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Camera Comparison: iPhone XR vs. iPhone XS Max

The iPhone XR and the iPhone XS models share many similarities, but one major difference is the rear camera setup. While the iPhone XS features a dual-lens camera system with both wide-angle and telephoto lenses, the iPhone XR has a single wide-angle camera lens.

In our latest YouTube video, we compared the cameras of the iPhone XR and the iPhone XS Max to see how much of a difference you're really going to see with the single lens camera vs. the dual-lens camera.

Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos.

Though the iPhone XR doesn't have two lenses to work with, it still has many of the same features that are available in the iPhone XS, enabled through a bit of software magic.

Smart HDR, the feature that combines multiple images to bring out more detail in the shadows and highlights of photographs, is available on both the iPhone XS and iPhone XR, as are Portrait Mode, Portrait Lighting, and Depth Control, which is an option that lets you adjust the amount of background blur in an image.

iPhone XR vs. iPhone XS Portrait Mode

On the iPhone XR, Portrait Mode, which blurs the background of an image while keeping the foreground sharp, only works when a person is in the frame. That means you can't get Portrait Mode shots of pets, flowers, food, or other objects.

You can do non-person Portrait Mode photos on the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max because two cameras are used together to calculate depth information. The single camera on the iPhone XR provides less detailed depth information for photographs, so it needs to use person detection to separate the foreground from the background.

On the plus side, because the iPhone XR exclusively uses the f/1.8 wide-angle lens for Portrait Mode photos and does not need to rely on the smaller aperture f/2.4 telephoto lens that's in the iPhone XS, Portrait Mode images taken in low light can turn out better than Portrait Mode photos on the XS because the wider lens lets in more ambient light.

iPhone XR vs. iPhone XS Portrait Mode in low light

With Portrait Mode photos, the iPhone XR struggles a bit with edge detection and the images can be softer than those captured with the iPhone XS due to the lack of a telephoto lens and less depth information to work with. Portrait Mode photos on both devices can be edited with different Depth Control and Portrait Lighting features, though there are two less Portrait Lighting options on the XR.

When taking standard non-Portrait Mode photos, there are few differences between the iPhone XS models and the iPhone XR because the two smartphones are both using the same f/1.8 wide-angle lens. Images taken in standard zoom mode, for example, look the same.


You will, however, see some differences using the iPhone XS telephoto lens for 2x optical zoom in conditions where lighting is good, because this feature isn't available on the iPhone XR. With no second lens, the iPhone XR ls limited to digital zoom that maxes out at 5x. The iPhone XS can do 2x optical zoom and up to 10x digital zoom, but it's only going to be using the optical zoom in ideal lighting conditions.


If you take a 2x photo in a low lighting situation on the iPhone XS, there's a good chance it will look identical to the same photo taken on the iPhone XR because the iPhone XS defaults to digital zoom over optical zoom when the wider lens will produce a better picture. If you take a 2x photo with bright lighting on the iPhone XS, it's going to be sharper than the same 2x photo on the iPhone XR because of the difference between true optical zoom and digital zoom.


4K video using the wide-angle lens looks identical on both the iPhone XS and the iPhone XR, and both phones feature the same video capabilities like 1080p 240fps slo-mo, optical image stabilization, and stereo sound recording. You are, however, limited to 3x digital zoom on the iPhone XR vs. 2x optical zoom or 6x digital zoom on the iPhone XS.


When it comes to the front-facing camera, you won't see differences between the iPhone XR and the iPhone XS models because all three of the smartphones use the same TrueDepth camera system with a 7-megapixel front-facing camera and full support for Portrait Mode images, Portrait Lighting, Depth Control, Memoji, and Animoji.

Front-facing camera on iPhone XR and iPhone XS

All in all, when it comes to camera performance, unless you're someone who takes a lot of Portrait Mode photos or often uses the optical zoom feature on the iPhone, you may not notice much of a difference if you choose the iPhone XR over the iPhone XS.

To get a clearer look at the camera quality of the iPhone XR compared to the iPhone XS Max, make sure to check out our Imgur album, which features full-resolution versions of the photographs that we shared in this article and in the video above.

What do you think of the iPhone XR camera? Do you prefer the iPhone XS camera? Let us know your thoughts on the comparison images in the comments.

Related Roundups: iPhone XS, iPhone XR


Top Rated Comments

(View all)

3 weeks ago
If anybody is curious and has an XS, I'll sell you a conversion kit that will allow you to emulate the XR camera.



$59.99 + shipping

Rating: 42 Votes
3 weeks ago

Which has nothing to do with the topic at hand.


Either does the Huawei Mate Pro 20. But, it was brought up and that made my comment fair game.

Heck, YOUR comment (about my comment) had nothing to do with the topic at hand.

Get over yourself, Captain Forum Police.
Rating: 18 Votes
3 weeks ago
Is it hard to get the exact same angle and depth on comparison shots? Hard to compare when the photos are completely different.
Rating: 11 Votes
3 weeks ago

Try Huawei Mate Pro 20 . Light years ahead of this garbage.


...and light years behind on privacy.

But sure, nice camera.
Rating: 8 Votes
3 weeks ago
Remove the labels from the pics and make the users choose which is which. Let the fun begin! :D
Rating: 7 Votes
3 weeks ago
Man these Spot The Difference games are getting harder and harder
Rating: 7 Votes
3 weeks ago
If you have an XS or Max and want to take someone’s picture in low light, dont forget that you have the option of not choosing portrait mode so that the phone uses the brighter wide angle lens.
Rating: 5 Votes
3 weeks ago

If anybody is curious and has an XS, I'll sell you a conversion kit that will allow you to emulate the XR camera.


You have won the internet tonight!! :p
Rating: 4 Votes
3 weeks ago
It's very odd that the portrait mode feature with the single lens isn't included on the Xs. I know obviously they want you to use the telephoto lens for that mode but you can't deny how much better the lower light performance is with the wide angle.
Rating: 3 Votes
3 weeks ago

Has anyone seen the bezel on the XR? It’s horrendous and huge after using the X/XS.

Not as bad as my current 8+. The XR will be fine for me.
Rating: 3 Votes

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