Although the biggest camera upgrades in the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models last year were found on the rear-facing shooters, which grew to dual- and triple-lens systems, Apple did also offer some modest but useful enhancements to the front-facing selfie camera, but has it done enough to distinguish it from rival smartphones?
As far as camera review and testing site DxOMark is concerned, the answer is no. According to a new review of the iPhone 11 Pro Max front camera posted this week, while the front shooter offers some very nice improvements over its predecessor in terms of image quality, it still lags behind many other smartphone selfie cameras.
While DxOMark’s testing focused on the iPhone 11 Pro Max, since all of Apple’s 2019 iPhone 11 models feature the exact same front camera, it’s safe to assume that these results would be the same for the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro.
The biggest improvement that DxOMark noted in the front camera was support for a wider-angle field of view, which allows users to fit more into the frame, also providing for better composition that makes the front camera more versatile. Along with this, the iPhone 11 also increased the front camera resolution to 12 MP, which was a nice bump over the 7 MP iPhone XS, although the aperture remains the same at f/2.2.
The addition of a wider lens on the new device is a big plus, helping you fit more into the frame and get better compositions in a range of situations.
DxOMark also added that the iPhone 11 selfie camera now gets a higher score for focus, which provides more detail at a wider range of distances. This also improves Portrait Mode photography when using the front camera. Exposure is more accurate and dynamic range is better as well compared to the iPhone XS, although this is likely a combination of new camera hardware and the computational photography features of the A13 chip and iOS 13 such as Deep Fusion.
There are other strengths, too, including a higher score for focus, with both faces and backgrounds boasting good detail at a range of distances, and effective bokeh shots when you want to blur the background.
Other improvements highlighted in the review include more accurate colour rendering, which although it leans slightly toward the warmer side, offers good saturation and natural skin tones. This also carries over to video, where the iPhone 11 has of course gained support for 4K 60 fps shooting.
A few negative points were still noted by DxOMark, however, including the fact that the front camera still produces more noise in lower-light images, noting that although it’s improved slightly since the iPhone XS, it’s not even close to the same quality as the front-facing cameras from other major smartphone brands.
In the end, DxOMark gave the iPhone 11 front camera a score of 91, an average between a score of 93 for selfie photos and 90 for video. This pushed it up into the top ten selfie cameras, but only barely, with it landing in tenth place, one point behind the Samsung Galaxy Note 9. By comparison, the iPhone XS Max ranked as number 15 with a score of 82.
Broken down by category, the iPhone 11 Pro Max came in first in only one, which was “Bokeh” for its Portrait Mode features, where it still scored only 70, revealing that everybody else does considerably worse in this area. Other categories included Exposure and Contrast, Color, Focus, Texture, Noise, Artifacts, and Flash. Of these remaining categories, the iPhone 11 fared the best in Focus, where it lagged only 8 points behind the Sony Xperia 1, while for Noise it ended up at the very bottom of the scale, a full 23 points from the top rated model in that category, the Asus ZenFone 6.
Of course, camera testing is still very subjective, and it’s very difficult to assign a “score” for something like this, so DxOMark’s testing shouldn’t be taken as a final authority on camera quality, DxOMark also previously put the triple-lens camera system on the iPhone 11 Pro Max in third place, behind the Galaxy Note 10 and the Huawei P30 Pro, but reasonable people may disagree, especially in areas where the scores are really only a few small points apart.