In this video my special guest and i are talking all about our experiences with the brand new iphone 12 pro max , the size, the battery and you better believe the camera.
What we like what we don’t like and what we want to see from apple next and we’re doing it.
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a ton more long-term reviews coming your way soon so make sure you hit that subscribe button and bell so you don’t miss any of them joining me to talk just all things iphone 12 pro max is photographer and design legend and co-creator of the halide camera app at sdw sebastian dewitt
So i know i want to dive into the camera.
I know everybody watching wants to dive into the camera but before we do, i just i wanted to get your thoughts on just the largesse of the max phone in general.
i was on i lived on the plus models on the 66s 7 8 plus as long as they were out, but then when the max came out i dropped back down when the 10 came out.
actually i dropped back down to the standard size and that was enough for me with the edge to edge display, but i did worry that the 12 pro max would be too big like just physically.
too big to enjoy as a phone especially the same year that the mini came out. but i’ve adjusted to it like i made the mental switch that is a it’s a tiny tablet with an amazing camera and a huge viewfinder and that seemed to be all.
i needed yeah i i really feel you because when the iphone 10 came out i thought this is perfect size .
i don’t think it should be any bigger actually i changed the ui of our app to kind of make it so everything was at the bottom because i couldn’t even reach the top on the 10 and then the 10s came out and i tried the max and i was like oh this is not comfortable i think it lasted like at most here i was like oh back to the 11 like a normal size and then this year you know i’m such a camera guy so i have to be in the like i have to use this big giant phone and actually it’s not been too bad and i do feel like the mini is like a classic one-hander like you’re talking in sword parlance it’s like a one-handed sword well this is a hand and a halfer i like that maybe it’s just like that it feels a bit easier like firm like it’s more secure in my hand or the squared edges but or maybe i’ve just come to terms with the fact that it is just a tablet basically but it’s it’s in day-to-day use i didn’t i don’t think it’s too bad or just the same sort of mental leap because when you think about it as a camera cameras are not exactly tiny yes that’s true that’s very true maybe i’m just at this point i’ve just completely surrendered myself to the notion of oh i don’t have to carry a camera anymore i have my iphone so the net pocket you know impact of my pocket in my bag is just much less and the battery life for me like i expected good battery life because the plus phones and certainly the max phones all had good battery life and i realized 2020 is not a normal year i’m not traveling as much i’m not roaming as much i’m not in airports with no signals but the batteries it’s a day and a half at least i i forget to charge it now because like an ipad i’m not doing it regularly anymore it’s funny if you mention that i i forget charging it and then for the first time in years my phone is dead like my girlfriend makes sense because she’s like oh my god look at you i’ve never thought you’d be capable of like having your phone died it’s because i forget after a day like it’s not empty at the end of the day i just don’t charge it in the middle of the day the next day it’s like oh oh no i’m not a battery the only negative for me so far is the same negative i’ve been complaining about for the last few years and that is apple’s been focusing on making the screens more break proof and they’ve been doing their chemical mixing more towards preventing the screens from breaking or shattering but you know you can’t have it both ways you can’t have them soft enough to not break and then hard enough to resist scratches so every year without fail when i do the camera test at some point i’m juggling a bunch of phones in my hand and the camera module from one of them scratches the screen of the other one and this year it’s the it’s the pro max yeah just it’s not bad i can’t see it at all when the display is on but when the display is off it’s just sitting there laughing at me yeah it’s funny that you mentioned that because i think this is a very classic you know app developer slash tech reviewer problem yeah so if you’re gonna sell it after like if your plan is every year to buy the new iphone in part because you sold the previous iphone by all means baby it but i i just keep them all so i’m fine all right so enough of the teas let’s get down to the camera you wrote one of your classic brilliant uh sebastian articles digging deep into the camera and i think it was super important this year because especially on the initial reviews there was a disparity in what people were seeing like you had people like marquez brownlee and peter mckinnon who were saying they noticed no difference at all in the cameras between the pro and the pro max and then people like matthew panzerino and austin mann saying yeah the promax cameras are way better and it turned out that marquez was shooting you know technology in his office and peter was shooting a lamborghini at rest while panzerino and an austin man well panzer was shooting his toddler and austin man was shooting his puppy so you had some people with a stationary camera and a stationary subject and other people trying rapidly to acquire a moving target and that highlighted the difference in the camera well but you sort of broke broke it down into why that was happening when people start seeing super different results that’s when i get really curious so i immediately when i got the uh the 12 pro max i thought okay let’s take a look and i think what surprises people when i when you look at my post and i go into that deep dive is i start out saying we’re going to do a head-to-head with the iphone 12 pro and the iphone 12 pro max and they think that with one shot i’m going to be able to tell them see here’s the difference and it’s not like that actually i start out saying i took two photos with the 12 pro max and the 12 pro and i couldn’t see the difference which makes most people probably go ah see i told you there’s no difference at all and then i say well it’s actually more nuanced than that well it is sometimes when they make a leap forward in camera technology it really is night and day like i feel like the iphone 7 when they went to better optics you could get photos in low light even night time that you just couldn’t get with previous iphones yes definitely true and there’s there’s been you know evolutions and revolutions in the iphone camera um and with the the 11 last year the 10s introduced smart hdr and the 11 kind of made that so much better that it almost looked invisible and so for people there they really noticed that leap and this year and the wide angle was all new all fresh yeah the ultrawide is of course a huge deal yeah so that was a that felt like a big revolution in that sense and then this year apple’s investing bit more in the hardware side of things where the software stuff was pretty buttoned up and people are saying i’m not sure if i can notice it and i also worry if the computational photography has gotten to a point where it can correct so much for i don’t want to say optical deficiencies but optical differences like google famously is using us the same sensor that they were using three or four years ago and just the quality of their algorithms has gotten so much better apple’s increasing the optics and also the algorithms and you explain this really well in your article later but the smart hdr is pulling so much out that it is overcoming some of the some of the the word is worse the right word some of the lower end specs of the of just the pro sensor yeah totally and that’s that’s really interesting because we process what coming what’s coming out of this sensor so much right now that that is one of the reasons why it was so hard for people to put a finger on hey how different is this larger sensor and if you just look at the straight out of camera shots for the average person that’s not going to be easy to notice because the results are so processed in reality you know once you start getting into places where that size that extra signal starts to matter more to the average person like you know night mode in motion low light shooting etc that’s where you really start seeing it but it also what a lot of people just didn’t see because they just did a very quick test it really makes a difference on the pro end of things which is cool like we’ve we’ve had the name pro in the iphone since last year but this year it really there really is a pro iphone i think that’s a big deal because like some people think the pro means it’s a huge difference but i think pro often just means it lets you get away with more like i know i shoot in 10-bit not because it’s a pro feature but because it allows me to correct for like like problems in my exposure or problems in my color way more than i would if i just shot an 8-bit yeah yeah exactly that’s that’s a really good example of it or if you were to be shooting with an iphone 12 pro or an iphone 12 pro max it might be that as you know if you’re just using the camera app and you’re taking quick snaps it might not immediately be evident how much more you can get out of the sensor but then if you use an app that takes raw photos then suddenly you find yourself taking a single frame shot which you know skips some of that computational smartness and then suddenly you find yourself like wow this is what this phone is pro max can do is is on par or better than one of the dedicated cameras that’s lying around then it starts being really impressive and your article really showed that well because when you removed the smart hdr and the computational effects the quality that you got off the raw image the raw data from the sensor was observably better than it was on the pro yeah but i would say as far as disables to be it was really mind-blowing when it got low light um normally just to kind of explain to people if you get a raw file it skips a lot of these smart steps and it’s not just like hdr you know brings out detail in your highlights and your shadows by combining a lot of shots but there’s also if you have a tiny sensor that means there’s a lot of noise because you don’t get that much light line the less light you have on the camera the more noise you get the reason why i blew my mind so much is because it is very tiny and it can do shots at night without really showing much noise and that means there’s a lot of signal there now if the if you don’t change the way that knife processes an image and i think apple might improve this in the future because right now that’s the reason why it’s sometimes harder to see the difference between these two things you won’t get all that detail out of it but if you were just look at the way the camera sees it or you take a raw file you can see that there’s tons and tons and tons of detail in those frames that you don’t get on that iphone 12 pro and that means that at night sometimes you can take a snap without night mode at you know a third of a second yeah and you see amazing detail in it because there’s a couple things coming into play there that new stabilization that bigger sensor that faster lens and then you’re yeah i was very impressed do you think it’s a little bit over sharp right now do you think they they can or should dial that back a bit i think what they can do with the iphone pro max is dial down noise reduction and the image the amount of frames they merge down a little bit to get slightly crisper less processed shots out of it last year when i was doing comparisons with night mode between the pixel and the iphone what really impressed me was the zero shutter lag on the iphone like i remember taking a picture of my co-host my podcast co-host georgia at halloween when it was really dark but had some neon lights and i took it with both cameras at the same time and a second later her brother came in and put her his arm around her and on the iphone shot you just see georgia where on the pixel shot you see georgia and her brother because it doesn’t do instant shutter it just stacks the image computationally in sequence and apple feels like before they would just never allow for any of that everything had to be real time or they would literally not ship it you know until they could get it in real time where now with the night mode but also with some of the computational stuff it feels like they’re willing they still do instant shutter as far as i can tell all the time but they’re willing to let the image build out a little bit to get that better computational result at the end yeah totally and it’s that must be a really tough trade-off for them to be working on and they still very much emphasize having real-time preview to whatever the camera is doing which is cool because i just got the pixel 5 and it’s still if you take a portrait mode shot yeah it’s good but you know you take it and you go to look at it and it takes two seconds and then you get a portrait effect apple’s doing this real time and it has been for years i like it because i’m used to taking photos with cameras where what you see is what you get i know you’re into like rangefinders and stuff but i i still use like the old-school cameras uh and what you see is what you get and i’m used to like if the ear looks blurry i’ll move a bit to make sure everything looks clean and that’s how i solve for some of the quirks of portrait mode i think that’s such a great philosophy and it shows just how much like the camera team at apple has this really strong vision that’s just you know the camera should look like what you get and that’s what we’re kind of accustomed to really that viewfinder should resemble your final result and then it would be very easy to just say like well night mode has to stack all these images so we you can’t review that that’s impossible and then somehow just make it happen anyway what are your thoughts so far on the telephoto i was initially just enamored with the different size because we were shooting with the effect of was it 52 i think for years now since the iphone yeah since the iphone 7 plus and now suddenly we have an effective 65 to shoot with and yes the framing is different but also the compression is different like there’s less there’s less artificial distance between a nose and ears for example yeah and i really like that for portraits and product shots it’s really nice for portrait mode the way it renders portraits now is for faces and people is much nicer and and to kind of explain how that works so if you take a portrait of someone you know take photo of me my nose with like the normal wide angle until you get close to me my nose will be huge and the rest of my face will be tiny so it won’t look i won’t it looks compassionately handsome as i usually do and then the uh if you use a 65 millimeter lens it compresses all that into a flatter result and you get that nice fluttering portrait in my casual testing so far that has been so so nice the only thing is that you immediately want to use it with night mode portrait mode as well yes you can’t yeah well in general like we gave up some of the speed to get this lens like it went from f 2.0 to f 2.2 i think and i do miss that i do miss that extra little bit of speed because i love shooting with telephoto as much as i possibly can yeah i totally agree i i miss the speed a little bit and in the end that’s too bad because you know your iphone when it detects that you don’t have enough light on that telephoto lens it’ll just swap in the wide angle and then becomes a bit more noticeable on the pro max sometimes so from the sort of developer side like when you’re working with ben and with rebecca on the app is there anything that’s that’s particularly interesting to you about working with the um iphone 12 pro max as opposed to the other cameras in the iphone 12 lineup yeah totally i think that’s this is what’s the most surprising thing in my post is um there is an incredible amount of power in the detail of the sensor that is combined with the stabilization technology so now we can allow users to take photos of half a second which is just impossible imagine trying to hold the camera perfectly steady for half a second or like a second the iphone pro max can do that that’s pretty amazing and it can do that because of this new in-body image stabilization which you also see in some really high-end like cameras um other than that we’re on the cusp now we’re testing and we have a version in testing with pro raw and prora is awesome it’s apple finally acknowledging that this is a real camera it’s not just a camera phone it’s becoming a camera with its own raw format with the ability to pack some of these smarts like i mentioned earlier raw files right now do not have all these smart things like hdr and diffusion and even night mode will start getting access from apple to take raw photos with some of those things included which is very cool on the ibis side i think apple calls it sensor shift it’s interesting because i think people are just used to a certain amount of stabilization but when the sensor is actually like that in body image stabilization you may not notice it at first but things like you you night mode doesn’t come on as quickly as it might because it can keep the sensor open for just low light photographs or maybe it doesn’t have to keep like maybe it’ll do a one second or a two second instead of a two or three second on night mode so it doesn’t have to stack as much have you found much of a difference with between the ibis and the traditional ois the optical image stabilization yeah for me just shooting raw which i love to use it’s just really nice to be able to get a steady shot when i’m moving the camera or just quickly picking it up and taking a photo when the sun is in the process of setting or past sunset uh and then just getting a lot less noise out of it and we’re actually optimizing our exposure logic our smart raw exposure logic to favor a little bit of a longer exposure time on the pro max now because it can just handle it and that’s not something you would have anticipated i’m still really cranky that zoom hasn’t gotten much better since the iphone 7 it is like a 2.5 uh size now that’s not really a zoom that’s more of a step in just because you’re changing you’re changing the effect of lens but other cameras are doing like 5x optical or some of them have those really wild periscope zooms that do 10 to 20 to 30 zoom and i’m not saying i need anything like that but it just having more zoom it feels like that’s the big piece of the of the traditional camera part that apple still isn’t addressing they did get way better this year because they started doing i think similar to what google did last year and that is apply their smart hdr algorithms to the zoom everything from hdr3 to uh deep fusion so that the 10 the the this one is times 12 sorry the times 12 digital zoom is way better than it was on the previous models on the 11s but i would still like to see them optically do a little bit more on the on the zoom side of it yeah and i’m guessing it the thing that’s preventing them from doing that is that they want to have like a really constant quality zoom range through the whole thing and then just like seamlessly hand off through that so i wouldn’t be surprised that next year we see a bigger jump mate across all the lineup that goes to one new zoom level um yeah be interesting to see the only other pain point i have right now is there’s no hdr like no dolby vision button in the camera ui and i would love that so much because it doesn’t even indicate that it’s in dolby vision mode when it is so i always have to go to settings and look to make sure because sometimes i really do want to shoot in 10-bit dolby vision and other times i know that it’s just going to cause production problems because a lot of apps haven’t updated for it yet and i just want to toggle it off and get a few quick shots and it’s like live photo got that button the original hdr for just photographs had that button there’s a bunch of stuff you can you can turn you can toggle the flash on and off and i just please let me toggle h adobe vision on and off right in the ui as a designer of a camera app i am actually very non-envious of the people who have to design the apple camera app because it has to do everything and yet be simple and for everyone you know it has to be competing with snapchat but also with filmic it has to be like highlight but also has to be you know the simplest camera anyone’s ever used if you’ll pick it up and use it so that’s going to be tough so a few weeks later now after shooting with this for a while what’s your overall take on the iphone 12 pro max camera um that’s a really good question i i really really like it i probably have the same exact take as you in the sense that i love the 65 i wish it was a little bit longer um the sensor is fantastic the size i’m kind of getting used to i’m still actually kind of scratching the surface as to what is possible with this camera and that is just a testament to how much they packed into this one still weeks later trying to see like then still being surprised by it but thinking well this is really the quality i can get out of it um i’m just really excited to be building for this camera as a developer as a photographer this is something where i’m just excited to spend a year with it and get everything out of what is packed in this thing um but for the entire lineup uh it’s a really good year for cameras they they have now have the computational stuff in a place where it’s almost imperceptibly good with a lot of the i know that we’re firmly in iphone land but in android land that’s not completely a done deal yet you just have to look at marquez brownlee’s current camera bracket contest that’s how you see just how completely different smart quote-unquote smart processing on cameras campuses right now apple’s is really nice it gets out of the way you almost don’t notice that it’s there that’s when you know it’s really impressive and that’s yeah i’m very impressed with it and we have to do a lot to get the most out of it so it’s going to be a fun year yeah i have much the same opinion it’s just it’s remarkable how far we’ve come what i like about apple so much is that there are some camera phones that have really good optics but the computational side is not good at all and others that have really good computational but the optical side is just not there and apple is doing a really nice hybrid of both every year they’re improving the algorithms and every year they’re improving the glass and yes it’s not big sensor and it’s not big glass but it’s big compute applied to quality glass and i think this year it’s really hard to see like a pro can appreciate it but i think their ultimate goal of just everyday photography like you should be able to pull your phone from your pocket take a shot and accurately record not like purely coldly scientifically but emotionally what you saw and all these sort of pro advantages that we get on a granular level they don’t have to know or care about it just gives more room across a wider range like you’ll get it in a little bit lower light than you got it last year or a little bit closer up than you got it last year and you won’t notice it you’ll just know that wow even more of my pictures are as good as i remember them being yeah totally and then the cool thing is it’s almost the same like i mentioned this in my post it’s almost the same as them packing in that really powerful a series chip and people say like well you know what what is the point of all this power the same thing is happening with these cameras like you mentioned they’re mostly dedicated to just being the perfect way to capture reality as you perceive it for the average consumer but because there’s so much power getting packed in there from the computational pipeline to the actual sensors that they’re improving now that means that that extra space is there for the pros and for the developers to fill in and for a future in the future use cases to be invented that we don’t really think of right now that lidar sensor that’s in there there’s a lot of applications for that that we probably haven’t even seen yet but it’s there yeah yeah no and a lot of times people will dismiss a processor and say it’s overkill or you don’t need it or it’s good enough to have a lower end processor but the iphone 7 portrait mode pegged it and portrait mode doesn’t peg this at all and then the truedepth camera pegged the iphone 10 and this this is fine with that and then the computational algorithms peg the iphone 10s and just increasingly while they are addressing the previous issues giving more overhead they’re using that extra overhead to pack in even more features and more computational so like you literally cannot do everything that you do on these phones with even the previous generation phone and i know that annoys people with the previous one but i think it just keeps 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