Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Studio Display 15.5 Firmware Beta

Juli Clover:

Apple in March promised a firmware fix for the Studio Display to address an issue with the webcam, and according to an Apple spokesperson that spoke to The Verge, the firmware beta released today does indeed fix the webcam problem.


The firmware brings updated “camera tuning, improved noise reduction, contrast, and framing.”

Jason Snell (tweet):

This video is from two Studio Displays, one placed directly in front of the other. One display has the original shipping firmware, the other updated firmware. Judge the differences for yourself!

Jason Snell (tweet):

In general, I’d say the new firmware generates a better picture. A lot of that is down to the fact that it seems to prefer a wider crop. That’s good, because it means it’s using a larger portion of the Center Stage camera’s 12 megapixel image. More pixels should equate to a better image.

I’m not sure I have figured out how the Center Stage framing algorithm may have been tweaked. An advantage of the new, wider crop that Center Stage seems to prefer is that it requires less panning in general—a slight shift in posture isn’t nearly as dramatic when there’s more room around a face in the frame.

James Thomson:

Comparing the 15.5 (1st pic) and 15.4 (2nd pic) firmware for the Studio Display camera. There’s a lot less noise, and a touch more contrast, but it’s still quite washed out compared to the iMac Pro camera (3rd pic, taken last month).

The iMac Pro one—using a 2 MP camera from 2017 without the benefit of an A13—is so much better. If this improved version is what Apple intended, it seems like they made a terrible design choice with the Studio Display.


Update (2022-04-27): Nilay Patel (tweet):

It’s not going to blow anyone’s mind, but it’s definitely not as immediately broken-looking as before. There’s a little more detail in my face, less noise in the background, and the colors are definitely more accurate. (I look like I have actually seen the sun in the past year.) It does seem like Apple’s decision to put a wide-angle lens on this camera for Center Stage support is working against image quality here — no matter what, it’s cropping down that sensor, giving the whole system less data to work with.

Juli Clover:

In practice, if you watch our video up above, there are noticeable quality updates, but the difference is subtle. Colors are not as pale, there’s improved contrast, and the overall look is a bit more vibrant. Depending on lighting, there isn’t a huge difference in sharpness, but the changes seem to be an overall net improvement.

Filipe Espósito:

When Apple announced Studio Display, it promised “sensational” webcam quality. However, as customers got their hands on the product, they noticed that the images captured by the built-in camera were not good. Apple is now rolling out a beta software that promises to fix some of these issues – but the thing is, Studio Display’s poor webcam quality is not a software bug after all.


So while an iPhone is capable of taking a real 12-megapixel selfie, Center Stage cameras capture images at 12 megapixels using the ultra-wide lens and then digitally crop them to look like a regular photo or video. This process results in less-sharp images.

Mark Gurman:

In hindsight, it appears Apple knew this all along. Their original response: “We’ll be making improvements in a future software update." The word “fix” is never mentioned. There were some sites that claimed adamantly it wasn’t a hardware issue though. Appears it is.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

I don’t understand how the biggest camera company in the world thinks it’s okay to put such mediocre cameras in its multi-thousand-dollar products.

Jason Snell:

Should it just be a standard 4K webcam that doesn’t move instead of a CS camera with all those issues? Probably. But someone at Apple fell in love with that CS hardware.

James Thomson:

I recorded video directly from the Studio Display with 15.5 (1st pic) and the iPad Pro (2nd pic), and they are definitely closer, though I think the iPad Pro is still a bit better contrast-wise.

Mike Rundle:

I’m still shocked that Apple produced this. It’s impossible that Apple tested it thoroughly and saw a completely different quality before it hit the manufacturing line: they knew it looked that bad during various stages of early development and gave it the green light

Nick Heer:

Apple is usually great at making cameras perform well and its marketing emphasizes the new camera system in this display. Something is going very wrong here.

James Thomson:

[There’s] totally enough information in the output from the Studio Display to do a better job of rendering my face (I manually tweaked colours in Photoshop).

Maybe there’s still hope with some ML or even just basic calibration options?

Jasper Hauser:

What’s utterly weird to me is that the histogram clearly shows that the white balance is pretty off. It’s almost as if the iOS camera team was in no way involved in leveraging their image processing knowledge. Why?

Update (2022-04-28): Carolina Milanesi:

So I did a quick video comparison with my DSLR and the #AppleStudioDisplay after the update. A pretty clear improvement that serves most needs for a day spent in video meetings.

4 Comments RSS · Twitter

Yeah, I guess we have to assume the Studio Display is taking in a huge image (it is advertised as such) and doing a very harsh small crop on it. Well, what can they do? It is a tall display and many people will be out-of-frame down otherwise. I guess they thought clever software would make up for not pointing the camera. Seems not. Plus re-using an iPhone camera at a not-intended distance.

Does it fix this?

Apple Studio Display: the Technological Dumpster Fire that Crashes Just Like iOS and macOS, and Bricks Itself

Am I the only one who doesn't like the picture from the latest MBP web cam either?

@ Kristoffer: well, with any laptop, you can't put a particularly good sensor in the thin lid. I'm not sure laptops with appreciably better webcam than that of the MBP exist (except for perhaps very unwieldy ones).

With an external display, it's less forgivable.

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