The iPhone XS Max is one of the world’s best smartphone cameras. The iPhones still lag behind DSLRs but Apple is rapidly closing the gap with each new model. Camera testing firm DxOMark recently praised the XS Max for its ‘outstanding’ video shooting capabilities. Photographer and filmmaker Ed Gregory recently pitted the iPhone XS Max against his $10,000 Canon C200 cinema camera to see how it stacks up against the professional camera.
Why compare an iPhone with Canon C200 cinema camera?
The iPhone XS and XS Max have the same camera specs. Comparing the latest iPhones with DSLRs would have been fine. But a $10,000 Canon C200 cinema camera? It seems like an unfair comparison. Ed Gregory decided to compare them after being ‘shocked’ by how ‘awesome’ the XS Max camera was. He would often compare the XS Max footage with the videos he shot on the C200 to see which one he liked more. So, he decided to do a detailed comparison.
To capture the same scenes with both devices, Gregory placed the iPhone XS Max on top of Canon C200 cinema camera and put them on a DJI Ronin-S gimbal stabilizer. He paired the C200 with a Sigma Art 18-35/1.8 to ensure that its focal length was similar to the iPhone’s wide-angle lens. On the C200, he shot videos using the RAW lite codec while on the XS Max he used the native camera app with no additional settings.
Gregory noticed that the XS Max’s dynamic range was pretty close to that of the C200. It was able to keep the highlights under the bright sunlight and preserve details in the shadows. The iPhone did “some crazy multiple exposure processing” there in real time, which is “super impressive.”
He also pointed out that the XS Max footage was almost ready to use immediately after recording. It needed no color grading. In contrast, the C200 footage required “a lot of heavy lifting,” which is part of the workflow on the cinema camera. Of course, the footage recorded with the Canon C200 cinema camera was going to look better in the end but getting to that point required a lot of color grading in post-production. Also, the XS Max is far more portable and easier to carry around.
Where the iPhone XS Max fails to impress?
One of the biggest weaknesses of the iPhone XS Max was its aggressive automatic sharpening of images. Footage from both the handsets “looked fantastic” when you view them on the small iPhone screen. But Gregory could instantly tell the difference when he viewed them on a 27-inch iMac. The XS Max sharpened the final images more than it should have, losing some of the detail and depth. The Canon C200 cinema camera offered higher quality and softer aesthetic.
In the end, Ed Gregory challenges viewers to tell which footage was from the iPhone XS Max. Unsurprisingly, the lens flare in one of the test shots gives it away. The XS Max and Canon C200 cinema camera are not in the same league but the iPhone holds its ground pretty well and delivers “completely mind blowing results.” Gregory said, “Is it as good as a cinema camera? Not at all. Is it the best camera I have ever seen on a smartphone? 100 percent.”
The iPhone XS Max has the same camera specs as last year’s iPhone X, but it has received software and sensor improvements to enhance the photography experience. It features a 12MP wide-angle lens with f/1.8 aperture and a 12MP telephoto lens with f/2.4 aperture and 2x optical zoom. Both the lenses support optical image stabilization. Apple has improved its dual camera with software smarts to fix red-eye and pump up shadows.
The XS Max has received a new slider adjustment in the portrait mode that allows you to adjust the blur after you have clicked the picture. It also has a Smart HDR feature. The selfie camera is 7-megapixel. According to DxOMark, the iPhone XS Max camera scored 105 points on their tests, lagging only behind the Huawei P20 Pro which scored 109 points.