photographer and am very curious about what the benefits of spending money for a compact camera as compared to my iPhone5s/Samsung phone cameras are.

I've did some preliminary research and have came out with a couple of reasons why compact camera are better than smart phone cameras:

Reasons Why Compact > Phone Camera

  1. Better Image Stablising function ( reduce shaky blurry photos!)
  2. Longer Zoom Capture function
  3. Larger sensor size
  4. Flash intensity control ( Phones dont have them! )
  5. Greater control of photography (exposure/metering/iso/shutter/aperture speed etc)
  6. Better print quality ( camera pixels and sensor size deliver higher quality pictures, less noise etc)
  7. Good for underwater photography? ( Questionable)

Ok so here's the questions :

  1. Apart from these points above, are there any better reasons why I should buy a compact camera rather than continue using my Phone camera? (Do also comment on whether the points I raised are valid ones.)

  2. Can phone cameras match up to compact cameras today/in the future? (If so what are the examples? )

  • \$\begingroup\$ It really depends. When you say "compact camera" do you mean the basic entry level $125 models or a $500 large sensor compact with a fast f/1.8 lens? They are worlds apart and in many cases I would consider a iPhone 5S to be far superior for many reasons over a $125 compact. Bigger screens, internet sharing abilities, editing, etc. but also because frankly the quality is quite high on an iPhone. All of the interesting technology is being developed for mobile these days, not cheap pocket cameras. Everything from BSI sensors to OIS and very fast wide lenses. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ See: Is the iPhone 4S camera good enough to serve as one's “everyday-carry”? - photo.stackexchange.com/questions/16449/… \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 16:29
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ An investment is something you buy in order to either a) sell at a profit or b) enable you to produce something else to sell at a profit. All else are expenses. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jun 25, 2014 at 0:35

4 Answers 4


To answer question 1, a large difference between phone and compact cameras is the lens. Phones typically have simple lenses with few elements which are designed to fit flush with the phone's body. Compact cameras more often than not have lenses which extend from the body when the camera is turned on, allowing them to be complex (having multiple elements to correct for various kinds of optical distortion), faster (i.e. they can allow more light in for shooting in darker conditions), and which can be zoomed optically rather than digitally.

Lens quality rather than sensor resolution is a major factor in the perceived sharpness of an image. The tiny, simple lenses in most phone cameras will tend to have a poorer optical resolution than the sensor they are recording to, meaning that beyond a certain point (5MP is plenty of sensor resolution for most web and print purposes) the sensor size becomes largely irrelevant.

This leads on to question 2. Can phone cameras match up to compacts in the future? Sure they could, but they'd need to come with better lenses, and that would mean they would look more like cameras with built in phones rather than phones with built in cameras.


Assuming from your question that you would be able to afford both of them, I'd say you could look at the problem as a matter of packaging and not of imaging. Let me try an analogy with the use of computers.

Few would argue that a desktop, a laptop, a tablet and a smartphone are all equal in terms of how you use and what can you do with them. But if you decide on having more than one, the decision factor is usually related to size and weight, not performance.

In the same way, a DSLR, a mirrorless, a compact and a phone camera are quite different in terms of how you use and what you can do with them. But once you decide to have more than one, size and weight are a much more strong influencer than image quality.

So in your case I'd check what kind of bag are you using all day long. If none, then a compact would be already too big. Otherwise, depending on how much weight you are already carrying in your bag you may prefer going with a lighter option (compact) rather than a medium one (mirrorless). Very few people carry a DSLR with them all day, every day, due to the extra weight.

In my perspective, a compact is like a tablet while a mirrorless is like a laptop. I happen to have chosen to carry both a better-than-a-phone-camera and a computer in my daily bag, so the answer in my case was to settle on a tablet and a compact.

While I certainly agree that a mirrorless is a better camera than a compact, mine stays at home (with my laptop) while I am on the go. If I decide to travel or go out for a photo walk or something clearly photography biased, then I get a bigger bag and the mirrorless (and accessories). Just as if have a work travel in mind I would carry my laptop with me.

Concerning the choice of the camera itself, I'd suggest that you wait a few more weeks to check the new 1 inch compacts from Fuji, Olympus and Panasonic and then comparing them with Sony's RX100 and going with a quite decent bang for the buck.

Most importantly though, keep in mind that it is your atitude and context that helps taking better pictures, not the camera itself, phone or not.


If I look at a compact fixed-lens camera, the Ricoh GR, then I can only say two things:

  1. Relatively much larger sensor (APS-C) that gives very good dynamic range and malleable DNGs

    • Ultimately, you can't go against physics. Sure, those background de-focusing apps are getting better with each version, but if the native pixels on the sensor are going to detect the color maroon as black in low-light conditions then it's next to impossible to restore these deficiencies. Furthermore, I think only one (or two?) Nokia Lumia device(s) allows DNG output, there's still a lot of catch-up here to be done.
  2. Handling

    • Less about having manual controls (software tricks that phones can eventually catch up on, hurhur) but about getting a good grip on the device itself. Phones are too slim these days to operate the camera easily - tap the screen too hard and you either end up with a blurry or slightly skewed picture. Even worse, most phones do away without a shutter button, so one-handed photo-taking is often a delicate task - you wouldn't want to drop your phone now, do you?
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The Ricoh GR isn't exactly a typical compact camera, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 18:43

A reason for me, in addition to some of those you listed, is low-light (available light) performance. The reasons for doing better at that are

  • higher useable ISO gain
  • larger sensor
  • advanced optical, image stabilization
  • RAW image, 14-bit samples

And in princple but not in my purchase,

  • faster lens

Though a fast prime lens may be added later. Some phones have pretty large f-numbers, which is easier on such a small sensor. But really, the larger pupil is the real, point, and the f-number scales with the sensor size. So having a large sensor gathers more light even with higher f-numbers.


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