I began collecting Apple computers, accessories, and collectibles in the 1990s. When iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch devices were introduced, I began to collect those items as well. About twenty-five years later, I have an extensive collection of all things Apple.
Beginning in late 2018, I began to document and catalog my collection. I use a Nikon D3500 (with 18–35mm lens), iPhone 12 Pro Max, a basic lighting setup, and a white IKEA table. Blog entries include information, photos, and personal commentary. My Instagram account that features highlights from this collection.
The Apple Watch Leather Link was an Apple Watch band released in 2020. The design is similar to the previous Leather Loop design, but while the Leather Loop included a metal “eye,” the Leather Link is secured solely by magnets.
Apple describes the Leather Link:
“The Leather Link features handcrafted Roux Granada leather made in France. The strap elegantly wraps around the wrist and magically attaches with flexible moulded magnets that gently flex to help maintain a secure, comfortable fit throughout the day.”
When released, the Leather Link was available in Baltic Blue, California Poppy, Saddle Brown, and Black. It came in sizes including 40mm in S/M (130–160mm wrists) and M/L (140–180mm wrists), and 44mm in S/M (140–180mm wrists) and M/L (165–205mm wrists).
This example is California Poppy (yellow-orange) in size 44mm, M/L.
The Apple Watch Series 7 is similar to the Series 6 that preceded it, but has a larger, edge-to-edge display, a more durable case, and faster charging capabilities. Like all previous Apple Watch models, the Series 7 uses Apple’s Digital Crown and a touch display with haptic feedback. Apple described the Series 7 as having “a reengineered Always-On Retina display with significantly more screen area and thinner borders.”
The Series 7 introduced two new sizes, 45mm and 41mm. This example uses the 45mm display. The display is a 396×484 LTPO OLED and is “Always On.” The display is protected by Apple’s Sapphire crystal that adds durability.
The cellular-equipped Apple Watch Series 7 models were available as an option with the aluminum colors and standard with stainless and titanium models. The cellular Apple Watch models can connect to the Internet without an iPhone (non-cellular models can answer phone calls if an iPhone is “tethered” and in range). Cellular models require an add-on cellular data service obtained through your cellular provider that links your iPhone number to the Watch and costs approximately $10 per month.
Apple described the color choices:
“Apple Watch Series 7 introduces five beautiful new aluminum case finishes, including midnight, starlight, green, and a new blue and (PRODUCT)RED, along with a range of new band colors and styles. Stainless steel models are available in silver, graphite, and gold stainless steel, along with Apple Watch Edition in titanium and space black titanium.”
The Apple Watch Series 7 has a ceramic and sapphire crystal back. Upon release, Apple offered eleven pre-configured options:
Green Aluminum with Clover Sport Band
Starlight Aluminum with Starlight Sport Band
Midnight Aluminum with Midnight Sport Band
Blue Aluminum with Abyss Blue Sport Band
(PRODUCT)RED Aluminum with Red Sport Band
Gold Stainless Steel with Dark Cherry Sport Band
Gold Stainless Steel with Gold Milanese Loop
Silver Stainless Steel with Starlight Sport Band
Silver Stainless Steel with Silver Milanese Loop
Graphite Stainless Steel with Abyss Blue Sport Loop
Graphite Stainless Steel with Graphite Milanese Loop
Two aluminum Apple Watch Series 7 Nike options were available at release as pre-configured options:
Starlight Aluminum with Platinum/Black Sport Band
Midnight Aluminum with Anthracite/Black Sport Band
Two Apple Watch Series 7 Hermès options were available at release:
Space Black Stainless Steel case with patterned blue and black leather Circuit H Single Tour Band
Silver Stainless Steel case with brown leather Single Tour Deployment Buckle
In addition to the included Hermès-designed bands, Apple Watch Series 7 Hermès devices with black housings include a black Hermes Sport Band and models with silver housings include an orange Hermes Sport Band.
This silver stainless steel 45mm example shipped with a Starlight Sport Band. It is shown here with a California Poppy Leather Link band.
Apple announced their AirPods Max over-ear headphones on December 8, 2020, and they shipped one week later on December 15. The original press release touted:
“AirPods Max feature incredible high-fidelity audio, Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, and spatial audio”
The headphones featured a brand new design and included the Digital Crown from the Apple Watch as the primary control interface. Materials included a “breathable knit mesh canopy” that spanned the entire headband that was meant to reduce pressure on the head while wearing the headphones for extended periods. The headband frame was made from stainless steel and telescoped to allow a custom fit. The ear cushions were made from a “custom-designed mesh textile [that] wraps the ear cushions to provide pillow-like softness while listening.” The outer ear cup was aluminum in a rectangular shape with steeply rounded corners (as opposed to a round or oval design seen on other over-the-ear headphone designs).
The audio technology included “H1 chips, and advanced software to power computational audio for a breakthrough listening experience with Adaptive EQ, Active Noise Cancellation, Transparency mode, and spatial audio.” The battery on AirPods Max was advertised at 20 hours.
AirPods Max headphones were available in five colors: space gray, silver, sky blue, green, and pink. The colors consistently referred to the color of the outer ear cup of the AirPods Max, since each color option used a different combination of accent colors. Space gray used space gray outer ear cups with black ear cushions and headband. Silver used silver outer ear cups with white ear cushions and headband. Sky blue used light blue outer ear cups with light blue ear cushions and a dark blue headband. Green used light green outer ear cups with light green ear cushions and a pale green (white tinted with green) headband. Pink used pale pink (similar to Apple’s Rose Gold) outer ear cups with dark pink ear cushions and a red headband.
AirPods Max Ear Cushions were also sold separately by Apple as replacements or to allow users to customize their headphone style. By mixing and matching the Ear Cushions, 25 color combinations were possible—or 125 combinations if two different ear cushion colors were used.
The AirPods Max shipped with an arguably unusual case design that provided little protection, but allowed the headphones to go into “an ultralow power state that helps to preserve battery charge when not in use.”
When AirPods Max were released, they were almost universally praised for their superior sound quality and noise-cancelling features, but panned for their high price of $549. The primary technical issue shared by some reviewers was the tendency for AirPods Max to “form condensation under the earcups and the water that is formed gets inside the drivers causing ear detection problems.”
The Apple Watch Series 1 models were similar to the original Apple Watch (also known as “Series 0”), but used a more powerful dual core processor. Like its predecessor, this Apple Watch was controlled with a Digital Crown and a Force Touch display, and it needed to be paired with iPhone 5 (or newer).
This Apple Watch Series 1 model is a 38mm version (a 42mm version was also available) and used a 272 × 340 display.
The Apple Watch Series 1 was originally sold in four standard configurations: silver aluminum case with white Sport Band gold aluminum case with cocoa (dark brown) Sport Band rose gold aluminum case with midnight blue Sport Band space gray aluminum case with black Sport Band
The Sport Bands were made of fluoroelastomer rubber. This Apple Watch Series 1 version has a silver aluminum case with white Sport Band.
The Apple Watch Sport Band is made from a flexible rubber material called fluoroelastomer with a metal pin closure. Sizes range from S/M, M/L, or L/XL. When purchasing an Apple Watch Sport Band, the S/M and M/L sizes are included in the box, allowing the band to fit wrists 140–210 mm.
Apple describes the Apple Watch Sport band:
“Made from a custom high-performance fluoroelastomer, the Sport Band is durable and strong, yet surprisingly soft. The smooth, dense material drapes elegantly across your wrist and feels comfortable next to your skin. An innovative pin-and-tuck closure ensures a clean fit.”
The Apple Watch Sport band has been available in the most colors so far. As of November 2021, 110 Apple Sport Band colors were available with an additional 36 Nike Sport Band colors (according to the Bandbreite app).
This example comes with S/M and M/L sizes for the 38 mm Apple Watch that is also compatible with 40mm and 41mm sizes.
On October 18, 2021, Apple introduced HomePod mini in three new colors: yellow, orange, and blue. The three new colors joined the two original colors of white and space gray. Apple describes the HomePod mini as:
“Jam-packed with innovation, HomePod mini delivers unexpectedly big sound for a speaker of its size. At just 3.3 inches tall, it takes up almost no space but fills the entire room with rich 360-degree audio that sounds amazing from every angle. Add more than one HomePod mini for truly expansive sound.”
In addition to adding bold color to the exterior mesh fabric, Apple also color-matched the touch surface, volume icons, and woven power cable.
The technology built in to the HomePod mini is described by Apple:
“HomePod mini uses computational audio to provide a rich and detailed acoustic experience and deliver peak performance. To achieve big sound out of such a compact design, the Apple S5 chip runs advanced software to analyze the unique characteristics of the music. It also applies complex tuning models to optimize loudness, adjust the dynamic range, and control the movement of the driver and passive radiators, all in real time. HomePod mini’s full-range driver, premium neodymium magnet, and pair of force-cancelling passive radiators enable it to produce deep bass and crisp high frequencies.”
On October 18, 2021, Apple held an online “Unleased” event where they introduced a “new MacBook Pro with M1 Pro or M1 Max chip, all-new AirPods, and HomePod mini in five bold colors.” On the same day, Apple quietly released an “official” Polishing Cloth as an accessory that was available on the website for $19.
Apple describes the product:
“Made with soft, nonabrasive material, the Polishing Cloth cleans any Apple display, including nano-texture glass, safely and effectively.”
In addition to the product description, Apple provided a long list of models under the Compatibility header including iPhone models back to the iPhone SE (1st generation), iPad models back to the iPad mini (1st generation), Mac models back to iMac (Retina 5K, 27-inch, Late 2014 – 2015), all Apple Watch models back Apple Watch 1st generation, iPod models back to iPod shuffle (4th generation), and the Display model Pro Display XDR.
Originally, this Polishing Cloth was included only with the Pro Display XDR that was sold with Standard glass for $4,999 or Nano-texture glass for $5,999.
Apple specified on its support website, “If your Apple Pro Display XDR has nano-texture glass, clean it using only the included polishing cloth.” On the interior of the package, an included cardboard insert explains that the cloth is “Safe for use on all Apple displays and surfaces. For infrequent cleaning of hard-to-remove smudges on nano-texture glass, a 70% isopropyl alcohol (IPA) solution may be used.”
Soon after the Polishing Cloth was posted on Apple’s site, various tech bloggers began writing tongue-in-cheek articles about the $19 cloth. The articles included reviews, announcements, and even a “tear-down” from the website iFixIt. Some example articles included:
The original blogger who “broke” the story on October 19, 2021, (at 9:55AM) was Victoria Song on Engadget: Apple Wants You to Pay How Much for a Polishing Cloth?! Two weeks later, she proclaimed in a follow-up article, “The Apple Polishing Cloth Is Everything Wrong With Society” where she acknowledged “It was a fun bit, but like many things, it spiraled out of control.”
My testing reveals that this Polishing Cloth functions as described.
Shortly after I received my iPhone 13 Pro that included several new impressive camera upgrades, I wondered if the iPhone camera system had yet improved to the point that it could meet or exceed my Nikon D3500 for my Apple collection photography. While I am by no means a professional-level photographer, I have captured tens of thousands photos of my Apple hardware and collectibles over the past few years, and then edited and posted the results here on my Apple Collection website and blog.
Nearly all the photos on this website were captured with a Nikon D3500 with a basic lens. In fact, it took me about a year to learn how to use this camera—my first Digital SLR. I consulted several websites, a book, and YouTube videos to learn the many methods I now use regularly. I shoot the photos in my relatively low-cost home photography studio. While I originally set out to spend less than $100 on the lighting, backdrop, and table, I upgraded my lighting after two years to bring the total investment to about $150.
As an Apple Collector, I find the idea attractive to use an Apple camera to capture my Apple collection, but this has never been a goal. I decided to shoot photos of one collection item with both the iPhone 13 Pro and the Nikon D3500. The item selected was my recently purchased iPad Pro 11-inch with the M1 chip. The photo session includes the unboxing and the device.
Here’s what I learned.
At first, using the iPhone 13 Pro seemed more liberating than the Nikon D3500 because shooting with a phone seemed a bit more nimble than the larger camera. The iPhone screen is considerably larger than the Nikon’s viewfinder and display—and the iPhone shows a better representation of the subject in real time, especially when viewing the depth of field effects rendered with the iPhone 13 Pro.
I changed my mind when I started using the iPhone 13 Pro’s touted Macro features. As it turns out, when you get close to an object with the iPhone 13 Pro, the phone casts a shadow from the studio lights, making the photos nearly unusable without readjusting all my lighting. On the Nikon, I just twist to zoom the lens. While I generally don’t capture many Macro shots, I’d definitely consider adding more if it was easy to do so.
That being said, a few of the Macro shots I captured from the iPhone 13 Pro were impressive after a bit of light fussing.
Macro Lens Issue
When the initial reviews for the iPhone 13 Pro started getting posted, I read about one particular problem with incredulity—the issue of the iPhone camera switching frames when moving between the “regular” camera lens and the Macro lens. Very often, reviewers over-state issues as major problems that turn out to be very minor annoyances. Unfortunately, this is not one of those times.
Reviewer Raymond Wong for inputmag.com states the issue well: “…if you have your iPhone 13 Pro camera set to the 1x wide camera and place an object or a subject within 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) of it, the viewfinder will maintain the 1x framing/composition but use the ultrawide’s close-range autofocusing in tandem. You can literally see the viewfinder flicker/pop and ‘switch’ to this hybrid viewfinder.”
In my experience, Mr. Wong may have understated this problem. When I attempted to frame my Macro shots, I moved the lens to the 2cm zone where I expected the Macro feature to engage, and the iPhone not only reframed my shot, but when the lens changed, I was unable to re-locate the part of the subject I wanted to capture.
How does this happen, you might ask?
If you are shooting, for instance, the overall texture of a surface, getting 2cm from the surface and having the camera system switch to a different lens is not much an issue since the surface you are shooting covers the area still viewable by all the camera lenses. However, if you are attempting to photograph a detail that’s just a few millimeters wide, getting the lens within 2cm and then having then lens switch to a different lens that’s about 2cm away, you have now lost your subject! Most of the time, I couldn’t find the subject again—AND the lenses kept switching as I was attempting to re-locate the subject.
IT WAS INFURIATING, but Apple claims to have a fix for this coming.
For both photo shoots, I used the exact same lighting comprised of my three lighting sources: two bright daylight CFL studio lighting bulbs behind a filter (the primary lighting source), two non-filtered daylight CFL studio lighting bulbs providing mostly indirect lighting on the white backdrop, and two LED bulbs providing a “wash” from below my white backdrop. I occasionally use these old LED Philips Hue bulbs to provide a color wash on the backdrop, but they mostly are set to a pure white to match the studio lighting bulbs.
Despite the fact that the lighting was exactly the same for both cameras, the iPhone 12 Pro photos delivered very inconsistent backgrounds compared to the Nikon D3500.
Far more concerning to me, the iPhone 13 Pro captured the light from the Hue bulbs differently in every shot. Although the bulbs are set to pure white, the iPhone somehow captured the cycling individual colors of the LED bulbs. One shot shows this in detail where the background shows color bands of yellow, pink, and blue in distinct stripes of color. At the same time, all lighting looked far darker on the iPhone 13 Pro.
When editing, the only way to remove these odd colorations was to either greatly desaturate the iPhone photos or switch them to black-and-white. To be fair, the Nikon is not blameless in casting odd colors. However, when the D3500 casts color, it is usually yellow—it has never delivered color bands or multiple color casts in the same photo.
Surprise and Delight
When I set out to try the iPhone 13 Pro camera, I was thinking about capturing photos, not using the other features offered by the iPhone 13 Pro and iOS 15. One particular feature truly surprised and delighted me: Live Text.
As I shot the packaging for the iPad 11 Pro, the iPhone’s new Live Text feature immediately “read” and displayed the text on the box—and interpreted the printed text perfectly. Since my collection includes mostly old Apple items that may no longer be online (or difficult to find), my sources are sometimes limited to what’s printed on a box or included in a manual. The iOS 15 Live Text feature allows me to capture a photo of any text and instantly have the ability to select, copy, and paste the text from my photo and use it in my accompanying blog post. Live Text will save countless hours in the future when photographing new items when only printed information is available.
Incidentally, Live Text also perfectly interpreted a printed serial number. I capture serial numbers for every item in my collection, and I dread doing so since they are generally difficult to read and prone to transposition errors. This will make the activity far more palatable.
I was not expecting to consider using Live Text, and the feature is exceptionally useful.
When comparing the photos from the two camera devices, the overall photo quality is the most important aspect of this exercise. I am surprised by the significant differences between the devices.
While the iPhone 13 Pro photos show an impressive sharpness, that sharpness appears unnatural to me. All the photos appear to use a mechanical-looking pixel pattern compared to the more natural look of the Nikon. The unnatural pixelation is especially obvious in the Macro shots.
Overall, my opinion is that the Nikon D3500 photos look better than the iPhone 13 Pro photos.
I will continue to use the Nikon D3500 for my primary Apple Collection photography.
That being said, I will definitely reach for the iPhone 13 Pro when I want a Macro shot to add to my blog post. Similarly, when shooting older product packaging and/or manuals, I will use the iPhone’s Live Text features to grab the text so I don’t have to retype it.
Overall, this verdict is neither surprising nor disappointing to me. I have always had a “pick the right tool for the job” mindset, and this situation is no different.
To see the “official” photo shoot for the iPad Pro 11 (2021) in my collection, please see this post. The photos I captured with the iPhone 13 Pro are shown below in this post.
Sincere thanks to my friend Sid for suggesting this comparison! I learned a lot here.
This iPad Smart Folio was released in Electric Orange along with the Generation 3, 11-inch iPad Pro. This folio was also compatible with the Generation 1 and 2 11-inch iPad Pro models. Apple describes the Smart Folio for iPad Pro:
“The Smart Folio for iPad Pro is thin and light and offers front and back protection for your device. It automatically wakes your iPad when opened and puts it to sleep when closed. The Smart Folio attaches magnetically, and you can easily fold it into different positions to create a stand for reading, viewing, typing, or making FaceTime calls.”
In addition to black and white, this version of the Smart Folio for iPad Pro was also available in English Lavender, Dark Navy, Mallard Green, and this color called Electric Orange.
Unlike previous Smart Cover models for iPad, this Smart Folio offers front and back protection using the iPad Pro internal magnets. The front cover folds to allow two different angles, and also folds with the magnets to allow a completely flat position.
Finally, since this iPad is compatible with the Apple Pencil Generation 2, the Smart Folio allows the Apple Pencil to magnetically attach to the side of the iPad for storage and charging.
The Generation 3, 11-inch iPad Pro appears the same externally as its two predecessors, but uses Apple’s significantly faster M1 chip and adds an enhanced front camera. This iPad Pro featured an Apple M1 chip with an 8-core CPU with 4 performance cores and 4 efficiency cores along with a 16-core Neural Engine. The iPad Pro website boasts that this model is “Supercharged by the Apple M1 chip” with “Mind-blowing performance.”
“With M1, iPad Pro is the fastest device of its kind. It’s designed to take full advantage of next‑level performance and custom technologies like the advanced image signal processor and unified memory architecture of M1. And with the incredible power efficiency of M1, iPad Pro is still thin and light with all‑day battery life, making it as portable as it is powerful.”
This iPad Pro 11-inch uses an LED-backlit 2388×1668 Liquid Retina display (264 ppi, 600 nits) with a thin black bezel with rounded corners and flat sides. This iPad is Space Gray, and it was also available in Silver. This 128GB models used 8GB RAM (as did the 256 and 512 GB options, while the 1 and 2 TB models used 16 GB of RAM).
This iPad Pro included a USB-C port (Thunderbolt/USB 4) for charging and wired connectivity. Wireless connectivity included 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. Cellular models were also available.
The 12-megapixel Ultra Wide front camera was the first iPad camera to offer the Center Stage feature that automatically keeps people in the camera frame by zooming and panning. Its two rear cameras included a 12-megapixel wide angle and a 10-megapixel ultra-wide angle lens.
Like iPhone Pro models of the time, this iPad Pro also included LiDAR and Face ID. It could also use a Generation 2 Apple Pencil that charged using a magnetic connection on the side of the iPad. A similar iPad Pro with a 12.9-inch screen was sold at the same time as this 11-inch model.