Recently, two photography friends visited the Fstoppers studio on the same day. Of course, this meant I needed to plan a friendly photography competition to see once and for all who is the best photographer in the land! This challenge video comes with lots of twists and turns, but at the core, we ask the question: “can an iPhone beat an expensive $12,000 medium format mirrorless camera?” Today, we find out.
Besides running around the world in my crazy moon boots, one of my favorite recreational activities is making Lee Morris battle Pye Jirsa in a photo competition. If you haven’t seen them go toe to toe in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I highly recommend watching this photographer challenge video from just before the pandemic.
Recently, however, architectural photographer Mike Kelley was on the east coast shooting some television work, and he had the chance to drive through Charleston. It’s pretty rare that all of us are stateside let alone all in one city, so instead of hanging out and enjoying each other’s company, I figured a photography battle to the death would be more exciting. In the past, we have set up challenge videos with all sorts of rules, but for this one, I wanted to keep everyone in the dark for as long as possible so we could get their reactions on camera.
Basically for this photo challenge I wanted Mike, Lee, and Pye to have to shoot the same subject. Since this time of year, it’s pretty cold outside, I knew a challenge in the studio where it’s warm would be the best option. For variety, I teamed up with a local friend and model Dana Robinson, and together, we came up with the concept of having three different wardrobes. As you can see in the video above, the wardrobe options gave a few of the photographers a bit of anxiety, but that also makes for great entertainment.
Once the wardrobe was set, the second twist was the gear each photographer would have to use to complete their submission. Since our studio is filled with a good bit of Profoto strobes and a variety of different LED constant lights, those would be the two lighting options. One lucky photographer would be able to use any lighting gear they wanted, including the nice natural light we now have in our newly renovated studio space.
With the wardrobe and lighting tools determined, I wanted the photographers to draw for who would go first. Much like deferring possession for the second half in a football game has its advantages, going last in a competition like this can give a photographer a huge leg up because you know the results of your fellow challengers.
The final rules were pretty simple. Each photographer had 30 minutes to complete their single submission, and besides the lighting gear that was assigned to them, they could use any camera system, gear, props, backdrops, or area of the studio they wanted to build their masterpiece. Of course, heckling and sabotage were also highly encouraged.
Having been in my fair share of similar photo competitions myself, I know that it’s pretty rare to come up with a truly outstanding final photograph given the circumstances. However, these contests are much like surviving a wild and hungry bear with a few buddies; you simply need to be faster than the slowest guy in the group to not get annihilated. Who could handle the high stress along with the fortune (or misfortune) of drawing the most photographic wardrobe? Let’s see what the three photographers came up with.
Note: These submissions are in order of the previous online voting posts and not the order in which they were taken in the video
A Second Challenge Arises
After all the images were taken and submitted on various social media platforms to see who won, a second competition became obvious. Two photographers wound up taking two different images of the same wardrobe and set but with completely different cameras. One of the images below was shot on a $12,000 Fujifilm GFX100 setup, while the other was shot on an iPhone Pro 13.
Is one of the images below better than the other? Could a significantly less expensive camera produce image quality that rivals a camera that costs as much as a cheap car?
Although the results are revealed in the video above, the number of votes was less than 20 people. We’d love to hear from you. Which image above is the best, and between the two camera images, which one looks the best here on the Fstoppers website?