Comparing the iPhone 11 Pro to the iPhone 8 Plus

Interior, Little Woodrow's - Austin, Texas (iPhone 11 Pro)

Interior, Little Woodrow’s – Austin, Texas (iPhone 11 Pro)

I went out after work yesterday with some friends. Like I often do, for no particular reason, I took a snapshot of the interior of the bar. Perhaps I was attracted to the bits of colorful neon and the kitsch that is common to these kinds of places. I didn’t have any of my usual dedicated cameras, so I used my iPhone 8 Plus.

Twenty minutes later, another friend arrived sporting a new iPhone 11 Pro. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the new iPhone camera so I asked him if I could take a picture. I was so amazed by the image it produced that I decided on a quick iPhone comparison post. Please excuse the difference in framing. I initially wasn’t planning a camera comparison.

My iPhone 8 Plus is now two generations old, introduced in September of 2017. The iPhone 11 Pro was just released last month, the latest and greatest. Let’s do a quick photo analysis of the two images.

Interior, Little Woodrow's - Austin, Texas (iPhone 8 Plus)

Interior, Little Woodrow’s – Austin, Texas (iPhone 8 Plus)

The exposure from the iPhone 11 Pro is more true to life. But most amazingly, notice how good the neon signs look. You see the beautiful glow of the neon, but they are not blown out like the iPhone 8 Plus version. I like and shoot a lot of neon. Getting them looking right takes some skill and post-processing. The reds, in particular, are easily oversaturated and often look more orange. Notice how perfect the TEXXAS red looks. Both photos are straight out of the iPhone with no post-processing. All I did was point and shoot with the standard Apple camera application.

Next, notice the detail out the windows with the iPhone 11 Pro. I’m not sure if this used HDR, but both the interior and exterior look naturally processed. This is clearly superior to the iPhone 8 Plus, but even impressive compared to a dedicated camera with a larger sensor.

Finally, what really blew my mind was revealed in the EXIF data. The iPhone 11 Pro was shot at 1/30 of a second at ISO 800, while the iPhone 8 Plus used 1/6 of a second at ISO 80. The faster shutter speeds ensure sharper, less blurry images, of course. But, the details at ISO 800 look about the same as ISO 80, perhaps a tad less. Effectively, the new 11 Pro camera is some 3 stops better than the 8 plus. This is a breathtaking performance increase in just two years.

Also, the iPhone 11 Pro did not use night mode for this photo, which is a special new mode that optimizes images in really dark conditions. The performance of the iPhone 11 is so good, I’m tempted to test it against my dedicated cameras. I know for sure that it bests my first DSLR, the Canon Rebel XT, from 2005, with a big APS-C sensor. But, I’m sure it will beat out a lot of newer cameras too.

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7 thoughts on “Comparing the iPhone 11 Pro to the iPhone 8 Plus

  1. I pre-ordered an iPhone 11 Pro Max (512GB). I decided to go big or go home this. It was the most expensive iPhone I’ve ever purchased, but after all this time living with it, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been with an iPhone, and I’ve been using them since the iPhone 6. I too stopped for a while with the iPhone 8 Plus. When I upgraded my phone, my wife took my 8 Plus, and my youngest daughter took my wife’s 7 Plus. But anyway…

    I’ve been using the 11 Pro camera a fair bit since getting it, and especially with iOS 13.2 and Deep Fusion. It’s as good as everyone says, and it exceeds what I an get from my micro four thirds latest (Panasonic G9). it’s computational photography allows the sensor to produce images with significant contrast range as you saw in the bar photos. That’s because the camera takes three (or four) photos in rapid succession at different exposures and then blends them in camera.

    The only feature I don’t like nor trust on the 11 Pro is portrait mode, where the bokeh is “faked”. If I’m going to take some portraits of people (or pets) or a general photo where I need that blurred background, I still turn to the regular ILC micro four thirds cameras and my lens collection (Panasonic Leica 1.4/25, M.Zuiko 1.8/45, 4/12-40mm PRO at 40mm). No smartphone camera is ready. Lens bokeh is a super-tough physics (optical) problem and I appreciate the engineering and effort in trying to get it right, all the time.

    If you’re wondering why I sprung for the 11 Pro Max, the #1 reason was the battery. The entire phone has unbelievable battery life between charges. As in up to two days for me between charges under my usage.

    1. Thank you for your observations and review of the iPhone 11 Pro Max, Bill. How incredible does it sound that Deep Fusion bests a Panasonic G9. I’ve played a little with the Portrait mode on the iPhone 8 Plus. It seems pretty good considering that it’s trying to do. I’ll be curious if the iPhone 11 improves on that.

      I’m considering getting an iPhone 11. Just using it to compare against my dedicated cameras would be very interesting indeed.

  2. There’s no question that the rate of improvement in iPhone cameras and processing is impressive. At some point this automated approach – in phone form or something more camera-like – will replace what we now consider to be conventional photography. For most people it already has. For viewing on iPad and other relatively small screens the end result is at least equal and, in my case, often superior. Yes, that’s depressing.

    The shortcomings at this point remain limited lens selection and post-processing. So much has been done in camera that the files resemble multicolored oatmeal. Not really workable after the fact. I guess the answer to that may be using apps such as FilmicPro to exercise control at time of capture and do away with post-processing altogether.

    1. I agree. The difficulty of post -processing is an interesting point. For the target audience, it’s probably not a big deal. For serious photographers, however, it’s a different story.

      I ran the picture though Topaz to see what I could do. Since it’s so well exposed, it wasn’t a problem, but it’s a different story if you want to make big changes.

      As you suggest, the next big thing might be pre-processing.

      1. Well, before we all run out and sell our G9’s, remember this. The ‘I’ in ILC is for ‘interchangeable’. No smart phone does that, in spite of all the add-ons you can buy. Those add-ons don’t come anywhere close to that interchangeable lens capability. The G9 and the Olympus 12-100mm PRO is a potent combination.

        And I should go back and a caveat to that comment about how the 11 Pro “exceeds what I an get from my micro four thirds latest” if you consider that we’re comparing out-of-camera JPEGs (or the equivalent there-of on the iPhone) and with certain compositions and scenes. The G9 is far more flexible, and given the ability to post-process RAW, the tables swing back towards the G9.

        It bears repeating that we should use the right tool for the right job.

      2. Makes sense. Thanks for qualifying. But, still, just think of the progress the smartphones are making. No wonder dedicated camera sales are falling off the cliff.

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