iPhone 11 Pro vs iPhone XS vs iPhone 8: Camera shootout

iPhone 11 Pro vs iPhone XS vs iPhone 8: Camera shootout
When it comes to cameras, Apple has always had a "quality over quantity" attitude. For the longest time, iPhones had a single camera on the back, while the Android market was exploding with multi-camera devices.  This changed in 2016 with the introduction of the iPhone 7 Plus, which was equipped with a second telephoto snapper alongside the regular wide-angle camera. The iPhone 11 Pro goes a step further and throws in an ultra-wide angle to the mix. It's nothing we haven't seen before, but the most important question is, how good is the new setup?

Since many are wondering if the iPhone 11 Pro camera really offers a meaningful improvement over older iPhones, we decided to test it against the XS Max and the iPhone 8. Why the iPhone 8? Well, because it is still a very popular "budget" model that many people are looking to upgrade from. With that said, let's move on to the test, which will show us how the iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone 8 compare in terms of general daytime photography, portraits, and night photography.

Daytime test


Scene 1

Overcast days tend to not offer the most interesting scenarios for testing smartphone cameras, but they can be a good test for how much the camera can "spice up" the end result. Photos taken on overcast days can often be flat and drab-looking in their raw state, but can actually look great when processed in the right way. Let's see how three generations of iPhones fare in this regard:


Color-wise, the iPhone 8 and 11 Pro are both similar and quite faithful to the scene, while the XS photo has a slight bluish tint to it. As far as dynamic range and detail, however, the iPhone 11 Pro and XS Max definitely pull ahead of the iPhone 8, which has higher contrast and less detail in the shadows.

Scene 2


Another overcast scene that showcases the differences (and similarities) between white balance across the three models. The iPhone XS Max again leans toward cooler tones, while the iPhone 11 Pro and 8 offer arguably more faithful representations of the scene. The 11 Pro strangely enough has a very subtle green cast, most visible in the highlights in the clouds, while the iPhone 8 photo looks pretty much spot-on.

Scene 3


This scene showcases how much detail all three models are able to resolve at close to minimum focus distance.

There are slight color differences again, with the iPhone 11 Pro this time leaning toward a bluish tint, while the iPhone 8 and XS Max are more accurate. The 11 Pro and XS Max both produce an overall smoother image than the iPhone 8, with better subject-background separation and tonality. 


As far as detail resolving power goes, the iPhone 8 is in last place with the least detail when zoomed in. The 11 Pro and XS Max are close, but you may still be surprised by the results. The iPhone XS photo actually looks sharper, with more detail visible on the butterfly, albeit at the cost of slightly stronger noise throughout the frame. Above is a direct comparison between 100 percent crops from the the iPhone 11 Pro and XS Max.

Scene 4


In this scene, all three phones produce very comparable results. The iPhone 8 doesn't quite measure up to the rest in terms of fine detail, but all three fare similarly overall. The iPhone 11 Pro and XS Max are both marginally sharper than the iPhone 8, while the 11 Pro also has a very subtle HDR effect going on, which gives a slight "punch" to the whole image.


Portrait Mode


Apple talked extensively about the new improvements made to Portrait Mode during the announcement of the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro, so we're expecting the latest model to perform markedly better in this regard. But will it? Let's find out.

Scene 5


This is a very difficult scene, and a good test for Portrait Mode, because we have a lot of detail going on, which will make it harder for the software to separate the subject from the background. The results are not perfect, but the iPhone 11 Pro manages to stand out with very pleasant colors and bokeh rendering in the background. Subject-background separation leaves something to be desired on the 11 Pro, with a noticeable problematic area around the left sleeve. The XS Max actually does an arguably better job in this regard, though the quality of the bokeh effect is not as good as on the 11 Pro. The iPhone 8 obviously lags behind the newer models, with murkier colors, less detail, and obviously worse subject-background separation.

Scene 6


This scene really shows where the iPhone 8 sits against the XS Max and 11 Pro. That is, firmly in last place.

Both the iPhone 11 Pro and XS Max produce pleasant colors, although the new model pulls ahead with an overall better tonality. On the 11 Pro, both the model and background are evenly exposed, while on the XS Max some of the highlights are blown. The iPhone 8 photo has more contrast, with less detail in the shadows and completely blown highlights in the background.

Scene 7


In this scene, the iPhone 11 Pro and XS Max again produce more even exposure across the frame and manage to retain good detail in both the highlights and shadows. The iPhone 8 photo has more contrast, and highlights in the background are more blown, but this look actually suites the scene quite well and really makes it pop. Technically speaking, the newer models are better, but this just goes to show that an older camera may surprise you with some style when you least expect it.

Scene 8


The trend of the iPhone 8 lagging behind its brethren continues in Scene 8. The iPhone 11 Pro and XS Max are neck and neck, with good tonality and color. The iPhone 8 again produces a darker image, with less detail in the shadows and more blown highlights. Since there's not a big distance between the model and the background in this scene, the blurring effect is not as pronounced, but it is there.

Night Mode on the iPhone 11 Pro vs no Night Mode on older iPhones


Over the past couple of years, Night Mode has become a big thing on Android smartphones, while iPhones have been lagging behind in this area. With the iPhone 11 Pro, however, Apple introduces its own take on Night Mode. It isn't as extreme as some other solutions on the market, in that it doesn't quite attempt to turn night into day, and it can be enabled manually. In typical Apple fashion, Night Mode on the iPhone 11 Pro is completely automatic and switches on when it sees fit. It requires you to stand still for 3 seconds, while multiple shots are captured and combined, and we're happy to report that the results are good. The real-time preview in the viewfinder is also a welcomed addition and it really gives you a good idea of what to expect from the final shot.

The iPhone XS Max and iPhone 8 don't have Night Mode, so we're curious to see just how big of a difference it makes on the 11 Pro. Let's find out!

Scene 9


In this very difficult scene, the iPhone 11 Pro really excels with much richer color and more detail over the older models. The XS Max and iPhone 8 both produce much darker, murkier shots, though the XS Max is still a marked improvement over the iPhone 8 in terms of color rendering and noise reduction.

Scene 10


This scene showcases a much more well-defined progression from the iPhone 8 to the iPhone 11 Pro. The new Night Mode really offers a meaningful and noticeable improvement over the XS Max and iPhone 8. Colors are richer in the iPhone 11 Pro photo, with a lot of detail retained in the shadows and highlights. The XS Max and iPhone 8 fare similarly, though the 8 really suffers with the strong highlights on the cathedral.

Scene 11


Scene 11 is another clear win for the iPhone 11 Pro. Richer colors, evenly-exposed highlights, and more detail in the shadows are some of the advantages that Night Mode offers over the older models. The iPhone 8 especially is really struggling between the deep shadows and bright lights in this shot.

Scene 12


If you haven't had enough proof that Night Mode on the iPhone 11 Pro does a good job, here's our last scene for this test (spoiler alert: results are the same)

The iPhone 11 Pro again pulls at the front with a very nice rendition of this cathedral at night. It looks as brilliantly illuminated as it does in real life and detail on the facade is superb. The XS Max and iPhone 8, on the other hand, lack in tonality and color. Weirdly enough, the iPhone 8's contrastier look makes the cathedral pop a bit more than in the XS Max photo, but otherwise it is inferior in terms of detail and tonality.


Conclusion


The iPhone 11 Pro really manages to impress with its improved Portrait Mode and the new Night Mode. Color rendering seems to also have been improved, with the 11 Pro producing some very fine results with pleasant and accurate colors, and improved dynamic range over the other two.

That said, as the first handful of scenes illustrated, all three phones can produce comparable results in most daytime scenarios. The iPhone XS is still great for general photography and is almost on par with the 11 Pro in most cases during the day, while the iPhone 8 is clearly starting to show its age with murkier, overall less-detailed shots. We can't say that we are surprised by this, but we still wanted to see how the iPhone 8 fares against the XS and iPhone 11 Pro, as it is still a popular model that many people will be upgrading from. If nothing else, it serves as a good benchmark to illustrate how newer iPhones have improved in the camera department.

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32 Comments

1. LawnBoy

Posts: 198; Member since: Feb 23, 2019

What's w iPhone pics always tinted reddish yellow?

27. jjface

Posts: 249; Member since: Jun 07, 2017

That is the super retina color space blah mojo at work. Also known as icrap colors.

32. sgtdisturbed47

Posts: 969; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

Like most smartphone cameras, the images are too heavily compressed which makes off-colors look worse. Phones have to compress images to save space and make it easier to upload to IG and FB, unfortunately. If smartphone makers backed off the compression, they'd all look better. All of the images displayed here are unacceptable and aren't worth keeping.

3. midan

Posts: 2984; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

As i do concert photography and most of photos i took happens in low light or very difficult lights i'm blown away the results i'm getting from Pro. Photos are really sharp and lights paints so beautifully and lot of details everywhere. People who have seen them ask what i used to take those and they can't believe when i say this phone.

6. maherk

Posts: 6942; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I'm glad you're finally enjoying a feature you were calling overrated few months ago.

21. midan

Posts: 2984; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Are you talking about night mode? No way I’m using it, it would just ruin my shots And luckily it didn’t even kick in with all the stage lights, thank god.

10. OneLove123

Posts: 1179; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

Let me guess, they cant believe it's not a dslr.ahahaha

17. cpike84

Posts: 16; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

I still get comments like that about photos I took on my Pixel 2 XL.

30. JoyousUndertaker

Posts: 1; Member since: Oct 10, 2019

What kind of pro "concert photographer" works with a cellphone?

31. Vancetastic

Posts: 1545; Member since: May 17, 2017

I'm a pro musician, and I record all my stuff with First Act equipment purchased from Walmart.

35. midan

Posts: 2984; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Who said anything about being Pro? it's just my hobby and DSLR isn't usually even allowed in gigs and concerts. And i already left that behind many many years ago, it limits so much. But still don't be so narrow minded, world is changing. Just like 15 years ago people thought you have to have expensive studio to make radio ready music. Nowdays everyone who have skills can do it in their bedroom and laptop. Heck even with iPad. Also when you use your cellphone you can get photos which those pro photographers can't because usually all the good stuff is happening end of the gigs, when band and artist shows great feeling and energy, not start of the gigs. Using cellphone gives you opportunity to get very different kind of photos, because you are always there where something happening. ' Don't limit yourself by thinking i can't do this, because.., just try think out of the box and turn your weakness to strength End of the day best camera is what you have with you and we can be very happy that those cams we always have are nowdays really really good and only getting better and better.

4. tokuzumi

Posts: 1925; Member since: Aug 27, 2009

I prefer the XS Max in most of those photos. It's only once you start using night mode the 11 Pro really starts to shine.

5. User123456789

Posts: 1001; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Awful

7. maherk

Posts: 6942; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

Night mode on the new iPhones is the best in the market imo, I like how they don't try to make the scene a lot brighter, as some Android OEMs turn night pictures into something you took in daylight.

11. Techno4

Posts: 9; Member since: Jul 31, 2019

Not close to huawei in night mode and you could achieve these kind of night time shots without night mode either way, also I'm sure the timer on the night mode here was played with to get the best result.

18. maherk

Posts: 6942; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I had the P20 Pro, Mate 30 Pro, and P30 Pro, and they non gives you that picture that really captures the scene at night. Don't get me wrong, you will get great pictures(the P30 Pro, not so much with it's green tint), but they all look unnatural for the majority of shots taken at night. The major issue I had with Huawei's night mode, is that it turns the dark sky into light purple and sometimes even slightly dark blue.

20. Techno4

Posts: 9; Member since: Jul 31, 2019

I don't believe you had all those devices especially the mate 30 pro also what the iPhone gave in night mode you can get on the P30 pro and mate 30 pro without activating night mode.

22. maherk

Posts: 6942; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

My bad, Mate 20. And again, when you talk about the P30 Pro, you can't get such pictures with it, with or without night mode, and it's all thanks to the stupid RYYB sensor. Yeah sure, it does let in light like no other phone, but the green tint that it slaps all over the pictures ruins the whole picture. And the Mate 30 Pro from the reviews I have seen so far, it still have the same problem with the color science, Huawei should have ditched the RYYB sensor, as the Mate 20 Pro was a better performer than both the Mate 30 and the P30 Pro.

23. Vancetastic

Posts: 1545; Member since: May 17, 2017

Yeah, I'd like it if it were adjustable.

8. Nexus4lifes

Posts: 298; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

How good is the iPhone 11 camera? No where even close to pixel 3. Nothing else to talk about so move on..

9. meanestgenius

Posts: 22228; Member since: May 28, 2014

I am truly impressed by the cameras on the 11 Pro. Gotta give props when are due. Great job, Apple!

12. OneLove123

Posts: 1179; Member since: Aug 28, 2018

Pixel is still better, heck I still.love my s10 camera and that's coming from an iPhone 11 owner too that I got for free.:)

15. RoryBreaker

Posts: 236; Member since: Oct 11, 2015

No other aspect ratio options than 4x3 Then they all are inferior! It's like watching a TV from the 90s

26. midan

Posts: 2984; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

You can shoot 16:9 too

16. AnakinSkywalker

Posts: 3; Member since: May 26, 2015

Night mode and deep fusion doesn't support the tele photo or ultrawide camera on iPhone 11 pro. Why add ultra wide camera...when night mode isn't supported. Also both the tele photo and ultrawide camera have inferior image quality when compared to the main camera. I really hope neural cam supports ultra wide angle camera...

19. maherk

Posts: 6942; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

They telephoto has both deepfusion and night mode.

28. Notasaurus

Posts: 3; Member since: Jul 01, 2018

The true telephoto lens does not support night mode. If the light is not bright enough the phone will use the wide camera at 2x digital zoom and night mode will be available. But if the phone switches to the telephoto lens, night mode goes away.

24. Vancetastic

Posts: 1545; Member since: May 17, 2017

These phone cameras are pretty amazing these days.

25. tedkord

Posts: 17410; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

I'm betting the iPhone wins this shootout.

29. TBomb

Posts: 1563; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

A blind test on all iPhones would have been great. Call it LG vs SAmsung vs Apple but have it really be these 3 cameras... see how fast the hate rolls in

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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