iPhone XS Cameras
When Apple launched the XS, the company waxed lyrical about its camera qualities. In particular, it noted the raft of software improvements over its predecessor, including an improved portrait mode and new ‘Smart HDR’ function.
Same Cameras, Different Software
There’s no discernable upgrade in the camera hardware from the X to the XS. Both feature two 12 megapixel rear cameras (one wide angle, one telephoto for detail shots). Both feature the same aperture ratings. Both have dual optical image stabilization, and both offer 2x optical and 10x digital zoom.
There’s no real hardware change on the front camera, either. It’s still housed within the notch, and still uses a 7Mp lens which Apple calls ‘TrueDepth’ – a nod to its FaceID tech. Again, the improvements come from the software.
So what exactly are the software improvements?
Smart HDR (high dynamic range) replaces the Auto HDR featured on the iPhone X. HDR is an imaging technique that allows for the creation of greater contrast within images by taking multiple shots and combining them into one.
The iPhone XS’ Smart HDR technology makes use of its new smarter processor and neural engine (more on that later) to create images that are more visually engaging and dramatic thanks to the way it can understand and display shadow, light and color. You’re also able to see each individual frame captured and select the ‘lead image’ after taking the photos.
So does it work? On the whole, yes. We didn’t have the XS for a long time, but on a whistlestop photo tour of Camden Market in London, we found that the XS was capable of capturing a wide variety of colours without losing detail and sharpness. However, we did find that the XS had a tendency to make some images seem slightly overexposed.
Another big change over the X was the advanced “bokeh” (background blur) and Depth Control available on Portrait Mode. Depth Control, in particular, received a big round of applause at the launch event, but isn’t exactly unprecedented in the world of phone photography.
In essence, this new tech takes Portrait Mode, debuted on the X, to another level. It lets the user change the aperture after the picture has been taken. Again, this means you’ll be able to capture more visually engaging images where you want to create focus on the foreground.
Does it work? Yes, but it’s far from perfect. As it’s software-based, it can’t exactly replicate the effect of widening the aperture on a camera. Lights in the background retain their rough shape and become blurry rather than emerging as circular light droplets, for instance.
When we were testing it, we also discovered that the software occasionally had a hard time discerning exactly what was in the foreground and what was the background – particularly if you’re using the front camera (that right-side image below shows where portrait mode picked up some coats on coat rack at the back of the room and decided it was part of our reviewer’s face).
Is the iPhone XS Camera Good?
On the whole, yes. It excels at capturing detailed wide angle and closeup shots in well-lit environments. However, in poorly-lit environments, it can’t always match the same level of detail. Some shots can look overexposed but, if we’re honest, we’re splitting hairs.
The iPhone XS has one of the best phone cameras on sale, and it’s a notable improvement from previous iPhone cameras.