iPhone X – Is It Really the Future

"Say hello to the future." Say hello to iPhone X.

Apple Inc.

iPhone X & The Future

Last week my brand new iPhone X arrived. Apple’s marketing slogan for the phone is, “Say hello to the future”. I think back to my original iPhone. I adopted it the day it was released. It was truly a game-changer. Up until that point, none of the so called smart phones that I owned ever lived up to their marketing hype. Remember the Blackberry? Garbage. I have never had an Android and anyone I know who has one, hates it too. I think its safe to say I will never own anything other than an iPhone at this point, but my goal is to give you an unbiased review. So you can at least contemplate switching to the dark side.

iPhone X Next to iPhone 7 Plus © Jay Goodrich

iPhone X Finish

Apple is pretty proud of its all new iPhone X design. I on the other hand see a future profit margin in glass replacement. This is because the iPhone X is glass front and back. Yeah that’s right, now you have two surfaces to crack. My original thought was, why the fuck would you do this to me Apple? Then the concept came to me as I came off my LSD high from the new Lightroom products. The new chassis for the iPhone X is stainless steel, not the aluminum found in previous iPhones and even the new iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.

Stainless steel is tougher than aluminum, which may help with the sturdiness, but definitely helps to slow down the scratching prevalent with the aluminum versions. The glass probably fits into this design concept as well because of the ease of which the Jet Black finish iPhone scratched. iPhone X has this amazing gloss finish on every surface. Glass is definitely a more scratch resistant material over anodized aluminum. This doesn’t mean I am not freaked out about dropping my new phone even more than the iPhones of my past.

Right out of the box, iPhone X is absolutely beautiful though.

iPhone X Size

Last year I got the iPhone 7 plus. As a photographer, I wanted the two camera system that was only available in that device. Now I have that two camera system in a smaller device, YAY! The iPhone X is the perfect size in my opinion. I think I may actually drop this phone less because it fits so perfectly in my hand. How did Apple shrink the phone and give me a two camera system? That is all found in the display.

Display

The iPhone X display is Apple’s first foray into an OLED screen. This display does not disappoint. It boasts 1,000,000 : 1 contrast ratio, which dwarfs the 1300 : 1 ratio of the iPhone 8 Plus. This display includes what Apple calls a True Tone function. As a photographer you may understand this functionality as automatic display calibration. The phone actually takes in ambient light readings and attempts to adjust the display for color and brightness accordingly. At first I thought the display was a bit yellow, but after watching movies and taking photos with the phone, it looks pretty good right out of the box. The display just looks warmer compared to my iPhone 7 Plus.

The OLED display also allows Apple to bring it right to the edges of the phone. Thus, we get a smaller phone with larger effective display and more resolution.

With all of this screen “newness” comes something different though. Apple has decided to drop the home button/fingerprint ID. They now use a 7MP “True Depth” camera for selfies and Face ID – the new security feature.

Home Button Envy

When you unbox your new iPhone X, you will probably become a bit flustered. I did. Many of the gestures that we all know, have changed right along with that beautiful screen. I actually had to go “on the line” to learn how to see battery percentage, close apps and take screen shots. At first, I wanted my home button 7 Plus iPhone back. Now, you can have my iPhone X, when you pry it from my cold dead fingers. Or something like that.

Face ID

No home button, enter Face ID. My wife is convinced that this new technology is going give me eye tumors or something, but it is so cool I don’t really care. I set the iPhone X up with styled hair and contact lenses. I often wear a hat, glasses and/or sunglasses. AND … drum roll … the iPhone X has yet to deny me access. The good thing too, it has yet to allow either of my kids or my wife access without requesting my code. I think Apple has crushed this privacy option.

Sound & Star Wars

How does a Star Wars geek test the speakers and screen contrast ratio of his new iPhone X? He watches Star Wars – The Force Awakens. I turned that little film on, laid the phone on my desk and tested. Within mere seconds the sound and screen nuances enveloped me and took me away from writing this article. Maxing out the volume only made it louder with no distortional break-up.

iPhone X Camera

I know, it was like a sitcom getting you here. Ummm, Jay you are going to have photography on your photography blog right? Yes. Yes I am.

iPhone X - Melvin Brewing Can Details © Jay Goodrich
Good Detail in Good Light for iPhone X (click to enlarge)

I have to admit I was having trouble coming up with subject matter to shoot with this new iPhone. The snow wasn’t in to go shoot some skiing. The trails are complete mud and grease pits. So what to do. Well, it dawned on me late Friday night as I finished my third BEER. I needed something that would potentially give me details. Something with some movement for a video or two and a location that had some people to test the new portrait functionality of the iPhone X’s cameras.

How about my favorite brewery here in Wyoming – Melvin. A quick email and boom, a brewery tour was set up.

Just like iPhone 7 Plus and 8 Plus, the iPhone X has two cameras in it. One is more of a wide angle lens camera and the second more of a telephoto lens camera. This gives you two separate lens options within the phone. The reason we photographers really want this is because small sensor cameras’ photos begin to fall apart when you use a digital zoom. The two camera iPhone X helps to control this.

iPhone X - Melvin Brewing Fermenting Tanks © Jay Goodrich

Camera Specs

  • 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras
  • Wide-angle: ƒ/1.8 aperture
  • Telephoto: ƒ/2.4 aperture
  • Optical zoom; digital zoom up to 10x
  • 4K video recording at 24 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps
  • 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps
  • 720p HD video recording at 30 fps
  • Optical image stabilization for video
  • Optical zoom; 6x digital zoom

TrueDepth Camera – used for selfies, FaceTime, and Face ID.

  • 7MP camera
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • ƒ/2.2 aperture
iPhone X Digital Zoom - Palisade Reservoir © Jay Goodrich
Using the digital zoom on iPhone X has exported photos falling apart. (click to enlarge)

Photo Quality

I still believe that the exported JPEG files on this iPhone need improvement. For one, they do not compare to a pro DSLR which is fine considering the sensor size we are dealing with here.

On the other hand. The small sensor files from the DJI Mavic Drone that I tested last week are pretty spectacular. This tells me that Apple either needs to allow the camera to shoot a RAW format or the HEIF image needs to become part of a pro photographer’s editing package (think Lightroom or Capture One).

Cool & New

HEIF Image Format – What the hell is an HEIF? It may actually be the future of photos “on the line”. HEIF stands for High Efficiency Image File Format. Files created in this format are roughly half the size of a comparable compressed JPEG. HEIF supports transparency, and image color up to 16 bits, versus JPEG’s measly 8-bit color. This means it could potentially be a replacement for GIFs as well. Your phone uses this file format automatically, so photos upload and download faster if you are storing them in iCloud. iOS currently converts this file type to JPEG upon export so you will never know it is even working. This file format is NOT proprietary to Apple, though they are adopting it pretty early. HEIF will be a savior for photography websites in the future as the web begins to decode the file format natively.

HEVC Video Format – This is the video equivalent of the HEIF still image. Yes your phone records in this file format as well.

Portrait Lighting – You point the camera at your subject. It doesn’t matter what the background is, this feature will automatically darken it and give you a strobe lighting effect – WITHOUT the strobe! I think this feature needs work but it is called out as BETA right now so let’s give it some time.

iPhone X Portrait Lighting Mode © Jay Goodrich
iPhone X Portrait Lighting Mode Turned Off. (click to enlarge)
iPhone X Portrait Lighting Mode © Jay Goodrich
iPhone X Portrait Lighting Mode Turned Off. (click to enlarge)

Upgrading til’ Death Do Us Part

While Apple has finally figured out a way to transition from the 6 month iPhone upgrade process that was happening during the Steve Jobs era, they still aren’t slowing down. I am part of their iPhone Upgrade Program which means my device is financed interest-free over 24 months and I can upgrade after 12 on-time payments. This is great, but it also means they have me. So is a new device really needed every 12 months? Apple wants you to believe it is and they seem to have the formula and just the right marketing ingredients to make you believe it too.
iPhone X Illustrating Text © Jay Goodrich
Good light, no problem. Quit playing with your dingy. (click to enlarge)

Who is this For?

iPhone X is the future. It records photos and videos on a future file format. Its display has a 1,000,000 : 1 contrast ratio. Photo effects like Portrait Lighting & Portrait Mode are almost incomprehensible pro photographer effects found on a device that sits in your pocket. It is the most expensive phone to date and almost a way for Apple to solidify the user into their upgrade program. Do you want it? I did for the smaller size, but also quickly fell into the sirens of Apple’s new feature set. I still need to see how the cameras function in darker scenes. The fact that my phone is now going back into my front pocket with a better screen and an amazing finish is awesome. It probably will never replace my pro cameras at this point, but I will never miss a photo op with it in my pocket either.

iPhone X – Positives

Smaller size. Amazing display quality. Best speakers yet. Out of the box beauty. Good photo quality and effects feature set for most situations. Face ID.

iPhone X – Negatives

Home button now being gone messes with your mind. All new gestures throw you for a loop at first. Price – my 256GB iPhone X is $1149.00 off of the payment plan. Photos look good in many cases but not all, especially when zoomed past optical lenses and in more dramatic light. Although it’s beautiful out of the box, its two-sided glass housing worries me.
iPhone X Busted Up Car © Jay Goodrich
My truck after spending the afternoon at Melvin Brewing. (click to enlarge)

Cordless Charging

One other feature that I think will really become part of our mainstream device ownership is cordless charging. iPhone X has it built-in. There are a few aftermarket companies producing cordless charging stations right now, but Apple will enter this market full-throttle in 2018. You will essentially have one charging device for your iPhone, Apple Watch, and Ear Buds. I cannot wait to get rid of all my cords!

Shout Out

If you are ever in Alpine, Wyoming. Go in and ask for a Melvin at Melvin Brewing. You may need to look that one up. I do promise the beer is the best in the state.

If there is a piece of gear you would like us to test in the near future - leave us a comment below or drop us a line via our contact page above.

Jay G.

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