tl;dr: The iPhone 11 Pro does a great job detecting animal faces, but struggles with ears, whiskers, and lots of fluff against complex backgrounds. HDR processing also causes bright white fur to look unnatural.
So, I bought an iPhone 11 Pro. It arrived around noon yesterday, and after updating it to iOS 13.1 beta 4, erasing it, and restoring it from an iTunes backup, I was finally able to head outside and test its impressive new camera system. And while my kids had no interest in sitting still for a portrait, I found my two farm kittens and corgi to be surprisingly willing subjects.
All three animals have patches of bright white fur. Because of the way HDR processing affects highlights and shadows, it tends to make white fur look odd…almost metallic? Anyway, the effect is easily mitigated in post by boosting highlights, but I wanted to post all of these shots completely unedited so you could see what I mean.
First up is Stripey Stripe (named by a 4-year-old girl who insisted the name not be changed). I call her Stripey for short.
As you can see, the edge detection is pretty murky around and between her ears. The photo on the right also came out weirdly dark and flat despite there being plenty of light. However, the detail in the fur is still pretty impressive, and when you toggle through the different Portrait Lighting effects, it properly lights her face instead of the whole scene. Stripey’s photos came out the worst, so let’s move on to my corgi, Daisy.
The portrait mask is better here, capturing the edges of her ears and at least somewhat gracefully dealing with the fluff on her belly. Here you can really see the effect of the HDR processing on white fur, making it look flat and gray. As an aside: it made me smile to see the little yellow box appear around Daisy’s face. It tracked well, too, even as she moved her head quickly to watch a squirrel scurry up a tree. A bonus photo:
Finally, we have Whitey White (yeah…named by the same little girl, lol).
I love these photos. Again, Whitey’s fur needs a major white point boost, but the crispness of the tree roots and foliage blows me away. This camera’s capabilities far exceed my iPhone X’s. For me, these improvements coupled with the new ultra wide lens and wider apertures definitely make it worth the upgrade.