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iPhone Photography: iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR

September 13, 2018

Now that the dust has settled after the 2018 Apple September launch event, where the company delivered the long-awaited details on its new iPhones, the iPhone XS Max, its new sibling the iPhone XS and a replacement for the iPhone X, and the iPhone XR… You've probably got some thoughts about how that bodes for you, a budding iPhone Photographer.

The iPhone XS and XS Max

iPhone Xs and Xs Max

Quick summary:

  • The screen is top to bottom, edge to edge
  • Comes in gold, silver, and space gray
  • Comes in a 5.8” and also 6.5” Super Retina display

The new iPhones will come with A12 bionic chips and they will have a neural engine that can process 5 trillion operations per second.

Quick summary on the A12 bionic chip:

CPU: Six Cores

GPU: Four Cores

Neural engine: Eight cores

Storage support: Up to 512GB addressable storage

Fabrication node: 7nm

iPhone XR vs Xs and Xs Max

What does this mean in plain English?

Put blunty: faster apps, however, if you're on the fence about that, don't worry. The iPhone X is still relatively fast when compared to the latest flagship, replacement and the XR.

However, the new functionality the recently unveiling iPhone enabled by the A12 bionic chip means that the apps which use the Apple's machine learning framework, Core ML, will run nine times faster than last year’s chips. On stage, Apple showed off a new app named Homecourt, which you can set up to watch you play basketball while it records the number of shots and passes you make and miss.

That's crazy, although an iPhone Photographer probably wouldn't care too much about that — yet.

So what about the Cameras, then?

The new iPhones come with a new feature called Smart HDR.

Smart HDR


Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller says Smart HDR will improve iPhone XS photos' ability to capture both shadow details and bright highlights.

HDR, which means, "high dynamic range", is a type of tech that takes multiple shots and combines them in order to capture both the shadow details and the lighter details, ensuring a much more vivid and detailed image. Smart HDR does this particular thing even better!

One change is that the iPhone XS picks from more source photos, including "interframe" shots at darker exposures. That will hopefully mean that iPhone Photographers will notice that their images are no longer blown-out or overexposed in the brighter areas. That the darks will remain dark and the brights will still keep their detail.

"It makes taking photos easier than ever to get beautiful results," Schiller said.

It's also a step toward, which stacks multiple underexposed shots into an HDR shot to control the highlights.

The new iPhone XS models also have a slider that lets you adjust how out of focus the background is behind a photos' subject -- a quality known in photography circles as bokeh. It's a significant advance over the previous depth effect, which was either on or off. Apple calls the feature depth control.


In a refinement to Apple's portrait mode, the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR come with a slider to adjust the amount of background blur, called bokeh.

The slider at the bottom of the photo frame shows lens apertures of f1.4 to f16, a simulation of the physical hardware in traditional lens cameras.

"The new iPhone XR also gets the Smart HDR and depth control features", Schiller said.

Better camera sensors

The new phones still have 12-megapixel image sensors, but the sensors themselves are physically larger and image processing is faster. Larger sensors let digital camera makers improve image quality including dynamic range and color. The XS models also have Apple-designed lenses, Schiller said.

The front-facing camera on the iPhone XR gets a major update over 2017's phones. It has a 7-megapixel camera with a much faster sensor for higher-quality selfies, Schiller said.

The XS and XS Max both have dual cameras on the back of the phone, while the XR only has a single camera.

The XS and XS Max wide-angle camera has an f1.8 aperture. The other camera, with a more telephoto focal length set at twice the zoom as the wide-angle camera, has a narrower f2.4 aperture. That doesn't let in as much light, but that's a constraint of physics for all cameras with compact lenses. Both rear-facing cameras have optical image stabilization to compensate for shaky hands and smooth some jerkiness out of videos.

iPhone Xr

"The faster phone sensors also mean that it'll be easier to scan and register your face for features like Face ID and Animojis", Apple said.

Zero shutter lag brings out highlight and shadow detail and merged it all into one perfect photo.

The run down:

iPhone Xs has 30 minutes more battery than the iPhone X.

iPhone Xs Max has 1 hour and 30 minutes more battery life than the iPhone X. The iPhone Xs has Dual-SIM capability.

What About the iPhone XR?

The iPhone XR integrates technologies from iPhone XS in an all-screen glass and aluminum design with the most advanced LCD in a smartphone featuring a 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display and six beautiful finishes.

It also brings the powerful A12 Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine, the TrueDepth camera system, Face ID and an advanced camera system that creates dramatic portraits using a single camera lens.

You will be able to get the iPhone XR in white, black, blue, coral, yellow, and "Product Red".

  • iPhone XS and XS Max preorders start this Friday, Sept. 14. Shipping on Sept. 21.
  • iPhone XR preorders start Oct. 19, ships Oct. 26

Need a new protective case for your iPhone Xs, Xs Max or XR?

SPLASH™is a thin and light waterproof, drop and dust-proof protective case and is the second product alongside ENDURO in the recently launched HITCASE Active Series. MIL-SPEC shock rating to 6ft/2m and IP68 waterproof rated to 10ft/3m, lightweight, slim, with a soft-grip exterior and lightning fast installation with its two-piece design. It’s the case you wish you always had at a very approachable price. The Action REDi red button is a signature design feature that prompts the user to capture photo and video adventures with ease. In addition, you can turn your iPhone into a better camera: easily attach any HITCASE TrueLUX® magnetic waterproof interchangeable lenses to the SPLASH for more creative shots. SPLASH for the iPhone Xs, Xs Max and XR retails at $69.99 USD.

iphone x hitcase splash

ENDURO™ offers serious smartphone protection. Built to withstand hard-hitting drops and daily wear, this lightweight (44 grams) and slim, soft grip exterior case offers MIL-SPEC drop-proof and shatter-proof protection to 6ft/2m along with dirt, dust, sand and liquid-proof port coverage with no compromise in audio quality. The Action REDi red button is a signature design feature that prompts the user to capture photo and video adventures with ease. A 2mm raised lip around the phone and camera area provides ultimate screen protection for your iPhone. ENDURO for the iPhone X and XS retails at $39.99 USD. 

The HITCASE PRO offers extreme waterproof and shockproof protection for the ultimate iPhone case protection. Designed to withstand drops up to 16ft/5m and water depths up to 16ft/5m, the machined, anodized aluminum frame combines with our patent-pending ShockSeal technology, custom waterproof seals, and the highest quality polycarbonate to deliver ultimate protection for your iPhone. Mount it anywhere with the PRO Railside mount system – compatible with all 8 HITCASE mounts and GoPro mounts. Take stunning photos and videos with TrueLUX lens series from HITCASE. Now you can fearlessly capture and share your adventures with the world and have the freedom to take your iPhone anywhere - anytime. HITCASE PRO for the iPhone Xs, Xs Max and XR is offered at $99.99 USD.

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