The San Francisco City Hall building captured with the 0.5X ultra wide angle lens in the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
The San Francisco City Hall building captured with the 1X wide angle lens in the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
The San Francisco City Hall building captured with 2X zoom lens in the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
A night shot of the Union Square taken using the iPhone 11.
A yellow lily shot using the portrait mode.

PHOTOGRAPHY has been one of the major strength of iPhones and for the new iPhone 11 series (iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max), Apple has added some new and interesting capabilities to give users the best experience and results in phone photography.

My first impression of the phones was how significantly stand out the camera is on each of them, sitting within a squarish section on the top left of the back of the phones.

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to test the camera capability of the new iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro Max around the San Francisco area last week.

The cameras

All three cameras on the iPhone 11 series still feature a 12MP sensor.

The difference between iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro/Pro Max is the number of cameras on the phones. The iPhone 11 comes with a dual system camera while both iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max feature a triple camera fixture, with a 2X optical zoom capability and 10X digital zoom. This gives the Pro version greater reach if you want to capture a distance subject.

What’s new about all the three models is the inclusion of an ultra wide camera which gives users a really wide viewing angle of 120 degree. This is equivalent to an 11mm lens in a 35mm full frame format, which is the widest view a wide angle lens could offer.

And with an f/2.4 aperture, the ultra wide angle lens on the new iPhones gives users the ability to capture clear and clean images even in a low-light situation.


A seagull shot using the portrait mode in the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Such wide angle view opens up a new horizon for mobile photography and allows users to compose and capture photos in a more creative manner.

Landscape photographers, especially, would appreciate this extra angle of view as it will allow them to capture squeeze in more elements in their photos and be creative at the same time.


A sunset view at the San Francisco Bay taken with the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Besides that, such wide angle is also useful for architecture photos and tight shots, like in a small room, for example.


The ultra wide angle allows users to be more creative in their shots.

In some of the shots I made, I managed to get a better perspective which is hard to get if I use a normal wide lens.

Besides the new ultra wide angle lens, all three phones feature a normal wide-angle camera with a bright f/1.8 aperture. This gives a better low-light control and even in a dark environment, you can still get sharp photos handheld.

Another new feature Apple has added on the iPhone 11 is the ability to look at the ultra wide angle scene as you take your normal wide angle (1X) photos. You can see what’s outside the frame shield you want to take an ultra wide angle photos right after.

The telephoto lens in the iPhone 11 Pro Max, meanwhile, gives users twice optical zoom reach with an f/2.0 aperture. If you want to go closer, the phone also allows top to 10X digital zoom.

Intelligence in camera

Can a phone match a digital camera capability in photography? This is subjective and has been talked about for years among photo enthusiasts and professionals.

However, over the past years smartphones’ camera capability has improved a lot, especially with an integration of the phones’ advanced processor.

With the tight integration between hardware and software, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max take the traditional camera experience even further.


A low light shots at Pier 39 in San Francisco bay area using the iPhone 11 Max Pro.

The new wide sensor with 100 percent Focus Pixels and advanced software enables night mode, and delivers huge improvements to photos shot in indoor and outdoor low-light environments, resulting in brighter images with natural colours and reduced noise.

Besides that, the triple-camera system also takes portrait mode to a new level with the ability to choose wide and telephoto framing, enabling Portrait mode with a wider field of view, great for taking portraits of multiple people.

The telephoto camera, with the f/2.0 aperture, can capture 40 percent more light compared to iPhone Xs for better photos and videos.

Machine learning

As an avid photographer, I always find it challenging to get a good dynamic range in photos, even with an expensive camera and lenses. It’s hard to correctly exposed a photo unless an HDR or High Dynamic Range technique is used where you combine multiple exposures to create a single final image.

However, Apple has made in simple for users to get good dynamic range in photos by using next-generation Smart HDR, which uses advanced machine learning to recognise subjects in the frame and intelligently relight them for more natural-looking images with greater detail.


An HDR creative shot at the Palace of Fine Arts using the ultra wide camera.

Besides that, the Cupertino-based company is coming out with Deep Fusion later this fall to give users better imaging capability. It’s a new image processing system enabled by the Neural Engine of A13 Bionic. Deep Fusion uses advanced machine learning to do pixel-by-pixel processing of photos, optimising for texture, details and noise in every part of the photo.

A redesigned camera interface provides a more immersive experience that works together with the triple-camera system and all-screen display to let users see and capture the area outside of the frame. For the first time, users can easily record video without switching out of Photo mode with QuickTake by simply holding the shutter button to start recording.

The new TrueDepth camera introduces a new 12MP camera with a wider field of view to capture selfies, and next-generation Smart HDR enables more natural-looking photos. Expressive selfie videos take on a whole new look with the TrueDepth camera that now records 4K video at up to 60 fps and 120 fps slo-mo.

The phones also offer a new True Tone flash is over 30 percent brighter.

Conclusion

I took quite a number of photos around the San Francisco Bay area using the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro Max in all sorts of light situation, and I am impressed with the photo quality of the shots, especially in terms of details, dynamic range and low light capability.

Thanks to the camera image stabilisation feature, the photos from both phones look great - detailed, sharp and clean.

Using the phones camera was easy and intuitive, and with the integration of the advanced A13 Bionic chip and iOS 13, as well as machine learning, photography on the iPhone just gets better.

The iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max will be available starting Sept 27, and are priced from RM3,399, RM4,899 and RM5,299 respectively. The iPhone 11 will be available in 64GB, 125Gb and 256GB capacity, while the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max will come in 64GB, 256GB and 512GB versions.

All photos by Izwan Ismail