2014 iPhone 6 Camera vs 2012 Panasonic Lumix LX7
How does a top Smartphone measure up to a very popular enthusiast photographer-targeted compact camera? Here's a real world test to see if all the superlatives Tim Cook mentions to describe the iPhone's camera can match a real (middle of the pack) pocket-sized camera.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 was announced in late 2012 but it is till sold on Amazon for roughy US $400 despite being succeeded by the Lumix LX100 (US $650 ave presumably the price of the older LX7 when it debuted) in late 2014. The iPhone 6 on the other hand was announced in late 2014.
Let me begin by telling you what I did not do in this test. I did not compare both to a Higher-end DSLR since the image sensor of a pro/ enthusiast's DSLR is approximately 55X the size of an iPhone's sensor. So you can assume the quality of a D750 to be infinitely better, ; ) I also did not shoot in low-light since both the LX7 and iPhone are only good for iPhone-sized screens in dimmer environments at least for my taste. Viewing low-light shots large in a mac or a PC you'll easily notice "roughness" in the image. In photography talk: noise, moire and even artifacts.
So here are the test/ comparison shots. I have included the EXIF (settings for the first pair of shots -house/ bldg.) Others were shot in good light and using an aperture of f/2.2 and up. The images are cropped in the same area at 100% magnification to see the details better. You can click the .jpg below to see the test shots in full detail/ size on a new browser window.
From the samples above two things are apparent. The LX7 produces cooler images while the iPhone 6 is warmer (less blue, more yellow)- on Auto White Balance. You may have noticed the slight difference is sizes (resolution) since the LX7 has a 10MP sensor while the iPhone has 8MP.
Now the important difference is quality of the output. I find the (Luma) noise on the iPhone images even at the lowest ISO (32). Yes the iPhone shot at that ISO! Noise are speckles/ grain in the image. Also found moiré (see the roof of the white house). Moiré is the appearance of curvy lines on pattered details of the image, Lastly if you look close enough you'll see some bunching up of pixels or what is referred to as artifacts.
In terms of color I found the images of the LX7 to be more scene accurate than the iPhone's which were too warm. White balance can easily be adjusted especially for a stand-alone camera like the LX7 which has proper camera controls.
Finally, the details on the iPhone is not as defined viewed 100% even at almost macro focal length/ distance. A contributing factor could be that the default contrast setting of the iPhone is low. Looking at the full-sized test, you can see the curvy fine line detail on the watch dial (face) on the LX7 image while on the iPhone's, it's completely lost.
Overall, the LX7 has cleaner/ crisper details. In my estimate, the quality of the images of the LX7 is perhaps 25-30% better than the iPhone's under good/ bright light. The advantage from memory is even higher in dim/ low-light. You can say the quality is almost similar but the difference is enough for people to maybe judge a blog's images as of "good" or of "not-really good" quality if the LX7 or iPhone were used to shoot them.
If you're wondering why this post? I scored an LX7 recently, a rock-bottom priced display unit. It got me curious if owning one adds value to my casual photography since the iPhone's image quality is already acceptable at least during the day.
The blog is about the Philippines... the less photographed side of it. My hope is that as I develop the series, the story I tell about trivial life in the country resonates with its readers.