iPhone Xr Camera Review – A Landscape Photographer’s Point of View

iphone xr camera review
iphone xr camera review
The trailhead enterance was lit up this morning!

A Sunrise at Lost Dutchman’s State Park

My iPhone Xr camera review will be short and sweet. On Friday, I picked up my newly released iPhone Xr (I went with red!). Although, I usually have my Nikon and gear with me when traveling to photogenic areas, sometimes, I admit, it’s just easier to whip out the iPhone and grab a quick photo! Maybe just for texting/emailing/GPS purposes. As a photographer, I enjoy landscapes and nature, which the iPhone has been capable of capturing (modestly) for years, especially in a bind. What I do not do, is many portraits and selfies, meaning I won’t be talking about those capabilities much today. So instead, let’s jump into capturing some sunrise photos from the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, along one of my favorite trailheads!

Lost Dutchman Trailhead Photo
An early sunrise Lost Dutchman’s State Park.

iPhone Xs vs Xs Max vs Xr

Right off the bat, I will mention that the three new iPhones this year all have: 12 MP rear cameras, and 7MP TrueDepth front-facing cameras. The difference on the rears for the Xs versus the Xr is that the Xs has both wide angle and telephoto lenses, whereas the Xr has just a single lens. The Xr aperture is f/1.8 like the wide angle on the Xs.

Because of the missing telephoto lens on the Xs, this phone only has a 5x digital zoom. The Xs has 10x digital zoom, along with 2x optical zoom. As for me personally, I have never really used zoom capabilities on my iPhone, and essentially think of it as a prime lens with a fixed focal length. To me, I figure if I am going to start zooming in and things like that, I might as well pull my Nikon out. I want my iPhone shooting to be fast and convenient. As for landscapes, wide angle works best and not using zoom will produce the highest quality image, even if on a phone, I want high-quality images at the end of the day.

All three phones have image stabilization, Smart HDR, wide color capture, and True Tone flash. General improvements include better sensors allowing faster capturing of shots and sharper images as well.

Lost Dutchman State Park Photo

A Quick Mention About Portrait Mode

I will briefly mention the Xs phones have all five portrait modes from last year, while the Xr has only three, due to the missing telephoto lens. You can adjust the depth of field on all the phones this year if shooting in portrait mode. One difference that should be brought up in comparing portrait modes is that because the Xr does not have the telephoto lens, is does not capture quite as an intense blurred background (bokeh) secluding your subject. And because the Xr only recognizes people in portrait mode, you won’t be taking portraits of pets, flowers and anything else besides human subjects in portrait mode.

For those of you who want even more technical specs head over to the Apple page dedicated to the iPhone Xr camera.

Lost Dutchman State Park Cactus

iPhone Xr Camera Review

Waking up this morning, I saw a potential sunrise looming. As photographers, as you know, we are always chasing the light. So I jumped in my Jeep and headed out to to Lost Dutchman’s State Park. It may be tough to hear, but if you don’t want boring pictures, don’t take pictures of boring subjects.

The sky was starting to put on a show, so I starting taking iPhone shots immediately after parking. I am not trying to do anything too fancy, just capture the moment. A goal of mine was to make sure nothing is blown out in the sky and see how much detail I can pick up in the dark areas since the sun was just rising.

I spent about 15 minutes shooting, while the lighting was great, and I have to say I am impressed! The Smart HDR is really nice and does a great job on taking a balanced shot, even in a vastly lit scene. With the improved colors, highlights, and shadows, it’s quick and easy to capture a great shot. Smart HDR is capturing several different images with different exposures and then combining them all to create one optimally exposed image. It’s added a 4-frame buffer in between your shots while capturing the various exposures. Of course, all this is happening extremely fast, before you know it. The new A12 chip makes it all possible which is on all the new iPhone this year.

Lost Dutchman Sunrise Photo

Overall Impressions

This iPhone Xr camera review isn’t meant to be an over the top, pixel peeping review. It is, however, meant to inform you that, the iPhone Xr holds it’s own against the Xs iPhones and is great for on the fly shooting and quick captures when you don’t have the time or desire to lug your gear around or pull it out just yet. I simply want to showcase the new “budgeted” iPhone Xr is a wonderful alternative for pictures in a pinch.

On all of the photos, I did not do much editing. I hit auto enhance on some and that’s about it. That is simply because the point (for me) of shooting with the iPhone is to be quick! So I will save the true post processing for when using my DSLR.

Thanks for reading my iPhone Xr camera review, I will finish it off with a few more images below! Now get out there and capture some sunrises, using your gear, or your iPhone, the choice is up to you! Any comments or questions, let me know below!

iPhone Xr Camera Example
Close up details aren’t a problem.
iPhone Xr Camera Review Shot
Depth of field works great on shots like this.
Superstition Mountain Sunrise
Here’s a great example of Smart HDR doing it’s job!
Arizona Sunrise Cactus
A classic Arizona Sunrise.

Head over to my Landscape Gallery and check out some more epic scenery!

Orion's Nebula
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