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iPhone vs Hasselblad: Are you still thinking about buying a new camera?

iPhone vs Hasselblad: Are you still thinking about buying a new camera?

One of the photos below came from a Hasselblad camera and medium format digital back and another from an iPhone 5S. Which one?





Now, watch this video:

iPhone vs Hasselblad, a studio photography joke:-) 

Here is the lighting setup for the iPhone:



and the Hasselblad H1 with Leaf Aptus digital back:





What is The Right Answer? Click here to see

This shot was captured with the iPhone:


It had some post-production (a video will be posted later), it’s usual for any studio shots we do.
To make thing clean, here is the unprocessed, un-sharpened 100% crop of the iPhone 5s shot:


iphone vs hasselblad studio photography test
The iPhone has a wider lens than the one I had on the Hasselblad (120mm HC macro), and it is evident. However, the image quality at web size is almost as good as the one from the Hasselblad.

What is the conclusion?

Enjoy your camera and learn how to get 110% out of it’s capabilities before upgrading it :-)
~Alex Koloskov



For the reference: this this below was done using Cambo Ultima D view camera with wide angle lens and Leaf Aptus DB. See how different this glass looks like, on the corrected perspective distortions with tilt/shift movements.


Product Photography Lessons: Smoke




More about this shot:

Getting Creative in Product Photography: Video Tutorial of how to photograph smoke

Lighting I’ve used for the shot:

Entry-Level LED Lighting for Studio

iPhone 645Pro camera application:



Watch a post-production of this iPhone image here: iPhone in-studio shot: retouching in Photoshop (real image quality)

35 responses on "iPhone vs Hasselblad: Are you still thinking about buying a new camera?"

  1. The TIFF file link doesn’t work anymore (after few years) but would it be possible get relinked or something for both?

  2. Hello Alex,

    can you provide links to gear from which is made stand under the whiskey glass? It seems like regular stand with some mounting hardware. Thanks

  3. Lol at so many negative comments. Nobody is arguing against the superiority of Hasselblad/Zeiss over an iPhone. What this exercise shows, is that the latest crop of smartphones can crate images with great impact. Does technical perfection matter more than the effect on the viewer? I doubt it.

    Sure, for that billboard or Gallery print or just for the fun of it, use some other equipment, do some serious post processing etc. The fact remains, that a phone can now produce some impressive results.

  4. Alex,

    Great example. Except for the haters above, the example is perfect and gets your point across!! “It’s not the camera”.

    Two question regarding the view camera image: is that real smoke or Photoshop smoke and the other is the water line on the right, it first looks like the edge of the glass is tapered in as the real edge sort of disappears. Do you see that or is that just my iMac?

    Love your site…


    • The differences between these two photos are night and day if you’re really looking for them.

      If all you want is a website usable image then you could probably get away with the iPhone image. If you want to use the images in print then the iPhone photo would need a LOT of editing just to make it usable.

      Easily seen differences:
      * The iPhone photo is taken from a different angle entirely.
      * The Different angles and light speeds cause noticeable light refraction
      * Banding and artifacts are clearly seen in the iPhone photo

  5. Yeh try printing both on A3 and see what comes up best then.

  6. Let’s not kid ourselves, we all know that iPhones never equal the quality of full frame or medium format sensors paired with best glass, no matter how good the photographer is. A picture is about 75% photographer, 25% equipment.

    I’m watching this on a 27 inch iMac screen, and the difference is huge between both shots. The top one has huge banding and artefacts, it looks at most made with a entry level DSLR with kit lens. The second pic looks far cleaner and sharper.

  7. I would like to know if it is real whiskey are the ice cubes made of glass? thank you for showing this interesting and simple setup.

  8. Very easy. You can see lots of banding in the first one, the bassi wouldn’t do that. Also, its web resolution. Pretty much every camera out there on the market would look like the bassi in these resolutions .. Its starts to matter when it comes to print, and thats what counts.

  9. Hasselblad, iPhone, or any other brand of camera can be used for product photography.
    The wise words from Alex in the last part of the video make me believing that the secret is not the camera.
    A camera only freezes the image, and off course there is a big difference in quality, but the photographer makes the shot by a creative, original setup.
    Photographers choice for composing and placing the light-setup is the difference between a perfect and a good shot.
    Thanks for sharing this video Alex.

  10. But to be fair, with so little dof in play the result is always going to be similar, at least for small web results. As you mention in one of your replies, its never going to scale to billboard sizes, but its quite amazing just how far it will scale in print with clever software (and to a lesser degree with all the hidden things most PC/Mac printer drivers do to “upscale” the final print) my old canon g2 (4 meg) could print quite reasonable a2 prints from the pc, but produced horible results with a professional print service and required pre-working the files to a larger size with special software to get the same “visually acceptable” quality of result.
    Worse still when I moved to SLR it took me ages to get used to the clarity of the results as it took time to get used to every error of composition, every slightly missaligned DOF, etc; which was shown in stunning detail and sharpness viewed “full screen…” there is something slightly comforting visually wise of lower end cameras causing a “soft focus” look when printed.

  11. Nonsense we are looking at a very contrasty image with only one very saturated colour. This proofs nothing.
    This is like playing one note or one beat with a stick on a trash can and say its the same as a 10000$ drum

  12. Why the iphone screen is off when you shoot?
    Unfortunately even if this image is real for studio, in real life situations iphone quality is crappy.

    • Cristi, it was not off, it was dimmed because it was dark in a studio (the only light I had was behind the phone), and brightness got adjusted automatically.
      Real life – what do you mean? Studio is a real life for me, I live there :-) As for outside, check my other posts about phone photography: http://www.photigy.com/iphone/

      • I see that you’re using 645pro which might help, but i was referring to those natural light situations (if it’s a little dark you can’t do anything anyway) when you don’t have a camera with you and you have to use the phone. Maybe the people from facebook don’t care about the crappy quality but you know that having a dslr was a different story. In my opinion the photos taken with the phone looks good only on the phone.

        I’m not thinking to buy a new camera because i have a 5D and the next major level would be medium format but i’m not thinking that iphone is good for photography either. I would love a camera that is small, good quality in any light, some decent dof, and always on.

        • Hi Cristi,
          I’m commercial/fashion/architectural shooter, and my wife, Susan R. Thompson does my post-production work. She also does pretty incredible iPhone work. Take a look: http://www.thezenofiphone.com/

          While she does her iPhoneography as personal work, she’s also had her iPhone images (both interpreted and realistic) used as full page magazine ads, as well as actual billboard images. some were studio images, but most were location shots. She has agencies calling when they want a “contemporary” look for a young market.

          Alex is still correct, and he admits the quality difference is obvious. But my point to you is the same as Alex has described: iPhone images aren’t always “crappy”. His work is far from standard also.

  13. What application did he say he used for iPhone?

  14. Great article. Real proof that it’s the photographer and not the camera. I actually prefer the iPhone shot too!

  15. Moral of the story; when needing a back up camera, or caught in a situation without your best gear, whip out the phone and shoot it. Can’t tell you how many times I get a call from someone saying,”You should see how beautiful this ______ looks!”. To which I respond, “Hang up and take a pic with your phone.”

  16. great article, and I agree that it is not the camera what’s stopping people (me) from taking great photos. It’s like saying it’s not the quality of my pencil/paper what’s stopping people (me) from making amazing drawings or paintings. It’s mainly the “eye” (creativity, sensibility to “see” the shot), together with lack of knowledge about the technical tricks what is really stopping people (me) from taking great pics.

    I’m glad i found your site, where I will hopefully learn about the technical tricks – as for the creativity & sensibility, that is something I highly doubt can be taught – although I recognize that practice (a lot of it) can help

  17. No doubt the iPhone takes fine pictures and I’m not hating on this fantastic comparison at all but let’s not forget we’re looking at 72dpi digital media. There’s no phone that’s going to shoot billboard resolution when it’s time for a professional ad for that fine glass of scotch.

    • Daniel, of course iPhone shot won’t go to billboard. How many of us shoot for billboards, and how many for G+, Fb, 500px and other portfolios?
      The idea I want to deliver is this: it is not a camera stops you form taking good photos, it is something else:-)

    • Daniel, perhaps you are viewing it at 72dpi, I’m viewing both at 227dpi on my display – the comparison still holds up. Also, the iPhone image is 300dpi, print them out and have a comparison. ;)

  18. Nice one Alex I did guess the right one I am glad to say.
    What a great comparison.

  19. Hilariously, your flash video about an iPhone 5 won’t play on iPhone 5’s.
    Looks interesting though…

  20. Alex,
    Loved it! I did very similar processes several years back with the Nikon S6 and SE-50 ‘pocket’ cameras. One of the main secrets, if you want to call it that, is the amount of light used to capture the image in the first place. More light(s), used correctly, can help reduce the ‘digital’ noise of the image sensor. The remaining factor then is the quality of the sensor itself, which both, vary widely and how they’re implemented in the individual camera model. Like you, I agree, this is a very valuable lesson and demonstration. The better it’s understood, the improvement in photographs is noticable. Know how to use, as well as which, tool to use under any given set of circumstances is another key to excellent photographs.

  21. Top one is iPhone :)

  22. Alex I love your work, you are a fantastic inspirational creative!

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