THIS time a year ago, I had just got my hands on the latest iPhone X and was showing off portrait mode to my mum and dad.

I took a photo of my father, with his beaming smile, in a poorly lit church.

In an instant, using the stage light edit setting, I had created a beautiful deep-etched photo of my dad's face with a solid black background - something that years ago would have taken a graphic artist ages to etch.

I showed the photo to mum and dad, who were suitably impressed.

Little did we know that we would be using that same photo in dad's funeral service after he passed away following a short battle with cancer earlier this year.

A treasured photo of my smiling dad taken on an iPhone X using portrait mode.
A treasured photo of my smiling dad taken on an iPhone X using portrait mode.

The point is life's moments are precious, especially those involving family.
It's through that lens, I look at the value of a good camera - whether it be a DLSR or the latest smartphone cameras.

Much has been written about the gobsmacking price of the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.

iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test.
iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test. Mark Furler


With prices starting at $1799 for the 6.5 inch Max to $2369 for the 512GB version, many will be wondering whether it's worth the upgrade. If you upgrading from last year's phone, the answer is no.

If you are upgrading from the 6 or 7 model or earlier, the answer depends on how much you value new technology and innovation.

At first look, the iPhone XS Max is a beautiful phone. It's finish, screen resolution, processing power and graphics capability is incredible.

iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test.
iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test. Mark Furler

Watching HDR content on the 458 pixels per inch OLED screen, together with its much more impressive speakers, is a mini cinema experience.

The A12 Bionic chip and next generation neural engine combine beautifully in applications ranging from augmented reality to mobile gaming.

iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test.
iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test. Mark Furler

But for me, the camera is always the main consideration in a phone.

And this combination is one of the best on the market, particularly when it comes to adjusting background blur after photos are taken.

While this is not new - Samsung and Huawei led the way - the user experience in adjusting F stops using a sliding scale - is arguably superior.

After you have taken your photo in portrait mode, you can slide from F1.4 to F16, watching the blur of the background change as you do.

iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test.
iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test. Mark Furler

You can also still change the effect to through natural light, studio light, contour light, stage light to stage light mono.

The advanced bokeh and depth control creates some really beautiful family photos, something you would normally only achieve with an DSRL camera.

Both models of the iPhone XS feature dual 12-megapixel wide-angle and telephoto cameras with the wide-angle having an ƒ/1.8 aperture and the telephoto an ƒ/2.4 aperture.

The camera features dual optical image stabilisation - something you will notice, as I did, filming while being dragged along by two dogs on a beach.

iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test.
iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test. Mark Furler



The Smart HDR promises - and delivers more highlights and shadow detail in your photos. We put it to the test in bright sunlight environments and lower light indoor shots and were impressed with the work of the faster sensors.

Video bloggers will also be happy to see the iPhone finally records in stereo sound - something that we noticed after shooting underneath a tree full of flying foxes.

iPhone XS uses four built-in microphones to record sound. The speakers are also a big improvement - offering what is described as 'wider stereo sound'.

Using crosstalk cancellation, the sound seems to project out from the speakers much further than before, making your mobile Netflix or movie watching experience more enjoyable.

iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test.
iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test. Mark Furler

For the Instagram crowd, the selfie camera on the iPhone XS is one of the best around.

You can use the same portrait lighting feature that is available on the rear camera to separate the subject from the background, without impacting on the overall exposure.

The TrueDepth camera is also fun to use to create Animoji in messages.

The Apple iPhone XS on display inside the Steve Jobs Theater in Apple Park, Cupertino. Picture: Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson
The Apple iPhone XS on display inside the Steve Jobs Theater in Apple Park, Cupertino. Picture: Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson


The camera can capture and analyse more than 50 different facial muscle movements and in real time put them to life in one of more than a dozen different Animoji.

It's probably not something you will use every day but watching them come to life is a lot of fun to start with.

Even more fun, though, is Memoji. You can create your own Animoji to reflect your own look and personality - or perhaps how you might want to look.

You can change skin colour, face type, facial features, hair, glasses, ears, and so on.

iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test.
iPhone Xs Max phone put to the test. Mark Furler

Powering all this technology is the A12 Bionic which features a six-core fusion architecture with two performance cores that are up to 15 percent faster than the CPU performance cores in the A11 Bionic chip.

The new performance controller works dynamically to divide the load across the cores, harnessing all six when a power boost is needed.

Apple says the the four-core graphics processing unit is up to 50 percent faster with lossless memory compression bringing gains in games, video editing, and visually demanding apps.

The new iPhone's neural engine is designed for advanced machine learning in everything from photography to augmented reality.

The processing power is staggering.

Apple says it can complete up to 5 trillion operations per second compared to 600 billion in A11 Bionic.

This enables faster plane detection for ARKit, while powering the expressive Memoji, and stage light in camera preview that use real-time machine learning.

While the new iPhone XS models come with a big price tag, when you consider what is under the hood, there will be plenty willing to fork out for one of the best mobile technology packages around.

The bottom line, though, is memories are priceless. Spend more time with the ones you love, not the technology to capture them.

News Corp Australia


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