using the iphone 11 max pro – the camera


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.

Bo taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic Leica 1.4/25mm
Bo taken with the iPhone 11.

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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ten years of olympus camera use

Olympus E-P2 with 14-42 collapsible kit lens and VF-2 electronic viewfinder

Warning: I’m going to write a meandering post about my photography, and throw up some examples of my photography from a ten year old Olympus digital camera. These will be recent images (as in taken the day this post was written).

E-P2 top plate view

But first, this observation: There are no bad cameras anymore, only bad photographers. And it’s been that way now for quite some time, going back ten years. Funny that.

The Olympus camera I’m using in this post is my very first micro four thirds camera, the Olympus E-P2. It was Olympus’ second camera in this format, an immediate follow-on to the E-P1, both of which were introduced in 2009. I purchased my E-P2 copy Christmas of 2009 and paid full price for it, or US $1,200. I don’t normally pay full price for anything photographic, preferring either used, refurbed, or heavily discounted (which means trailing edge by quite a margin). But this time I bought the camera nearly new because I felt it was an important revolutionary step in photography, and I wanted to be a part of that. I also purchased the M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 and 17mm f/2.8 to go along with it. That 17mm has long since passed on, replaced with the 17mm f/1.8 and f/1.2 PRO, but the 45mm is still in my kit and still gets used. The E-P2 came with the original 14-42 collapsible kit lens, which was pretty good. But I replaced it with the second generation of that lens; truth be told I wish I still had the original, if for no other reason than the original had a metal mount while the later generations were plastic.

Over the years I’ve picked up a number of Olympus Pens, as well as the original OM-D E-M5. Later I picked up a Pen F, then a GH4, then a G9. Those last three in particular were heavily discounted from their original release MSRP.

So what can I say about the later generations? You can see significant improvement in the handling of the cameras, and in certain corner cases you can see significant improvement in the sensor and image processors of the cameras. But all of the cameras will take excellent photographs given enough careful forethought to composition and subject matter, even the E-P2. Over the last ten years, Olympus has made one excellent camera after another, as has Panasonic and Sony and Nikon and Canon. There are no bad cameras, only bad photographers.

If I’ve done anything wrong with my pursuit of photography it’s that I’ve purchased too much equipment for not very good reasons. Buying equipment at a discount can only carry you so far. It can be fairly argued that some of it should never have been purchased at all. If I were to sell any of it, I would sell the most recent acquisitions and keep the E-P2 and the pair of E-M5s I have.

Just for the record, the E-P2 has a modest 12MP sensor. Before you laugh, keep in mind that the highly successful Nikon D3 and D700 cameras were introduced with 12MP sensors. I will grant that the Nikons are both 35mm frame sized sensors (what the marketing people like to call “full frame” even though 35mm film cameras were for a long time labeled as miniature format). In spite of the fact that the micro four thirds sensor is only half the diagonal length of 35mm (hence the doubling of a micro four thirds focal length to compare with 35mm: i.e. my 45mm lens is the focal length equivalent of a 90mm on one of those Nikons), 12 MP is still 12MP, and with the right lens in front of the sensor and photographing in normal light (i.e. not in such dark environs you really can’t see much), you can’t tell them apart unless you know in advance which was used to make a given photograph.

My E-M5s have 16MP sensors, and the Pen F and G9 have 20MP sensors. Can I tell photos apart with those cameras? Sometimes. Do the later cameras handle much better, much faster than the E-P2? Absolutely. But the E-P2, under the right circumstances and with a photographer that understands how to handle it, will still produce excellent work. All those cameras will.

Red Miniature Hibiscus – M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8
Red Pentas – M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8
Red Drift Roses – M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8