How Does a DSLR Compare to the iPhone 11 Pro Max Camera?

Mobile Photography Oct 17, 2019

On September 20, 2019 Apple released the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. After being out for roughly two weeks — we wanted to see what consumers really thought of the iPhone 11 Pro Max camera and, more specifically, if the camera lived up to the hype. Could the camera on the iPhone 11 Pro Max really eliminate the need for a DSLR?

Before its release Apple advertised the camera on the iPhone 11 Pro Max as, “the first triple-camera system to combine cutting-edge technology with the legendary simplicity of the iPhone. Capture up to four times more scene. Get beautiful images in drastically lower light. Shoot the highest-quality video in a smartphone — then edit with the same tools you love for photos. You’ve never shot with anything like it.”

First, let’s compare the specifications of the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the Nikon Digital SLR D3200 — a popular DSLR camera.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max features three cameras including the “Ultra Wide,” “Wide,” and “Telephoto.”

Ultra Wide Camera

  • 13mm focal length
  • f/2.4 aperture
  • 5-element lens
  • 120 degree field of view
  • 4x more scene
  • 12MP sensor

Wide Camera

  • 26mm focal length
  • f/1.8 aperture
  • 6-element lens
  • Optical image stabilization
  • 100% focus pixels
  • 12MP sensor

Telephoto Camera

  • 52mm focal length
  • Larger f/2.0 aperture
  • 6-element lens
  • Optical image stabilization
  • 2x optical zoom
  • 12MP sensor

Nikon Digital SLR Camera D3200

  • Single-lens reflex digital camera
  • Effective angle of view: Approx. 1.5x lens focal length (35 mm format equivalent)
  • Lens aperture: Instant return, electronically controlled
  • 23.2 x 15.4 mm CMOS sensor
  • 24.4 million effective pixels

Naturally, as soon as the iPhone 11 Pro Max came out users put it to the test. We read articles by tech experts, professional photographers, everyday iPhone users and even watched in depth YouTube videos and dug through Reddit threads. Here’s what we’ve deduced:

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iPhone 11 Pro Camera


  • Professional-grade portrait photography
  • Fast automatic settings, that take a lot of the learned-photography skills, out of the equation
  • Smart HDR
  • Smooth stabilization for video and night mode
  • Easy to use
  • Ultra-wide lens for low cost
  • Fits in your pocket


  • Noisy images
  • Slight loss of detail due to over-processing
  • Shallow depth of field

Typical DSLR Camera


  • Detail preservation
  • Post-production flexibility (since RAW data files are available)
  • Infinitely more lens options
  • Optical depth of field


  • Photos have “more noise” than the iPhone, however, it’s easy to edit
  • Produces more detailed photographs than the iPhone
  • Large and doesn’t fit in a pocket like the iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • An additional expense, vs. just using your iPhone
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In conclusion — the camera on the iPhone 11 Pro Max is incredible and it can do a lot more than previous iPhones. But, will it replace a DSLR? We don’t think so. With that being said, the iPhone 11 Pro Max does give more amateur photographers a boost given all of the automated features that make iPhone photos look professionally-shot.

What do you think? Could the iPhone 11 Pro Max camera replace your DSLR?


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