The iPhone vs My Digital Camera for HDR Photography

Derrick Story
3 min readJan 28, 2022

When I think about the things that defy physics, such as cats jumping straight up four times their height, iPhone photography also comes to mind. Honestly, its pictures shouldn’t look that good.

This size of the image sensor in my iPhone 12 Pro Max is 1/1.9". By comparison, the APS-C sensor in my Fujifilm X100V is ginormous and gathers more than 10 times the amount of light. And yet, in dim conditions, the iPhone works quite well.

These are the weird things that I think about, beer in hand, as I watch the sun disappear beneath the ocean horizon. Under such beautiful, but photographically challenging conditions, I want to capture the colors of the sky and the subdued texture of the sand.

Traditional photography says that I have to choose between the two because exposure-wise, the ground is so much darker than the sunset. You’ve seen the pictures where the entire bottom half of the frame is jet black. That’s why most folks just shoot the sky and call it a night.

I want both. And I know how to do it.

High Dynamic Range photography is the answer. It lets me create the picture I want: soft pastel colors in the sky gently illuminating the settling tones of a sandy beach. HDR performs its magic by recording multiple frames at varying exposures, then blending them together into a single picture that balances the bright sky with the dark foreground. The resulting image is often quite pleasing.

Logically, the dynamic range challenge seems best suited for a larger sensor camera with lots of light gathering power. In my case, this translates to three frames from the X100V, processed and merged in professional Capture One Pro imaging software, then tweaked with sophisticated exposure and color adjustments.

But the truth is, I could just stand up, take a picture with my iPhone, and get back to nursing my beer.

That doesn’t seem fair.

I’ve studied HDR photography and have invested in professional tools that maximize my ability to create compelling images under these challenging…