iPhone Xs Camera Review for Photography

Some candid thoughts on the new iPhone Xs camera for photography:

I don’t recommend the new iPhone Xs for the camera

The sad thing is that I really wanted to like the camera on this phone. But unfortunately, I don’t.

Some of my personal thoughts:

What I like

iPhone Xs, no filter
  1. Very fast to shoot with. Buttery smooth camera UI, and everything makes sense on the camera default app.
  2. Fast autofocus
  3. For most people, the photos all look very good. The exposure is quite balanced to the average shooter, and making photos on iPhone camera is simple.
  4. The built-in Photos editor is pretty good. For the most part, the built-in filters look pretty good.
  5. It just works

What I don’t like

  1. Honestly the camera on the iPhone Xs is good — but in my opinion, not good enough. To be honest, I think the Google Pixel 3 camera is almost twice as good.
  2. Not that great in low light.
  3. The camera tends to over-brighten and over-expose scenes.
  4. The photos on the iPhone look like they were shot on a phone, not a standalone camera. What I mean to say is this: by default, the photos don’t have enough dramatic contrast or saturation. Even when I process the photos in the default Photos app, or in VSCO, the photos don’t look that good aesthetically. The edges of the photos aren’t crisp, they feel muddy— I really don’t like the way they look.

Photos processed to monochrome from default Apple Photos app

With the “noir” filter


Black and white processing in default Photos App


100% pinched in zoom.

Note the skin tones look flat and muddy:

Another 100% of a picture shot during golden hour (sunset)— not much detail:

Processed in VSCO

Here are some iPhone Xs photos processed in VSCO. I still can’t get the photos aesthetically nice for myself — this is the best I could do:

Processed with VSCO with x1 preset
Processed with VSCO with x1 preset
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Processed with VSCO with x1 preset
Processed with VSCO with x1 preset
Processed with VSCO with x1 preset
Processed with VSCO with x1 preset
Processed with VSCO with x1 preset

Color filters in default Photos app

Color filters look good:

The “vivid” color filter seems to work best:

Suggestions to improve iPhone Camera

Ideas for Apple:

1. Subtract superfluous camera settings on the bottom camera carousel.

I wish there was an ability to remove these settings, or at least hide them.

I know so many people who accidentally change this setting. 99% of the time you’re only going to be using the normal single shot camera, and every once in a while you will shoot a video.

Nobody uses this

I don’t think anyone ever uses slow motion, square, or panoramic mode. Perhaps give the user the option to hide these settings or options in the camera setting menu.

More options to change camera settings here

2. Poach Google Camera Photo computational science engineers

Honestly Google is killing it with their HDR+, Night Sight, Google Photos app, and their computational science in their Pixel 3 camera. Either copy what Google is doing with their camera, and simplify it — or perhaps just poach their engineers, or ask for advice?

3. Make a future iPhone X Pro

Make an iPhone X Pro that costs $1,299 (same cost as a Fujifilm X100 camera), and just put all that extra money into making a really dope camera. Get rid of the silly two lens thing, simplify to one lens, and make it the best possible camera possible.

Make the lens protrude as far as you want, even if it is uglier — give us a more powerful camera.

I think 99% of professional, enthusiast, and passion photographers would ditch their “stand alone” digital cameras and shoot solely on an iPhone if such a pro phone existed.

To be frank at this point — I think people would be willing to pay up to $1999 on an iPhone (most people use their iPhone more than their MacBook Pro laptops).

Practical takeaways

  1. Don’t buy an iPhone Xs for the camera. It is a great phone, but don’t “upgrade” merely for the camera. If you want the best camera phone, get the Google Pixel 3. Also a suggestion — you can own both the iPhone Xs and Google Pixel 3.
  2. The Gold iPhone Xs looks gangsta. I like the shiny sides, and the more subtle back.
  3. The phone feels super solid, although a bit on the heavy side for me. I’m curious how the iPhone Xr feels in terms of the weight.
  4. The AirPod wireless headphones are really good. Really good.
  5. If you have an iPhone 7, 8, or X— the Xs isn’t worth the upgrade.

But don’t listen to me — test it for yourself. If you don’t like it, just return it.


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