iPhone XS video impresses, but it’s no match for a cinema cam


iPhone XS video
Is there a major difference? Depends on the size of the screen on which each is viewed.
Photo: Ed Gregory/Pictures In Color

Director Steven Soderbergh called the iPhone the future of cinematography. Filmmaker and photographer Ed Gregory isn’t quite ready to put down his cinema camera.

Still, Gregory came away pretty impressed with the video capabilities of the iPhone XS Max when he tested it recently against his Canon C200.

To shoot the same scenes with each camera, Gregory mounted the iPhone on top of the C200, placing them both on a DJI Ronin-S, a handheld three-axis gimbal stabilizer.

For the iPhone XS, Gregory used the native camera with no help from apps or additional settings. On the Canon cinema camera, he shot the footage using the RAW lite codec.

The Canon C200 is a behemoth compared to the sleek iPhone XS Max, but the iPhone XS video looks decent.
The Canon C200 is a behemoth compared to the sleek iPhone XS Max.
Photo: Ed Gregory/Pictures In Color

iPhone XS video vs. cinema camera

Watching Gregory’s YouTube video on a MacBook Pro, the XS footage seems to hold its own. He challenged his viewers to see if they could tell which footage was from the iPhone. Anyone who has used the iPhone for photography or video will probably guess immediately by a lens flare in one of Gregory’s test films.

“A few weeks ago, I picked up the new iPhone XS Max…. To be honest I was actually shocked. It looked awesome,” Gregory wrote on his website, Photos in Color. “Over the next few days I took a few videos and found myself actually watching them back on the phone and being pretty impressed. I would then watch video I shot on the C200 and to be honest, I would question which one I liked more.”

It’s when Gregory watched both videos from his test on a 27-inch iMac that he could tell the difference. The iPhone over-sharpened the image. Plus, some detail and depth got lost when compared to the Canon cinema camera.

The iPhone footage needed no color grading and Gregory was surprised at the dynamic range. The RAW footage from the C200 needed a lot of color work in post-production. Gregory called the dedicated video camera a part of the workflow with a stunning end result.

He points out that creativity is more important than gear, though good gear helps.

“Is it as good as a cinema camera? Not at all,” Gregory said. “Is it the best camera I have ever seen on a smartphone? 100 percent.”