In this Guardian gallery, a pro photographer compares the Canon 5D SLR (£2140 with lens) and an iPhone 4S (£499 + contract). It hardly seems fair to compare a professional camera that has been used to shoot television shows and films with a snapshot phone camera, but go with it.
Spoiler: the iPhone does a decent job, sometimes exposing highlights too bright, sharpening pictures and adding contrast. Colours are usually warmer and less accurate, but it usually produces a very nice picture, considering.
It struck me looking through the gallery that the colours on the iPhone photos are always warmer, and look more saturated. Clearly Canon have opted for colour accuracy. In a Top Trumps game, however, who would win? Saturated, warm colours, or true-to-life colours?
True-to-life isn’t always the way you want to go with photography. Manufacturers of 35mm film always knew this. Kodak used to sell something called Gold (oh, they still do), which would give you warm, saturated pictures from your holiday snaps. And that’s the key point. It may be important for professional photographers to choose their exposure settings, but for a snapshot, I think you always want colours-in-memory as opposed to true-to-life.
When we remember something or somewhere that we loved, we remember warmer, more saturated colour. When the sky is blue, it’s really blue. So the iPhone, as a snapshot camera, gives us that. If we’re doing catalogue shots or for some other professional use, you’ll probably want accuracy. That’s what the Canon 5D is for.