iPhone 8 plus Camera Review

A few weeks ago, I received my iPhone 8 plus.  Overall, I’ve been very impressed with my phone and it’s camera, to the point that I don’t travel with my DSLR quite as often.  (I used to keep it with me every day of my commute.)  It is definitely a stunning improvement, especially considering its performance compare to previous iPhones, as shown below.

credit: DXOmark.com

That being said, it is far from competitive when compared to my (and other) DSLRs.  Though it generally performs very well in low light, utilizes automatic HDR on every photo, includes “studio light,” and optical zoom, it cannot compare with the control and sensor size of a dedicated DSLR.  For a more reasonable comparison between my go-to DSLR (a Nikon D7100) and my iPhone, I only used one lens on my DSLR: a Tamron 17-50 2.8. I also only shot in JPEG format, as only JPEG shooting is (readily) allowed on the iPhone.

iPhone 8 plus
Nikon D7100

The top picture, taken on the iPhone8 plus, was taken with the in-camera Portrait effect intended to simulate natural bokeh.  However, the edges of the leaf are blurred inappropriately, and some of the background between the leaves isn’t blurred out at all.  Finally, the overall picture is underexposed and not entirely in focus.  This is a result of the back-lit nature of the photo, the high-contrast result, and the odd edges of the leaf.

iPhone 8 plus
Nikon D7100

Here, the iPhone picture definitely seems to have outdone the DSLR, at least on general appearance.  This photo was taken in the early afternoon, when the entire scene was just enormously washed out.  Since the iPhone automatically saturates and HDRs each photograph, it was able to keep the sky a vibrant blue and really bring out the definition of the old storefront.  The DSLR took a higher quality, more true-to-life picture, but the iPhone took a picture closer to an expected “finished product.”

iPhone 8 plus
Nikon D7100

Again, the iPhone picture with portrait mode is underexposed and heavily out of focus, as the software tires to find the appropriate edges to blend.  The DSLR definitely comes out on top, but it too had focus issues as a result of the proximity of the subject.

iPhone 8 plus
Nikon D7100

The lack of bokeh in the iPhone picture compared to the DSLR is very evident, as is the general low quality of the picture. (The sun was mostly set.)  Though both pictures clearly show the spiderweb, zooming in on the iPhone picture very quickly shows pixelation, while the DSLR maintains the fine lines of the spiderweb.  This is (like many of these comparisons) due to the small size of the iPhone 8’s sensor.  Though it is the best low-light phone (or point-and-shoot) camera I’ve ever used, it just can’t come close to a dedicated DSLR in low and reduced light.

iPhone 8 plus
Nikon D7100

Though the iPhone 8 plus preserved the highlights a little better than the DSLR as a result of the HDR effect, both of these pictures turned out about the same.  The DSLR is still higher quality overall, but both photos could easily be printed up to an 8×10. (If I decided to start printing photos of my backyard shed.)

iPhone 8 plus

Again, the natural HDR effect of the iPhone makes the sky a more vibrant blue, but this time, it also managed to add contrast to the moon above the house.  Although the DSLR provided a clearer, more life-accurate picture of the moon, the iPhone did an amazing job of bringing out the moon’s detail in the middle of the afternoon.


All of the above photos were taken with the iPhone 8 plus on a conference trip to Charleston, and I will say that it certainly surprised me.  Though I brought my DSLR on the trip, I almost never used it – a result of the excessive back and forth of the conference.  In the end, the iPhone performed extremely well and fit neatly in my pocket.  Though not included in this post, I have spent a lot of time utilizing the new “Portrait Lighting” effects exclusive to the iPhone 8 and X, and I have definitely been impressed overall.  There is still some tweaking that needs to be done, but the concept is sure to impress.  Check out some examples here.

In the end, no phone camera is going to replace my DSLR, or my film camera for that matter. However, the iPhone 8 plus far surpassed my expectations of a phone camera to the point that I’d recommend dropping a point-and-shoot camera in favor of the iPhone 8 or the Pixel 2. (With exceptions.)  That being said, anyone can use a DSLR.  They bring every picture to the next level, and provide many flexibilities that phone cameras and point-and-shoots lack.  Want to learn more about DSLRs? Give us a call at 864.583.6835 or stop by our store in Spartanburg Monday-Saturday, 9-6.