Apple’s New iPhone 11 Pro Establishes a Competitive Edge

Pro Comes to More Places

Kyle Halevi, Design Manager

The most important camera is the one that’s always with you. Ever since iPhone launched in 2007, more and more people have been using it as their only camera. In 2010, Apple increased the resolution of the camera to five megapixels and significantly raised the quality of the lens glass. In 2011, the resolution was upped to eight megapixels, bringing along HD video recording. With iPhone 6, Apple introduced DSLR-quality Focus Pixels, and the next year increased the sensor resolution again, allowing for 4K video recording.

The following years brought even larger sensors (letting in more light), secondary telephoto cameras (allowing for optical zoom), and computational photo effects such as Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting, each revolutionizing what is possible with a smartphone camera. With each generation of iPhone, Apple took photography more and more seriously, and following their focus on camera quality, people took notice.

Directors began to use iPhone as the sole camera for their feature films. Steven Soderbergh filmed his 2015 film Unsane on iPhone 7 Plus, and most people weren’t able to tell the difference between iPhone and the ten-thousand dollar cameras commonly used in film. Professional photographers began to use iPhone to shoot covers of magazines, namely Luisa Dörr at Time, who took photos of Hillary Clinton among others—all on iPhone.

Although Apple makes tremendous strides forward in terms of image quality every year, with each new iPhone, 2019’s iPhone 11 Pro marks a particularly significant upgrade. Three landmark innovations drastically improve the cameras, making the camera system on this year’s iPhone the first one that truly deserves to be called Pro.

First, the hardware itself has been refined, serving as a strong foundation for the rest of the features to build upon. The telephoto camera’s aperture is seventeen percent larger, which allows it to work even more effectively in low light. In addition, all of the sensors have been upgraded to utilize more true-to-life color science, and are now benefit from total Focus Pixel coverage, drastically speeding up the time to autofocus, along with enabling new software camera features.

Secondly, Apple has added a third camera to iPhone 11 Pro: the Ultra Wide camera. With a 120º field of view, it can see even more of your scene. And unlike competing phones, where each camera has a different tint to it, iPhone 11 Pro intelligently balances all of its cameras, so that no matter which lens you pick, the colors are consistent, and the images are pin sharp. All three cameras work together to deliver a 4x optical zoom range, so you can zoom out to see more of a landscape, or zoom in to a detail, without sacrificing any image quality.

The third innovation Apple brought to market with iPhone 11 Pro is their advances in computational photography. Night Mode launches with both iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, and it greatly extends the type of photos which can be captured on a smartphone. By blending different exposures, all at different lengths, with advanced machine learning models, iPhone 11 Pro is able to brighten a scene, without resorting to the flash, saving the photo from distortion. Night Mode works immediately when you take the image, so it works the same as taking a normal photo, only now your photos are better. The feature comes on automatically when iPhone detects a scene is dark enough to warrant it.

iPhone 11 Pro brings three incredible advances in the realm of photography, along with many other refinements across the device, such as the much brighter display, and significantly longer battery life. These new features are important not because of their technological value, but because of the experiences they enable. Now, the quality of all types of media captured on iPhone will be improved, democratizing professional quality entertainment to everyone.