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Jewelry Photography: Smartphone vs DSLR / Mirrorless Cameras

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The debate between Smartphone and DSLR / Mirrorless cameras continues to be a neverending topic in photography. It’s also a topic raised by our customers on a very regular basis. And it’s very fair that they ask – a quick Google search shows literally nothing about using DSLR / Mirrorless vs Smartphone for jewelry photography!

That’s when we decided there needed to be tangible results. Results where YOU can decide for yourself.

In this post, we’ll go through in detail the differences when using Smartphone and DSLR / Mirrorless cameras for Jewelry Photography.

By the end of this post you should have the answers to these two commonly asked questions:

  1. “Which is better for jewelry?” and
  2. “What should my business invest in?”.

If it hasn’t, then we’ve failed miserably.

In that case, we’ll offer you a free one-on-one consultation for your jewelry photography needs. We’ve left the link at the bottom of the page.

Alright, let’s begin!

Equipment Used:

Professional camera setup

professional camera setup

1. Fuji X-T20
2. Fuji Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4
3. Tripod
4. Memory card

Smartphone setup

smartphone setup

1. iPhone 7+

Lighting setup

gemlightbox

1. GemLightbox

For this post, we aren’t using anything crazy.

We’re using a mid-range digital camera and your modern-day smartphone (hopefully you have one). They’re both readily available at your nearest camera or phone store.

The mid-range camera we’re using is the Fuji X-T20 mirrorless camera. The X-T20 boasts 24.3MP sensor – In other words, the functionality and image quality would not differ from it’s DSLR counterparts (rivals).

We’re also using the Fuji Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4 macro lens with our camera. It’s important to use a macro lens when shooting any small items such as jewelry; otherwise, you just won’t get the focus.

The smartphone we’re using is the iPhone 7+. With dual 12-megapixel cameras and in-built 28mm f1.8 lens and 56mm f2.8 lens, you can’t deny smartphone technology has come a long way since the last decade.

Finally, we’re using GemLightbox as our fixed lighting source. For those who aren’t aware, GemLightbox is a PicUp Media innovation. Jewelry pieces are highly reflective and mostly small making it tricky to photograph at times. Additionally, colored gemstones need a proper lighting environment to ensure that you capture their true colors. Using the GemLightbox creates the perfect lighting conditions to shoot jewelry.

The Process

DSLR / Mirrorless

iPhone 7+

We’ve uploaded two videos above demonstrating how we shot the blue tourmaline ring with the X-T20 and the iPhone 7+.

For the X-T20 shot, it took us about 5 minutes to set up and adjust our tripod to the correct position. But once set up, taking the shot required no effort. The exposure settings we had were at 1/75 sec, f/22 & ISO 1000.

For the iPhone 7+ shot, the whole process took less a minute. Once we placed the phone on the phone stand, we have to manually adjust the smartphone camera exposure settings before shooting.

The Results

mirrorless camera vs smartphone

Now let’s look at the juicy bits – the results!

On the left-hand side, we have the raw image taken using the X-T20 zoomed at 1x, 2x and 3x. Initially, we can see that the background is dark grey in color. However, upon further observation in the 3x, you can see the rich, blue color of the tourmaline and the shiny gradients of the metals. The details remain crisp throughout the zooming.

On the right-hand side, we have the raw image taken using the iPhone 7+ camera and zoomed at 1x, 2x and 3x. Immediately, we notice a clean, sharp image on a white background that pops out. As we zoom into the 3x, we start to lose details on the edges of the metals and the facets of the stones.

Now let’s look at the final, retouched image and compare them side by side:

jewelry photography with your smartphone

For the 1x and 2x comparison, there is very little difference in detail. However, the retouching remarkably brings the X-T20 image to life as we remove unwanted elements from the raw file.

So there you have it! Undeniably, you will achieve better results with a DSLR / mirrorless compared to a smartphone camera (I would have been shocked if this wasn’t the case).

But does this slightly extra level of image quality equate to better overall results for your business? Is it actually worth putting the extra investment into improving your photography?

Our Recommendation

The answer to the question above, in short, is yes! You should always invest in your images. In fact, 85% of sales are lost due to poor images. Your images are a reflection of your brand and poor quality images don’t give lasting impressions to your customers. We even wrote an article on this topic previously.

But before you empty your bank account on any sort of camera equipment, take one step back. Most people don’t realize that 80% of your image quality is attributed to your lighting. The next 10% is attributed to your technique, and the remaining 10% is attributed to post-production.

jewelry photography

Without the right lighting environment, you will be unable to capture the true representation of your jewelry products. The last thing you need is a negative comment on your store, saying that the jewelry products you sell look significantly different compared to the pictures. The best way to take pictures of your jewelry is to use diffused lighting as it is neither direct nor harsh but would rather give an even light distribution.

So if you’re not focused on the important 80% of your jewelry photography, you really need to consider your options. INVEST IN GOOD LIGHTING BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE!

Luckily for you, we’ve managed to condense decades of photography lighting technology inside of the GemLightbox. That’s 80% of the hard work in your photography you DON’T have to worry about which means jewelers like yourself can focus on the important things in your business. You know, like sales and stuff.

Assuming you have your lighting covered, there’s 10% of the work that can be outsourced to a retouching professional like ourselves, which makes your images already 90% amazing! Now with the techniques, that’s something we can teach you in our how-to guides. Not everyone is perfect, but hey 95-99% is pretty damn good, right?

Now that we have that out of the way, the next question is: What exactly do you want to achieve with your jewelry photography?

  • I want to capture a high-quality image in 5 seconds with the option to immediately upload it for retouching
  • I want to engage with my followers on social media as best as possible
  • I want to create interactive 360 videos for my pieces

If you answered yes to any two of the three questions above, then using a smartphone is more than enough for your jewelry photography.

On the other hand, if you want to achieve any of the following:

  • I don’t mind spending the extra time to capture as much detail as possible
  • I want to print my images on a large banner

Then using a digital camera will work best for your jewelry photography.

The beauty of things is that once you have the right lighting setup, you can pick up either your camera or smartphone and not have to worry about results.

Oh yeah – if this post didn’t answer your questions, you can schedule a meeting here

Picup Media Family

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