Behind the iPhone 8 and iPhone X Cameras

Speaking of the new iPhone cameras, John Paczkowski goes behind the scenes on the development of Portrait Lighting mode with Phil Schiller and designer Johnnie Manzari:

And to get it right, Apple relied on what it does best: enthusiastic study and deconstruction of the art form it wishes to mimic and advance. In the case of the iPhones 8 Plus and X, this meant pouring over the way others have used lighting throughout history — Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, Vermeer.

“If you look at the Dutch Masters and compare them to the paintings that were being done in Asia, stylistically they’re different,” Johnnie Manzari, a designer on Apple’s Human Interface Team, says. “So we asked why are they different? And what elements of those styles can we recreate with software?”

And then Apple went into the studio and attempted to do just that. “We spent a lot of time shining light on people and moving them around — a lot of time,” Manzari says. “We had some engineers trying to understand the contours of a face and how we could apply lighting to them through software, and we had other silicon engineers just working to make the process super-fast. We really did a lot of work.”

Portrait Lighting mode is a practical meaningful effect of the A11 Bionic chip’s astounding performance. Even if Android software engineers at Google or Samsung or wherever reproduced the work Apple has put into this, they don’t have the hardware to perform it on in real time.

As I wrote in my iPhone 8 review, in the old days, if you wanted better photos, you made better lenses and better film/sensors. With cameras small enough to fit in a phone, you need better software and better silicon.

Friday, 22 September 2017