iPhone 13 Pro Max -A Beard Blog Review

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max
Review

The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are all-new this year, again. Every year, like clockwork, we get new iPhones. Just like last year apple announced four new phones with a new number, 13. Last year’s all new design was a great departure from the rounded bars of soap we’ve had for six years. If you’ve been following iPhones for a while, you may know that they like to do what most people call an “S” year. Starting with the 3GS, then 4S, 5S, 6S, and XS, we’ve come to understand that an “S” year is less new design and more internal upgrades.

The iPhone 13 should have been an “S” year. Not sure why we didn’t see the iPhone 12S, but I was betting on it. Literally, bet lunch on it being named the iPhone 12S.

So in the iPhone 12S 13 we get better cameras, bigger batteries and a new processor. The Pros got 120hz display and even better cameras.

I opted to replace my iPhone 12 Pro Max with an iPhone 13 Pro Max. As long as they’re making giant pro phones, I’m buying them.

I’m not going to go into the new features or what Apple is marketing on the device, you can see that at apple.com/iphone.

The Good

  • The 120hz display makes motion buttery smooth, and I smile whenever I notice it
  • The camera upgrades while minor year-over-year, have a huge impact on everyday photos
  • Macro photos are fun and a game changer
    Beard Blog iPhone macro photography deep-dive
  • Same squared-side design that looks modern and still feels new
  • Sierra Blue is a refreshing take on a silver finish
  • OLED screen is brighter, which is useful in direct sunlight

The Missed Opportunities

  • Moving to USB-C should have happened this year
  • The camera / Face ID notch got smaller-ish, but it’s size still feels outdated
  • Same software limitations running on a super-fast SoC
  • Night Mode could be better with the new camera hardware
    Beard Blog iPhone Night Mode deep-dive
  • My phone shipped with eSim enabled, but I still have an ugly SIM card slot
  • The physical mute switch is great, but someday it’s gotta go
  • Speaker holes are still asymmetric

The Bad

  • Front-facing camera feels old and needs updated like other Apple devices
  • Rear camera bump is huge, more noticeable on smaller phones 
  • Telephoto (3x) rear camera has more reach, but less quality
  • Face ID hasn’t seen any major improvements since it was debuted on the iPhone X, while iPads can see faces in different orientations
  • The back face of the phone is still slippery and fragile

Changing to USB-C, upgrading the front camera, and making it more grippy, might make this a 10 / 10 for me.

We’ll see what next year’s iPhone brings, which I’m sure will be named iPhone 14. Will we see USB-C finally or just no ports at all? Stay tuned, here and only here, for iPhone hot takes.

Low-Light Shootout

night-mode

Apple iPhone Pro Max vs. Sony a7III

Low-light photography is all the rage now on smartphones. Better sensors and lenses combined with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other 21st-century buzzwords allow smartphone cameras to actually see in the dark. But how good are they?

Low-light photography has been around for a long time, especially on professional-grade cameras that can hold the shutter open for extended periods of time allowing the sensor to gather as much light as possible.
With the overhauled and widely acclaimed camera system on the iPhone 13 Pro/Pro Max, I thought it would be a good time to see how it compares to a “real” camera.
Using the same tripod and lighting conditions, I captured my backyard with both an iPhone 13 Pro Max and a Sony a7III mirrorless camera.

Let’s start with the iPhone 13 Pro Max, 10-second “Night Mode” capture1

ISO 5000 26mm f/1.5 2.0″ HEIC

You can see there’s not a lot of light here. 10-seconds is a long time to shoot an image handheld, but on a tripod, it’s not nearly long enough.

iPhone 13 Pro Max, 30-second “Night Mode” capture 2

ISO 6400 26m f/1.5 10″ RAW

A lot more light here, almost looks like it’s daylight outside. While the image is visible and you can see details, there’s a lot of noise present and if you zoom in you can see some blurring from noise reduction.

Sony a7III 10-second exposure at f/1.8

ISO 5000 50mm f/1.8 10″ ARW

Much more clearer detail here and has that daylight look like the 30-second iPhone shot. The high ISO gives it a softer look and has some visible noise.

Sony a7III 30-second exposure

ISO 1250 50mm f/1.8 30″ ARW

The ultimate night shot, at 30 seconds the sensor has enough time to capture enough light it can reduce the ISO and crisp-up all the details.
Some might say, “This isn’t a fair fight!”, but if Apple is aiming to take on the prosumer camera market, they need to have benchmarks. This three year old camera shows just how far smartphone cameras still have to go to be competitive.

If you’re looking to get great photos in a dimly lit room, an iPhone with Night Mode will do the job.
If you want to create daylight out of near-pitch-black, get a tripod and a big camera that can suck in all the light available.

Check out my iPhone 13 Pro Max review here (coming soon)

Macro Shootout

iPhone-13-pro

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max vs. Sony a7III

Macro photography is capturing larger than life images to show detail on smaller objects that you normally don’t get to appreciate with the naked eye.

Apple’s most recent flagship phones, iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, have a new macro capability that allows the ultra wide lens to focus on objects that are as close as two centimeters. Macro photography is always fun to do especially with insects, flowers, and everyday objects. Never has it been so accessible to a consumer with the object they carry around in their pockets.

I’ve decided to see how well the iPhone 13 Pro Max does against a “big” camera with a cheap macro lens. 

I’m using a 7artisans 60mm f/2.8 lens that I purchased on Amazon, mounted on a Sony a7III, and honestly this lens is hard to use and not intended for a full-frame sensor, but let’s see how it looks.

I found a decorative wool pumpkin decorating our house for fall and through the woven nature would be a great test

Both images were artificially lit with an external LED light source to maximize detail.
You can see how much more detail and clarity comes out of the iPhone lens.

Here’s another comparison of a closer shot.

The iPhone 13 Pro Max macro capability is fantastic. Granted, I could probably match quality with an expensive macro lens on my Sony Mirrorless camera, but now I see no need with the iPhone camera.

Lastly, here’s a small collection of great macro images I captured on the iPhone 13 Pro Max.

 

In the two weeks since the iPhone 13 Pro was released I’ve been taking macro shots of everything I can find and like most new iPhone features I think this will stick around. We’ll see in a year how many macro shots from the iPhone I’ve accumulated.

Check out my iPhone 13 Pro Max review here (coming soon)

The Best of 2020: iOS Apps

“There’s an app for that!”

Continuing my list of the best things from 2020, mostly what helped us get through the pandemic, the most obvious thing you use a lot is your phone. There are a lot of great apps I use everyday but the three I’m about to list are essential apps for entertaining me, staying connected, and getting me what I need. What are some of your favorite apps of the past year?

Read more

The Best of 2020: Technology

One of my favorite categories to talk about and engage with others on is technology. Not only is it my day job but I would consider technology to also be a hobby and lifestyle of mine. Surprisingly 2020 gave us a lot of new technology; I guess that’s one thing that the pandemic couldn’t hold back. Some things were delayed, other things are supply constraint, but after it’s all said and done, nothing really got cancelled because of COVID. Good things come to those who wait so my top three picks this year were all released within a week of each other.

In order of release date, here are my three picks for best piece of technology sold in 2020:

Xbox Series X – November 10 | $499

The next generation of gaming is here! Finally we have solid state storage standard and get the amazing features like 120 frames per second and ray tracing. These are still really hard to find along with its counterpart the Sony PS5 due to high demand and low supply. Earlier this year I wrote about how you may want to put a new TV on your list as well to take full advantage of this new hardware.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max – November 13 | Starts at $999

The iPhone design is all new this year and Apple finally brought back the flat edge design that the iPad Pro has had for a few years now. In addition to the great new design, all new iPhones get 5G, OLED displays, and new colors. The best of them all, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, includes major changes to the three camera system producing some of the best photos you can get out of a smartphone. Two really great things about the new iPhones Pro are storage and video. Apple starts the Pro Max out at 128GB which is the sweet spot of storage for me. Lastly, the new iPhones Pro take HDR (Dolby Vision) video which may not seem like much, but when you watch it on your phone or an HDR TV, you really see the difference. I don’t want to take any other kind of videos again.

Apple MacBook Air – November 17 | Starts at $999

Earlier this summer Apple mentioned they would be ditching Intel for their processors and moving to their own, dubbed Apple Silicon. Now we have the first set of Macs which include the new Apple Silicon processors, the M1. It’s crazy to think that for only $999 you can get a tiny little laptop that has all day battery life and is faster than 90% of the computers out on the market, right now. We’ll probably never see leaps and bounds like this in computers again, so we have to relish it while it’s here. Anyone who asks me what computer they should buy, before they can finish I blurt out “MacBook Air with M1”. It’s great for everything from web browsing to professional video editing. It’s truly a great computer at a great price.

Honorable mention:
LG CX OLED 65″ TV | April – $2199.99


Check out more of my ‘Best of 2020’ —> Here

Apple iPhone X Beard Blog Review

The iPhone of the future, today!

iPhone x

Apple’s new flagship iPhone has been on sale for almost three weeks and you can’t go anywhere without hearing about it. The iPhone X (pronounced ”iPhone ten”) is the biggest change we’ve seen to the iPhone in a really long time. It’s also the first iPhone since the original where people were excited to see it and asked me how I liked it. It’s a lot like when I first started wearing my original Apple Watch, but a lot more people know about the iPhone X. The following review will be my opinion of the new iPhone, not so much the technical attributes it posses. Furthermore if you’re curious about the technical stuff check out Apple.com.

Screen

The first thing you notice on the new iPhone X is the screen. It’s big, bright, and very colorful. The screen goes from top to bottom and left to right covering the entire top side of the phone. This new OLED screen is my favorite part of the iPhone X. All the colors are vibrant and the black levels are so dark you can’t tell where the screen starts and stops. As a result this makes the iPhone X screen very pleasing to the eye.

iPhone X 7 plus
iPhone 7 Plus (left) iPhone X (right)

When the screen is fully lit up you can see a tiny notch at the top of the screen where the earpiece is. This notch holds all the fancy iPhone X sensors that I’ll get to in the next section. The screen itself actually flows under this notch so anything that would be shown the in the notch section of the screen will be hidden. In photos, reviews, and talking about it the notch seems like a bigger deal than it actually is. After a day of using the iPhone X the notch becomes unnoticeable and unobtrusive. Most of all, this notched screen design will become one of the most iconic phone designs we’ll ever see.

Face ID

Gone are the days of using your unique fingerprint to unlock your iPhone. Now the iPhone X comes with Face ID (replacing Touch ID) as the biometric authentication process. To put it simple, Face ID uses the features of your face to unlock your phone. This process works in the dark, in the sunlight, and most noteworthy even when you’re wearing sunglasses.

My experience with Face ID has been fantastic. My iPhone unlocks more reliably than when I used Touch ID on my iPhone 7 Plus. There are a couple instances where Face ID doesn’t work, but they are very minimal and easy to live with.

iphone x trudepth
TruDepth Camera system

Consequently the iPhone X doesn’t like my Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses so I have to slide them down to unlock my phone when wearing those. In contrast, My aviator-style Ray-Ban sunglasses work just fine.

Face ID is definitely the future and it can only get better from here. I was skeptical at first, just like I was before trying Touch ID, because all the previous face detection systems were utter garbage. Face ID has lived up to Apple’s marketing and I can’t wait to have Face ID on all the products I use.

Cameras

As an amateur photographer my smartphone camera is very important to me. The iPhone is not my only camera but I like to take a lot of photos with it because it’s smaller, lighter, and always with me unlike my Nikon DSLR. Last year I was excited by the new dual rear cameras on the iPhone 7 Plus. The added “telephoto” camera is very versatile and is even better on the iPhone X. The new cameras work very well in low light and the image is very clear. Previous iPhones seem to have a small increase in camera ability, but the fact that both cameras work identically at two different focal lengths is a huge leap over previous generations.

[perfectpullquote align=”left” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”It looks pretty, it feels great, and is a blast to use.”[/perfectpullquote]

The front camera hasn’t been changed, but it’s been supplemented by the new TruDepth Camera sensors which include infrared and depth sensors. The iPhone X’s front camera takes the same photos as the iPhone 7 but you now get depth mapping which adds the ability to take Portrait Mode photos. This still evolving feature is fun and looks cool, but it’s not a game changer. As a result I’d take the real depth of field on my DSLR any day.

Animojis

The iPhone X’s front facing TruDepth Camera system isn’t just for photos, Animoji is Apple’s way of putting you facial expressions on your favorite emoji characters. This is probably the killer feature of the iPhone X.

iphone-x-animoji
Panda Animoji

Being able to send someone a short video of your expressions and voice is endless fun and entertainment. This is one of the few areas Apple has been an innovator and I would bet it pays off big now and in the future.

Pros / Cons

The iPhone X isn’t perfect, but at the same time, it’s a huge leap forward for tech nerds like myself.

Pros

  • Great rear dual camera system
  • OLED screen is stunning in person
  • Face ID is more secure and easier to use

Cons

  • No home button; New interface could be confusing to some
  • Battery life is slightly worse than my iPhone 7 Plus, but still lasts all day
  • Front camera resolution could be better


Who should buy the iPhone X?
Apple fans who want the latest tech, photographers wanting the best
smartphone cameras, and techie people who like being on the cutting edge.

Who shouldn’t buy the iPhone X?
Users who want the same old iPhone interface, people who don’t want the latest technology, or folks who are afraid of the price.

The price of greatness

Let’s talk about price for a moment. All you read on the internet, hear on the news, and talk about at work is how this iPhone costs $1000+. While that is true, it’s not that big of a deal. Now let’s break it down a little bit.

Here are the costs of the current iPhone offerings and storage capacity respectively:

  • iPhone 8 (64GB/128GB) ———— $699/$849 or $35$41 per month
  • iPhone 8 Plus (64GB/256GB) —- $799/$949 or $40/46 per month
  • iPhone X (64GB/128GB) ———— $999/$1149 or $50/$56 per month

You can see the new iPhones range from $699 up to $1149. The iPhone X is not some outrageously priced hunk of junk. It’s worth the premium over the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. It comes down to if you can afford it or justify to yourself that you want to buy the iPhone X.iphone-x-2

Most buyers will be financing this phone through carriers or Apple. Not many people will be shelling out cash for any of these iPhones. Also for even further comparison the top of the line Samsung Galaxy Note 8 costs $950.

In conclusion, the iPhone X is the future of what we’ll expect to see over the next few years and it’s going to be great. After three years of the same stagnant design Apple hit it out the park with the iPhone X. It looks pretty, it feels great, and is a blast to use.

Technology brings us together

During this holiday season, when you visit with your families and friends, some of that time may be blocked by bright screens in front of their faces. For the last couple of years, we may have thought this was a bad thing. In the soon-to-be year 2016, I think that has become something more.

This year instead of everyone sinking into their chairs with the soft glow of LED screens on faces, I’ve seen families and friends come together over technology. From talking about iCloud backups to Uber driving, it now seems our time together also includes some tech talk.

Read more

Real Photography on the iPhone 6s Plus

As a self-proclaimed photography enthusiast, I’m always trying to get the best shot as well as get my work seen by everyone. I normally do this by dragging my Nikon DSLR camera and several lenses around with me everywhere I go, just in case I see something that needs captured. My thought on great photography is 50% having the right eye to get the shot and 50% being in the right place at the right time. Both of those requirements don’t mention anything about having the best equipment.

A recent business trip took me to Las Vegas and during my free time, I ventured out to Valley of Fire State Park. This is one of the most unique places I’ve ever been. Because of my short trip and hassle of bring multiple bags, I opted not to bring my Nikon DSLR with me on this trip. I do have my new Apple iPhone 6s with me at all times, so I decided this would be a great place to test the newly upgraded camera.

The ability to climb around on rocks, hike down trails, and quickly snap great pictures without having to be mindful of my expensive camera equipment was great! Up until now I have never thought of a phone as a realistic replacement in hopes of capturing great photos. The new Apple iPhone didn’t let me down.

Here are some of the great shots I got on my short trip:

The new camera sensor as well as the optical image stabilization were key to getting great photos from such a compact device.

I’m going to continue to investigate this and might even try bringing both cameras on the next trip.