The clearest improvement in the new iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, is the camera. Choosing between them is more difficult than you'd expect though, and especially if you're considering whether it's worth upgrading from last year's models.
As expected, the greatest single update to the iPhone range is the addition of a triple-lens camera to the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. Beyond Apple's hype about the benefits of this system, though, there is the question over just whether it's worth your upgrading from an iPhone XS or iPhone XS Max.
Then, too, with at least a $300 difference, there's also the serious issue of whether you're better off buying an iPhone 11 instead of either of the new Pro models.
AppleInsider has collated all of the technical specifications of the camera systems in these phones for comparison.
|iPhone 11||iPhone 11 Pro & Max||iPhone XS & Max||iPhone XR|
|Number of rear cameras||2||3||2||1|
|Rear Camera Resolutions||12MP||12MP||12MP||12MP|
|Camera Types||Ultra Wide, Wide||Ultra Wide, Wide, Telephoto||Wide, Telephoto||Wide|
|Apertures||f/2.4, f/1.8||f/2.4, f/1.8, f/2.0||f/1.8, f/2.4||f/1.8|
|Optical Image Stabilization||Single OIS||Dual OIS||Dual OIS||Single OIS|
|Optical Zoom||2x Out||2x Out, 2x In||2x In||-|
|Flash||Brighter True Tone with Slow Sync||Brighter True Tone with Slow Sync||True Tone with Slow Sync||True Tone with Slow Sync|
|Portrait Lighting Effects||Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, HighKey Mono||Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, HighKey Mono||Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, HighKey Mono||Natural, Studio, Contour|
|TrueDepth Camera Resolution||12MP||12MP||7MP||7MP|
|TrueDepth Video Resolution||4K||4K||1080p||1080p|
The first point you can take from this table is that the still-available iPhone XR is substantially less capable than the rest. It's now retailing for $599, but for the $699 of the iPhone 11, you get considerably more value.
The iPhone 11 brings a second rear camera to this entry-level part of the range, where the iPhone XR has just a single one. The iPhone 11's camera system boasts new Ultra Wide lens, and both of its lenses can record video in 4K. The iPhone XR can only shoot in 1080p.
Spending that extra hundred bucks to get the iPhone 11 also means you gain an improved and brighter True Tone. You get increased portrait lighting effects, and, most impressively, you get the new Night Mode.
Just as the iPhone XR was popular last year — Tim Cook said it was the world's most popular smartphone — so the iPhone 11 is likely to hit the sweet spot between price and capability in the 2019 range.
Top of the line
The new iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, however, do come with significant advantages that could well be worth the price difference.
That third camera means that these two iPhones offer a telephoto option which radically increases what can be seen in an image. Apple says that together the three cameras mean that the iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max have an optical zoom that takes you 2x closer to an image — or 2x further away.
These two top of the range iPhones also offer a digital zoom of up to 10x, but it's really the optical zoom ability that's significant.
When you zoom in any way, you're going to get camera shake, though, and the two top end iPhones have a new dual optical image stabilization. That compares to the iPhone 11's single optical image stabilization, which is the same as the iPhone XR.
The iPhone 11 Pro retails from $999, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max from $1,099, and both offer the new triple-camera system.
If your choice were solely on camera capabilities, you would buy the iPhone 11 Pro Max. However, there are budget issues, and there are also other considerations.
Even though these are not directly related to the camera, there are issues to do with physical size, screen quality and battery life.
Again, the iPhone 11 Pro Max has the best screen with its 6.5-inch Super Retina XDR display. When you're a professional photographer, having that screen could be a significant benefit.
The iPhone 11 Pro has the same Super Retina XDR display, but in the smaller 5.8-inch size. The iPhone 11 has a Liquid Retina HD display at 6.1-inches.
Whether you're a pro or not, though, you'll get a great deal of benefit from the iPhone 11 Pro Max's battery life. Apple claims that this model provides five more hours per charge than the previous equivalent, the iPhone XS Max.
In comparison, the iPhone 11 Pro offers four more hours than its predecessor, the iPhone XS. And the iPhone 11 is rated for just one hour more than the iPhone XR.
If you're used to using one of last year's phones, you have a feel now for how significant the battery improvement is.
In case you're currently using an older iPhone, the battery life on the new ones does vary but Apple makes certain overall claims. So the iPhone 11 is rated, for example, for playing up to 17 hours of video that's stored on the device.
The iPhone 11 Pro plays video up to 18 hours, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max can run up to 20 hours.
Ultimately, though, it's going to be the cameras and what you can shoot with them that makes your decision for you. And the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max do bring superb new capabilities to the range.