I compared some test shots to a digital cinema camera to determine the latest “must-have” gadget’s strengths and weaknesses. Here’s what I found.
Apple’s new iPhone is the first to feature the “Pro” tag, but is it really a tool for professional filmmakers?
The first thing I found out was that this camera, with its three-lens array, needs a lot of light. The sensor size is so small compared to even a Micro Four Thirds camera that it constantly struggles with noise and murky color reproduction.
Depth of Field
The second physical limitation of the iPhone 11 Pro’s sensor is depth of field, in that, almost everything is in focus all the time. Unless the subject is inches from the camera and the background is in the distance, everything will be sharp as a tack. Sometimes deep focus is a good thing, but it would be nice to choose.
While the stills camera on the iPhone is able to get around this by blurring the background in-post, the video dimension is still lacking, so you have to chose your shots and use other elements — like color and brightness — to separate your subject from the background.
While iPhone photography can shoot RAW, the video camera still compresses to H.264 or H.265, and you have to deal with the compression artifacts, muted color, and low dynamic range.
I tried several different lighting setups that would be typical in a narrative or documentary film — some were passable, and others (those that involved colored light or low light) were not.
The optimal conditions for the iPhone video camera seem to be outside, where there’s plenty of light. However, not direct sunlight because the contrast can cause problems. Camera movement, especially on a small gimbal, is where this camera comes into its own. I was able to get some amazing exterior tracking shots that really outshine a cinema camera for image quality and ease of use.
Could you shoot a film on the new iPhone 11 Pro? Probably, but there are plenty of cheaper and better options. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is around the same price and will outshoot the iPhone in pretty much every scenario.
Apple has recently challenged RED’s RAW video patents, so if you’re waiting for a real pro-level cell phone camera, maybe next year.
Looking for more tutorials on filmmaking and video production? Check these out.
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- Cinematography Tips: 10 Things Beginners Need to Know About Lighting
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