Apple makes everything they say, sound revolutionary. But how good is the iPhone XS MAX camera compared to some proper but budget friendly cameras? If you want to showcase that your camera is great, you can’t compare it to other phones. You need to compare it to actual cameras. Is this iPhone XS MAX as good as just a $400 camera which costs around 1/3 of the iPhone XS MAX?
Sony a6000? It was released around 5 years ago and has been called the best budget camera ever since. And it has been our favorite budget camera for sure! Especially if you have the right lens. Our lens of choice? The f/1.8 50mm that costs around $300. The iPhone XS MAX camera VS $400 Sony a6000 with a $300 lens, which is better?
Firstly, this is not a test consisting of stabilizers. And you might ask why we did not put a kit lens into this iPhone XS MAX camera VS $400 Sony a6000 test, but it’s because the only way to do a fair test is by not doing a fair test. The iPhone comes with 3 lenses. It also costs much more. In fact, this camera with $300 is still only the price of Apple’s cheapest phone, the iPhone XR.
If you keep the kit lens an so on then, you are eliminating the fact you can change lenses on a proper camera. And that’s a major feature. So no, this is not a fair test, but it is a real test.
The iPhone Is Better for Selfies
We’ll say right away that the Sony a6000 is much more superior as far as selfies go. Except, the Sony is much much better as far as quality is concerned. It just doesn’t cut it for selfies though.
Selfies work if you see how you look, are in the frame, and know how things around you look. That’s what the Sony A600 or even the newer more expensive models don’t offer. Sure, the situation isn’t as bad as on most Nikon devices, but the Sony screens are pretty limited overall. You can rotate slightly, but overall you are limited from the perspective that it can’t rotate to the point that you can see yourself.
The screen also isn’t as big as the iPhone and for sure lacks in detail compared to the iPhone. After all, a big selling point of phones is the screen, and the iPhone XS MAX has one of the best displays on the market. And that’s a major benefit as you can see a lot more when taking a picture. It also has a touchscreen which is great for focusing. Not that the Sony a6000 needs it that much due to its superb autofocusing capabilities.
The advantage that Sony has is that once again, you can take out the lens meaning that you are able to achieve different types of shots versus just one type with the iPhone. And the iPhone is all about the “i” when it comes to selfies, as if you want to take a group selfie, it’s hard.
What About the “Blur” That the iPhones Can Give?
The dual lens set up is merely a wannabe of what happens when you have the right camera with the right lens. Things like sensors and aperture are a major factor as far as the “blur” is concerned. The problem with phones is that the sensor has to be small, and well, even with a great lens you are limited. That’s where software comes in. And frankly, as far as software goes, phones are much superior when it comes to pictures.
The blur? It works. If you have time to get the perfect picture as it often requires you to wait. And even then, it isn’t always perfect. Once it works, it does a pretty good job that’s not on the level of a proper camera like the Sony a6000 with the likes of a f/1.8 50mm, but it does a decent enough job but the mistakes it makes, that’s the difference between knowing if it’s taken by a camera or a phone. Although, not that most people would notice since they never used a camera.
This picture was unedited and taken on the iPhone XS MAX. While the details aren’t as great as with the Sony a6000, this picture overall looks pretty good and would pass as an Instagram picture for most people, especially with some editing. And if the picture is taken exactly right, you can get some fantastic shots that look like taken on a camera. Getting that right shot is a problem. Apple still needs to work more on the software so expect this to get better in the future!
The Sony a6000 excels with that “blur” though. This picture was taken as a JPG rather than in raw format and still looks pretty damn incredible. It’s not a picture that would win any competitions or such but certainly would cut it as an Instagram picture.
The Sony is overall a much better choice if you want that “blur” if you have the right lens, with that needing to be a f/1.8 ideally. The iPhone can do the job, but it just takes a lot of time. And it isn’t always perfect. And sometimes you won’t notice until it’s too late.
The advantage that iPhone has though, the fact that you can actually control the aperture after a shot. The aperture is largely responsible for the blur level. f/1.8 gives a great blur, but sometimes it’s too much. Sometimes you should want a background to be visible to a point that you can make out what it is without it being able to make it out too much.
Let’s give some examples.
This picture in Paris has some blur, but you can perfectly make out what’s in the background. At the same time, that little blur makes this picture look far more appealing than if the subject was just looking at it and the pyramid was fully in focus. We could have used a higher aperture in this picture, but it would have resulted in this pyramid being too blurry. Not what we want. Is it?
Here is another example of that. This picture was taken in Seoul. If with higher aperture, it would have been too blurry. If taken with a too high aperture, it wouldn’t have looked that great.
This picture also still taken on the Sony a6000? Too little blur. The picture is fine, but it just doesn’t look near as good as it could be if taken right.
The power of the iPhone? That you can adjust the aperture that controls that depth of field after you take a picture meaning that if a picture is too blurry or too not blurry, you can adjust it, and well, fix it.
When it works, it can really really look very well. That picture showed is incredible. Almost. The blur is present on some of my body. Not great. But even with that issue in this picture, this picture still looks damn incredible in terms of the overall quality considering less light present, and most importantly as far as blur goes.
Both Have Great Night Shots
iPhone takes better night shots when the Sony is on an automatic mode. But once you control the Sony camera, you are able to achieve much much more as far as night shots go as automatic modes aren’t always the smartest.
However, let’s get practical here. Unless you go out for pictures, you most likely want a quick picture with your friends or at a concert. And the iPhone is really good that.
Both with its back and front camera.
See that picture? Taken on the iPhone. People in the back are in focus. The vehicles are in focus. And the sky? It’s brighter than it ever was in real life. If you look closely, the edges of the buildings are also very sharp. And most importantly, look at the lack of noise. Sure, there is some grain on the sky, but compared to most smartphones, that’s just about nothing and certainly would pass as a camera. Maybe there is no great depth of field in this picture, but is this a picture that you wouldn’t use in a newspaper as media? I would. I don’t know about you. I’d also post it on Instagram if it were relevant enough to me.
Now let’s show another picture.
If you were at a concert or an event, I’m sure you’d be happy with this kind of a picture too. Everything in focus. Not too noisy once again, unless you really zoom in. Captures the stage. Passes to be used on the internet. If you are just looking for a camera that you can take a quick picture on without you having to feel that you are not posting something of sufficient quality, the iPhone XS MAX certainly passes and would make some people think that what you took was actually taken on a proper camera.
The selfie camera? It’s not as great as the back cameras, but it still does what it’s meant to do, except, it’s just not too wide which we already mentioned.
As far as night shots, this is how the Sony looks:
What About Day Pictures?
Picture wise the Sony is better if you put in the work when taking the picture and most of the time when editing it.
We could get into specifics of how the Sony a6000 is better but just look at the pictures, and you’ll figure it out. If you are comparing these two, you are most likely only starting out with photography and therefore aren’t aware of the specifics.
If you want a solid camera for a picture that you can post on Instagram right away, the iPhone produces pictures that can most often be posted right away, but then again, that’s the beauty of cameras, that you can edit pictures in great detail.
But overall while the iPhone is more convenient for posting right away, the Sony still overall just produces significantly higher quality pictures, and this example will show this perfectly:
Aha, that picture pretty much concludes that the Sony overall is much more superior than the iPhone as far as quality goes.
But that’s not something that would be as noticeable when it comes to pictures outdoor of architecture or landscapes.
Frankly, creativity is what will determine the greatness of a picture. How creative are you? At first, you might be satisfied with just a simple picture, but as time goes on, a simple picture will not be enough, and that’s where both of these come in handy. Certain shots require a portable device that can be taken anywhere and put at a certain angle. Certain shots require a more powerful machine which the Sony is as far as images go.
The iPhone can take some great looking pictures right away in a matter of seconds. The Sony, it requires some adjustments at times, but overall, you can achieve far much more with it. Not everything as the iPhone does some things better, but overall, the Sony is a better choice if you are looking for what can be done with photography, especially since you get all that extra data in a picture on a Sony than on the iPhone.
What About Convenience?
We already mentioned that the iPhone has a bigger screen that’s touchscreen and that allows you to see the pictures you are taking. The Sony a6000 is limited in terms of that, but what about overall convenience?
Well, the Sony a6000 is actually one of the most compact cameras of its caliber. It can fit in plenty of jacket pockets depending on the lens. Overall though, it’s still a camera and sometimes a hassle to carry after you take a shot that you wanted. That’s where the iPhone comes in with convenience.
You already carry a phone anyway. Having the iPhone XS MAX will be of no extra burden to you at all.
And it comes with 3 lenses. The two at the back and one at the front. That’s a very big convenience feature. One of the most annoying things about cameras is having to carry around several lenses. They take up space, weight a bit, and well, are a hassle to swap out at times.
But the Sony does have a better grip, and even more importantly a viewfinder. The iPhone has a great bright screen but that screen still doesn’t show enough when it’s sunny. A viewfinder though? It solves that problem.
The Sony also comes with physical buttons which make life much easier in terms of adjusting, especially if your hands are wet. And personally, for me, it just feels a lot more real with buttons.
Oh, and lastly, the Sony a6000 has a significantly louder noise when a picture is taken. And that’s not a negative. That’s a positive. It’s a lot harder to pose when you don’t know when a picture is being taken. With the Sony, you know. With the iPhone? Not so much.
The Battery Life…
This is a complicated matter. On one side, the iPhone last at least 5 times more than the Sony. The a6000 doesn’t have the biggest battery ever. But, the iPhone, well, ones it dies, you need to charge it. The thing is that your iPhone most likely won’t die as it’s very well optimized. Well, until, you start doing other things too, which you are bound to, considering a phone is a phone.
Meanwhile, with the Sony, you just replace it. Carrying batteries is not the most convenient but it’s not that they took a tremendous amount of space either.
The iPhone stands out in videos though
if you are looking to shoot videos, do not get the Sony a6000. It’s doable but trust me, it’s not worth it as in the process of getting good footage, a tremendous amount will not be of great. That’s due to the lack of stabilization.
We have a tremendous amount of videos that ended up utterly useless even with software editing, due to this. The iPhone though? It’s incredible at stabilization. You can move it from left to right and it will still look smooth. And sometimes it’s things like stabilization that matter more than the overall quality as quality only looks great if everything is in place.
You can buy a gimbal for the Sony though for between $300-$400 which would equate to the overall price of the iPhone XS MAX. And a gimbal, that, that would make a tremendous difference and give the Sony an advantage on video as the Sony overall does have much better video as far as quality is concerned, but the lack of stabilization ruins that quality.
The iPhone does have a few software advantages over the Sony a6000 for sure. The time-lapse feature works great for instance. The Sony? The battery isn’t great enough to longer ones, and it actually costs to enable time-lapse on it. The Sony a6000 is pretty much not able to do slow motion either. Meanwhile the iPhone can do 240 frames slow motion in Full-HD.
That’s why overall, even with a gimbal, the iPhone is still a much better choice.
And then there’s the microphone issue.
While the iPhone does not have a headphone jack, it supports microphones. Not the Sony though. And as far as a standard microphone goes, the iPhone records stereo audio that sounds impressively better than the Sony a6000. To the point that we could consider using just the iPhone audio if we were recording footage. It’s clear, loud, and catches much less background noise than the Sony. In fact, while we didn’t review every single mirrorless camera out there, we are certain the a6000 would be in the list of the top worst microphones in cameras.
If you can get stable footage but need audio, unless you get an external recorder, do not get the Sony a6000 as your footage will be useless.
iPhone Xs MAX Camera VS $400 Sony a6000? Which Is Better?
Video wise? iPhone. It has better audio, better stabilization, automatically comes with 3 lenses, has more video features, can shoot at more frames, comes with time-lapse abilities, and has a better battery. Sure, the iPhone overall is not on the level of the Sony as far as overall video quality, but all the things it’s missing, unless you are in the right conditions with an incredibly stable person recording, you will be at a loss every time. That’s why you either get the much more expensive Sony a6500 or you get the iPhone. And let’s not forget, the iPhone is also a lot more portable.
As far as pictures though? If you are looking for pictures where the clouds will always look right, and that won’t require much editing and can be posted to Instagram pretty much right away, the iPhone is an incredible choice. But Sony is overall cheaper and does excel in the quality of images. You can really take spectacular pictures with it that the competition at that price does not deliver. It’s one of the most portable mirrorless cameras and takes incredible pictures, and ones you use it for a while, you will be able to achieve far much more with it than with the iPhone as far as quality goes.
But ultimately, the more pictures you take, the more you will realize that it’s often not about the camera but the idea and how you capture it. What story are you telling with the picture? That’s what matters. If you look at photography competitions, it’s not necessarily the best pictures that win, but it’s the story behind it. What is it telling? That’s what matters.
You might not realize that yet, but the tool is only as good as the person using it. Once you take enough pictures to realize that, any of these tools will be able to do the job.
One thing we didn’t mention in this review? Phone lenses. We frankly didn’t try them yet to know if they have a benefit. But that’s something that will be changed soon.