The iPhone 11 Pro camera: a photographer's first impressions

I haven’t updated my phone in four years, my iPhone 6S was starting to drive me nuts with some app or other draining the battery life, it was time; and being a photographer, of course I went for the one with the best / most cameras available.

So - am I happy with it?

Let’s have a look at some images from a brief stroll earlier today - these are all no filters / no photo apps / unedited / in-camera .jpgs / resized for web, just to see how the phone itself handles things. They’re all sets of three, stepping through the zoom range from 0.5x wide angle to 2x zoom, so click right on them to see more!

On the phone itself, the images look really great; it handles colour and contrast quite naturally (if one sunny Sydney day is anything to go by), and doesn’t flare too badly when the sun is in the frame - which of course happens more on the widest angle lens than it would have on previous phones. It’s worth noting - as some of you may have already noticed, above - that it’s really easy to accidentally catch a glimpse of your own finger in the corner of the very widest angle images; I left that one in just to show you how simple it is!

I didn’t actually notice at the time, but I had very little trouble using the phone in broad daylight; so the extra brightness from the new OLED screen must be working. The screen looks amazing, the three choices of lens width are great to have, it’s quick & easy to grab a photo, it’s certainly a lot better in low light than the 6S was; is it going to replace my ‘real’ cameras, though?

No, of course not - it’s still a phone, and comes with the technical limitations that come from a small sensor, small lens package.

Even in the brightest light, there’s still some ‘mushiness’ to the detail in the images, which I noticed especially in the leaves in the trees, on both the wide angle and zoom lenses. Could this be improved through shooting RAW files and processing them in Photoshop? Perhaps - I might test that later, but is that really the point of photographing things on the iPhone, or is it the ultimate point & shoot / in-camera .jpg device?

These are definitely a whole lot better than using the old ‘digital zoom’ of my previous phone - but they’re not really a match for a larger lens on a larger sensor, even on a pocketable camera like a Canon G7X MkII (for example, since I have one of those to compare with).

But - there’s a lot to be said for the camera you have with you, and this is certainly a significant upgrade on the one I was carrying previously. For grabbing photos with friends, for personal social media images & behind the scenes images, it’ll be pretty good - when the light is good, certainly. It’s not bad in low light either, but that’s when camera & lens quality really starts to become obvious.

(Also, apparently you can make phone calls on it? Or so I’m told…!)

Here’s a bonus set of images from Friday night - these are literally the first three photos I took with the phone, on my way to a show at the Opera House. The widest lens is the slowest of the three, at f/2.4, and doesn't have image stabilisation either, so the results aren’t quite as crisp as they could be on that one…