Should you get the new iPhone for photography?

About 3 years ago the iPhone reached a tipping point when it came to photography.
Its camera was basically matching the quality of average point and shoot cameras.  I started telling people to stop buying point and shoots, and just buy the newest iPhone instead.  Or perhaps another great mobile phone camera (just don’t be fooled by megapixel advertising)…I just happen to love the way the iPhone works.
Every year the iPhone makes improvements to its camera in someway.

  • Sometimes it’s the lens.
  • Sometimes it’s the sensor.
  • Sometimes it’s the image processor.
  • Sometimes it’s all of these and more.

Either way, it always turns into the same story:
Screenshot 2017-09-25 14.51.15
🙂
And because of this, every year for the past 3 years I’ve pre-ordered the new iPhone on release day.  Happily and gratefully I might add.  I’ll tell you what I tell everybody:

I’m buying myself an awesome camera that’s always with me, and one for my wife too.  And considering how much of our family and kid’s lives we capture with these devices, it’s completely worth it!  Btw, it’s also a (really) smart phone… 😉

Listen.  I’m a HUGE fan of fancy cameras.  You know, the kind that you can change a lens on, be it mirrorless or DSLRs.  They’re fast.  They’re responsive.  They’re simply tools that make achieving pro quality pictures easier and quicker.
But as the famous saying goes:

The best camera is the one you always have with you.

And to that, if it weren’t for the iPhone, Julie and I would have thousands upon thousands less images of our kiddos.  And videos.  Especially videos!
This is priceless.  Not just for us.  But for our kids too.  They already love sitting on the couch flipping through Chatbooks.  Just think of what all these moments captured will mean to them years down the road…and to their kids!
Anyway, I don’t get paid a single penny from Apple (obviously).  I say that because I realize I’m gushing with what moves us emotionally as parents.  Just want you to know that it’s NOT to lead you to a sale.  I just actually care about this stuff.
With that said, you’ve probably already figured out my answer to this post’s leading headline question: “Should you get the new iPhone?”  
Of course that depends on your budget.
And we will talk below about different options for making a new iPhone fit your budget.
I’ll also discuss below whether or not it’s “worth upgrading” based on what iPhone you currently have.
To make matters a bit more complicated, there’s THREE (count em 3) new iPhones being released: 

  1. The iPhone 8
  2. The iPhone 8 Plus
  3. The iPhone X (“10″…not “x”)

So that’s the next question:

Which iPhone is best for you (for photography)?

Let’s start with a short list of the improvements that ALL 3 new iPhones improve on from all previous iPhones:

  • All new 12-megapixel sensor rear facing camera (larger, faster, finely tuned…the tech of the sensor is more important than the pixel count!)
  • 7-megapixel front facing camera (with Retina Flash, wide color capture, advanced pixel technology, and auto image stabilization)
  • 28mm f/1.8 lens (sharp and fast)
  • Optical image stabilization (helps avoid blurry pics in lower light)
  • Deeper pixels (that gather more light – better for low light photography)
  • New Image Signal Processor (Basically color filtering, which increases dynamic range in both colors and tonal gradients…nuance folks!)

Screenshot 2017-09-25 14.43.33
Pretty cool heh?
But wait a sec.  There’s more.
Talk to any professional photographer and you’ll quickly realize how important a quality display (“screen”) is.  There’s nothing worse than viewing colors, tonal gradients, and brightness that are showing incorrectly!  You can’t overlook the importance of an accurate display.  For this reason, I’ve gotta talk about the screen upgrades:

  • An all new Retina HD display.
  • True Tone: This tech comes from the latest iPad Pros. True Tone technology uses an ambient light sensor to subtly adjust the white balance onscreen to match the color temperature of the light around you!  So images on the display look as natural as on a printed page, reducing eyestrain.
  • Wider color gamut: the best color accuracy in the industry, it helps greatly with making accurate color edits!  But the most fun part: everything just looks so brilliant and amazing.

 
Screenshot 2017-09-25 14.33.58
 
Yep, lots of “subtle improvements” but I think they add up to big benefits.
There’s more though once you move up to the iPhone 8 Plus…

Move up to the iPhone 8 Plus and gain:

  • A second lens, which is a 50mm 2.8 
    • This is twice the reach/”zoom” of the normal iPhone lens and thus is called the “telephoto lens”
    • It’s great for taking portraits
    • These two lenses enable Apple’s highly acclaimed  “Portrait Mode” – which basically mimics the background blur of big fancy cameras through incredibly intuitive software.  Photogs everywhere have called this the game changer.
  • New and Improved Portrait Mode for sharper foregrounds and more naturally blurred backgrounds.
  • Brand new Portrait Lighting feature…which is kinda crazy!  It detects the face and can make subtle lighting improvements…or even black out the background entirely.
  • Just note that this “telephoto” lens does not have optical stabilization.  The wider angle lens still does have optical stabilization, of course.

Screenshot 2017-09-25 14.46.11
“But there’s one more thing…”
Of course, the iPhone X.  Sure it’s pretty with its all glass body and edge to edge screen:
Screenshot 2017-09-25 15.00.30
But is it worth it?
Let’s see…

Move up to the iPhone X and gain:

  • Everything we just mentioned from the 8 Plus, of course.
  • But a faster f2.4 50mm telephoto lens. (Allows you to capture even more light to help in low light situation…and get a shallower depth of field.)
  • And Optical Image Stabilization on BOTH lenses. (Again, the helps minimize blur when shooting in low light, particularly any time indoors.)
  • True Depth front facing camera. (which allows you to create selfies in the infamous Portrait Mode, and allows you to map your facial expressions in real time to emojis.  No, I’m not making this up!
  • And the first ever 5.8 inch Super Retina Display, which all the reports are indicating that it’s the best implementation of OLED technology ever.  The big benefit here: contrast contrast contrast.  1,000,000:1 contrast ratio to be ~exact.  This thing is going to look like a real-life oil painting in your hands…

Screenshot 2017-09-25 15.08.50

Which one is best for you?

Okay, this is just my honest opinion.  Grains of salt peeps.
And the good news is that nothing…and I mean nothing…will improve your photography as much as just learning actual photography stuff, which is MUCH cheaper than buying an iPhone.  More on that in a bit.  But for now…

If you have an iPhone 7 or below…

Then I would recommend you upgrade to at least the 8 Plus.
The top reason is simple: Dual Rear Cameras!

Having both the wide angle and the telephoto cameras on back is absolutely essential for anyone who takes portrait type pics.  And that’s pretty much all of us parents here at SPS!

The problem with taking portrait with just the wide angle camera in the iPhone 7 and below?  Simple, you only have the 28mm lens.  This leads to two drawbacks:

  1. You’ll have to get WAY up in the kitchen of your subject to fill the frame…often too close.
  2. You’ll get lens distortion from using a wide angle lens too close to your subject.  Your subject’ll just look weird, stated plainly.

But the 50mm telephoto lens changes the game.

  • It allows you to fill the frame with your subject at a not-too-close working distance.
  • It has far less distortion
  • And it used the game changing Portrait Mode to blur the background.
[Disclaimer: Although I love Portrait Mode, I must warn you of one thing if you’ve never used it: it’s slower than taking “normal” iPhone pics.  It’s not a great mode to use for busy toddlers!  And the bokeh you’ll get from your real camera is still much better!  Basically, your real camera will still allow you to net many times more keepers…let alone capture many more moments.]

Of course, the telephoto lens benefits more than just portraits.  Having more reach means having TONS more options.  Personally, I use my 50mm lens on my 7 Plus 75% of the time!

No way I could go back to just one 28mm lens!

If you already have an iPhone 7 Plus…

Well, the iPhone 8 Plus will give you a step forward in everything, but you’ll notice a leap going for the iPhone X.
I say leap.
Life’s too short to step.  🙂
But I do understand the cost factor.  Which leads me to…

If you want the best but don’t want to spend $999…

The iPhone X is the most expensive phone Apple has ever released.  Of course, most won’t pay $999.  Most will probably buy a plan where their carrier subsidizes it in some way.
And to that point, you might want to consider Apple’s own iPhone Upgrade Program.
Listen, I’m not a debt guy nor a big payment guy.  I buy most everything the old fashioned way: cash!
But the truth is, IF you want to get a new iPhone every single year, AND you want AppleCare+ included, then the true cost of ownership through the iPhone Upgrade Program is hard to beat, even with cash, so long as you trade in your old phone.
This program allows you to upgrade to a new iPhone every year by paying monthly installments.  Here’s the cost breakdown:
iPhone 8:

  • 64GB: $34.50 per month
  • 256GB: $40.75 per month

iPhone 8 Plus:

  • 64GB: $39.50 per month
  • 256GB: $45.75 per month

iPhone X:

  • 64GB: $49.91 per month
  • 256GB: $56.16 per month

iPhone Upgrade Program: Does it include AppleCare+?

The cost of the iPhone Upgrade Program includes Apple Care+, which would be an additional charge of $129 for the iPhone 8 or $149 for the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X if you were to pay for the phone in full up front. With AppleCare+, you get two years of hardware repair coverage starting from the original purchase date of your iPhone. You get two incidents of accidental damage coverage, which lets you fix your screen for $29 or repair any other damage for $99.

And yes, you CAN trade in your current iPhone after 12 months.

And get cash back.  Like $400.  Start doing the math and you’ll see the actual payment costs go way down…
There’s a lot to cover to lay this all out.  But instead, just click here to get a great overview of everything you need to know!  The same peeps also wrote a great article about the best way to buy your new iPhone. 

Last thing…Announcing the iPhone Photography Course For Parents.

More pictures are taken every year by iPhones, by far, than all other cameras.  Doesn’t look like that’s about to change.  Especially for us parents, nothing beats the convenience.  Not only is capturing pics easy, but sharing them with our family and friends is WAY easier than with fancy cameras (which often require file transfers, editing, and a whole bunch of other rigamarole.
With that in mind, we’re finishing up production here at Shultz Photo School for a brand new course we’ll be releasing on November 24th: The iPhone Photography Course For Parents.
Of course, it’ll be about much more than just iPhone tips and tricks (although there will be lots of that).  As good as these cameras are getting, there’s simply no substitute for learning “actual photography stuff” … things like lighting and composition.
Truth is: only learning your iPhone’s camera will take your pics from an “F” to a “D” at best.  But learning the foundations of photography (composition, lighting, and editing), will take your images from an “F” to an “A” … even without upgrading your iPhone.  It’s just the way it is…
And of course, as always, we’re going to focus on taking better pics of your kids with your iPhone.  
Because they grow up fast and they’re worth capturing beautifully!
If you want to be the first to be notified of when the iPhone Photography Course For Parents opens for enrollment (at our lowest price ever), then we invite you to sign up below!

The iPhone Photography Course For Parents is Coming Soon…

Sign up below to be the first to know when it opens for enrollment on November 24th. You’ll receive some exclusive sneak peeks along the way!


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  1. Your work , content, delivery, charm and innovation is one of a kind and Wold Class! Keep up the great work, it has inspired my photography to a level never imagined!

  2. I was already sold but I really appreciate the depth of insight.
    And… this helps me explain to a couple of friends intelligently, why they should upgrade rather “Because I said so”.😁