Old School Film Hack

Calvert Marine Museum: two different photowalks


Have you ever taken a photo of something that makes you wonder how different the results would be with better gear?  Here is a comparison of images taken at the Calvert Marine Museum with an iPhone back in March and again with a Sony NEX camera this past weekend.  In each case the iPhone image is the top example.

I realize this is a bit like comparing Apples to oranges (haha — sometimes I just kill myself), but with the recent photo tips postings I tossed up, I thought a comparison would help to illustrate the differences between a smartphone camera and a high-quality dedicated camera.

I’ve said that an iPhone is a decent camera to take photos with… and it is, especially the latest 4S version.  It has the following specs:

  • Lens: 4.28mm (equivalent to 33mm)
  • Elements: Five (made out of plastic)
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.4
  • Megapixels: 8
  • Sensor dimensions: 1/3.2″ diagonal (4.54mm x 3.42mm)
  • Sensor maker: Sony

The camera I used for this comparison is the Sony NEX-7, with the following specs:

  • Lens: 18-55mm (equivalent to 27-82.5mm)
  • Elements: 11 elements in 9 groups, 4 aspherical surfaces
  • Maximum aperture: f/3.5-5.6
  • Megapixels: 24.3
  • Sensor dimensions: APS-C (23.5mm x 15.6mm)
  • Sensor maker: Sony

The big take away from the paper comparison is that the NEX camera has a huge sensor compared to the iPhone (the NEX sensors are currently considered some of the best on the market in independent tests) and bigger sensors result in better photos because they can gather more light and offer higher resolution.

Another benefit to going with a dedicated camera is the ability to use RAW files.  RAW files are like digital film; they are complete data dumps of what the lens and sensor captured at the moment of the shutter being triggered.  Like film, RAW files allow for all sorts of tweaking and massaging of an image to occur afterward with the highest quality available — unlike the preprocessed JPGs that come out of the iPhone.  Sure, the iPhone images can be tweeked afterward, but each action that is applied to a JPG image degrades the quality, and in the end — quality is what it’s all about.

With that said, here we go.  Please be sure to maximize your browser and click on the images to view them at the largest resolution that I posted them at; the differences in detail, color rendition and overall depth should be very distinct.

Drum Point lighthouse


Underwater viewing sled


Tobacco hogshead


The War of 1812 — Battle of the Patuxent exhibit


Paleontology exhibit


Chesapeake Bay boat building techniques


River otters


Chesapeake Bay buy boat


Small boat shed


I don’t have any iPhone comparison shots for the rest of these, but felt they were worth including in the post anyway.




The interior of Cove Point lighthouse

The temporary Oyster Wars exhibit


2 thoughts on “Calvert Marine Museum: two different photowalks

  1. my2fish

    that's a nice comparison, especially with listing the different camera specs and then showing side-by-side pictures to compare.

    I've noticed with my iPhone that you really can't zoom. well you can, but image resolution goes way down and pixelization goes way up.


  2. Mitch Zeissler

    Thanks — I'm planning on another comparison post to show where the bigger camera really shines.

    With the iPhone, the zooming that's available is digital — not optical — and digital just doesn't cut it where the final image quality is concerned.


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