Living With the iPhone 11 Pro Max: The Camera

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For all of the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s features, the cameras are undoubtedly the stars of the show based on the vast majority of the reviews, so far. Based on my personal experience so far, I definitely agree.

Rather than expound at length on details you’ve probably already read somewhere else, I’m going to let the pics do most of the talking, with just a little explanation of the location and what is going on in the shots.

One thing I will point out is that WordPress compresses photos down to 2 MB or less on this site, so I linked all photos over that size to a full resolution version stored elsewhere.

The photo at the top, which is of the Westin Hotel in downtown Memphis, TN, is an example of the dramatic shots that can be captured with the iPhone’s new ultra wide angle lens. The curvature can be used to great effect, especially at interesting angles. In this shot, the lens really emphasizes the cloud pattern above and it makes the hotel pop out by flattening the foreground and curving around the building slightly. It may not be for everyone or every photo, but I love these kinds of shots. Now I don’t need an accessory lens to get them with my iPhone.

Comparison Shots

We went to an interesting place in Memphis called Crosstown Concourse for my daughter’s birthday meal last week. The building, which was built in the early twentieth century, used to be Sears’ catalog center for the Southeastern US. My mother actually worked there in returns for several years before I was born. I can also remember shopping at the Sears Outlet Store up until my Freshman year of High School, when the company shut down their catalog business and the old building was closed down.

There were several attempts to put something in this massive 1,000,000+ sq ft space over the next two decades, sprinkled with threats to level it. Eventually, the right fit came along and the Concourse was born. The mixed-use commercial, retail and housing space has several art galleries and interesting public spaces and is full of great restaurants and shops. It even has its own school. In a city known for suburban sprawl, this urban oasis has become a popular place to be. The mix of old and new architecture also made it a perfect place to try out my iPhone 11 Pro Max’s camera last week.

Here are a few shots taken with all three lenses for comparison:

Wide Angle

The biggest improvement in the iPhone lenses is right in the middle, in my book. The Wide Angle is faster and it now having 100% Focus Pixels makes for great, well-lit indoor shots.

Ultra-Wide Angle

It’s impressive how much more this lens can grab. The stretch also adds something to a long hallway shot. It does well indoors if there’s enough light, like here. More on this in a moment.

Telephoto

Wide Angle

Ultra-Wide Angle

Telephoto

It’s impressive the distance that you can now span between the three lenses without using any digital zoom.

Wide Angle

Ultra-Wide Angle

This is one photo where you start to see the limitations of the Ultra Wide Lens. It isn’t as fast or sharp as the other lenses, so results will vary indoors in dimmer light.

Telephoto

Wide Angle

The light was dimmer in this area, both this lens still performed well.

Ultra-Wide Angle

This ultra-wide photo fares even more poorly than the previous one. It is far less detailed than the previous picture. In fact, this is one of the few photos I didn’t need to link to an original because it was only 1.6 MB. It isn’t terrible and could still look ok with a little touch-up. I just bring this up to show the lens’ limitations in low light.

Telephoto

This lens isn’t quite as good as the standard wide angle, but it is much improved from previous iPhone teles. The increased speed of the lens is shown off here, as it captures the available light and grabs a shot with plenty of detail.

Wide Angle

Ultra-Wide Angle

Here’s another shot that shows off the strength of the ultra-wide lens. It captures a scene that previous iPhones couldn’t without an accessory lens. The difference between this shot and the previous two where the lens struggled is lighting. This lens needs plenty of light to perform at its best.

Telephoto

This shot is one of the reasons that the iPhone 11 isn’t enough for me. I really care about the camera  and this lens can reach out and grab a more distant subject like this without digital zoom. There is a good case to be made that three lenses is the way to go. it certainly is for me.

Outdoor Shots

Here are a few outdoor shots that I grabbed between when we arrived in the evening and when we left at night.

I really like this shot above. The ultra wide opens up a lot of new options to shift perspective.

It’s really impressive that none of the last three  shots required Night Mode. That’s how much faster the iPhone’s wide angle is now.

Night Mode Shots

Since I didn’t get any great Night Mode shots at the Concourse, I took a few when I got home.

I love being able to grab a little bit of light-painting effect just holding the iPhon in my hands. This kind of shot used to be impossible with a traditional camera without a tripod. The image stabilization is first rate.

The above shot is a bit noisy, but usable. Just for reference, this is what it looks like In the same spot without  Night Mode.

Yeah. It’s pretty dark out there. Night Mode really works.

I’ll leave it here, for today. I think the cameras are very impressive and the pictures really speak for themselves. The improvements to the wide angle and telephoto lenses make them both more versatile indoors and in low light, even without Night Mode. The ultra wide has more limitation in speed and clarity, but it is still capable of producing depth and effects that just weren’t possible with an iPhone alone before.

Together, they make the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max extremely versatile, and we still don’t have the total package yet. We still haven’t seen Deep Fusion and what it will bring to the table. I have to hand it to them. Apple really got it done this year when it comes to the rear camera.


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