If you bought an iPhone 7 Plus about two years ago, you may be considering an upgrade to the new iPhone XS Max. And there are many reasons why you should: The latest iPhone is the most powerful phone we’ve tested, and it boasts a beautiful 6.5-inch OLED screen that’s even bigger than the one on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9.
But it also comes with redesigned dual rear cameras with larger image sensors for better performance in low-light scenarios. And that means a huge improvement over phones released not too long ago.
How big is the improvement? To find out, we took a little photo tour, pitting the XS Max against the 7 Plus. Here’s what two years of camera advancements can do for your photos.
The cameras compared
Both phones use 12-megapixel cameras for both the primary wide angle and secondary telephoto, but that’s where the similarities end. The iPhone XS and XS Max, which have the same cameras, offer larger pixels within the image sensor that allow more light to reach the shutter.
The XS camera also has a slightly larger aperture for the telephoto lens, f / 2.4 versus f / 2.8 on the iPhone 7 Plus, as well as optical image stabilization on both lenses. Only the main shooter of the 7 Plus gets OIS.
The iPhone XS also adds Smart HDR, a new feature that takes advantage of the faster image signal processor in the A12 Bionic to capture more exposures during each HDR shot. The processor then combines those images into an optimized version that extracts the best aspects of each one.
While the 7 Plus also benefits from an HDR mode, it’s not that refined. In addition, the XS and XS Max models allow you to adjust the bokeh in portrait mode shots before and after taking the photo, something that older iPhones cannot do.
We started with shots of some skyscrapers overlooking Bryant Park on a slightly cloudy afternoon. And while the iPhone 7 Plus managed a perfectly useful rendering of the scene, it lacked the color and dynamic range of the XS Max’s intent. Smart HDR was clearly working its magic here. You can see further into the trees through the lens of the newer iPhone, and the highlights, like the gleaming silver building on the left, aren’t quite as off.
We then turned around to take some portraits. This really wasn’t a contest – the XS Max delivered a photo of my colleague Caitlin that was considerably more balanced, with realistic contrast and bokeh that avoided invading the foreground. Not only is the overall framing more blurry on the 7 Plus, but Caitlin’s eyes get lost in the deep, dramatic shadows thrown by the older iPhone – an eerie effect, to say the least.
Of course, you don’t just have to use portrait mode for people, it works wonders on other objects too, like this flower in the park. Right away, you can notice that the 7 Plus struggles with reflections, as the fringes of those red-orange petals are dipped in pure white. However, both phones deserve credit for exposing the flower acutely, as it swayed in the breeze the entire time during filming.
This round proves that even an old iPhone can surprise you from time to time. The 7 Plus does a better job of sticking with the XS Max than we anticipated inside a warm-lit restaurant. Colors aren’t as robust as what the new iPhone captured, and there’s more noise than we’d like, but the 7 Plus somehow managed better dynamic range and retained more detail in the shadows. On the other hand, the XS Max is unaffected by the strong light from the window in the background, so this one is a bit tricky.
If you really want to see what the XS Max can do in the least favorable conditions, try taking a photo inside a nearly dark room like we did here. Loud and quiet are the words to describe the intent of the 7 Plus. The older phone isn’t far behind the XS Max in overall brightness, but looking at the version of the XS Max, you’d never guess our study was as dim as it was – the photo is that sharp, thanks in large part to that newer. extra large size. Image sensor that captures what little light was in the room.
Here we see the improvements Apple has made to the XS Max’s secondary telephoto lens, which the phone relies on for that 2x optical zoom. Looking at the Chrysler Building from street level leads to a bleak and gloomy picture on the 7 Plus. The XS Max increases exposure, giving the scene much-needed life and returning a dash of color to the cloudy sky.
There’s no question that the cameras on the iPhone XS are better than the ones on the iPhone 7 Plus, and notably so. It may be unpleasant news for those who want to keep their phone for as long as possible, but the fact is that two years makes a big difference in the development of mobile photography.
The XS Max’s Smart HDR mode helped produce shots with greater depth in highlights and shadows, allowing you to see more color gradations than the 7 Plus could provide. The new image sensor proved its worth by delivering brighter and quieter low-light scenes, while the new aperture control setting for portrait mode unlocks the potential for you to decide precisely how blurry you want those backgrounds to be. .
Overall, the refinements that Apple has made over two generations are very clear. That leaves aspiring photographers with a simple decision: If you want the best photos on your iPhone, upgrade to the iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max.
Credit: Tom’s Guide