You’re a mobile filmmaker in the market for a new smartphone, and you’re struggling to decide between Android and iPhone. Don’t fret; I’ve been there too.
As you pour through the dense technical specs and sample video footage on Youtube, you’re struggling to discern what the best smartphone is for filmmaking. So, I created this Android filmmaking vs. iPhone filmmaking guide to show you the pros and cons of each to help make your decision a little easier.
iPhone vs. Android Phones for Filmmaking
You are right to be up in the air between Android and iPhone for filmmaking, as each has definite pros and cons. Additionally, smartphone technology constantly changes, and their camera quality waxes and wanes with nearly every new release.
The following guide will help you determine whether you should opt for an Android or an iPhone device. Before we jump in, however, I feel the need to point out that even though most Android-native cameras are similar, they’re not exactly the same. There are a few details to keep an eye out for, which we’ll be shedding light on.
iPhones are well-known for their high-quality cameras. If you pick up anything from the iPhone 7 lineup and onwards, you’re guaranteed to enjoy anything from HD to 4K resolution. The latter is more common in newer releases
If you’re filming in slow motion on an iPhone, you’ll be filming with 120 or 240 fps. Of course, the video output itself remains at 30 fps, which makes it much easier to edit.
Meanwhile, Android offers resolutions ranging from HD to 4K, and there are even offerings with 8K resolution!
Of course, using 8K resolution has its benefits. For example, you can crop your shots without sacrificing video quality.
All that being said, even 4k isn’t a must. Its main drawback is that it takes up a lot of space. If you’re shooting more than a couple of short videos, 4k footage can fill up your phone’s storage in no time. Check out our article on external storage solutions if you need help avoiding storage problems.
iOS offers a wide array of advantages. One significant advantage is Airdrop; rather than spending time trying to get your footage on your computer, you can now just use Airdrop to upload your content to your Mac directly. If you don’t have a Mac, you can always just plug your iPhone into your laptop and directly import your footage.
IOS offers two kinds of compression presets: Most Compatible and High Efficiency (HEVC). The former is the standard format, while the latter makes the file size much smaller.
While HEVC may sound great, it’s still a moderately recent format, and it’s not typically compatible with older PCs and devices.
The biggest pro for the Android operating system is customizability. When it comes to using the native camera app, this can be a big help. You can set your phone up to do precisely what you want it to do the way you want it to do it. Control digital zoom via the volume controls or set up a quick-open-camera-queue – the choice is yours.
Transferring footage to your PC is also relatively easy. You just plug your phone into your computer via a USB and offload the content. While this isn’t as easy as Airdropping the footage, it is slightly faster.
The native camera app on iPhones is, in my experience, the most straightforward app to use for mobile filmmaking. Did you know that Andy To shoots all his content in the native camera app? If it’s good enough for Andy, then it’s good enough for me.
You can quickly cycle through your frame rates and focal lengths and adjust and lock focus and exposure from the native camera app. The only things that you can’t control are audio levels, shutter speed, white balance, and ISO. If you want control over these, you’ll need to download a mobile filmmaking app. Fortunately for iOS users, the mobile filmmaking apps available for iPhones are far superior to those for Android filmmaking.
This little detail is one that most beginner Android filmmakers don’t think of. Filming on your phone’s native camera app isn’t your best option; a third-party camera app provides that extra bit of control.
You should exercise complete control over your camera’s settings to get the highest-quality footage. You can control things like white balance, exposure, focus, frame rates, and shutter speed through a third-party app. If you can’t tweak any of the aforementioned settings, then you’re not going to get optimal footage even if shooting in 8k.
Unfortunately for Android users, your options for third-party camera apps for Android filmmaking are weak at best.
Audio control is also an important aspect to consider regarding camera apps. If you can’t see the audio levels when recording, then you have a problem on your hands. Monitoring audio levels is imperative because audio is equally as important as visuals for mobile filmmaking. On that note, if you don’t have a smartphone microphone, then you should consider investing!
When it comes to iPhones, the available frame rates are 24, 30, 60, 120, and 240 frames per second, depending on the model you have.
Android frame rates are pretty similar with 24, 25, 30, 60, 120, and 240 frames per second. The inclusion of 25 frames per second is because only the US typically shows movies and TV in 24 frames per second. Some Android phones also come with more impressive slow-motion options.
As a general rule, the higher the resolution of your footage, the more space it takes up in your phone’s storage. You can shoot photos or videos in more space-efficient formats, but the tradeoff in quality is bad for Android filmmaking.
iPhones have to use their storage space more efficiently since they don’t allow removable storage. Notably, iOS possesses a convenient feature: the option to “offload” your apps. By offloading apps, you can remove rarely-used apps without deleting saved documents and data.
A significant advantage that Android phones have over iPhones is storage. Instead of being tied to the storage space on the phone, many Android phones can use removable micro-SD cards. The ability to add SD cards is less common on newer smartphones, but it does make transferring files to your PC much easier.
Moreover, Google Drive and Google Photos provide outstanding options for extra storage. Sure, you can use iCloud when you run out of storage, but the 5GB it offers looks measly next to the 15GB that Google Drive offers you for free. Remember to upload in the highest quality setting!
Best Android Filmmaking Cameras
New Android devices are being released every month or so, which makes keeping up with all of the new releases a total hassle. To spare you some time, here are the three best Android cameras on the market today. Do note that I’ve chosen not to include Huawei or Xiaomi smartphones on this list as they aren’t available for use in the U.S.
Technically speaking there is nothing better for Android filmmaking than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G available in the US. With a 108MP main camera, the option to capture video in 8k, and compatibility with Moment lenses it’s really not even close. The lens setup on the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G includes
- a 108MP 24mm Wide Lens with f/1.8 and a 1/1.33″ sensor
- a 10MP 240mm Periscoping Telephoto Lens with f/4.9 and a 1/3.24″ sensor
- a 10MP 72mm Telephoto Lens with f/2.4 and a 1/3.24″ sensor
- a 12MP 14mm Ultrawide Lens with f/2.2 and a 1/2.55″ sensor
- and a 40MP 26mm Front Camera with f/2.2 and a 1/2.8″ sensor
In addition to all that impressive hardware, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G also captures video in [email protected], [email protected]/60fps, [email protected]/60/240fps, and [email protected] That’s a lot of frame rates at an impressive variety of high-resolutions! Top-tier Android filmmaking is reliant on varying frame rates and focal lengths both of which the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G has in droves.
Now, all that being said, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G isn’t without its fair share of problems. There’s no SD slot which has been a massive pro for Galaxy phones for years for Android filmmakers.
As is the case with most new smartphones, there’s also no 3.5mm audio jack which can make attaching a microphone for improved audio a pain. The processor also frequently becomes over-encumbered which leads to laggy performance and even overheating. The battery on the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is also pretty unimpressive for the price point.
Google finally upgraded their camera hardware! Is the Google Pixel 6 Pro the best camera set up from Google yet? Technically yes, but in practice no. For whatever reason, you can’t lock focus and exposure in the native camera app so you’ll need to use a third-party camera app for manual video control.
The cons of the Pixel 6 Pro aside, the technical specs on the phone are impressive with:
- a 50MP 26mm Wide Camera with f/1.85 and a 1/1.31″ sensor
- a 12MP 14mm Ultrawide Camera with f/2.2
- a 48MP 52mm Tele Camera with f/3.5 and a 1/2″ sensor
- and an 11.1MP 20mm Front Camera with f/2.2
In terms of video specs, the Google Pixel 6 Pro can capture [email protected]/60fps and [email protected]/60/120/240fps. When it comes to video features that are ideal for Android filmmaking, the Pixel 6 Pro comes with white balance control and a number of stabilization settings for a myriad of uses. The astrophotography timelapses are pretty cool too.
Are you looking for the most traditional-camera-like experience for Android filmmaking? Well, then you’re undoubtedly looking for the Sony Xperia PRO-I 5G. This new smartphone from Sony is expensive as all get out but there’s nothing on the market that can compete with it when it comes to performance – especially in low light. You see, Sony popped their traditional camera sensors into the camera setup on the Xperia PRO-I 5G and the results are as impressive as you’d expect.
With this smartphone, you’ll get a camera setup featuring:
- a 12MP 24mm Wide Camera with f/2.0-4.0 and a 1.0-type Exmor RS sensor
- a 12MP 50mm Tele Camera with f/2.4 and a 1/2.9″ Exmor RS sensor
- a 12MP 16mm Ultrawide with f/2.2 and a 1/2.5″ Exmor RS sensor
- and a 8MP 25mm Front with f/2.0, and a 1/4″ sensor
Compared to the other phones on this list, the technical specs of the Xperia PRO-I 5G are underwhelming. But, the performance is anything but. You’ll get 4K HDR video recording at 24/25/30/60/120fps. Yes, you read that right – this smartphone records video in 4k 120 frames per second! That’s so unreal it took my breath away the first time I read it.
Additionally, Sony’s newest smartphone features 5-axis video stabilization and improved removal of background noise for audio. If you’re looking for a smartphone for Android filmmaking that requires no extra gear, then this is the one for you.
Want To Learn More About Android Filmmaking?
Android filmmaking is so popular because of its accessibility and convenience. All you need is a smartphone to start and with a little extra gear, your production value will skyrocket.
All you need is a smartphone to begin your Android filmmaking journey, but there’s loads more to learn. Comment below whether you want to learn about Android filmmaking apps or Android filmmaking accessories next!