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One of the new features on the iPhone XS is depth control. It simulates the effect of stopping down a lens to control depth of field like you would on a dSLR. I adjusted this shot to simulate f/1.8.
Here's a photo taken on the iPhone XS under harsh indoor lighting. With Smart HDR on, it makes the light look more even on the subjects.
This is the same photo taken with the regular HDR mode active on last year's iPhone X. As you can see, there are a lot more bright highlight areas, like on the lollipop in the center and on the faces, that distract from the image.
Here's a shot edited with a simulated aperture of f/1.4 using depth control on the iPhone XS.
Here's a portrait photo taken on the XS with no adjustments to the depth of field. See which one you prefer between this and the next slide.
I prefer the more muted, smooth spread of highlight and shadow detail on the previous photo. But some people I showed this to preferred the greater contrast on this image.
Another comparison between portrait modes on the XS and X (see next slide).
Same scene, different phone.
For landscapes, you won't notice a huge difference between the XS and X, but I did find that the colors are a little less intense and saturated on the iPhone XS.
You might prefer the deeper blues and more saturated red channel of the iPhone X.
Another portrait from the XS.
The same shot on the X.
Taken with the telephoto (2x) lens, see the detail retained in the lights in the background compared to the next shot.
The lights are blown out and look glowing compared to the same shot on the XS.
Time to get into low light. Here, the detail is retained around the lights, although there's not as much difference between this shot and the next one to my eyes.
The lights are a little blown out, but again, there isn't that much difference.
An overhead shot for comparison.
With Smart HDR on, selfies on the iPhone XS look much more evenly lit than with the iPhone X.
The lighting is much more harsh and the background is blown out.
The same shot with Smart HDR on ...
... And off.
The same photo on the iPhone X.
The XS has a slight edge in low light here. Highlights don't blow out, and there's not as much noise in the shadows.
The iPhone X has more contrast in the image, which you might find more pleasing. But the highlight detail creates hot spots.
It makes a dramatic difference in some shots.
The same photo from the iPhone X.
Overall the XS looks like it captures slightly more detail in portraits (see the hair).
Slightly less detail in the hair here.
Here's another comparison with Smart HDR on ...
Another portrait comparison.
Even more comparisons!