Sorry… did I say tennis? I meant the iPhone Xs (pronounced “ten ess” according to Apple) which was announced yesterday. There’s a regular version that’s the same size as last year’s iPhone X, and a bigger version (the iPhone Xs Max) if you want a phone that just barely smaller than an iPad mini.
What does it mean for photographers?
The new hardware is about what we’d expect. The iPhone Xs has 60% greater dynamic range when compared with the iPhone X. A new processor with a bunch of performance improvements. Dual 12 megapixel cameras (f/1.8 wide angle and f/2.4 telephoto lenses) with bigger sensors.
The real improvements come in software. This is an increasing trend in the photography industry overall and not just with Apple.
The big sexy new feature is that you can now adjust the depth of field after capture on an image using the depth map features of the dual-camera phone. Imagine shooting an image that has a very shallow depth of field, and then altering it after the fact to bring a bit more back into focus. A couple years ago a company called Lytro gained some publicity for building a camera and software setup that allowed this to happen. While their take never gained widespread popularity, Apple will now enable this functionality in our pockets.
There are other improvements as well; a much smarter HDR function will better capture multiple frames at the same time and blend them together for the best image, with notable improvements for challenging subjects such as those that are moving.
There tend to be two camps of folks when it comes to advancements in smartphone photography technology. Some, like the author of yesterday’s Photofocus iPhone article, take a dismissive angle, pointing out why the iPhone won’t beat the feature set of a traditional DSLR. They note that while Apple showcased a Time magazine cover shot with an iPhone, no mention was made of lighting or accessories. Me? I’m of the more positive angle. I’m all for photographic innovation in smartphones. Why wouldn’t we want better cameras in our pockets all the time? Will the iPhone eliminate the market for more serious cameras? Of course not. But will it allow us to make better images more frequently? Definitely. And that’s a good thing for the industry.
Whether you get the new iPhone or not, Apple’s innovation in photography helps us all.