About Thomas Fitzgerald

Thomas is a professional fine art photographer and writer specialising in photography related instructional books as well as travel writing and street photography. 

iPhone XR Camera + Lightroom Mobile

iPhone XR Camera + Lightroom Mobile

For the longest time I’ve been using an iPhone 6 plus. It has served me well. In fact one of the first photos I took with that phone was actually featured in Apple’s first “Shot on iPhone” campaign when it originally started, and I’ve been using it ever since. I never got around to upgrading for various reasons, but lately I felt that it was maybe time to stop trying to use the ageing device.

Mainly because it was also starting to fail.

I had recently broken the screen despite it being in a case and having survived many falls over the years. The lightening port was also beginning to fail. Despite multiple attempts to clean it, it would only charge if the cable was in at just the right angle and not too much pressure was on it. It was time for an upgrade. The iPhone XS is pretty expensive here in Ireland (and everywhere else I suppose), so I settled for the iPhone XR and I couldn’t be happier.

Going from an iPhone 6 to an iPhone XR was like going from a bicycle to a performance sports car. The difference in the experience is staggering. However the thing I was most interested in (well, one of them) and what you’re probably more interested in, given that this is a photography blog, is the camera. 

I get that I am somewhat late to the game here, and there has been review upon review of this phone and its cameras at this point. I still think I have something to say on it though. You see, despite the hype, at first I thought it was just “good”. It was a significant improvement, but still a phone camera and not justifying the hype. I tried lots of different apps, such as “Manual” and “Halide” as well as VSCO and others. I tried shooting in RAW in those applications. It all looked good, but again, nothing special. 

Then I tired Lightroom Mobile

I was blown away. The results were not what I was expecting. It was far beyond that. The quality you can get when shooting RAW in Lightroom CC on your phone is mind blowing to me. It’s not as good as a DSLR of course, but it’s not far off it. It is more like what you would expect from a premium compact camera. It’s a little noisy in the shadows, but other than that, it’s pretty impressive.

I hadn’t really used Lightroom Mobile that much, especially on my phone. The main reason was that it was painfully slow on my old iPhone 6. Also, the camera was pretty “meh” on that device too, and it couldn’t shoot RAW. On the XR however, it’s is a whole different beast though. 

Of all the apps that I tested, Lightroom Mobile by far produced the best quality (technical quality) images. It actually all makes sense to me now. ‘m sure that shooting raw in one of the other applications and then processing that in a third party app on your computer or phone would produce good results too, but then this does it all in one. Before, I kind of questioned the way the whole Lightroom CC setup worked, but now, it’s pretty obvious where they are going with the eco system. Lightroom Mobile’s HDR feature is also pretty good too. It’s not perfect - occasionally there can be some noise in the shadows, but still - In a split second you get a properly bracketed and combined HDR merged from raw files and processed into a DNG. All on a tiny pocket computer, and when you get home, they’re there on your desktop, ready to continue editing.

I get that there will be some people who disagree with me on this, purely because it’s Adobe, but in my opinion, and for my photography, I’m really impressed. Even using a third party app that supports raw and then trying to process those raw files (it saves as DNGs) in Apple photos doesn’t produce as good a result, in my opinion. 

I still don’t see a phone replacing a DSLR or Mirrorless camera any time soon, but I can actually see a situation where it’s possible at some point in the future. The biggest issue is the lack of lenses and optical zooms. I know there are options for this, and I will be investigating those in the future too, but it needs to be an integrated solution. Another thing I would like to see too, is for all of the apps from camera manufacturers that connect to various cameras over wifi and bluetooth, for those to support raw and not just Jpegs. This is such a big limitation at the moment. I get why they don’t, but at least give us an option.

Below are a selection of photos shot and processed entirely on the phone using Lightroom mobile. They were all shot raw or as a HDR (which also seems to use the raw image data). I also shot some video using the Filmic Pro app, but I’ll cover that in another post.

Help Support the Blog

This blog is pretty much my day job now and I work to bring you my own take on photography, both tutorials and tips, as well as inspiration from my own art. I support this work, and my YouTube channel entirely either via sales of my eBooks and Lightroom presets, or the kind support of my readers. (I also have some affiliate ads). Running all this isn’t cheap, and so If you like what you see and you want to help keep this all going, there are a number of ways you can do so:

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