iPhone XS first impressions

I have been the proud owner of the latest iPhone XS now for almost a week. While it’s a little early to say much about how it performs. I have to say that I am fairly impressed so far.

As a phone it works well reception is crisp and clear and as I live in a large metropolitan city I never expect any dropouts. That doesn’t mean there won’t be some in the future or when I get out of the city.

I am having some fun with the new Animoji feature but I suspect that the novelty will wear off eventually.

What I am enjoying the most  as a photographer is of course the camera. It has a f 1.8 lens on the ‘wide angle’ and an f 2.2 on the ‘telephoto’. I won’t bore both my readers with the tech specs, pop on over to the apple site and see for yourself.

I am still using the ProCamera third party app as my go-to camera, because, you know RAW/DNG files.

ProCamera App screenshot
ProCamera App screenshot

From an ease of use view and responsiveness approach the phone feels a little zippier than my iPhone 7 which I would expect. I have as yet to really put the battery through its paces. Even though I am at home on term break from work, I’ve only left the house for a 1/2 a day at most so far. But things look promising on battery life, but these devices always are when new.

I have tested the camera of course and the results were good. Nothing outstanding though. Here are some of the tests. You’ll have to excuse the deterioration of the test target.

iphone test 001


Left right I have he iPhone XS using the native app creating a HEIF file I then converted using Potatoeshop, the second is the ProCamera app raw file [unprocessed], the last one is an iPhone 7 shot.

The colour cast between the XS and the 7 is probably due to lighting environments that I used to make the pictures in. I photographed the target with the XS in shade outside, it appears the iPhone 7 photo was made inside.


iPhone XS test 2



The most obvious differences are the sharpness. No doubt brought on by the onboard processing of the HEIF file. The native camera seems to produce a cooler toned image as well, but it is nothing a small amount of post production wouldn’t fix.

My gorgeous wife sipping wine on her birthday at Rockpool
My gorgeous wife sipping wine on her birthday at Rockpool photographed using the portrait mode.

I quite like the Portrait mode using the longer lens and the software to add shallow DOF, but when you use this feature on something that is NOT a face it fails pretty badly. This is in part I suspect because the ‘computational photography’ is either still learning or hasn’t been programmed well enough by the Apple engineers. By the way did yo know that it is estimate that over 800 people work on this aspect of the phone alone? The computational photography is fun but as I rarely make portraits so it’s not much use to me.

Ultimately though the real test is a physical print. I won’t have access to this facility for a week or so, so this test will have to wait. Zooming in to my pictures I see the f 1.8 aperture has some disadvantages, but again this will only really be apparent in large prints.

A typical landscape picture by me in good lighting conditions
A typical landscape picture by me in good lighting conditions
The above image @ 100% shows good detail
The above image @ 100% shows good detail

The shallow DOF brought on by the f 1.8 lens noticeable when you zoom in but again a print may reveal more or less, we shall see?

Indoors at the Crown Casino
Indoors at the Crown Casino, noise is noticeable but not jarring

This picture made as we wandered the Casino complex waiting for our lunchtime table at Rockpool is as about as challenging as you can get for ANY camera. I am not unhappy with the result and ProCamera only went to 400 ISO.

Abstract detail near the Casino
Abstract detail near the Casino, the lens performs well and the file after post in Lightroom looks good.
Found Still Life
Found Still Life, on a Sunny Saturday morning near the casino.
The foyer of the Crown Metropol, Melbourne, Australia.
The foyer of the Crown Metropol, Melbourne, Australia.

The above picture would have even the best cameras struggling given the extreme contrast. I’m pleased with result, but perhaps may have rescued more from the highlight if I had paid attention to the exposure more carefully.

Stranded Shopping Trolley
Stranded Shopping Trolley

This picture made in the afternoon demonstrates the cameras abilities to handle ‘average’ condition as well as I’d expect.

All in all I am looking forward to working with this camera for the next 2 years. I can only wonder though what more can they do to ‘improve’ on this camera and phone.

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