Why the iPhone 11 just made your ‘real camera’ obsolete for travel

Sep 17, 2019

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It’s been less than a month since I reviewed Galaxy Note10+. Now, in typical Apple fashion, Samsung’s biggest smartphone competitor has an iOS handset that matches or bests many of the Note’s top-notch specs, giving would-be Android users plenty of reasons to stay put in Apple’s tight-knit ecosystem.

The iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max (yes, it’s a mouthful) are available to pre-order now, and will be in stores beginning this Friday, September 20. I’ve been testing out the largest device, the Pro Max — it’d be quite the understatement to say I am impressed.

I’ll be following this up with a travel-focused review later in the week, but for now, I wanted to share some initial impressions with my favorite iPhone 11 feature of all: Night Mode — a tool so powerful that, especially when paired with the iPhone 11 Pro’s other photography chops, renders your “real camera” obsolete. Scenes so dim that you might consider using a tripod with a point-and-shoot or DSLR can be shot handheld with an iPhone. Yup — it’s that good.

To best illustrate the iPhone 11’s low-light capability, I also shot the same scenes with Google’s Pixel 3 and Samsung’s Galaxy Note10 — two of the other top “night mode” contenders — along with last year’s flagship, the iPhone XS, which doesn’t offer a nighttime shooting option at all.

With this first scene, in a private dining room at The Fulton in New York City, I was most impressed with the iPhone 11 — details are incredibly sharp both inside the very dim room and out, with balanced exposure and colors.

The Note10 didn’t perform quite as well with this particular scene, with washed out colors and oversharpened details.

The Pixel 3 did a commendable job overall, though colors — especially outside — had a heavy blue hue, making for an image that didn’t look especially accurate.

Finally, the iPhone XS — well… I think the image speaks for itself. No-go.

Next, I stepped out on the balcony at The Fulton, and repeated the process.

At first, I was impressed with the iPhone — it was a challenging scene, and details are sharp throughout, aside from the overexposed tables.

This time around, the Note really blew Apple out of the water, though — details are a bit too sharp, yet again, but the exposure is far more balanced, especially at the tables, which were washed out in the iPhone shot.

The Pixel performed better than the iPhone here as well, though the colors aren’t accurate at all, just as in the private dining room inside.

And then the once-flagship iPhone XS. All I can say is… LOL.

All versions of the iPhone 11 now sport an ultra-wide lens, too, enabling some incredible shots, such as what I captured below. The base model includes a 12-megapixel 13mm f/2.4 ultra-wide camera and a 26mm f/1.8 wide-angle camera, while the Pro models add a third built-in cam: a 12-megapixel f/2 telephoto, with a 52mm focal length.

And, finally, yes, you can rest assured — all three versions can take pictures of food.

For more on the latest camera-killing smartphones and more, see:

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