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Camera vs Smartphone: Take better pictures this Winter

Expert Reviews Staff
26 Nov 2015
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A smartphone's camera is convenient, but for life's memorable moments it can't compete with a dedicated camera

Smartphones have triggered a huge surge in digital snapping. There's rarely a day trip, night out or fried breakfast that goes undocumented, but more doesn't always mean better. If you've ever been disappointed by blurry or grainy smartphone photos, it's time to consider something more capable.

Smartphones are certainly sophisticated but their cameras are held back by their slim profiles and pinhead-sized lenses. Animals with big eyes see better in poor light, and the same is true of cameras. Dedicated cameras also include an optical zoom, which resizes the image before it hits the sensor. That's far more effective than smartphones' digital zooms, which try to add extra detail by mere guesswork.

A better camera in your pocket

A couple of years ago, smartphones could give compact cameras a serious run for their money. Dedicated cameras have improved massively in since then, though. The Canon PowerShot G7 X has a 1in sensor (nine times the surface area of an iPhone's sensor) and a wide-aperture lens, and still measures a pocket-friendly 40mm thick.

The increased sensor and aperture size allow the camera to capture more light and measure it more accurately. This gives purer colours with less grain, especially when shooting in low light or capturing fast-moving subjects. Another major benefit is a shallow depth of field, blurring the background to give an ethereal quality to portrait shots. The overall result is image quality on a par with an SLR, and way beyond anything we’ve seen from smartphones or conventional compact cameras.

^ With a stabilised zoom lens, as on the G7 X, you won't have to sneak up on wildlife to shoot it ©Danny Green - Canon Ambassador (click to enlarge)

The Canon PowerShot G7 X also includes a 4.2x zoom stabilised lens, an articulated touchscreen, high quality video recording plus lots of buttons and dials for when you want to venture away from automatic settings. Meanwhile, there's no need to miss out on the perks of smartphone photography, thanks to built-in Wi-Fi for easy transfers to a smartphone or tablet, you’ll still be able to share your efforts with friends while on the go.

The Canon PowerShot G7 X is currently available from major retailers for around £375. Factor in £25 cashback until 13 January, and this is one of the most cost-effective ways to make a quantum leap in image quality. Whether it’s for you or as a gift, the G7 X is an all-in-one solution to taking better photos.

See our Winter photography tips now

A creative powerhouse

For a truly immersive photographic experience, a digital SLR is the way to go. It's not just a matter of superior image quality. The sculpted ergonomic design, elegant controls and large optical viewfinder put you in the creative driving seat. Whereas a smartphone captures a moment, a digital SLR creates works of art.

The Canon EOS 750D is our top recommendation for people looking to buy their first digital SLR, or upgrading from an older model. It's among the best in its class for image and video quality and is responsive and elegant to use. Unlike most SLRs, it's just as effective when composing shots on the LCD screen in live view mode as when using the optical viewfinder. With an elegant touchscreen interface as well as physical controls, it's a great choice for those who want an easy upgrade from a point-and-shoot compact.

^ Try getting this kind of fine detail and extreme depth of field using a smartphone (click to enlarge)

Another major attraction of SLRs is the ability to enhance them with lenses and flashguns. Whereas the Canon G7 X premium compact can match a digital SLR with its kit lens, attaching a specialist lens to an SLR delivers yet another leap in quality. There are lenses that specialise in telephoto, wide-angle, macro and wide-aperture photography. Prime lenses forego a zoom function to deliver an extremely wide-aperture, capturing bucketloads of light for sumptuous image quality in the gloomiest of settings. There are literally hundreds of lenses that use the Canon EF mount, with prices from under £100 to over £10,000.

The Canon EOS 750D can also control external flashguns, either attached to the camera or wirelessly across the room. On-camera flash tends to flatten subjects, but locating it off-camera lets you create highlights and shadows that really flatter subjects. Add a Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM prime lens for £120 ( currently just £100 with cashback) and a Speedlite 270EX II flashgun for £135 (£115 with cashback) to your Canon SLR for an incredibly powerful creative photography system.

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