What is the iPhone X?
Apple’s 10th anniversary iPhone has all the big specifications you’d expect of a £1,000+ phone.
In terms of the photographic features, it’s got dual cameras – one featuring a wide-angle (28mm equivalent) f/1.8 lens, and the other a telephoto 56mm (equivalent) f/2.4 offering – both with optical image stabilisation (OIS).
A front 7-megapixel camera has a lens with an f/2.2 aperture. The front-facing camera has some of the iPhone X’s headline specifications tied to it – including Face Recognition, plus the ability to use Portrait Mode to create shallow depth of field effects.
The ability to record 4K video at up to 60fps is something which is likely appeal to fans of mobile video, while other interesting specifications include a 5.8-inch “Super Retina HD” screen, plus IP67 rated water and dust resistance.
You can purchase the iPhone X as either a 64GB model, or a 256GB model – the latter of the two costing £1149 (sim free).
Build Quality and Handling
The glass-backed design of the iPhone X marks it apart as one of the most visually appealing smartphones currently on the market. It has very sleek lines and curves, but, that back is going to be covered in fingerprints before long – probably best to invest in a case if you want to keep it smear free. It’s also got a nicely weighty feel to it, but, unlike larger phones – like the iPhone 8 Plus, it’s not too unwieldy in the hand – particularly useful if you like to shoot one-handed.
This is the first time that an iPhone has used an all-screen design – in fact, the screen is larger than the iPhone 8 Plus, but the overall body size is smaller. To facilitate this, Apple has got rid of the home button – now you can use the magic of your very own face to unlock the screen (don’t worry, you can still enter a code if you need to give the phone to someone else to use who doesn’t happen to share the same face as you).
If you’re only interested in using the camera, you won’t need your face – a simple swipe from the left of the home screen will do the trick.
Anybody who has used an iPhone before will be aware of how basic the native iPhone camera app is. There’s not a whole lot new here for the iPhone X, aside from some changes which have been made to the Portrait Mode.
You’ll find that there’s a few different shooting modes to choose from, quickly accessed by swiping either left or right. There’s the default Photo mode, which you’ll probably use most of the time, plus other options for video (time-lapse, slo-mo, video), and stills (square, portrait, panorama). Running along the top of the iPhone screen are a few notable icons, including the ability to switch on or off Live Photos, the flash and apply one of the iPhone’s inbuilt filters.
Something which is missing is the HDR icon. Now, by default, the iPhone X will record HDR photos automatically. If you want to get that control back – and switch on and off HDR whenever your whimsy takes you – then you’ll need to head to the main settings menu and turn off “HDR Auto”.
In order to switch between using the wide-angle lens and the telephoto lens, you only need a simple tap of the circular icon seen towards the bottom of the camera screen. It says 1x when you’re shooting with the wide, and 2x when you’re shooting with the telephoto. There’s also a digital zoom available – if you’re really desperate – which you can activate by using a pinching gesture on the screen.
To actually take a photo, there’s a virtual button, but you can also use the volume up/down key as well – found on the side of the iPhone X. Although Apple positions its iPhones as for photographers, there’s virtually nothing you can alter in the native camera app – so there’s no manoeuvrability on settings such as shutter speed, metering or white balance. You also can’t shoot in raw. If you want that ability, there are various third-party apps available which give you the option to both shoot in raw and take manual control – but, you miss the speed and convenience of being able to launch the camera app directly from the home screen that way.
Portrait Mode adds a set of new lighting options designed to really optimise your selfies. The good news is that you can use it while photographing other people too – there’s Natural Light, Studio Light, Contour Light, Stage Light and Stage Light Mono. In essence, it creates a shallow depth of field effect while adding some flattering lighting – but you can use it to take photos of non-portrait subjects too, if you like.
Apple has long been producing excellent smartphone cameras, and the iPhone X is no different. In fact, DXO has very recently rated it as the best smartphone currently on the market for stills photography, with a score of 101.
Our time with it reveals image quality to be excellent – particularly in good light. Here we can see bright and punchy images, with lots of great detail. Colours are perhaps a little over the top in some cases – reds are particularly vibrant – but a high level of saturation is certainly very appealing to look at.
As the light drops, the wow factor of the iPhone X wears off a little. Images are still very good – but if you look closely you can see some smudginess in key areas of certain scenes – it’s questionable of course how many people are likely to do that of course.
A major point of difference between the iPhone 8 Plus and the iPhone X is that the telephoto camera has optical image stabilisation, while also offering a slightly wider aperture (f/2.4 compared with f/2.8). This means that images are kept nice and sharp, even when shooting in low light. The wide-angle lens performs better in low light – thanks to it’s wider (f/1.8) aperture, but you can still rely on the telephoto to produce some good shots.
Portrait mode yields very nice results when photographing human and animal portraits. It creates a very pleasing shallow depth of field effect which manages to look natural. If you start looking very closely at images, you may find some strange artefacts, but again, for the majority of people sharing images via a small screen, it’s very impressive. When you start using the Portrait Mode to photograph other subjects, which perhaps have a more complicated outline, then the results can vary a little more – with some unnatural results.
As is always the case with Apple devices, there has been a huge amount of hype and hyperbole surrounding the iPhone X. The good news is that the camera is not only the best that Apple has ever produced, but is also one of the best currently on the market.
It produces bright, vibrant and well-detailed images, particularly in good light, while the Portrait Mode is great for, well, portraits.
What I’d like to see more of is the ability to use the iPhone camera as a “real” camera. Apple does extremely well at applying the correct settings for the scene – but some kind of “pro” mode, available to use via the native app, would surely be very much appreciated by the photography community.
Now, the big stumbling point for the iPhone X, again as always, is cost. There is a lot of competition for the best camera phone currently on the market, and while the iPhone X is certainly very good – so are phones such as the Google Pixel 2 and the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, both of which are available at a fraction of the price of the iPhone X.
So, does the phone merit the price? The answer to that has to come down to personal preference. Some people love the functionality of iOS, while if you have other Apple devices, they tend to work together pretty seamlessly. It’s also a very pretty phone – as far as phones go.
If you’re not somebody who cares about iOS and the Apple ecosystem, you’ll likely be served just as well by some of the other phones on the market. Not that any of this matters – the iPhone X sold out within minutes on launch, so we don’t think Apple has anything to worry about.
Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution iPhone X images
Apple IPhone X Camera Review Sample Images