Friday, September 9, 2022

iPhone Portrait Mode: Past, Present, and Foreground

Nate Pfeiffer:

Portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus showed a lot of promise but its flaws were plain to see, for a number of reasons. The depth maps it generated lacked any fine detail and often assumed features like glasses or ears were part of the background, resulting in inaccurate blurring.


Let’s break down the iterative improvements that led to the 13 Pro being near indistinguishable from the Rebel T6 in our first example. First, the image processing brings out more fine detail and widens dynamic range, preventing highlights from overexposing. The depth estimation did a better job at keeping the background blurred between small foreground objects and cutting out foliage edges. Shallower bokeh simulation (which can be manually adjusted) and iOS 16’s foreground blur are the cherries on top.


Apple’s new, aggressive approach to processing faces is laid bare here. Ensuring even exposure on the skin takes priority above all else. In many ways, the 8 Plus’ photo is more realistic with regard to lighting, due to its contrasted look, while the 13 Pro’s photo just feels more perfect than reality.

The depth maps have really improved.

Via Nick Heer:

Portrait Mode has come a long way since its first iterations. […] That said, I still have not found Portrait Lighting very useful. It does not seem to have benefitted nearly as much from the significant investments in Portrait Mode.


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