Apple’s iPhone XR vs. iPhone XS: Is the XS camera worth another $150?

“If you’re deciding between the new iPhone XS and its cheaper, more colorful sibling, your choice ultimately comes down to the camera,” Vanessa Hand Orellana writes for CNET. “The iPhone XS (starts at $999) and iPhone XR (starts at $749) share a lot of the same specs, but the XS has two lenses on the back, while the iPhone XR only has one. Is the second lens — which enables the 2x optical zoom that’s unavailable on the XR — worth it?”

“We took both phones on a photoshoot through San Francisco to find out the differences and help you decide between Apple’s newest iPhones,” Orellana writes. “And the results are impressive: colors look vibrant, highlights and shadows are well balanced, and the shot looks sharp. The same applies to video. Both the iPhone XS and the XR are among the best phones we’ve tested for video.”

iPhone Xr comes in six new finishes: white, black, blue, yellow, coral and (PRODUCT)RED.
Apple’s A12 Bionic-powered iPhone Xr comes in six new finishes: white, black, blue, yellow, coral and (PRODUCT)RED.

“Here’s where you may start to notice a difference between these two phones. The iPhone XS uses that second, telephoto lens as an optical 2x zoom and then switches to digital zoom beyond that,” Orellana writes. “Winner: iPhone XS, hands down.”

Apple's all-new 5.8-inch iPhone Xs starting at $999 and 6.5-inch iPhone Xs Max starting at $1099
Apple’s all-new 5.8-inch iPhone Xs and 6.5-inch iPhone Xs Max

“Ultimately it comes down to what you’ll be using the phone for. The iPhone XR camera is going to do right by you if 99.9 percent of your shots are taken in automatic mode. There’s not a significant difference in image quality between these two phones for general photos and videos and you may be able to save yourself the $250 or more if you’re basing your decision on the camera alone,” Orellana writes. “But the iPhone XS is your go-to camera if, like me, you’re taking a lot of portraits of kids and pets who don’t like to hold a pose. Or if you use the zoom in stills and videos.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Who doesn’t use zoom in stills and video at least some of the time?

Get the iPhone XS Max, if you can. It’s the best smartphone on the planet!


  1. I’ve hated the tendency of most iPhone cameras to look at a scene, like at a night concert, and completely blow out the lit part of the stage trying to bring up completely dark areas in an “average.” You are forced to touch the image and adjust the exposure down manually.

    In reality it should not try to average and blow out detail and the only time you should be forced to adjust exposure is if you want it brighter, not darker. Frustrating shooting video too of same and keeping the damn exposure from blowing out constantly. If they could wrestle this demon down it would be much appreciated. Maybe a mode selection marked “concerts.”

      1. Not yet but I suspect the averaging system is probably still in place on the new phones as well. Definitely a place for innovation. The other thing would be a control for shadows and highlights like in Photoshop.

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