iPhone 11 vs Canon M50 – which is best for video?

27 February 2021

I definitely look the part with my Canon M50 camera, but do I need anything more than my iPhone 11 to create great video content? Is it time to step beyond the smartphone? Which is best? iPhone 11 vs Canon M50 – let’s find out.

Which is the best choice for video, an iPhone 11 or a dedicated camera? It’s a question I’ve been wrestling with for some time now, having been shooting video and stills on both types of device for the past few years. 

In 2019, I purchased the Canon EOS M50. This is a lightweight and relatively affordable mirrorless camera, and when it was released it was marketed by Canon as the best choice for content creators wanting to take a first step up from their smartphone. 

I’ve been using the camera regularly ever since to shoot videos and stills, and I have extensively compared it to the results I’ve been getting from my iPhone 11 Pro Max, which is one of the best smartphone camera systems around (the newer iPhone 12 is a very minor upgrade in this department). 

If you’re aiming to produce high-quality video content, perhaps currently using a smartphone and flirting with the idea of jumping to a camera system, then read on for an overview of my experiences with both. One quick note – this is a guide pitched at the advanced hobbyist or semi-professional video creator. If you’re someone who’s routinely spending four-figure sums on the latest professional DSLR, I’m probably not going to tell you anything you don’t already know.

With that out of the way, let’s get started. Before we dive into the Canon EOS M50, let’s take a closer look at what the iPhone 11 Pro Max has to offer…

iphone 11 cameras
iPhone 11 Pro Max – triple-camera system

iPhone 11 Pro Max: Why is it great for video?

The question of iPhone versus camera for video was once very easily settled, with cameras far outstripping phones across the board. However, phone manufacturers have put huge amounts of effort into making phone cameras better and better, and this generation of iPhone has a seriously impressive imaging setup.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max uses an impressive triple-camera setup, with three lenses that are each paired with a 12-megapixel (MP) sensor. The primary lens is a 26mm equivalent wide lens – pretty much the standard focal length for a phone camera – and there are also ultra-wide and telephoto lenses for capturing near and far subjects respectively.

Video-wise, it’s capable of shooting 4K video at up to 60fps – an impressive frame rate for a camera of this type. The video looks crisp and punchy, as do the stills taken with the rear-facing camera array. The front-facing selfie camera is a lot more basic, and you’re probably going to want to avoid shooting professional content with it if possible.

It’s a great device for video creators. Apple did loads of things right with this iteration of the iPhone, giving it much-improved battery life compared to previous iPhones. It’s got decent video stabilisation, and doesn’t require much in the way of accessories – everything you need to shoot great-looking video is built into the slim body of the device. It’s small and lightweight (compared to a camera at least), and it also has the main advantage common to all smartphones – it’s going to be travelling everywhere with you, no matter what!

The fact that it’s a smartphone also gives the iPhone 11 Pro Max a few other advantages. Chief among these is the fact that using iMovie or a third-party app like Adobe Rush turns your phone into a basic editing suite. This gives you everything you need to take your video from raw shot to polished final product – all in the palm of your hand.

So, with all this power at my fingertips, why did I pick up the Canon EOS M50? 

canon m50 video
Canon EOS M50 coupled with the RØDE VideoMic

Canon EOS M50: Why is a mirrorless camera great for video?

You can get hold of a Canon EOS M50 for about £650. This is a good price for a camera of this class, but it’s by no means a small chunk of change. So why do I consider this investment to have been worth every penny?

First and foremost, there’s the matter of control. The smartphone was just not giving me the level of control I wanted over exposure settings like aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Yes, there are apps like Filmic Pro that allow you to do this to an extent, but it’s not at all the same as having these functions at your fingertips on an ergonomic, SLR-like body. I know that I can set my aperture wide and my ISO low and get a beautifully shallow depth of field, with my main subject in pin-sharp focus and the background artfully blurred. This just isn’t really possible on the phone.

Here are a couple of comparison shots to show you what I mean:

dslr depth of field
Canon M50 vs iPhone 11 Pro Max – depth of field

And this is just with the 15-45mm kit lens that comes packaged with the EOS M50. I can improve this effect further by upgrading to another lens like the EF-M 32mm f1.4 STM with a wider aperture. 

This is the next big advantage of a system camera like the EOS M50 – it offers a much greater growth path than a phone, with the ability to buy and swap out new lenses with longer and shorter focal lengths, depending on the situation. On the iPhone, you’re limited to those three focal lengths in the camera array, while with a system camera, you have so much more flexibility and freedom. Again – it’s all about control.

These are quite general points that are common to many cameras, and it’s worth noting that the EOS M50 has many specific features that make it a worthy upgrade in my eyes. The Dual Pixel Autofocus system is fantastic, locking onto subjects with the kind of speed and accuracy that smartphones can only dream about. Focusing becomes something you simply don’t have to think about – although there’s also the option for manual focus if you prefer, again something that isn’t possible on a smartphone. 

The Canon EOS M50 uses a 24MP APS-C sensor, providing double the pixels of the 12MP iPhone. This is mostly important if you’re shooting stills and want to print or crop into your images – less so for video. However, the sensor is physically larger than that of the iPhone – APS-C compared to the 1/2.55″ version on the iPhone. The ins and outs of what this means are a little bit technical, but the important thing to know is that more surface area for the pixels means less image noise, better dynamic range and improved performance in low light. 

Canon EOS M50: Key reasons it’s ideal for video

There’s plenty more that’s excellent about the Canon EOS M50 – so much that this blog could easily be double the length! To keep things manageable, we’re going to quickly run through some more of the key features that make this camera such a great choice for content creators.

Removable storage: If you shoot about five minutes of 4K content, you’re going to run up about 1GB of storage needed. Therefore, if you’re using a 64GB iPhone, or even a larger model, you’re going to fill it up very, very quickly. Sure, there’s the cloud, but you’re still going to run into this problem. A much easier and more efficient solution is a removable memory card in a camera, which you can transfer to hard drives or a long-term cloud solution at your leisure.

Flip-around LCD screen: The 3-inch, fully articulating touchscreen on the EOS M50 is perfect for vlogging, letting you frame yourself up with ease. You can do this on an iPhone of course, but it necessitates using the inferior front-facing camera. 

Microphone jack: This is absolutely critical for elevating your video content. Nothing reveals a video as amateur more quickly than low-quality audio, and you just don’t get enough quality from built-in mics on smartphones or cameras. The EOS M50 lets you plug in a professional mic like the RØDE Videomic Go, and also has a hotshoe for mounting it!

Wireless and Bluetooth: The connectivity aspects of the EOS M50 turn my smartphone into a fantastic tool for streamlining my shoots. I can control the camera’s functions with my phone, stopping and starting the shot without getting up from my chair, and transferring images or video to the cloud without removing the SD card. 

Freeing up my phone from being the primary camera also lets me do other useful things with it that you might not have even considered – for instance, sticking my video script on the screen and using it as an autocue! It all just makes life that little bit easier. 

canon m50 flip screen
Canon M50 flip around screen – great for vlogging
canon m50 audio quality
Video essential – the mic jack input

Canon EOS M50: What are the disadvantages?

So you might be forgiven for thinking that I’m blanket-recommending everyone go out and buy a Canon EOS M50 immediately. However that isn’t the case. The Canon EOS M50, like anything, is not perfect. There are a few drawbacks to using it compared with the iPhone 11 Pro Max. 

One is something that’s common to all cameras in comparison to phones – a relative lack of convenience. Your phone is always on you, no matter where you are, and this means you can always grab a shot at a moment’s notice. 

There are also other things more specific to the EOS M50, and the most glaring one is probably the 4K. The Canon EO M50 does shoot 4K video, but it comes with a heavy crop factor, meaning it’s significantly zoomed in. If you’re holding the camera at arm’s length and shooting 4K, then the shot will be right in your face. You can also shoot at a maximum frame rate of 24fps – compared to 60 on the iPhone 11 – and what’s more, the sophisticated DDual Pixel Autofocus system doesn’t work in 4K.

This may not be a deal-breaker for you – most people don’t need 4K. But it is becoming more of an expected professional standard, and if you’re expecting to be shooting 4K then you might want to look at a different camera. Sony has plenty of options around the same price point for 4K – I’d recommend starting with the ZV-1, a camera specifically tailored to vlogging.

The stabilisation is also not particularly good on the EOS M50, especially on the kit lens. If I’m going to be moving and shooting a lot, I tend to rely on my GoPro instead. 

iPhone 11 vs Canon M50 – So, which is best for video?

Ultimately, it comes down to your needs. If you’re a casual vlogger, I reckon that an iPhone 11 will be more than enough to meet your needs. Think about the kind of content you’re looking to create, and the aesthetic you’d like it to have. 

Also, the best thing to do to get a feel for what you need is to simply start shooting. Try producing some videos with your phone and see how it feels. If you find yourself yearning for greater manual controls, more dynamic range, a greater selection of focal lengths, better battery life or a more ergonomic handling experience, then it’s probably a sign you should step up to a mirrorless camera like the EOS M50.

For me personally, I see the difference and feel the benefits of using the EOS M50 for things like talking heads, product shots and just producing video of better overall quality audio. With that said, however, I’m not ready to stop using the iPhone. I love the ultra-wide angle, and being able to shoot super-smooth slow motion at 60fps in 4K.

It’s important that you’re happy and proud of the video you produce, however you produce it. I hope this blog has given you a clearer idea of whether you’ll best accomplish that with a camera or a smartphone. 

Thanks for checking out our article looking at the iPhone 11 vs Canon M50. If you’re looking to improver your content creation then please visit our YouTube channel and subscribe. You might also be interested to read ‘How to Script- YouTube Videos‘.

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