The iPhone 11 Pro nails it with photography and video

Mala Bhargava | Updated on October 07, 2019

Apple iPhone 11 Pro   -  Apple

Rather happily, I received the smaller of the two more advanced (read expensive) new iPhones for review. The 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro is such a relief to hold after all the broad, large phones I have to handle, and definitely preferable to the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which is strictly for big hands.

I often have people asking me for small-phone recommendations and there really aren’t very many to choose from, but the iPhone 11 Pro, successor to the iPhone XS, will fit the bill for many customers — provided they can pay the bill, of course.

The iPhone 11 Pro is a quintessential iPhone, but it has a few immediately noticeable differences from previous versions. It is not glossy and shiny, but has a smooth matte finish, like metal, rather than the glass that it is. I have a ‘Space Grey’ colour to check out, but it’s the ‘Midnight Green’ that is the more popular, though strangely, they’re just a few shades apart. The other colours are a silver and a gold finish.

On the back, the Apple logo has moved prominently to the centre, which is going to be just fine with most people. What’s even more prominent is the square assembly of cameras on the top left. Some people don’t like them to look that up-front and large, but personally, if a phone has great cameras, I think it should show it — and this phone certainly does. It’s the square of cameras that makes the phone look different from older iPhones — besides, that, it may be difficult to find any major design differences.


Apple iPhone 11 Pro   -  Apple

You may want to use a case to inset the cameras, so the glass is less likely to get scratched from touching a surface and stays pristine clean. The smooth finish in any case keeps the phone looking rather good as it doesn’t play host to fingerprint smudges. The phone felt so good in the hand that it was with some reluctance that I eventually put it into a case.

Dazzling screen

On the front, there’s the unfortunate wide notch in all its original glory. It was Apple that started it all with notches, if we remember. When you know that the notch means you get the most secure Face ID possible, you forgive its presence, but when you look at Android phones that have almost non-existent bezels and notches, you can’t help wishing there was an uninterrupted screen. But I suppose you forget the notch after you start using the device fully — it just becomes part of the landscape.

The OLED display is itself very vivid, has a huge brightness range and looks quite wonderful. It’s also beautifully optimised to work with the overall system, so that using it is always fluid and smooth. Apple calls the 2436 x 1125 display a Super Retina XDR Display, but then Apple is rather good at conjuring up such terms. It’s a great screen — one of the best. It also has a wonderfully rich sound now, with Dolby Atmos and Spatial Surround, which is when you can hear the distinct directions the sound is coming from.

The iPhone 11 Pro (and the others in the series) work on the new A13 Bionic chipset. Apple doesn’t specify how much RAM it uses, but it’s said to be 4GB, by those who’ve torn it open. Disappointingly, the base storage amount is just 64GB, which really is a bit low given the smartphone’s price and the fact that even a budget phone now starts out at 128GB. That said, the iPhone 11 Pro does go up to 512, though the price spirals accordingly.

The new iOS13 and its updates add Dark Mode, a new Siri and more to the device, as they do to many older iPhones, too, making for a powerful package. The device has good battery life, with fast and wireless charging, and is IP68 water resistant for a depth of 4 metres for 30 minutes — but no one recommends that it be unnecessarily and deliberately dunked in water, specially pool water with chlorine.

Stand-out cameras

But by far the piece de resistance for the iPhone 11 Pro is its set of cameras. If one were to upgrade from the X series, it would be only for these. At this point, reviewers are swearing this is the best set of cameras on a phone. Close competition comes from Huawei’s P30 Pro, which has an unbeatable periscope zoom, macro, and night mode, but perhaps saturates colours rather strongly, using its AI. Also in the running is the Pixel 3, which does wonders in computational photography, with a single lens. The Galaxy S10 series is also close, specially as it does rather well with video.

But now, long after Android phones have been there and done that, the iPhone comes up with three cameras: a wide lens, an ultra wide lens and a 2X telephoto lens, all three of them 12MP. Whatever Apple has done with its image processing, it’s made a big difference to how photographs look — clear, detailed, and realistically colour-representative.

The ultra wide lens makes for interesting angles for close-ups, quite apart from capturing a wide scene. When shooting from the regular lens, you can see the wider picture just partially hidden by the camera app and can choose to switch at any time. The Portrait mode now includes an interesting new High Key Mono effect, which whites out everything around a human subject — it’s a hit or miss though, because like its black counterpart, it depends on whether the camera is able to recognise and separate the edges from the background, which sometimes it does staggeringly well, and sometimes gets all messed up. The front camera is among the more realistic available. Video is even better now. Space constraints prevent getting into more details now, but we will take up the camera separately in an upcoming issue.

The larger iPhone 11 Pro Max has almost everything in common with the 11 Pro, but is a big chunk of a phone and nice for those who specially want a large phone. Photography and video would probably be a lot more enjoyable given the overall larger frame. But it’s more likely users will like the relatively compact size of the iPhone 11 Pro more.

Price: Starting from Rs 99,900

Pros: Excellent three-camera set with effective night mode and the best video capability, gorgeous OLED display, strong build, extended battery life, easy to hold and use one-handed, powerful performance

Cons: Basic comes with stingy storage of only 64GB, no workaround to the large notch, too expensive, considering many features have already been with Android, dated design, disappointing to see no change in port and no Pencil support, very sober colours with few options

Published on October 07, 2019

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