Apple iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max review
Apple Triple camera finally arrives
One of the main reasons the new iPhones bear the Pro moniker is because of the camera. Apple has finally added a third camera to its wide+tele setup, and quite expectedly it's an ultrawide shooter.
The iPhone 11 Pro duo features the same triple 12MP camera at the back, as well as the same selfie setup on the fronts. All features, modes, options, and the image and video quality stays identical on both iPhones, so what follows now applies for both the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max.
So, the Pro duo uses an all-new triple camera with 12MP sensors. The main shooter has large 1.4µm pixels, wide 26mm f/1.8 lens, optical image stabilization (OIS) and Dual Pixel AF.
The second 12MP sensor uses smaller 1.0µm pixels and sports telephoto 52mm lens for 2x optical zoom over the main camera. The lens is now brighter than before at f/2.0, OIS is available, but there is no Dual Pixel AF like on the main cam.
The new member of the family is a third 12MP sensor with 1.0µm pixels sitting behind the 13mm (120°) ultra wide-angle lens. There is neither stabilization nor autofocus for this camera.
The selfie camera got an upgrade, too. The 3D TOF snapper stays for Face ID, portraits, and various Animojis. But the actual selfie snapper is now a 12MP shooter behind wider 23mm f/2.2 lens - up from 30mm lens on the previous iPhones. Apple kept the old view though - if you shoot in portrait - it will simulate 30mm lens view and save a 7MP selfies as before while rotating the iPhone in landscape uses the full 12MP resolution and FoV. There is a virtual switch for this view, so while it is kind of automated, you can always change it manually.
The new main and tele snappers on the iPhone 11 Pros enjoy expanded ISO sensitivity, there are new min/max exposure times, too. The aperture on the telephoto camera is also wider - f/2.0 from f/2.4.
The cameras always talk to each other, so when you switch between them, they already know the correct focus, exposure and tone mapping settings. This applies for both stills and videos.
The first thing anyone will notice is the viewfinder - you can see outside of the viewfinder thanks to some proper camera calibration, which allows seeing what will be left outside of the frame in real-time. This change may not sound that important at first, but we can confirm it really makes for a more immersive camera experience.
But if you enable Photo Capture Outside the Frame and/or Video Capture Outside the Frame, you can reap the benefits from this awesome calibration later in settings. The new camera app automatically captures what is outside the frame of the main and telephoto views with information from the ultrawide and main snappers. Then the Photos app will automatically suggest you grab a wider shot if there were people cut from a group photo or parts of a building were left out, and similar features.
This extra footage requires extra space, so we'd imagine the 64GB model will be hardly enough, but the good news is if you don't use the extra info, it will be deleted after 30 days. At least you don't need to think about that, too.
It works mostly as advertised - if you open Photos and have a person cut, you will see a new icon popping at the top right corner and after a second you will see the improved photo or video. You can either keep it this way - automatically adjusted, or you can hit this button and revert to original.
Note that you can disable the automatic adjustments from the Camera settings and instead you will be able to choose the crop later from the new Editing mode. Just go there to Crop, tap the multi-crop icon and see all this new processing power in action.
And by the way - this is Crop Outside Frame is not exclusive to photos, you can do it in videos too and apply similar edits.
We have to admit that features like this Crop Outside Frame are what often distinguished Apple from the rest - the software magic was quite the thing at the past, but it vanished for a few years. And we are happy to see Apple is returning to its roots and hope to see even more of the new processing power harnessed in the future.
And speaking of power, the Crop Outside Frame for videos makes use of all three snappers at the back, but some third-party apps like Filmic can use all four snappers (including the selfie cam) to capture and save video simultaneously. And you can do that in up to 4K at 60 fps. How about that?!
Other new features coming thanks to the new A13 Bionic chip is the Night Mode and Deep Fusion.
The Night Mode icon pops up automatically when a low-light occasion presents itself, and it will take a pseudo-long-exposure shot, handheld of course. You will see the seconds suggested next to the Night Mode icon, but if you tap on it, you can change the simulated long exposure or altogether disable it. Usually, it's between 1 and 3 seconds, but sometimes the phone allows you to go for up to 30 seconds depending on the environmental light or the lack of it.
Night Mode is available on the main and telephoto shooters but does not work on the ultrawide snapper.
Deep Fusion will be released as a software update - it's Apple's version of HDR+. It takes 4 photos before you press the shutter, 4 when you do and then 1 long exposure. Then it picks the best shots and fuses them together.
An upgraded version of Smart HDR is available on all snappers for Photos, and we left it on as it is by default, but as most of the camera settings - it is also tucked away in the Settings menu. It's high-time Apple moves these on the viewfinder or at least integrate them within the camera app itself.
Well, let's see what this new triple camera can do. The first batch of photos was taken with the main camera of the iPhone 11 Pro/Max. The images have exemplary detail, extremely low noise, and pretty high dynamic range.
The colors are somewhat accurate though a bit washed out and remind of the iPhone 7 anemic hues. The contrast is not as superb as one would expect from a flagship. These should be easily fixable with an update, but if history has thought us anything - they won't be.
Finally, the sharpening is a bit excessive and overall, the photos came noticeably oversharpened.
The pictures we snapped with the tele camera are equally rich in detail and lack any visible noise. The sharpening was a bit toned down here, which is nice. The colors and contrast are a match for the main camera.
The third camera is brand new on the iPhones, but it's fairly common among the Android smartphones. Apple seemed to have used the same 12MP sensor behind the zoom lens, it just now sits behind 13mm ultrawide lens, there is no OIS and no autofocus.
The quality of the ultrawide shots is good, but not perfect. There is enough detail, though we expected a little bit more, the corners are pretty soft due to the automatic distortion correction that's applied, and some noise is present here and there.
The colors, contrast, and the dynamic range are a match to the main camera, which means - not ideal either. For a camera that Apple supposedly worked a lot on, the ultrawide snapper is best described as average, or simply uninspiring.
The Night Mode triggers automatically when the light is low, and while you can opt out of using it, or correct the exposure time, we suggest leaving it on automatic. It usually uses 2s or 3s exposures and the image is saved instantaneously, making it among, if not the fastest Night Modes we've encountered so far.
And the quality of the Night Mode images is class-leading. They have plenty of detail, they are sharp enough but not over-sharpened, the colors are excellent, the contrast is top-notch, the exposure is very balanced, and overall, we loved every single picture. We should also note that not a single photo came out blurry while shooting in Night Mode, so even if you take just one photo - it should be great.
The Night Mode is available on the telephoto camera, too, and it works as on the main camera.
Note that the iPhone still prefers to shoot with its regular camera when the light is very low and then digitally zooms from that image. We provided you with such samples below.
We disabled the Night Mode and shot some images this way, too. Those came out with plenty of detail and still managed to keep the noise low, but the exposure is much darker - as you would expect from non-Night-Mode photos. The colors are a bit washed out, too.
And here are some 2x zoomed photos without Night Mode. The first two were shot with the zoom camera, while for the other two the iPhone decided to use its main camera and then digitally zoom and crop.
There is no Night Mode on the ultrawide camera, and as it happens pretty much every time - the low-light samples are rather abysmal. It should not be used in the dark until Apple adds Night Mode here, too.
Once you are done with these samples, you can use our Photo Compare Tool to put the new iPhones against the competition.
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- 01 Dec 2019