iPhone XS Max I don't get why a $1000+ phone takes such HORRIBLE pictures!

spinedoc77

macrumors G3
Original poster
Jun 11, 2009
9,356
3,375
Sorry in advance for the rant here, but I'm just really disappointed in the cameras on the iphones. This isn't a recent complaint, but it seems like they are taking worse pictures every generation. I'm used to iphones taking horrendous pictures if lighting is even a little bit dim. But I've been noticing poorer quality even with pictures taken with optimal conditions. This picture is my daughter at practice, there are bay windows all around her and it's a perfect day outside, lighting couldn't be much better. You can see how grainy the picture is, it's a shame that these memories will be forever captured in a terrible picture. It's not only this picture, I took a bunch of them as she was promoted and I wanted to capture the moment. Every single picture came out grainy like this, the faces would be overexposed and have detail washed out, among other issues. I feel comfortable in saying a point and shoot crappy mini digital camera from 15 years ago would have taken better pictures.

I have downloaded a few apps such as Night Camera and others and have been playing around with shutter speeds, light sensor, etc. These apps are fairly complicated and I really don't want to have to figure out how to use them, and preliminary results show these apps don't make much of a difference anyway. What burns me is that I have a Pixel 3 XL sitting at home that I don't use because I highly prefer iOS, but I always kick myself for not taking the Pixel to events where I want good pictures.

I've read a few unsubstantiated rumors that Apple is finally releasing a camera for the 11 series that functions well in low light. But seeing how crappy their pictures are even in good lighting I have my doubts that Apple can pull it off, or that there will be any improvement with optimal pictures much less low light ones. Don't get me wrong, I've taken really good pictures with iphones in perfect lighting conditions, but that's the exception not the rule. For reference this is on a XS Max and I have swapped it out to make sure it wasn't a hardware issue.


20190622_145934044_iOS.jpg
 

eyoungren

macrumors Core
Aug 31, 2011
21,182
13,025
ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two
No offense, but it's a phone that happens to have a camera.

You didn't buy a camera that happened to have the ability to function as a phone.

Yes, some manufacturers do it better than Apple - and you admit to having one of those phones.

If these moments are that important, then either a dedicated camera or a phone you know will take better pictures is the obvious choice to make. No product is perfect, use what is best for the situation and don't allow your commitment to one specific product to run down your use of a different but better tool for a specific purpose.

Inconvenience is of course a big factor here, but what price is that to pay for the moments you really want to capture?
 

now i see it

macrumors 601
Jan 2, 2002
4,021
8,021
If you care about the quality of your photographs, don't use a cellphone.
Get a REAL camera.

The iPhone camera is convenient and easy to use. But it's only a snapshot camera using a teensy weensy lens. Its the 2019 version of a point & shoot camera.

Basically it's this camera (in a more modern form) but often takes worse pictures than it did.

The iPhone camera picture quality is 85% hype and 15% ok enough.

image.jpeg
 
Last edited:

spinedoc77

macrumors G3
Original poster
Jun 11, 2009
9,356
3,375
No offense, but it's a phone that happens to have a camera.

You didn't buy a camera that happened to have the ability to function as a phone.

Yes, some manufacturers do it better than Apple - and you admit to having one of those phones.

If these moments are that important, then either a dedicated camera or a phone you know will take better pictures is the obvious choice to make. No product is perfect, use what is best for the situation and don't allow your commitment to one specific product to run down your use of a different but better tool for a specific purpose.

Inconvenience is of course a big factor here, but what price is that to pay for the moments you really want to capture?
Yeah I know the answer is to just switch to one of those phones, but in all other aspects I prefer iOS. I don't want to carry around an extra camera or another phone with me, many of these moments are very impromptu and can't be planned. In this particular situation all my stuff was in the locker room as I had class right after hers and only had my phone on me. I just don't think it's too much to ask for a $1000+ phone to take class leading pictures in the smartphone category.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Wizec

T5BRICK

macrumors G3
Aug 3, 2006
8,086
2,055
Oregon
I just used my Xs Max to take a picture of the kids in my living room. It’s a fairly low light picture, but there is much more detail than what I see in the picture you posted. How much did you zoom?
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ntombi and DblHelix

spinedoc77

macrumors G3
Original poster
Jun 11, 2009
9,356
3,375
That picture doesn't look good, but it could be the upload to the website compression at play also.

I happen to be very satisfied with the pictures from the max, for what they are.
It looks just as bad uncompressed, that's why I'm bummed. Most of my pictures are this bad, at least indoor ones. Outdoor ones tend to be much better, but that's only in ideal lighting. If it's dusk or later forget about it.
[doublepost=1561321395][/doublepost]
I just used my Xs Max to take a picture of the kids in my living room. It’s a fairly low light picture, but there is much more detail than what I see in the picture you posted. How much did you zoom?
No zoom, I was about 5 or 6 feet away. I'm going to go to the Apple store this week and see what they say. I can only imagine it has to be bad hardware, right? I've swapped it out for a different issue and both have taken pics like this, but I suppose I may have just had very bad luck with 2 duds.
[doublepost=1561321620][/doublepost]
The only thing Pixel is better at right now is Night Sight. The rest iPhone is either same or better.
Yep that's my issue, I would never switch back to an Android phone (and playing around with the pixel 3 cemented that view). But man the camera on it is nice. For those of you telling me to carry a real camera, I can only assume you haven't had the pleasure of taking pictures with a pixel 3, no real camera required.
[doublepost=1561321845][/doublepost]So here is an exterior picture where I'm actually zoomed in a bit, it's much better and I'm happy with the quality. Is it that I'm doing something wrong in the other picture? There was plenty of lighting as 2 full walls behind me were full of bay windows, there was plenty of light in the room.


20190606_231736649_iOS.jpg
 
Last edited:

Thai

Suspended
Feb 2, 2016
1,459
836
Colorado
It looks just as bad uncompressed, that's why I'm bummed. Most of my pictures are this bad, at least indoor ones. Outdoor ones tend to be much better, but that's only in ideal lighting. If it's dusk or later forget about it.
[doublepost=1561321395][/doublepost]

No zoom, I was about 5 or 6 feet away. I'm going to go to the Apple store this week and see what they say. I can only imagine it has to be bad hardware, right? I've swapped it out for a different issue and both have taken pics like this, but I suppose I may have just had very bad luck with 2 duds.
[doublepost=1561321620][/doublepost]

Yep that's my issue, I would never switch back to an Android phone (and playing around with the pixel 3 cemented that view). But man the camera on it is nice. For those of you telling me to carry a real camera, I can only assume you haven't had the pleasure of taking pictures with a pixel 3, no real camera required.
[doublepost=1561321845][/doublepost]So here is an exterior picture, it's much better and I'm happy with the quality. Is it that I'm doing something wrong in the other picture? There was plenty of lighting as 2 full walls behind me were full of bay windows, there was plenty of light in the room.


View attachment 844627
I think that it is blurry because there was motion in the picture...and the camera algorithm may have did too much smoothing.

These videos are by PCWorld...an Android favoring site...but even they have to admit that XS camera is very consistently good: (Note that XS beat Pixel 3 twice.)




And then when you add in VIDEO CAPABILITY, the XS just blows the Pixel 3 away.
 
  • Like
Reactions: ruslan120

eyoungren

macrumors Core
Aug 31, 2011
21,182
13,025
ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two
I just don't think it's too much to ask for a $1000+ phone to take class leading pictures in the smartphone category.
You expect that.

I expect the opposite. Because it's a phone and not a camera. To date, I have yet to see any smartphone produce the quality that a $10 disposable film camera will generate - let alone a $1000 professional camera

So, we have different expectations.

Right now your iPhone isn't meeting your expectation - but the answer is inconvenient to you. I would suggest that your expectation is not misplaced, just your faith in Apple to always meet your expectation.
 
  • Like
Reactions: mizmimi02

spinedoc77

macrumors G3
Original poster
Jun 11, 2009
9,356
3,375
I think that it is blurry because there was motion in the picture...and the camera algorithm may have did too much smoothing.

These videos are by PCWorld...an Android favoring site...but even they have to admit that XS camera is very consistently good: (Note that XS beat Pixel 3 twice.)




And then when you add in VIDEO CAPABILITY, the XS just blows the Pixel 3 away.
There wasn't much motion as she was finishing a move, certainly nowhere near the motion the exterior pic I put up had. Plus the motion wouldn't explain the blurriness/graininess of the static elements around her. I have a bunch more pictures where she was posing/standing still with her instructor and they are equally as bad.
[doublepost=1561322927][/doublepost]
You expect that.

I expect the opposite. Because it's a phone and not a camera. To date, I have yet to see any smartphone produce the quality that a $10 disposable film camera will generate - let alone a $1000 professional camera

So, we have different expectations.

Right now your iPhone isn't meeting your expectation - but the answer is inconvenient to you. I would suggest that your expectation is not misplaced, just your faith in Apple to always meet your expectation.
Except for the existence of phones like the pixel 3. I won't say it takes pics as well as a real camera because personally I don't have a good eye and doubt I could tell the difference, at least between something like the pixel 3 and a point and shoot camera. But it does take pictures, especially indoors, of a much higher quality than the iphone, at least in my experience on the days I do remember to bring it with me for events. Are you telling me if your iphone took pictures as grainy as the first one I posted you would be satisfied since it was a smartphone camera?
 

Shirasaki

macrumors G3
May 16, 2015
9,427
3,442
While I feel sorry that you took bad pictures, I tend to agree. Here are some of my examples:
586583D5-BDB9-4853-AA2F-9E811F7C115A.jpeg

6F1E2C64-6546-4994-87E1-3276DBF92FF0.jpeg

This smoke detector is exactly the same one. Only difference is one is 2X zoom and the other is no zoom.
2BAD703E-4321-4DD6-819D-0254091B8E56.jpeg

0ED24689-1161-4426-B536-3EFFB53F9D71.jpeg

Another smoke detector. This time it is in a high ceiling. First image 2X zoom, and the other is no zoom.

Comparing both pairs, I can see sometimes 2X Zoom provides better detail while other times it causes the picture to lose detail. I have no idea how Apple uses that “telephoto lenses”, or does it actually provide “2X optical zoom”. But, given that no smartphone camera has actual lenses that can actually zoom in or out, I don’t have very high hope on this “optical zoom” and certainly wont believe iPhone 11 or even 12 can do any better than that.

For reference, I am also using iPhone XS Max to take those photos. Mine is international model.

And, just like other people says, use a REAL camera to save those special moments, don’t rely on a smartphone camera to take DSLR quality images any time soon. Special moments could be timeless and priceless.
 
  • Like
Reactions: ruslan120

eyoungren

macrumors Core
Aug 31, 2011
21,182
13,025
ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two
Are you telling me if your iphone took pictures as grainy as the first one I posted you would be satisfied since it was a smartphone camera?
No. I'm just saying that I expect to get photos like that.

I've had a smartphone since Christmas 2008, but I'm also a product of the 1970s-1980s where taking a pic meant you used your dinky little store-bought camera. So far, nothing I see from smartphones matches that and I don't expect it to.

So I either use a real camera for those moments or expect that I won't get high quality.

Let's turn this around though.

Would you be happy with a smartphone quality photograph if a pro-photographer showed up to take those annual school-kid photos with an iPhone? You know the picture sets you pay $35 or more for and get wallet and 8x10 photos of through your kids's school?

I absolutely would not and I would not pay for it. And that's why those guys show up with pro-cameras. Because it's a moment that demands that quality and they know parents expect it.
 

spinedoc77

macrumors G3
Original poster
Jun 11, 2009
9,356
3,375
No. I'm just saying that I expect to get photos like that.

I've had a smartphone since Christmas 2008, but I'm also a product of the 1970s-1980s where taking a pic meant you used your dinky little store-bought camera. So far, nothing I see from smartphones matches that and I don't expect it to.

So I either use a real camera for those moments or expect that I won't get high quality.

Let's turn this around though.

Would you be happy with a smartphone quality photograph if a pro-photographer showed up to take those annual school-kid photos with an iPhone? You know the picture sets you pay $35 or more for and get wallet and 8x10 photos of through your kids's school?

I absolutely would not and I would not pay for it. And that's why those guys show up with pro-cameras. Because it's a moment that demands that quality and they know parents expect it.
I think you are missing a big swath of middle ground here, namely a phone like the Pixel 3. No it won't be real camera quality but in my experience it's a whole lot better than the iphone. It seems maybe there is some confusion here, I'm NOT expecting to get the same results as a real camera, but I am expecting Apple to lead their class in smartphone cameras, not be at the tail end. Sure you can get great pictures in good lighting and outdoors, and indoors if lighting is right (although apparently not in my case) or if they are staged with professional lighting and setup. My confusion lies with just how atrocious my pictures are at times, with no zoom and very good lighting, can you really tell me that first picture I posted should be representative of what is, I believe, the highest priced mass market phone in the world? I don't think I'd expect that level of poorness from even a low range Android phone. In any event it's not all or nothing and I have a feeling that all or nothing mentality is what us iphone users tell ourselves to feel better.

I grew up in the 70s/80s as well and remember real cameras =), heck I remember having to drop off film and waiting a week for it to be processed. You had no idea how well the picture you took came out and there wasn't anything you could do in terms of post processing. Of course much of this is a product of us having cameras on us all the time, but it is the world we live in now. Sometimes moments like this are impromptu, you don't know you will be taking pictures but are happy that you have some kind of camera on you to take pictures. I'm not exactly going to lug around a DSLR everywhere I go, even today's point and click cameras are pretty bulky.
 

spinedoc77

macrumors G3
Original poster
Jun 11, 2009
9,356
3,375
I think that it is blurry because there was motion in the picture...and the camera algorithm may have did too much smoothing.

These videos are by PCWorld...an Android favoring site...but even they have to admit that XS camera is very consistently good: (Note that XS beat Pixel 3 twice.)




And then when you add in VIDEO CAPABILITY, the XS just blows the Pixel 3 away.
I just skimmed through those videos so I may have missed a few picture setups, but it seemed like every single comparison was outdoors. I have much less of a problem outdoors and am mostly satisfied. Indoors is where I see the most issues, the less the lighting the more exponentially bad the issues. What surprised me this time around was that the lighting was so good, but the pictures still came out so badly.
 

mollyc

macrumors 68020
Aug 18, 2016
2,129
9,839
I think you are asking for way too much from a phone camera. My son used to do tae kwon do and when he had a belt ceremony I thought was important, I took my dSLR and used that. Gymnasiums have horrible lighting that flickers faster than the human eye can see, and the mixed lighting (overhead plus ambient window light) makes an even more difficult job of it. Motion blur from the subjects, not to mention trying to keep your hand steady with the phone....you aren't going to get good photos. Any time I look at the exif data of a phone used indoors, the shutter speed is like 1/30. You just aren't going to get a good quality image that way.
 

eyoungren

macrumors Core
Aug 31, 2011
21,182
13,025
ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two
I'm not exactly going to lug around a DSLR everywhere I go, even today's point and click cameras are pretty bulky.
That is why I hate cameras - or at least being photographed.

My dad is part of the generation that DID lug around camera's everywhere. No matter what event, big or small, there was his 35mm Pentax and his camera bag slung over his shoulder.

It got to the point where my sister and I became oblivious to him snapping pictures because we just didn't care.

So, it may be that this part of my childhood informs my expectations. I don't really care because I don't really care about photos to begin with.

My wife is also of a similar perspective. We are not that family that has recorded every second of our children's lives, just the important moments. And again for those, we use dedicated cameras.

Sure you can expect Apple to at least rise to Google's level. I'm just not disappointed if any cell camera does not.
 

I7guy

macrumors Core
Nov 30, 2013
20,456
8,278
Gotta be in it to win it
...It looks just as bad uncompressed, that's why I'm bummed. Most of my pictures are this bad, at least indoor ones. Outdoor ones tend to be much better, but that's only in ideal lighting. If it's dusk or later forget about it.
Here’s a low light shot, it’s not bad.(IMO, but the compression of the website deteriorates the quality of the photo)
90C4F2BD-C0FE-4E36-9E95-277BAC65DC6A.jpeg
[doublepost=1561332657][/doublepost]
If you care about the quality of your photographs, don't use a cellphone.
Get a REAL camera.

The iPhone camera is convenient and easy to use. But it's only a snapshot camera using a teensy weensy lens. Its the 2019 version of a point & shoot camera.

Basically it's this camera (in a more modern form) but often takes worse pictures than it did.

The iPhone camera picture quality is 85% hype and 15% ok enough.

View attachment 844625
The answer is not using a cell phone camera. I think it's misplaced expectations to expect the quality of a $6,000 dslr and $2,000 lens with another $5,000 in lighting and other gear, however, cell phones cameras have evolved so that they take reasonable pictures.

But the camera on the max is a heck of a lot more versatile than the picture you posted and probably can out picture it in some scenarios.
 
Last edited:

AustinIllini

macrumors demi-goddess
Oct 20, 2011
10,853
7,466
Austin, TX
No camera phone can fix a bad photographer.

They can make most of us (non-professional photographers) take better pictures but if you really don't take care taking the photo, it doesn't really matter how good your phone camera is.

The iPhone XS has many shortcomings (high light blowout, subpar low light photos), but that photo looks like a poor effort on the photographer's part.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Ntombi

spinedoc77

macrumors G3
Original poster
Jun 11, 2009
9,356
3,375
Here’s a low light shot, it’s not bad.(IMO, but the compression of the website deteriorates the quality of the photo)
View attachment 844671
[doublepost=1561332657][/doublepost]
The answer is not using a cell phone camera. I think it's misplaced expectations to expect the quality of a $6,000 dslr and $2,000 lens with another $5,000 in lighting and other gear, however, cell phones cameras have evolved so that they take reasonable pictures.

But the camera on the max is a heck of a lot more versatile than the picture you posted and probably can out picture it in some scenarios.
We seem to be on different wavelengths. I'm certainly not expecting to get the same pictures a 6k dslr with a 2k lens gets, I'm really not sure where you would get that from. I would be more than content to get pictures similar to what my pixel 3 XL gets. For what I believe is the most expensive mass market phone in the world I don't think that's asking too much. Plus if the answer is to not use a cell phone I'd be missing a heck of a lot of pictures, at that point I'd rather have the crappy grainy ones than none at all.
[doublepost=1561338715][/doublepost]
No camera phone can fix a bad photographer.

They can make most of us (non-professional photographers) take better pictures but if you really don't take care taking the photo, it doesn't really matter how good your phone camera is.

The iPhone XS has many shortcomings (high light blowout, subpar low light photos), but that photo looks like a poor effort on the photographer's part.
So when the excuses for the phone run out it's time to blame the photographer. I'm not sure what else I could do in such a well lit room, should I have set up lights around the subjects, used a tripod, a telephoto attachment, changed image sensor/aperture settings (which Apple won't let you do btw, you need a custom app), etc? I'll tell you what, I'm going to put responding to this thread on hold and at my daughters next class I'm going to take some pics with my pixel xl 3 with the same exact conditions (weather permitting), just point and click. I will post them up next week.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Wizec

AustinIllini

macrumors demi-goddess
Oct 20, 2011
10,853
7,466
Austin, TX
So when the excuses for the phone run out it's time to blame the photographer. I'm not sure what else I could do in such a well lit room, should I have set up lights around the subjects, used a tripod, a telephoto attachment, changed image sensor/aperture settings (which Apple won't let you do btw, you need a custom app), etc? I'll tell you what, I'm going to put responding to this thread on hold and at my daughters next class I'm going to take some pics with my pixel xl 3 with the same exact conditions (weather permitting), just point and click. I will post them up next week.
When the photographer is bad, you blame the photographer.

Case in point, your avatar is a poor picture and we can't read it. If you took that, no camera will help you.

Sorry to come off mean, but it has to be said. There is plenty of photo evidence to suggest iPhone XS is capable of taking incredible pictures. Sometimes the photographer isn't up to it