Apple iPhone X: First Hands on with Chase Jarvis

This post originally published on October 30, 2017.

Ten years ago when Steve Jobs launched the original iPhone into pop culture, it had a very distinct feeling about it.  Simply put, it felt like the future.

Today, some ten years later, I tasted that same taste again.  This time with iPhone X.

Yes, it’s true – I’m lucky enough to be strapped with one of the very first iPhone X’s to hit the streets (not in stores until next week), I just spent the past few hours running around NYC with a few creative friends.  With just a couple hours of daylight after I got the phone, I scrambled to capture a few photos and videos and then smashed together a quick video edit to share with you of my first experiences hands-on.

Go deeper with Chase Jarvis in his class, Photography with Your iPhone X. Learn more.

Going back to 2007, when the iPhone first came out – sure I was excited to have, as Jobs said “the internet in my pocket” and “a wide screen iPod” and “revolutionary mobile phone” all in one device…but what I was really after, was the camera.  Sure it was early but it was the camera on the first iPhone that inspired me to popularize the phrase “the best camera is the one that’s with you.”

Now ten years on, cameras are nearly ubiquitous.  My best camera mantra has been proven true.  But we’re in an entirely new world now.  And in this world, I wanted more than a well-connected camera – and we’ve finally got this in the iPhone X. It’s a pretty big / new shift:

  • technology that works quickly to improve my creativity. Photos and video. Stereo playback. All of it. I don’t want to have to overthink the lighting to create a flattering portrait.  I don’t want specialized camera to shoot super slow motion in HD.  I want the creative vision I see in my mind delivered as effectively and efficiently as possible. We have this now more than ever. It’s far more than just a good camera. Technology and vision in this device will accelerate access to creativity for more people.
  • a device that feels, not separate from me, but rather an extension of me. An edge to edge display that’s more immersive than anything I’ve felt before.  I want to hold my photographs and videos, not a piece of technology. Got that now.
  • a universal communication tool. If the phone is like a Swiss Army knife – that camera used to be the toothpick – that rarely used appendage. Whereas today the camera is the center of the device – it’s the blade.  Cameras- or rather an entire imaging ecosystem – via VR, AR, Animoji’s, facial recognition, etc – is a core competency of the device. These competencies used to be ‘nice to haves’.  From here forward, this such system is a piece of cultural literacy. We made a big step here.
  • a utility. It should help me pay bills. Swap files, and connect me to others (networked) and myself (personal data, health, etc). We’re getting this now too..

So again – all the above is what this new iPhone X signifies for me. If you want reviews that talk about speeds and feeds – I’m never your guy. There are lots of sites that do that well. I’m more interested in things that will help us tell stories..and that is almost never technical. That’s why I thought it would be helpful to start my POV on the iPhone X with what I know for sure about it, having just had a few hours with it. Namely, that we’re now in a new era.

Chase Jarvis goes in-depth on using your iPhone to capture amazing portraits, action, landscapes, and video. Learn more.

Of course as a self-identified creator, I’m probably overly focused on the creative capacity of the device, but to put it bluntly, it delivers on that in spades.  And it delivers every bit as much on the other concepts above as well.  For example, facial recognition?  To experience a handheld computer nearly-instantaneously recognizing YOU – whether you’re donning sunglasses or a hat or both, is both surprising and sure to add valuable into the foreseeable future in a way I haven’t fully grasped.

Quick summary on things that brought me great joy: the portrait mode is very good. And now it’s on the front facing camera too. I love that the portrait lighting settings behave like RAW files in that they can be applied after the moment of capture (if captured in live photo mode). Maybe it’s just because it’s new…I haven’t really wrapped my mind around it all quite yet. But the facial recognition is really impressive. Blazing fast I have had a few instances where it hiccuped on me and didn’t open immediately but that was rare. The OLED display is insanely good. The contrast is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. And the edge to edge / bezel arrangement is stunning. It somehow further humanizes the device. I feel like i’m holding my photos and videos…not a device on which to view them.

Is this device perfect?  No device is perfect. I haven’t played with the wireless charging, but I have questions about it. (How easy / ubiquitous will this become and how fast?). How much stronger is the new glass than previous models?… because I’m good at breaking that stuff…) But– here’s my point – for whatever the iPhone X doesn’t quite deliver on, it at least very adroitly provides the intimation of a path… You can feel where it’s going, and it feels good. The haters might run to the spec sheet. Point at this deficiency or that – talking pixel peeping or chip speeds. But speaking frankly, all that misses the point.

The point is simple. Just like the first iPhone helped us see the future we couldn’t quite put into words, so does the X. It’s more than just an incremental upgrade from the previous versions. With the iPhone X you can feel the future again in the smartphone.

Having spent a life and career as a professional photographer prior to doubling down on my time at CreativeLive in recent years – of course I want to take and share photos as a part of my first, hands on the device – so there’s a few here, but to be clear – these are largely just snapshots from the few hours we spent making the video and getting outside with a new toy/tool. I’ll expect to share a deeper selection of work over the coming days, weeks months…


The full spec list is here, but this is the list you probably care about:

– 64GB or 256 GB

– 5.8 inch OLED Super Retina display 2436 x 1125 resolution at 458 ppi, 625cd/m2 brightness, and 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio

– 12 megapixel wide and telephoto lenses (f1.8 and f2.4 aperture)

– 7 megapixel true-depth front-facing camera (f2.2), including facial recognition

– 4k video at 24, 30 or 60 FPS

– 1080 HD video at 30, 60, 120 or 240 FPS

– Image stabilization

– Portrait & portrait lighting modes in both cameras (front + back)

– Wireless charging

– A11 chip

– Battery charge lasting 2 hours longer than previous models


Admittedly, the above video is really just a vignette.  It’s a quick peek into the first few hours after I got the phone, along with a handful of photos and videos made on the fly….before I missed my plane 😉  Yes, I missed my Monday flight. I’m currently polishing up this post a bit from 37,000 feet..the day after I was originally scheduled to fly.

I’ll be shooting more photos and video over the next several weeks and will be posting here + CL social channels as well as my personal channels @chasejarvis everywhere on the net.

Shoutout to Travis Rice, Sara Dietschy, and John Hill – thx for goofing around on short notice 😉

[In addition to being a lifelong photographer, Chase Jarvis is also the Founder and CEO of CreativeLive.]

Chase Jarvis goes in-depth on using your iPhone to capture amazing portraits, action, landscapes, and video. Learn more.

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Chase Jarvis is the co-founder and CEO of CreativeLive, a world-renowned photographer and director, and lifelong student.