In this corner, my ten-year-old Pentax Optio E40, 8.1 megapixel sensor, 5x optical zoom plus digital zoom, 6.2–18.2 mm focal length.
In the other corner, my three-year-old iPhone 5s, also about 8 megapixel sensor, and a tiny lens (no optical zoom) coupled to software jiggery-pokery that produces pretty good pictures.
Both have built-in flashes, but today's comparison was outdoor photography.
Like almost everyone who has a smartphone, I carry it most of the time — especially in fire-and-flood season.
The Pentax Optio has a logged a lot of miles in my daypack, hunting vest pocket, etc. How would it hold up head-to-head against the iPhone? Should I still bother with it? With batteries, it's an extra 6.2 oz. (177 grams).
On to the test. Both cameras produced JPG images in the 4–6 MB range, about 45 x 34 inches (Pentax) or 45 x 32 inches (iPhone). For the blog, I have reduced all of them to 12 inches in width (no cropping) at 72 dpi.
|Monarda (bee balm) / iPhone 5s|
|Monarda / Pentax Optio E40|
2. Long-distance landscape
|View across the Wet Mountain Valley / iPhone|
|View across the Wet Mountain Valley / Pentax|
3. Maximum zoom
|The town of Westcliffe from about seven miles away / iPhone|
|Westcliffe / Pentax, maximum optical zoom|
|Westcliffe / Pentax, maximum optical zoom + digital zoom|
4. Other considerations
Features: Both shoot videos. The Optio has built-in settings for close-up, landscape, portrait, action, night photography, etc.
Storage: With the right SD card, the Optio can equal the iPhone's storage capacity.
Weight: The iPhone5s is slightly heavier, about 5 grams. But it is a computer that takes photographs, whereas the Optio is only a camera.
Battery: Both suck in different ways. All cell phones run down their batteries too fast, even when asleep, unless you turn off GPS, wireless, etc. The Optio runs down its AA batteries just remembering the time and date, and when you change them, you have to reset those numbers. Figure on a set of batteries a day with active shooting, although you can use rechargeables.
Durability: I keep my iPhone in an OtterBox case, and so far I have not broken it. The Optio is susceptible to dust because of its zoom lens, so normally it rides in a tactical case, which is a plastic sandwich bag. If I dropped it off a cliff or it fell out of the boat, I would not feel so bad, which is a plus.
Smartphones are killing the low-end point-and-shoot compact camera market. The Optio and its competitors offer built-in shooting modes, which I like, but smartphone owners can add apps to improve their features. (I like Solocator, which adds altitude, compass bearing, and latitude and longitude to photos.)
My conclusion: I will probably keep using the Optio until it breaks, but I doubt if I will replace it, except possibly with a cheap used one. I will keep my digital SLR for the "serious" photography.