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The best iPhone to use for taking pictures at Christmas Glow!

We have all experienced it before; you’re attending an event with your family when you spot a picture-perfect moment. You quickly pull out your phone only to see there’s too little light (or the background is way too bright) and before you know it – the moment is lost forever!

Luckily, mobile photography technology has come a long way in the last year meaning you no longer have to be a pro to take pictures like one. From amateur photographers trying to make a name for themselves to moms wanting to capture a magical family moment, taking the perfect picture has never been easier.

To see the difference in picture quality between the 3 most recent iPhones, I took 6 different photos using 3 different iPhones at Christmas Glow in Abbotsford BC. I was blown away by the huge differences as you’ll see below. It is important to note that I didn’t use any filters, effects, or even click that little magic wand button. All photos were snapped very quickly without much thought, as I had to move fast before the kids ran away 😛

Special thanks to the friendly families that agreed to be my test subjects 😉

iPhone 8

The iPhone 8 was released on Sep 22, 2017, just over two years ago, and at the time touted itself as the most advanced camera that Apple had ever produced. Here are the specs:

Technical Specifications

  • Single 12MP Wide camera
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Digital zoom up to 5x
  • True Tone flash with Slow Sync
  • Auto HDR for photos

iPhone XS Max

The second contender I used for this test was my faithful 1-year-old iPhone XS Max. I loved this phone so much that it was very hard for me to even consider dropping another $1,700 on a new iPhone 11. Here are the specs:

Technical Specifications

  • Dual 12MP Wide and Telephoto cameras
  • Dual optical image stabilization
  • 2x optical zoom in; digital zoom up to 10x
  • True Tone flash with Slow Sync
  • Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control
  • Portrait Lighting with six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, High‑Key Mono)
  • Smart HDR for photos

iPhone 11 Pro Max

Released around 1 month ago in late 2019, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is jam-packed with new features that make taking photos at a Christmas Light festival like Glow much much easier. Night mode turns on automatically when the camera detects low light situations; it may extend the shutter time for up to several seconds.

Another really handy feature is the ultra-wide camera mode. Often when taking pictures at Christmas light displays, you want to get the entire display in your view, but if you back up too far, then its nearly impossible to prevent strangers from getting in your shot. Here are the specs of the iPhone 11 Pro Max:

Technical Specifications

  • Triple 12MP Ultra Wide, Wide, and Telephoto cameras
  • Night mode
  • Auto Adjustments
  • Dual optical image stabilization
  • 2x optical zoom in, 2x optical zoom out; digital zoom up to 10x
  • Brighter True Tone flash with Slow Sync
  • Portrait mode with advanced bokeh and Depth Control
  • Portrait Lighting with six effects (Natural, Studio, Contour, Stage, Stage Mono, High‑Key Mono)
  • Next-generation Smart HDR for photos

Photo #1: Giant Heart

When I took the first photo with the iPhone 8, I had to check the lens as I thought it had a greasy mini-donut fingerprint from my son on it, but no… it was clean. Sorry, all you folks out there with iPhone 8’s but things aren’t looking shiny and bright for you this Christmas photo taking season 😉

iPhone 8
iPhone XS Max
iPhone 11 Pro Max

Photo #2: Santa’s Airplane

This photogenic family with well colour-coordinated outfits was up next, posing in front of Santa on his sleigh airplane. Again, the iPhone 8 failed miserably… and I’m not entirely sure which of the last 2 photos were better.

iPhone 8
iPhone XS Max
iPhone 11 Pro Max

Photo #3: 200′ Light Tunnel

This picture had the most amount of light in front of our friendly VIP subjects. While the iPhone 8 was still clearly lacking, it was pretty hard to see the difference between the XS Max and the 11 Pro Max:

iPhone 8
iPhone XS Max
iPhone 11 Pro Max

Photo #4: Hanging Heart Frames

One of the more popular photo-opps at Christmas Glow is the hanging picture frames. I caught up with family #4 at this hanging heart picture frame, and man… these kids were adorable! The iPhone 11 Pro Max was the clear winner this time (finally):

iPhone 8
iPhone XS Max
iPhone 11 Pro Max

Photo #5: 3 Frogs Kids on a Bench

This photo was taken from a considerable distance away from our mini-subjects. While none of these photos turned out great, the iPhone 11 Pro Max was still a clear winner:

iPhone 8
iPhone XS Max
iPhone 11 Pro Max

Photo #6: Santa!

The annual photo with Santa is probably one of the most important photos of the Christmas season. You have to snap fast and furiously to capture the right expressions, and hopefully, you have the right phone with you! While the iPhone 8 continues to lose the battle, it is pretty hard to see without zooming in which is better between the final two pics. The iPhone 11 Pro Max does appear go have a more natural yellow colour to the lights.

iPhone 8
iPhone XS Max
iPhone 11 Pro Max

Conclusion

If you have an iPhone 8 or heaven forbid something even older, it is highly recommended that you take your pictures in a well-lit area. Even better, ask your friend with a newer phone to take the picture and air-drop it to you.

If you are debating between upgrading an iPhone XS Max to an iPhone 11 Pro Max, I think it comes down to your budget. These phones are really expensive, and while the iPhone 11 was clearly better in many situations, the iPhone XS Max still held its ground quite well. One thing I didn’t show you yet is how awesome the wide-angle feature is. When I first tried to take this picture (from Christmas Glow in Vancouver BC), there was no way to get the entire teddy bear in the shot. Flip to wide-angle mode, and boom – no problem.

Glow Vancouver Teddy Bear exhibit

Regardless of what phone/camera you have, I do hope you get a chance to check out Christmas Glow in one of 10 cities worldwide… and have yourself a very merry Christmas.

Me and my son Cayden in a sea of lights at Glow Vancouver

Tags

Christmas, iPhone, Photography

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