I recently bought a Nikon D5500 camera with two lenses: 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR and 50mm f/1.8G. When I compare the results with my advance smart phone (Samsung Galaxy Note 5), the sharpness is not so good.

To compare them, I took photos of a milk bottle which has some text written on it. I know that the sharpness of my DSLR depends on my aperture and probable hand shake. I tested with different apertures like 2.8, 3.5, 5.6 and enough shutter speeds (e.g. 1/100 sec) to get best results (using my both lenses) but the final photos are seems little worse than my smart phone!

Note that I take the photos both as hand held and also by putting the camera on top a table. To simplify the focusing, the Autofocus Area Mode (AF-Area) is set to Single point to have only one focus point at center.

I'm wondering why my DSLR which has a larger sensor and lens input (which means more incoming light) can't outperform my phone camera.

Also, I found that my DSLR is more sensitive to hand shakes and requires very good attention to hold it without any vibration, otherwise the photo will simply be blury. But my smart phone resists vibration much better and more simply.

I'm not sure if this is normal or something is wrong?

When I came to attach the sample images, I found that I had taken the smartphone photos at a closer distance such that I have a similar frame (based on its field of view which was so wider than my nikon lenses)! So i asked another question about how to compare cameras with different focal length (How should I arrange a scene to test the relative sharpness of lenses with different focal lengths?)

Sample Photos:

All DSLR Photos are with ISO=100

A) DSLR with 50mm prime lens:

50mm, f/4, 1/5 sec., iso 100, distance to subject: about 1.7 meter

enter image description here

100% crop as a separate file:

enter image description here

other apertures (beyond f/2.8), seem similar

B) Smartphone

distance to subject: about 40 cm (closer to subject to get similar field of view: have almost same objects from left-to-right of picture frame)

enter image description here

its 1:1 crop:

enter image description here

another sample from smart phone at a little farther distance to compensate the excessive perspective:

enter image description here


You may wonder why I compare this way. Consider that you want to take nice photo with most details from your little child, then its not so important to you which lens or focal length should be used. But, it's very important for you to get best photo of your baby, either with a 18mm, 35mm or 50mm lens. You can go forward or back to adjust the required distance from him/her to get its face or whole body in frame (can be easily 50 cm or 2 meter). Perspective is also tolerable to some extent. These samples here is just an extreme case with relatively high perspective distortion which is not so good for people photos. But I want to show the main point here. So, it seems that using (a little) wider angle lens like 28mm or 35mm lens at (a little) near distance can produce better details than a normal to tele 50mm lens?!

Note about slow shutter speed: all of the attached images (from DSLR camera) are taken with the camera resting on a table, so very slow shutter speeds (to compensate stopped down apertures) does not affect the stabilization or motion blur.

New Findings:

I'm not sure how should i set picture frames when i want to take my photos for comparison. previously, i tried to have similar range (from left to right side of the frame). today, i also notice that the 2 cameras have different res & aspect ratios:

  • D5500: 6000x4000 pixels (aspect ration = 1.5)
  • Samsung Note: 5312x2988 pixels (aspect ration = 1.78)

in other hand, some comments suggest that the size of subject (the can) must be equal in whole picture to have fair compare. Now, there is a new question:

» How should i set the scenes for these two different cameras to have a fair comparison? and don't forget that the main goal is to take best photo from the main subject (like as baby face) at central area.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Did you try manual focus (because autofocus system can be incorrect at times)? What about the picture control and sharpness settings? Also, keep in mind that smartphone always employ artificial sharpening methods to make the pics look good. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 12:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ 18-140mm f1.8?? Boy that would be expensive if anybody could make one - do you mean the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR ? \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 12:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ See also: Why are my photos not crisp? How close are you to the milk bottle? The 50/1.8G's minimum focus distance is 0.45m. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 17:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Speaking to the comment in your edit, "Consider you want to take nice photo with most details from your little child. Then its not so important to you which lens or focal length should be used", please refer to this answer to "What is the difference between perspective distortion and barrel or pincushion distortion?" See also: Portrait perspective for visible examples of why focal length is important when shooting people. \$\endgroup\$
    – scottbb
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 1:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ the difference is not that big. maybe you could improve the nikon photo a bit by using manual focus. but first of all, for meaningful comparison make sure your subject takes the same area in the photo. your test can is larger in the smartphone photo, which gives it an unfair advantage. yes, the nikon sensor is bigger, but it mostly matters in low light or when a bigger dynamic range is needed. image quality in top of the line smartphones is just good in favorable lighting conditions, especially in the middle of the frame. \$\endgroup\$
    – szulat
    Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 8:48

4 Answers 4


You're looking at two different magnifications.

You took the dSLR picture from farther away, and then cropped to a smaller area. When you resize that to the same size as a similar crop from an image taken from closer (i.e., filling more of the frame with more resolution), you are basically looking at the D5500's image under closer magnification than the Samsung Note's.

In addition the D5500 has 24MP vs. the Note's 16MP, so at 100% crop, you're basically looking at the D5500 at higher magnification than the Note, given that one pixel in the image becomes on pixel on the screen vs. how you'd look at this if they were both printed out as, say, 8x10 prints.

In addition, unless you were using a tripod, 1/5s is a very slow shutter speed for handholding, even with IS. With a 50mm lens, while handholding, assuming you double for crop factor and have good handholding technique, you should be aiming for something closer to 1/100s. And if you were at f/4 to get 1/5s, then you'd need to go to f/1.0 if you weren't changing the ISO to get a "safe" handholding speed without blur from camera shake.

See also:

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ all of the attached images are taken with the camera resting on the table, so very slow shutter speeds (to compensate stopped down apertures) does not affect the stabilization or motion blur. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 3:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, i can't understand what you mean by first sentence: "You took the dSLR picture from farther away, and then cropped to a smaller area"? I didn't crop to smaller area \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 20, 2017 at 4:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @S.Serp: yes, you did. The part of the DSLR image you cropped to is much smaller than the part of the camera image. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 13:18

The Nikon line of cameras has never faulted when it comes to quality of image. So let’s explore why you might think your phone camera is superior. Image fuzziness can be due to improper focusing, subject movement, camera movement, pilot error and equipment faults. All of these can be your nemesis. I am betting on pilot error. Keep in mind, I have been wrong more times than not.

Camera movement comes from not knowing how to hold and not known how to press the shutter button. To train yourself, tape a mirror affront of the lens. Shine a flashlight at the mirror so that it reflects a circle of light on the wall. Watch this spot as you press the shutter release. You will be amazed at how much you giggle. This method is a good training tool. When handholding the camera you are advised to note the focal length setting of the lens. The shutter speed chosen, should be equal to 1/focal length or shorter. Best to use fast shutter speeds to avoid camera shake plus this will help freeze subject movement.

While I am betting on pilot error, I can’t rule out faulty equipment. I strongly advise taking yourself and your camera to a genuine camera shop. Surely these knowledge people will get to the bottom of this mystery.


Without seeing an example, I'd be inclined to say you are not allowing for the narrower depth of field of the larger sensor camera.

It's a curved milk bottle. A small sensor at any given aperture setting will have way more depth of field than the large sensor will at the same aperture and distance.

  • \$\begingroup\$ No i don't think its related to DOF. See sample phics \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19, 2017 at 6:29

In my opinion your testing will always give the same results regardless of which DSLR you use. The reason is simple. Your phone's sensor has a pixel size of 1.12μm while your camera's is 3.92μm. The distance to object is very small and this causes the phone to produce more detailed photos because of the of the smaller pixel size. The true test you can perform is photographing far object like 30-40m away. Then you will see that when you increase the distance to object, the sharpness and overall quality will deteriorate dramatically and will see your camera is much sharper.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Smaller pixel size at same framing and total resolution is, if anything, detrimental to good image quality. It gives you a sharper image in a scanner or printer indeed - but that is because you are increasing total resolution while leaving the framing unaltered. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 27, 2019 at 23:09

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