Lighten up the Load. Shooting with an iPhone X Max by Jim Maynard

Lighten up the Load. Shooting with an iPhone X Max

by Jim Maynard

As a senior citizen and long time photographer, dating back to my first camera, an Argus C3, followed by an Exacta VX, with 58mm Biotar lens, which I used in my teen years back in the late 40s, I have always been a full frame image photographer, and currently use a Sony A7RIII, with both Sony native and Voigtlander manual focus lenses. I process my images in Lightroom and Photoshop CC, and decorate my walls with framed enlargements.

I have used an IPhone ever since Apple released the product, but never have used it for photographic purposes, believing it to be a bit of a camera toy, mostly good for selfies: that is, until I read Ken Rockwells review of the photographic capabilities of the iPhone X Max. I traded up to the X Max and decided to take it for a photographic springtime spin in Marymoor Park on Seattle’s East Side. I always carry my IPhone in a belt case, and the thought that I could use it for opportunistic shots without having to lug around my Sony with humongous 24-105 lens was very appealing.

To cut to the chase, I was amazed by the results. Images were sharp, colors were brilliant and shapes had well defined edges. I processed a number of the jpeg images in Photoshop, using only slight cropping, due to the megapixel limits of the iPhone camera. I was also pleased by the dynamic range exhibited by the camera sensor, which enabled me to bring out detail in the dark areas of an image of a dead tree, as shown in one of the images below.

Most of my jpeg images, after Photoshopping emerged at about 3 mega pixels, which allowed me to to produce 11 by 14 enlargements of excellent image quality. I haven’t yet tried 11 by 17, but imagine these would also be excellent.

In conclusion, I am really impressed by the camera in the IPhone X. It is always with me on my belt and is increasing the frequency and variety of my photo making ability.



  1. Nothing against shooting photos with an iphoe (for those who like this way of taking photogrpahs). In this case the images look heavily overprocessed and artificial to me.

  2. I too sold my camera gear and happily use my pixel 3 xl and iphone x. There are very few situations where i ever miss my cameras, except for the fun of setting the manual settings and focus, choosing which lenses to take then regretting my decision as soon as i arrive, which bag, argghh!

  3. Great note, Jim.
    Moreover, according to DXOMark, there are currently eight phones with better cameras than the iPhone X Max : 4 from Huawei (unavailable in the US), 2 from Samsung, 1 Xiaomi and one OnePlus.
    As computational multilens photography advances, there are improvements that seem to defy the laws of Physics… the question now is rather what each one prefers regarding handling and controls, as the smartphones picture quality is actually good enough for most amateur purposes.

  4. The 2018 iPhones are good enough for serious photography. Previous generations, not so much, IMHO. The leap in image quality between the X and XR/S/Max is huge.

    I shot a birthday party with a 5S in 2014. It was dimly lit, and yet the photos turned out. Not as nice as you would want, but good enough.

  5. sony RX1R mk1 for me (have the iPhone XS and love it), the Zeiss 35 f2 and shooting experience along with full frame sensor and compactness make this my first choice (above the iPhone) with a SD to lightening port reader (about £7 on Amazon) i can upload images to my iPhone XS and precess / share / upload accordingly.
    iPhones have come a very long way and i would suggest any photographers that have has all the gear over the years to try a mk1 RX1 /

  6. What keeps me from going to a cell phone rather than a camera is that I use a dongle to transfer my camera’s sd card photos to my iPad. The process is much more difficult from a cell phone and is not easy to do when travelling without a computer. I wish the pixel3a had sd card availability.

  7. These are just superb – and surprisingly superb – pictures, and if that’s what you enjoy doing, carry on phoning!

  8. I like many, second guess perpetually in gear choice. It’s because there is soooo much cool stuff that love and acquisition of gear is half the fun. I have the same iPhone and love the IQ, but the user experience doesn’t provide what my Oly Pro lenses do. That’s for me of course. I am CERTAIN I will buy more stuff I don’t need, but tech is making the FF/APS/43/MF/iPhone question less and less relevant in many ways. Check this – in example

  9. Good on you!
    A nice reminder that photography is not dependant on more megapixels and mega expensive gear.

  10. Problem is I find it very uninspiring, boring and not really very fun to take pictures with an iphone. Great for a snap shot. But to me not really photography. I prefer setting manually ASA, Aperture, shutter like on a Leica. Just not a fan of phone photography. To each his own. Call me old school its what I learned on.

  11. Very nice photos. My situation and gear is very similar to yours. While I do not enjoy the the shooting experience with an iPhone (results can be great) I have been increasing my use of the Rx100.6. In good light, results can be very good indeed. Sometimes I carry the Rx100.6 along with an A9 with prime so the total weight is modest and focal ranges are covered. I would not hesitate to vacation with only the Rx100.6. Lighter is certainly pleasant.

  12. The best camera is the one you have with you and an Iphone is a great camera to have with you. Especially when you have kids it makes those moments you forget you camera still memorable. It will never replace a real camera and lens in rendering etc. but it sure is handy to have. Great pictures and a great little article. Thanks for sharing. And as far as printing big and beautiful the local camera store owner in my town has a big 3×5 foot picture of a canoe by a lake in the wilderness blown up, mounted on canvas and it was taken with an iphone. He said he just saw the canoe as he was hiking and thought what a great picture. All he had was an iphone so he took it out composed the shot and later blew it up to show everyone in his store what an iphone can do. Anyway thanks again for sharing.

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