Camera - Daylight - More HDR & Portrait

I wanted to have a second page of daylight photos because I wanted to spend a bit more time and have a tad more varied scenes for to test Apple’s SmartHDR – please enjoy.

Click for full image
[ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ] - [ iPhone 7 ] - [ iPhone 6S ]
[ Galaxy Note9 ] - [ Galaxy S9+ ] - [ Galaxy S8 ]
[ LG G7 ] - [ LG G6 ] - [ LG V30 ] - [ OnePlus 6 ]
[ Mi MIX2S ] - [ Pixel 2XL ] - [ P20 Pro ]

This tunnel was a fun little test – the other end was sunlit while obviously quite dark from my side. I thought this would be a good little visual representation of the raw dynamic ranges that the phones would be able to capture.

Indeed, the iPhone XS is able to go a lot further into the end of the tunnel than the iPhone X, or for that matter, most other phones. This is an extreme show-case of Apple’s new HDR processing and how it’s able to play with bright highlights in scenes.

Click for full image
[ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ] - [ iPhone 7 ] - [ iPhone 6S ]
[ Galaxy Note9 ] - [ Galaxy S9+ ] - [ Galaxy S8 ]
[ LG G7 ] - [ LG G6 ] - [ LG V30 ] - [ OnePlus 6 ]
[ Mi MIX2S ] - [ Pixel 2XL ] - [ P20 Pro ]

One scenario that Apple showcased during the keynote was a shot directly facing the sun. I’ve had users in previous reviews bombard me with comments as to that’s not how you should take a photo. To them I say: that’s an outdated notion of photography.

As computational photography becomes an ever increasingly common theme in devices, we’ll see more and more scenes like this one where shooting against the sun should be no issue at all.

The iPhone XS dramatically improves the shadow detail, and is able to notably reduce the sun’s halo in this shot, but I do think Apple might have overpromised a bit on the notion of computational photography. The best counter-example of this is to just switch over to what the Huawei P20 Pro was able to achieve in its 10MP AI mode, by far surpassing all other phones in the captured dynamic range of the scene. This facet of smartphone photography really opens up a new area of competition, and hopefully we’ll be seeing some exciting things in the future.

Click for full image
[ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ] - [ iPhone 7 ] - [ iPhone 6S ]
[ Galaxy Note9 ] - [ Galaxy S9+ ] - [ Galaxy S8 ]
[ LG G7 ] - [ LG G6 ] - [ LG V30 ] - [ OnePlus 6 ]
[ Mi MIX2S ] - [ Pixel 2XL ] - [ P20 Pro ]

This shot follows the same themes we saw on the previous page, the iPhone XS handles the shadows a lot better and gives a lot more details over the iPhone X.

Samsung again opts for a much brighter picture, but I do think it comes at some cost of detail. Again I think the OnePlus 6’s HDR processing is an excellent middle-ground that would please most people, although Apple has a tad more natural look going for them.

Click for full image
[ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ] - [ iPhone 7 ] - [ iPhone 6S ]
[ Galaxy Note9 ] - [ Galaxy S9+ ] - [ Galaxy S8 ]
[ LG G7 ] - [ LG G6 ] - [ LG V30 ] - [ OnePlus 6 ]
[ Mi MIX2S ] - [ Pixel 2XL ] - [ P20 Pro ]

In less direct sunlit environments, the difference between the iPhone X and XS might not be directly visible the thumbnails, however opening up the full resolution image showcases the XS’s significant increase of detail and textures throughout the whole scene. The larger pixels of the XS sensor along with the deeper DTI (deep trench isolation) results in significantly increased spatial resolution – even though the sensor has the same amount of pixels and even has a wider field of view, resulting in less pixels per given object.

Again Samsung tends for a brighter exposure that I think is a bit too much – detail slightly trails the XS. OnePlus bridges the two vendors in terms of exposure and detail.

Click for full image
[ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ] - [ iPhone 7 ] - [ iPhone 6S ]
[ Galaxy Note9 ] - [ Galaxy S9+ ] - [ Galaxy S8 ]
[ LG G7 ] - [ LG G6 ] - [ LG V30 ] - [ OnePlus 6 ]
[ Mi MIX2S ] - [ Pixel 2XL ] - [ P20 Pro ]

This scene was mostly in the tree shadows, sun sunlit spots coming through the gaps. By now we should understand where the XS’ strengths are: brighter and more defined shadow details.

I think Apple nailed this shot and it has the best balance of exposure as well as the best detail retention. The OP6 closely followed in terms of exposure, but lost in terms of details. Samsung here just overdid it with exposure and just flattens the scene too much.

Click for full image
[ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ] - [ iPhone 7 ] - [ iPhone 6S ]
[ Galaxy Note9 ] - [ Galaxy S9+ ] - [ Galaxy S8 ]
[ LG G7 ] - [ LG G6 ] - [ LG V30 ] - [ OnePlus 6 ]
[ Mi MIX2S ] - [ Pixel 2XL ] - [ P20 Pro ]

Finally the last shot, is again a good showcase of HDR of the different phones. The iPhone XS continues to perform very well here, showing the improvements we’ve seen in previous scenes. Again Samsung is brighter, but slightly loses out on details.

Portrait Mode

Click for full image
[ iPhone XS ] - [ iPhone X ]
[ Galaxy Note9 ] - [ LG G7 ]
[ OnePlus 6 ] - [ Mi MIX2S ] - [ Pixel 2XL ]
[ P20 Pro   ]

Portrait mode is something that’s been quite the rage nowadays, and the iPhone XS promises to take advantage of its new inferencing engine power to create much better separation maps between the foreground subject and the background, to which the computational bokeh effect is applied.

Shooting in portrait mode on most phones means that the actual shot will be taken with the telephoto module, while the wide main camera is also doing work by serving as the depth sensor. Single-module phones such as the Pixel 2 rely solely on the computational power to discern between the subject and the background.

The results on the iPhone XS showcase a significant improvement in the image quality of portrait mode. First of all, the exposure and colour balance of the shot is just significantly better, something that’s universally valid for telephoto shots on the new XS.

The actual bokeh effect on the XS looks to be applied a lot more graduated, and while it’s still possible to see the edge of the pattern in some cases, it’s significantly improved.

This gradual application is what makes the iPhone’s portrait mode stand out to other phones. Only Huawei and Samsung somewhat manage to go a decent job, while all other phones look quite rubbish to be honest, with visible zigzag patterns around the subject.

Daylight Conclusion

Overall in daylight, the iPhone XS is easily a top-tier performer. One thing that I didn’t bring up throughout is picture capture consistency, and here the iPhone XS just shines. Every time you take a picture, you can be assured you will get a good shot – and there’s little to no difference in consecutive shots.

Apple’s new SmartHDR is a definite win, and allows for much more detail in the shadows, all while retaining good highlights in the scenes. The new sensor module is definitely showing its strengths even in daylight, as every shot that wasn’t in direct sunlight was able to showcase much improvements in terms of details as well as textures. I attribute this to the new sensor’s much improved DTI – something which results in the iPhone XS gaining quite a bit more resolved spatial resolution, even though the megapixel count is the same.

The new slightly wider viewing angle on the main camera is something that I enjoyed, and I hope Apple continues on in this regard. My iPhone X seems to suffer from lens defects in the left part of the scenes – the iPhone XS showcases no such chromatic aberrations and is sharp until the edge of the frame.

The biggest improvement seems to be on the telephoto lens. While on the iPhone X and before, the telephoto lens could result in quite different colours and exposures. On the iPhone XS the new module seems to be perfectly in balance with the main camera, so that there’s just very little difference in the picture between the two.

While sometimes I do prefer OnePlus 6’s HDR, the XS is more consistent in terms of detail throughout the scenes. Samsung’s Note9 and S9 also sometimes can get a better shot, however they have too much of a tendency to overexpose. I think overall, the iPhone XS takes the lead in terms of smartphone photography in daylight just because of its consistent shooting experience.

Camera - Daylight Evaluation: Zoom and Scenic Camera - Low Light Evaluation
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253 Comments

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  • Andrei Frumusanu - Friday, October 5, 2018 - link

    Hello all,

    This article is still fresh off the presses - I'm sure there's still typos/grammar to be fixed in the coming hours.

    Just a general note; this is my first iPhone review, and hopefully it makes up for AnandTech not having a review of the iPhone 8's/X last year. Unfortunately that happened in a time when there was no mobile editor with the site anymore, and I only rejoined after a few months after that.

    As always, feel free to reach out in the comments or per emails.
    Reply
  • OMGitsShan - Friday, October 5, 2018 - link

    As always, this is the iPhone review to wait for! Thank you Andrei Reply
  • versesuvius - Friday, October 5, 2018 - link

    Potato. Reply
  • Jetcat3 - Friday, October 5, 2018 - link

    Wonderful review Andrei! Just a few minor quibbles for the capacities of each li-ion battery.

    Xs is 2658 mAh
    Xs Max is 3174 mAh

    Keep up the good work!
    Reply
  • wicasapa - Friday, October 5, 2018 - link

    one thing was not clear in the display section ... the Xs display (OLED) uses more power on a black screen compared to 8's LCD at the same brightness?!! this doesn't sound right! or is this power draw attributable to something else (face detection sensors, etc.)? Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Saturday, October 6, 2018 - link

    No, that's accurate. It's part of why the new phones regress in battery over the LCD iPhones. Reply
  • DERSS - Saturday, October 6, 2018 - link

    You asked about the display's matrix controlling logic. It was found out through patent research that Apple has developed LTPO TFT Technology for that, however it is so far is confirmed to only used in the displays LG Display makes for Apple Watch. For smartphone OLEDs Apple has older simpler technology designed for the transistor layer as these big OLEDs are already super pricy anyway. And additional manufacturers like LG Display where Apple has started to implement manufacturing of iPhone XS/Max displays only has very few Tokki Canon equipment sets so they can not really low the manufacturing pricing down. (And Apple can not move to a different equipment as it has designed iPhone X/XS/Max displays only for Tokki Canon equipment). Reply
  • wicasapa - Saturday, October 6, 2018 - link

    I understand the regression on the battery test you run, it is basically browsing the web, which is by and large a white background and generally above the 60-65% threshold for the crossover of efficiency between OLEDs and LCDs. it actually makes sense for OLEDs to be less efficient in web browsing-based battery tests. however, I was surprised that you measured less efficiency on a pure black screen! Reply
  • Andrei Frumusanu - Sunday, October 7, 2018 - link

    Actually the web test is varied, I have a few lower APL sites and even some black ones. Reply
  • tipoo - Sunday, October 14, 2018 - link

    Common misconception - OLEDS don't just turn off fully for pure blacks, it takes active power to create a black. When they're off they're a murky grey. Reply

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