Daytime Benchmarking: Nikon D750 vs Pro 11 Cameras

I tested my full-format Nikon D750 camera versus each of the iPhone Pro 11 Cameras to analyze whether a DSLR is really worth the weight. During broad daylight (10k lux) my D750 exceeded the iPhone 11 Pro sharpness by ~25%. Under low-light conditions, I expect the D750 will dramatically exceed the iPhone11 Pro as the temporal noise from each of the 11 Pro cameras is visibly noticeable under all conditions. This was an in-situ test under broad daylight conditions on a sunny day, rather than a laboratory with calibrated illumination. 

The Pro 11 has three cameras, which have as-measured FoV of:

  • Wide-angle with 115deg~125deg HFOV
  • Normal with ~70-75deg HFOV
  • 2X 'Telephoto' with ~35-40deg HFOV

I compared each of these Pro cameras to my D750 set up with my two prime lenses: the Nikkor AF-S 28mm F/1.8G and Tamron SP 85mm F/1.8 Di VC. I originally purchased the D750, because the camera was a user-friendly full format 35mm option under $1500 that utilizes a Sony image sensor. The Sony mirrorless alpha DSLR lineup has better performance (newer sensors and lens design back focal length constraint is removed) but was quite more expensive in 2017. I selected the lenses as they were most cost-effective lenses which had acceptable MTF (>20%@ Nyquist) that matches the pixel pitch of the D750. While the Optical Low Pass Filter (OLPF) on the D750 degrades the MTF so that the Moire effect is eliminated, I wanted to make sure that my hardware configuration was future-proof. This way the lenses achieve optimal sharpness when I decide to mod the camera by removing the OLPF.

As seen below, both of these full format prime lenses on a D750 have noticeably better SFR than each of the Pro11 cameras. The D750 shoots at a true 4K+ resolution, while the iPhone Pro11 SFR is actually in the 3MP-5MP range. The iPhone pictures were captured in 4k3k JPEG mode (Deep Fusion enabled) and the Nikon pictures were captured in 24MP 6k4k RAW mode. While RAW fundamentally has less compression and better image quality (comparing apples to oranges), the purpose of this test was purely for my own use-case. The measurements were taken using my 54MP-rated 4X ImaTest eSFR ISO12233:2017 Chart.

My primary takeaway is that the iPhone 11 Pro cameras should never be used with digital zoom. Considering the total track constraints imposed by the cellphone form factor, I'm quite impressed with what Apple has been able to achieve. These cameras are certainly good enough for my daily photography walks. For travel, landscape, and event photography (that I plan to professionally print, frame, and hang) I'll stick with my trusty old Nikon full format DSLR. Nikon, Canon, and Sony full format cameras are still demonstrably better than phone cameras!