Can an Apple iPhone rise up to the video quality standards imposed by Carfection?

Those gearheads keeping close tabs on YouTube’s top car-related content producers know that Carfection has become a benchmark when it comes to the amount of quality baked into their videos. So when CNET launched the challenge to shoot an entire car review on an iPhone 11 Pro, Carfection was happy to accept it.

The idea that smartphones have evolved to such technological heights that they can now replace specialized hardware such as professional cameras has been floating around for some time. Photographers and videographers have, on several occasions, shown that it’s more about HOW you use skill and creativity, the available surroundings, and lighting conditions than WHAT you actually use. Enter Carfection’s review of the Ford Mustang Bullitt, shot entirely on an iPhone 11 Pro - not without a few struggles, though.

Ford Mustang Bullitt Review Shot on an iPhone 11

In shooting Carfection’s latest video review, one that looks at the modern reinterpretation of the Ford Mustang Bullitt, the filming crew used solely an iPhone 11 Pro. Sounds impressive, right? That’s because it kind of is, especially when you see what the final version of the video looks like.

Downsizing from $10,000-$20,000 worth of professional filming equipment for something that costs $1,450 and you can also carry in your pocket doesn’t come without its challenges.

Can you really shoot a high-quality, pro-standard video with the iPhone 11?

Carfection Just Used an Apple iPhone 11 to Record a Video Review of the Ford Mustang Bullitt
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While you can use the iPhone 11 to take high-quality videos, the end result depends a lot on lighting. As Carfection producer Charlie Rose explains for CNET, the quality of the footage is top-notch in great lighting. However,

the iPhone 11 simply cannot match a DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera) when it comes to the amount of noise you get when shooting details and shadows.

What’s more, although the three-camera setup performs impressively when taking pictures, it still lacks depth of field, which is a prime indicator that a video was shot on a smartphone - be it an iPhone or something else - and not on a pro camera fitted with a much larger image sensor.

Another plus for the iPhone was the Filmic Pro app, which proved highly versatile in the sense that it lets the user tweak plenty of parameters such as ISO, white balance, and shutter speed.

What are the disadvantages of filming with the iPhone 11?

Carfection Just Used an Apple iPhone 11 to Record a Video Review of the Ford Mustang Bullitt
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Most of the drawbacks relate to usability and user experience, really. Besides the obvious downfalls illustrated above, the iPhone itself is smaller than a DSRL camera, so it might take a while adjusting to its size. What’s more, a pro camera has physical buttons and knobs, so a videographer who is normally used to operating those will need time to adapt to the iPhone’s touchscreen controls and all that tapping and pinching routine.

The same Charlie Rose also highlighted that for him, shooting with the lens off-center on a tripod turned out a lot more difficult than with regular gear - as you know, in a standard DSRL, the lens is most of the time mounted centrally.

When shooting at a low angle it’s also quite difficult to see the screen of the iPhone, which is what the Carfection filming crew encountered.

In an attempt to solve the issue, they tried using a support iPhone (this time an XS Max) as a second display that would allow them to monitor what’s happening in front of the cameras, but the delay between the two phones proved too big.

Carfection Just Used an Apple iPhone 11 to Record a Video Review of the Ford Mustang Bullitt
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On top of that, the Filmic Pro app crashed a lot (six times, actually) while filming the Mustang Bullitt, and that’s a big nuisance. Sometimes a carmaker might restrict a journalist’s time with a car to just a couple of hours, thus using an app that crashes constantly is likely to mess up the whole video production process, which is something you don’t really want.

Final Thoughts

Carfection Just Used an Apple iPhone 11 to Record a Video Review of the Ford Mustang Bullitt
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All that said, we’d recommend you to have a look at the video and see for yourself how it fits into Carfection’s style. Should you ask for our two cents, the fact that it was shot on such a small piece of hardware and still made the cut quality-wise can only be tagged as impressive. However, you can also spot the smartphone’s pitfalls here and there at a close examination of the video. With that in mind, it’s perhaps best to use the iPhone as an emergency back-up plan that would support your main, specialized cameras and whatnot. Then again, who knows what will technology bring in a couple of years. Maybe the expensive, heavy filming gear is indeed on its way to becoming obsolete.

The Apple iPhone Crazy in a Nutshell

To say that Apple’s iPhone has been the cause for a craze over the past years would be an understatement. People looking to buy one are queueing up and literally camping out in front of Apple stores for hours whenever a new iPhone launches and the amount of coverage such an occasion gets from the internet is simply overwhelming every single time. However, there’s a big difference between owning the latest iPhone and using it for boring pictures of your seaside holiday or checking Facebook every ten minutes or so and actually harnessing all that fancy technology for something that’s truly remarkable.

Tudor Rus
Assistant Content Manager - Automotive Expert - tudor@topspeed.com
Tudor’s first encounter with cars took place when he was only a child. Back then, his father brought home a Trabant 601 Kombi and a few years later, a Wartburg 353. At that time, he was too young to know how they worked and way too young to drive them, but he could see one thing – each of them had a different ethos and their own unique personality. As time went on, he started seeing that in other cars as well, and his love for the automobile was born.  Read More
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