In my first post on the iPhone 11 Pro, I wrote in very general terms about my initial experiences with the new hardware. The overall impression of the 11 was very good, with the exceptions noted.
I’m now going to speak a bit to the 11’s new camera array. There’s not going to be very much here, certainly nothing extensive, and most certainly not in the pixel-peeping specification vs specification manner. I don’t have the time, nor the patience.
The first photo (“first light”) photo I took was of the Apple store interior at Florida Mall. This is the classic use case for cameras of this type; interior photos taken with ambient light, and this one using the ultra wide angle lens. To be honest I’m not too impressed with the ultra wide in this setting. First of all is the noticeable barrel distortion, especially in the outer one-third of the image. Look at the ceiling steps at the top as an example of the distortion. Another aberration the UW lens produces is coma, or in this case negative coma. You can clearly see an example in the upper left corner where two ceiling spots look like tiny comets with their tails pointing inward. I’m no fan of the UW lens and will avoid using it unless I absolutely have no other choice.
Now let’s look at the regular focal length lens on the iPhone 11. For this test I used my marmalade cat Bo as my test subject when he decided to rest atop his crimson pillow. He hung around long enough for me to take two photos of him, one with my Olympus OM-D E-M5, and the other with the iPhone 11. Both photos are straight-out-of-camera with absolutely no post processing except to crop the images as 16:9.
Note that the interchangeable lens camera is micro four thirds, and the lens and body are both circa-2012 (I believe the lens was released first in 2011). We’re thus comparing a seven-year-old camera with a just-released smartphone camera.
Basically, with the Olympus system, I took the photo with the PanLeica 25mm wide open at f/1.4. I used the Portrait mode on the iPhone 11 camera. You’ll note that both have nearly identical bokeh, it’s that the iPhone 11 achieved its bokeh with computational photography while the Olympus used plain old optical physics. The only place on the iPhone 11 photo where computational bokeh still has problems is with the hairs in Bo’s left ear. If you enlarge the iPhone 11 photo a bit and look you’ll see a clear line outlining those hairs projecting from Bo’s ear, as if someone laid on a mask and forgot to remove it. It’s not that noticeable except to someone like me, and then I had to enlarge the photo to really see it. I sincerely doubt it the target user wouldn’t notice it, and if they did, they probably won’t care.
Also note the overall quality of the images. Again, they are indistinguishable except under the most careful observations. I find it interesting that the iPhone sensor uses 12MP sensors, while the E-M5 is a Sony 16MP micro four thirds sensor, and at 13mm by 17mm, considerably larger than the iPhone sensors. Those so-called low resolution sensors are more than adequate at capturing quality images. I’ve even pulled out and recently used my E-P2, which as a 12MP micro four thirds sensor.
I’m quite impressed with how the overall iPhone 11 system operates. I’m not going out and throw my Olympus cameras in the trash. Rather, the iPhone 11 has reached a point of parity such that I can integrate its use with my other cameras without concern. With careful thoughtful use you won’t be able to tell the two apart just by looking.
Finally I present this photo of my miniature hibiscus growing in my back yard. I used the iPhone 11’s telephoto lens as an impromptu close-up lens, and adjusted the exposure on the iPhone’s screen down about 1 1/2 stops to my taste. The resultant photo was cropped 1:1 and then posted here. Once again, it’s a lovely image (to my eyes) and matches the quality of the images I took with my even-older E-P2 and recently posted here.
This will probably be the last post devoted to testing the iPhone 11 camera. For me, the iPhone 11’s camera (with the notable exception of the ultra-wide lens) is a superb instrument, on par with all my other cameras.
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