I spent a day taking photos with the iPhone XS Max — and it's hard not to be impressed with what this thing can do

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Last weekend, I spent a pretty magical day in Central Park.

The weather was beautiful – sunny and crisp – and the leaves had almost fully turned, making it one of the best times to experience Central Park’s foliage. I had no plan for the day, other than wandering around the park and getting some fresh air (oh, and catching a glimpse of the park’s famed Mandarin duck).

It seemed like the perfect excuse to test the camera on the smartphone I’m using right now: Apple’s new iPhone XS Max. Apple touted the camera’s new features during its big September event, and it’s expected to be excellent.

I didn’t put the phone through its paces, or do a scientific camera test. But what I found still surprised me. I expected it to be great camera, but I was also expecting to be unimpressed by portrait mode, which has never quite been perfect, and the colours in general, which sometimes look too warm for my taste.

But it turns out that the camera really is that good. Take a look:

(It’s worth noting that photos may appear slightly compressed due to a bug with Business Insider’s website – we’re working on it!)


Here’s the lake at Central Park. It captured the fall colours well, and overall, it’s pretty sharp — check out those people in a rowboat on the left.

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I was impressed by how the phone performed in the shade.

Avery Hartmans/Business Insider

It was a nice sunny day when I captured this photo, but we were walking underneath a canopy of trees, and it wasn’t particularly bright on this path. Still, I was impressed by how the XS Max performed.

I really love the colours in this photo, which are bright, inviting, and warm. And even though I tend to find iPhone photos too sepia-tinged on the last few phones, I felt the colours here looked very true to life.


Time for a little portrait mode. In the past, I haven’t been wildly impressed by the iPhone’s portrait mode. But here, it blew me away.

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In the past, I’ve always been a little underwhelmed by portrait mode on the iPhone. It often has strange quirks and flaws, like cutting off someone’s hair or blurring a finger or two.

But with the iPhone XS Max, Apple made some improvements to portrait mode that made the feature very impressive.

Not only are the colours beautiful, but the background blur looks amazing. The camera only really struggled when it came to his glasses, but correctly figuring out how to handle a pair of clear lenses is, understandably, difficult.

Usually, hair is a little tricky for the phone’s technology to cut around, but in this case, it succeeds nearly flawlessly.

I can’t imagine that portrait mode will ever be in the same league as a real camera, and I generally prefer portrait mode on Google’s Pixel phones. But if this photo is any indication, the iPhone’s portrait mode feature has come a long way.


Here’s a pretty idyllic shot, captured later in the afternoon. Even though the sun was getting lower in the sky and casting a lot of shadows, the camera performed well.

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I was impressed with how much detail was captured in the shadows. The leaves in the foreground are defined, and you can even make out a few faces even though it wasn’t very bright outside.

Apple said action shots would be better on the iPhone XS, and in this case, I have to agree. The horse wasn’t moving very fast, but the camera still nicely captured the moment without any blur.


This isn’t the best photo in the world — thanks to the Instagrammers in the background — but I wanted to share this golden-hour shot solely for the colours. Look at them!

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It doesn’t hurt that this photo was captured at the most beautiful time of day in the most beautiful place in New York City. Nonetheless, I was bowled over by the colours here.

The leaves in the upper-right corner are super vibrant, and all the leaves around his feet are orange-y and gorgeous. Even the woman in the background’s red sweater looks bright and warm.

If you’re planning to capture photos of fall foliage, you’re going to want to do it with the iPhone XS.


At the end of the day, I was able to find the Mandarin duck — which was also the perfect excuse to test the camera’s optical zoom.

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The iPhone XS has 2X optical zoom and 10X digital zoom. Optical zoom is generally considered superior to digital zoom, because it works just like a regular zoom lens on a camera, meaning it retains more quality and helps your photos look less pixelated or blurry.

This worked great when I was trying to capture a nice photo of the famous duck swimming around the pond at Central Park. I got as close as I could, but looking at the photo above, you’d think I was only a few feet away.

I don’t use zoom very often, but if I needed to zoom in a bit to capture a nice photo, I’d trust the iPhone XS to do it well.

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