iPhone 11 ($ 699) has dual cameras on the back, Night Mode, and Deep Fusion. The iPhone XR ($ 599) only has a rear camera but still produces excellent photos and videos. To find out how much better the iPhone 11's photos and videos were, and whether the extra $ 100 was worth it, CNET correspondents used two iPhones to take lots of photos while walking around San Francisco.
These camera tests were performed in three lighting conditions: good, medium, and weak. In good lighting conditions, such as sunny outdoor scenes, the two iPhones have the same results, because they both have Smart HDR. In medium light conditions, such as indoor scenes, the iPhone 11 can take advantage of the Deep Fusion feature that has just appeared with iOS 13.2. And in low-light conditions, like in a bar or on the night street, the iPhone 11 has the advantage thanks to Night Mode.
iPhone XR: Cheaper, but still offers excellent photos and videos
If you already own an old iPhone and want to upgrade, you'll probably consider more than just the camera (though, it's still important to confirm that the iPhone 11 has a better camera overall). But if features like the ultra-wide camera and Night Mode don't interest you, then the iPhone XR is the right choice. The photos and videos you take are still great, and you can use the $ 100 saved to buy an Apple Care package, a nice case, or treat your friends a big meal.
iPhone 11: Has a super wide camera, Night Mode, and Deep Fusion
If you want to own one of the best camera phones available today, the iPhone 11 is the undisputed choice. The second rear camera with ultra-wide lenses, Night Mode, and Deep Fusion allows you to capture sharper photos and videos, making this phone worth every penny of the $ 699 you have to spend on it. .
Try iPhone camera in good light (using Smart HDR)
Nowadays, almost every phone can take beautiful pictures in full light. iPhone 11 and XR both have wide-angle main cameras with f / 1.8, focal length equivalent to 26mm, and 12-megapixel sensor. The iPhone 11 has a new sensor with a 100% surface focus point, making focusing faster and more accurate.
A photo of the sunrise from iPhone 11
That doesn't mean the iPhone XR focuses slowly, but the difference between the focus performance of the two phones is very noticeable. iPhone 11 finds objects in the frame faster and focuses on them faster.
The main camera of iPhone 11 is extremely sharp
At first glance, it's hard to see the difference in the photos taken by each phone in good lighting conditions. But if you look closely, you'll see that the updated Smart HDR on the iPhone 11 has a more lifelike image, highlights and contrast are not as excessive as the iPhone XR. In addition, photos from iPhone 11 are also sharper. Of course, these differences are very small.
In the photo of the taxi above, taken outside the PacBell building, the iPhone 11 captures more details of the car decoration than the iPhone XR. The iPhone 11 also captures the details and tint of the bricks better than the XR. You can see the 100% crop image below to see the difference:
In the photo below, which captures a rectangular wall at BART station, the iPhone XR camera distorts the image more than the iPhone 11. XR's image is slightly bulging in the middle. However, many people will not realize this distortion in everyday situations (unless you often shoot such frames!).
iPhone 11 has a second camera, super wide angle, f / 2.4 aperture, focal length equivalent to 13mm.
This camera gives you a new perspective and has the same color and brightness as the main camera. Great for shooting in tight spaces, or when you want your subject to look bigger.
The food plate became the center of the photo thanks to the iPhone 11's ultra-wide camera
In terms of sharpness and dynamic range, the main camera is obviously superior to super wide. But this super wide camera shoots interesting.
The ultra-wide camera makes the space look like it's wider
The photo below was taken by the super wide camera at the same time as the two photos were taken above. Although the image taken with the main camera has better detail, the field of view and the change in perspective are clearly unique.
Both iPhones have Portrait Mode, but the iPhone 11 has 6 lighting modes, while the XR has only 3.
IPhone 11 portraits look sharper and colors more accurate
In the two portraits below, the iPhone XR gives good results. Fair skin tone, background splitting effect looks quite realistic. But portraits from iPhone 11 are sharper, skin tones are better, and there's less noise. The iPhone XR separates the background for both of them, while 11 only applies the effect to the person closest to the camera. Of course, just adjusting the aperture bar a bit can bring both of you into the focus area already.
If you want to take a portrait of your pet, you need an iPhone 11, because the XR can't do that. Below is a portrait of a cat taken with the iPhone 11, and regular photos of that cat using the iPhone XR. Both are beautiful, sharp shots, but photos taken with the iPhone 11 (obviously) have better bokeh and flatter eyes, though when zoomed back, you'll see ears, mustaches and feathers on the top of his head. The cat has been blurred.
IPhone photography performance in low and medium light conditions (Deep Fusion takes advantage)
The most obvious example of "average light" is light in a room without natural light, or in an office where your desk is located quite far from the window. The light right now is enough for you to see everything, but not like the sunlight outside. Midway lighting conditions like this are when the iPhone 11's new Deep Fusion feature shines. Like Smart HDR, Deep Fusion will take multiple photos and stitch them together. But unlike Smart HDR, Deep Fusion analyzes and optimizes everything at the pixel level to make details stand out, reduce noise and improve brightness.
The Metro Stand is a great place to try the Deep Fusion feature on iPhone 11
Unlike Smart HDR and Night Mode, there are no indicators in the Settings or the camera interface for photos that are being processed with Deep Fusion. Apple wants you to use this technology but don't worry too much about it.
But if you enable the "Photos Capture Outside The Frame" option in Settings, Deep Fusion will not work. Off-frame photography will use both the main camera and the ultra-wide camera to show you what's out of the frame, while Deep Fusion only works with the main camera.
Even with that option turned off, no one knows if the iPhone is using Smart HDR or Deep Fusion. If you use an iPhone 11 Pro or Pro Max, the telephoto camera in these modes will use Deep Fusion whenever the light is not strong enough. The main camera on iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max only uses it in medium to low light environments.
The two photos above were taken indoors under average lighting conditions. The biggest difference between them is the wood grain pattern on the wall and floor. The image from XR is so much noise-canceling that it almost erases the grain of the wood and the texture of the woman's pants in the corner of the photo. You can see the difference more clearly when cropping 100%.
When Apple announced Deep Fusion, every photo they showed up took photos of people wearing sweaters. And here is a real photo, also taken of people wearing a sweater, in mixed light conditions in the office. The iPhone 11 has the upper hand: on the XR, the fabric lines on the sweater and floor mats in the upper left corner of the photo look softer and less detailed.
Below is a photo of a payphone. The light is quite dim, but the Night Mode of iPhone 11 has not been activated. Pay attention to the text and scratches on the phone in photos taken by the iPhone 11 when compared to the iPhone XR. The details are much sharper. You can also see how Deep Fusion on iPhone 11 has reduced noise on the back wall. Photos of the iPhone XR are masked by its noise cancellation feature.
Remember that Deep Fusion is not the only thing that improves iPhone 11's image quality. The main camera is sharper, better focus. Even if you do not zoom to 100% as above, you still see Deep Fusion helps reduce noise and optimize details quite well. Your photos simply look better without doing anything.
Underexposed: only iPhone 11 has Night Mode
Night Mode on iPhone 11 will brighten photos and minimize noise. When you open the camera, it determines whether the surrounding space is dark enough to enable Night Mode. In the corner, you will see a yellow oval with the number of seconds the iPhone needs to take a picture. Press the shutter button and hold as firmly your hand as possible. The screen will darken and light up to let you know where the shooting is going.
Night Mode can shoot low-light scenes in restaurants quite well
Night Mode takes a series of photos, some of which take longer than others, then combines them together to reduce motion blur and lighten dark areas. When you shoot Night Mode by holding the camera in your hand, the process usually takes 3-5 seconds. When mounted on a tripod, this process can take up to 10 seconds. You can set 30 seconds also.
Night Mode can produce great photos.
Night Mode 30 seconds late at night
Here are two photos taken around 10 pm. Photos from iPhone XR are dark and details are blurry. The noise reduction feature makes the image look like an oil painting, with heavy noise in the sky. IPhone 11 photos are brighter and sharper. Despite some noise, it's still much less than the XR.
Next are two photos of the building after sunset. The iPhone XR photo looks good, but there is noise in the sky and dark areas of the building. iPhone 11 for better color, and overall picture brighter. Detailed images also retain a lot, less noise. And even you can see stars in the night sky.
Which iPhone can film better?
Both phones shoot excellent videos. As with taking pictures in good lighting conditions, it is difficult to distinguish between the two. But the iPhone 11 produces more accurate colors and sharper movies. Both cameras can record HD at 30 or 60 fps and 4K at 24, 30 and 60 fps with conventional wide-angle cameras.
One thing that makes videos shot by iPhones look pretty good is because Apple uses a process called "extended dynamic range" – essentially processing videos the same way you take HDR photos. For example, if you shoot a subject with a bright background behind it, it can evenly distribute the light between the subject and the background. Only the iPhone 11 supports extended dynamic range at any resolution and frame rate, while the iPhone XR supports it everywhere, except 4K 60fps.
The ultra-wide camera can also record video and can shoot at any aspect ratio and resolution, except 4K 60fps. You can switch between wide and ultra wide angles during recording. There is a zoom ring for easy and precise control of the zoom level and zoom speed as you like. Just press and hold the magnifying glass button until the zoom ring appears, then slide your finger to one side or the other to zoom in or out.
Both phones can record 1080p slow-motion videos at 240 fps. This aspect ratio needs a lot of light. Slow-motion videos from both phones will have a lot of artifact, but like every comparison in this article, the iPhone 11 looks a bit sharper. When watching slow-motion on both phones, the quality is good. But when you view it on a larger screen, you'll notice some limitations, such as a slightly over-sharpened image, and graininess!
Interestingly, the iPhone 11's ultra-wide camera can also record slow-motion. Just super wide angle and slow-motion, great. But again, image quality is only best when shot in full light only.
The selfie camera of the iPhone 11 is very good
iPhone 11 is the first iPhone with a front and a back camera with the same specs and capabilities. The new selfie camera has 12-megapixel resolution, like the rear camera. The iPhone 11 has a wider field of view than the iPhone XR. The new iPhone 11 camera captures sharper images with better dynamic range when compared to the iPhone XR's 7-megapixel front camera.
When recording a movie with the front camera, you will see the difference clearly. The iPhone 11 can record 4K, while the XR only records HD. Colors, especially skin tones, are more flattering on the iPhone 11, and sharper.
Both phones have portrait mode. The iPhone 11 has a pretty good mode called High Key Mono, which gives a photo that looks like black and white photography against a white background. Very impressive and funny.
Finally, slofies – slow-motion selfie videos. At first glance, it's fun, you'll use it a few times, then maybe forget the phone you just bought with this feature! (Unless you are a teenage girl, you will probably use it all the time.)