The iPhone 12 series features a new camera system and an improved image processing algorithm. Today, Apple’s Product Line Manager for iPhones, Francesca Sweet, and the brand’s Vice President for Camera Software Engineering, Jon McCormack, have shared their approach to the development of iPhone 12’s camera in an interview with PetaPixel.
According to the interview, Apple’s aim is to allow users “stay in the moment, take a great photo, and get back to what they’re doing,” with iPhone’s cameras, rather than getting distracted by the technology behind the camera system and tinkering with settings.
Jon McCormack explains that professional photographers go through a series of processes to fine-tune their images. Apple, on the other hand, is trying to cut down that whole process to just tapping the shutter button, with the iPhones.
“We replicate as much as we can to what the photographer will do in post. There are two sides to taking a photo: the exposure, and how you develop it afterwards. We use a lot of computational photography in exposure, but more and more in post and doing that automatically for you. The goal of this is to make photographs that look more true to life, to replicate what it was like to actually be there.”
He went on to explain how Apple has developed the software for iPhone’s cameras to separately process multiple elements in the photo to offer close-to-life images.
“The background, foreground, eyes, lips, hair, skin, clothing, skies. We process all these independently like you would in Lightroom with a bunch of local adjustments,” McCormack continued. “We adjust everything from exposure, contrast, and saturation, and combine them all together… We understand what food looks like, and we can optimize the color and saturation accordingly to much more faithfully. Skies are notoriously hard to really get right, and Smart HDR 3 allows us to segment out the sky and treat it completely independently and then blend it back in to more faithfully recreate what it was like to actually be there.”
When asked about the brand’s intention behind offering Dolby Vision HDR video recording, here is what Jon McCormack had to say.
“Apple wants to untangle the tangled industry that is HDR, and how they do that is leading with really great content creation tools. It goes from producing HDR video that was niche and complicated because it needed giant expensive cameras and a video suite to do, to now my 15-year-old daughter can create full Dolby Vision HDR video. So, there will be a lot more Dolby Vision content around. It’s in the interest of the industry to now go and create more support.”
Commenting on the camera system of the iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro, the brand representatives said “the new wide camera, improved image fusion algorithms, make for lower noise and better detail.” As for the camera system of the iPhone 12 Pro Max, they said “with the Pro Max we can extend that even further because the bigger sensor allows us to capture more light in less time, which makes for better motion freezing at night.”
However, when they were asked why did the brand decide to offer the larger camera sensor in only the iPhone 12 Pro Max and not in the iPhone 12 Pro, here is what Jon McCormack had to say.
“It’s not as meaningful to us anymore to talk about one particular speed and feed of an image, or camera system,” he said. “As we create a camera system we think about all those things, and then we think about everything we can do on the software side… You could of course go for a bigger sensor, which has form factor issues, or you can look at it from an entire system to ask if there are other ways to accomplish that. We think about what the goal is, and the goal is not to have a bigger sensor that we can brag about. The goal is to ask how we can take more beautiful photos in more conditions that people are in. It was this thinking that brought about deep fusion, night mode, and temporal image signal processing.”
The reviews of the iPhone 12 Mini and the iPhone 12 Pro Max are out. And both these phones have gone on pre-orders. The iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Pro, on the other hand, are readily available to purchase.
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