Apple has put a huge emphasis on photography in the iPhone X. Behind its $999 price tag comes a 12-megapixel camera, making it a great alternative to your heavy photography kit.

The Specs

The iPhone X features a 12-megapixel camera with two lenses — a wide-angle f/1.8 lens and a telephoto f/2.4 lens. These feature an optical zoom, as well as a digital zoom of up to 10x for photos, and 6x for videos. Both lenses also feature dual optical image stabilization (OIS).

Apple also boasts that the camera has a image signal processor, which detects things like people, motion and lighting conditions. This helps to optimize the photos you capture. Also included is a faster autofocusing system and improvements to HDR capture.

Portrait Lighting Mode

Banking off last year’s iPhone 7 Plus and its introduction of Portrait Mode, Apple has improved the camera with sharper details and improvements to low light shooting. You’ll see more bokeh with a shallow depth of field as well.

But the real story here is surrounding the new Portrait Lighting feature, which is still in beta. Apple has taken the looks that photographers have traditionally done with studio lighting and applied them to portraits on the iPhone X. There are five different lighting effects — Natural Light, Studio Light, Contour Light, Stage Light and Stage Light Mono.

Natural Light puts your subject front and center against a blurred background, while Studio Light adds lighting to your subject’s face. Contour Light boosted shadows and lighting to create a dramatic portrait effect that you might use for documentary purposes.

I found these first three lighting effects to produce realistic results, though the differences between them aren’t super noticeable. Depending on your setting and background, you might get different results.

On the other hand, the two Studio Light effects isolate your subject completely by turning the background black. In my tests though, these two effects still need quite a bit of work. I was unable to get a clean edge on any of the photos of Cathy, and I tried a number of different backgrounds to try to isolate her better. In other shots, I wasn’t able to get Cathy isolated at all and struggled to take a shot because the iPhone X kept telling me to change my position (which at one point took several attempts on a clean background).

As I played around with the different effects, I could easily change them with a flick of a finger even after I had taken the photograph.

While Portrait Lighting mode won’t replace in-studio lighting, for now, it definitely has potential as it evolves while in beta. While Natural Light, Studio Light, and Contour Light are ready for prime time, it’s clear that Stage Light and Stage Light Mono still need some work.

Image Stabilization and Improved Flash

While Portrait Lighting was the most marketed feature of the iPhone X’s new camera system, the dual optical image stabilization (OIS) that Apple provides is equally impressive. They’ve made the stabilization much better, especially in low-light situations where you might otherwise get motion blur.

Apple has also improved its flash system, highlighting a Quad-LED True Tone Flash with Slow Sync. Simply put, this improves low-light shooting, allowing for the subject in the foreground to be lit without blowing out the background. The improvements also limit the number of hot spots you might have seen in past generation iPhones.

Other Features

Apple has added new filters as well, offering an increased number of looks you can apply. While you won’t find the range of filters that apps like Instagram might have, I appreciate that Apple has gone the more realistic route in its filters, allowing you to boost certain elements in your image for a more dramatic or life-like image.

On the video side of things, the iPhone X allows for 4K video up to 60 fps, slow-motion video recorded at 1080p up to 240 fps and time-lapse video.


The best camera is the one you have with you. And while pricey at $999, the iPhone X boasts quite the exciting feature set. Its upgrades and improvements to the camera, along with features like Face ID, an improved display and more make it a worthy phone upgrade.

It might not be the camera you pick up when you’re shooting a wedding, family portrait or event, but it’s a device that will make it easy for you to capture the moment when you might not otherwise be able to any photos at all.