While Apple says frequently that its integrated hardware and software enable it to do magical things with cameras – and in some cases, that’s true – that doesn’t mean every shot taken on the iPhone 11 Pro phones was the best photo.
In some cases, the photos I took on the iPhone 11 Pro Max were clearly sharper, brighter, and even more (you hate to say it) professional-looking than the iPhone 11 photos of the same scenes or subjects. The iPhone 11 Pro Max captured the best portrait mode photo of my colleague Lydia, showing accurate colours, picking up on details like wisps of hair and freckles, and handling highlights and sunlight well. A beach sunset photo captured on the same phone expertly captured the contrast between dark rocks, a glassy ocean and the sunburnt sky. A photo of yaki onigiri captured in harsh overhead light showed excellent detail, right down to the charred rice.
But when pitted against other leading smartphones, the iPhone 11 Pro Max wasn’t always the standout. The Google Pixel 3, a less expensive and soon-to-be-outdated phone, took better, crisper photos of a floral arrangement in a very dark bar. An iPhone 11 Pro Max photo of my friend Kayla, captured in a dark sushi restaurant, showed a lot of detail in easy-to-miss spots like her hands, or the slight wrinkles of her shirt. But Kayla, a video producer, and I both agreed that the colour and temperature of the photo was off, whereas the Pixel 3’s photo was more true-to-life.