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1080P Video Test – iPhone 4S Camera vs THE Canon EOS 5D Mark II

iPhone 4S V/S Canon 5D II

The iPhone 4 could shoot 720P videos and was one of the best video Shooters in the world and Apple just decided to make it better by giving here 1080p video capabilities.

Here’s a “fair” test between the iPhone 4S and the Canon 5D MK II. I made a little rig that allowed me to shoot both cameras at the same time side by side. All scenes are perfectly synced together so you can pause and scrutinize the frames! See photo of the makeshift rig in the photo area.

Exposure, shutter speed, frame rate and picture style were matched as close as possible between the two cameras. (I used the Zacuto Z-finder to help me adjust exposure for both iPhone and 5D)

This test shows that the tiny F2.4 lens and sensor on the iPhone are pretty nice. It even got a little depth of field!

I did not overlay the exact ISO and Stops 5D settings per shot. It was too much to keep track for this simple test. To be fair I matched 5D exposure to the iPhone so no “Cinestyle” / 24p here.

Here are the settings:

iPhone 4S

– AE.AF locked. That’s all you have!

Canon 5D MKII

– Canon 50mm 1.4
– ISO 160 ~ 640 (varied per shot to match the iPhone)
– F 7~22 (varied per shot to match the iPhone)
– Shutter 1/60th
– Auto WB
– Standard Picture Style
– 1080p 30

Happily, Robino Films has something of an answer. The company posted a video comparing 1080p video from an iPhone 4S with that from Canon’s $2,400 EOS 5D Mark II, the current SLR to beat when it comes to shooting video.

The two cameras shoot the same scenes, mounted side by side on a camera rig. Exposure was adjusted to be the same, and the video was shot at 30 frames per second.

Watch the video to see what you think about shadow and highlight detail and other matters. The field of view is a bit different, but it’s still good enough for comparison purposes. You can pause it to look at individual frames in more detail since the videos are synchronized.

And when comparing, remember that the Canon has a huge 36x24mm image sensor compared to the tiny one, evidently built by Sony, in the iPhone 4S. Larger sensors can handle a greater spread of light and dark brightness. Remember also, though, that Canon’s camera is three years old.

Robino Films offered this view in the comments: “This test is really only to show that the 4S is coming close to the 5D but in NO WAY is it better. The iPhone is a great 1080p pocket camera and shows us where technology is heading. Give it two three years and we should see some interesting micro high performance cameras.”

For mainstream consumers, the iPhone will win out over a video SLR that’s geared and priced for very serious photographers. But in cinema circles, don’t expect tiny cameras to take over.


Body type
Body type Mid-size SLR
Max resolution 5616 x 3744
Other resolutions 4080 x 2720, 2784 x 1856, 5616 x 3744, 3861 x 2574, 2784 x 1856
Image ratio w:h 3:2
Effective pixels 21.0 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors 22.0 megapixels
Sensor size Full frame (36 x 24 mm)
Sensor type CMOS
Processor Digic 4
ISO Auto, 100 – 6400 in 1/3 stops, plus 50, 12800, 25600 as option
White balance presets 6
Custom white balance Yes (1)
Image stabilization No
Uncompressed format RAW
JPEG quality levels Fine, Normal
Optics & Focus
Autofocus Contrast Detect (sensor), Phase Detect, Multi-area, Selective single-point, Single, Continuous, Face Detection, Live View
Digital zoom No
Manual focus Yes
Number of focus points 9
Lens mount Canon EF mount
Focal length multiplier
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCD Fixed
Screen size 3″
Screen dots 920,000
Touch screen No
Live view Yes
Viewfinder type Optical (pentaprism)
Viewfinder coverage 98 %
Viewfinder magnification 0.71×
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed 30 sec
Maximum shutter speed 1/8000 sec
Aperture priority Yes
Shutter priority Yes
Manual exposure mode Yes
Subject / scene modes No
Built-in flash No
External flash Yes (Hot-shoe, Wireless plus Sync connector)
Continuous drive Yes (3.9 fps max 78 JPEG, 13 RAW)
Self-timer Yes (2 or 10 sec)
Metering modes Multi, Center-weighted, Spot
Exposure compensation ±2 EV (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
AE Bracketing ±2 (3 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
WB Bracketing Yes (3 frames in either blue/amber or magenta/green axis)
Videography features
Format H.264
Audio channels Stereo
Resolutions 1920 x 1080 (30 fps), 640 x 480 (30 fps)
Storage types Compact Flash (Type I or II), UDMA, Microdrive
Storage included None
USB USB 2.0 (480Mbit/sec)
HDMI Yes (HDMI mini)
Wireless None
Remote control Yes (N3 connector)
Environmentally sealed Yes
Battery Battery Pack
Battery description Lithium-Ion LP-E6 rechargeable battery & charger
Battery Life (CIPA) 850
Weight (inc. batteries) 850 g (1.87 lb / 29.98 oz)
Dimensions 152 x 114 x 75 mm (5.98 x 4.49 x 2.95″)
Other features
Orientation sensor Yes
Timelapse recording Yes (by cable and PC)
GPS None