BeautyGate Debunked: An Inside Look at the iPhone's New Camera

BeautyGate Debunked: An Inside Look at the iPhone's New Camera

Last month, we posted a lot about the new iPhones and how their flagship cameras may have fallen flat against some (very high) expectations. Both before and after the iPhone's release, critics were constantly talking up the new software updates to the camera, but what not many people were talking about was the entirely new hardware.

The cameras were transformed by the addition of the new A12 Bionic chip. Though critics are accrediting the A12 Bionic Chip for the faster speed of the new iPhones, it is also responsible for the upgrade in the cameras, which is said to transform the camera we saw in previous models. 

The new technologies that are powered by the A12 chip include the new image sensors, lenses, and a new image signal processor. Graham Townsend, Apple’s senior director of camera hardware, told journalist Lance Ulanoff they “use three sources of information: the dot-based depth sensor in the TrueDepth module, the dual-lens stereo imagery of the 12-megapixel cameras on the back of both the XS and XS Max, and an almost entire algorithmic solution on the XR.” Townsend went on, telling Ulanoff: “We’re not like a hardware company; we’re not like a software company. We’re a system company.”

And that symbiosis is why Apple is one of the leaders in tech. The intersection between software and hardware work together to create unparalleled tech. While people are up in arms about Apple allegedly slapping on a beauty effect; it’s these same technologies that are supposed to make our photos that much better.

Turns out it’s the reduction of noise from our everyday photos. It’s Apple’s new tech that merges exposures to eliminate stark contrasts on the skin, which results in evening out the contrast and reduction of noise that makes the photos appear to look softer to the naked eye.

I’d normally be hesitant to believe this, but because the same effect is applied to non-facial photos, it what made me change my mind. It’s not just skin that's affected: it’s animals, nature, etc. The moment you take a photograph, your phone is already taking a burst of photos to merge them all to attempt to create a super photo.

There are, of course, many third-party apps (like Halide) that have developed their apps to shoot in “Smart raw” to counteract this. It’s up to you, the consumer, to decide whether it’s worth having to take that extra step of processing your quick shots. 

In summary, Apple isn't applying an automatic beauty mode to soften your photos; BeautyGate is not a thing. Instead, Apple has attempted to create a superior camera, one that rivals the DSLR, that requires a number of photos to be taken and merged in various ways to create a better single image. The result is low-light front camera images that are less blown out, but may be smoother than in past iterations. 

Lead image by Grant Ritchie on Unsplash, used under Creative Commons.

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16 Comments

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

My iPhone’s front camera is automatically applying the ugliness mode to all of my selfies.. May have to upgrade the device.

Chris Spicks's picture

Based on the article yesterday, I'd agree with it more than this article.. The guys wrinkles and pores were obviously smoothed out.. They weren't 'taken at multiple exposures and noise filtered out'.. They were pretty obviously smoothed. Like he pointed out, his beard was all uniform, his skin tone was not splotchy, it was almost all the exact same skin tone..

Bursts of photos don't get rid of pores and splotches. If it's there in real life, it should be there in the photo. I understand if it does some fancy hdr (which can be turned off).. But hdr doesn't get rid of wrinkles.

Sorry, but I do t buy this article at all.

Daniel Medley's picture

:...but may be smoother than in past iterations."

Replace "smoother" with "softer" and you'll be more correct.

Chris Spicks's picture

Also when he showed the difference in processing between his hand on his face vs just his face. Two different looks.. So how is that blamed on hdr bursts..

Fritz Asuro's picture

"Instead, Apple has attempted to create a superior camera, one that rivals the DSLR, that requires a number of photos to be taken and merged in various ways to create a better single image"

Clearly they're doing a good job.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Regardless if Apple add effect, takes off noise etc. the results are ugly.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Unbox Therapy shows that when he photographed something other than his face the photo looks normal. Why everyone is trying to debunk what is clearly a beauty effect is beyond me.

https://youtu.be/Q3GGdtn9poo

Start at 6:44

Studio 403's picture

I think she is a underground spy working for apple. Deep Tech state. That’s my best conspiracy theory today Perhaps a trip to North Korean labor camp for 1 year will help. Remember Apple is the enemy of DSLR users. Apple Rumors is reporting Apple listening device are hidden in FStoppers bath rooms. What a blow up story

Laura Ersoy's picture

Ha! I wish I worked at Apple.

Michael Jin's picture

So it's not that "Beauty Gate" is not a thing. It's just that we're finding out that it's no longer something limited to the selfie camera... How does this change anything? The phone is still automatically smoothing photos. Whether it's also doing it to landscapes and squirrels doesn't change the fact that it's doing it to your face.

Spy Black's picture

Apple. Putting a smile on P.T. Barnum's face in his grave. Every day.

You are clearly a shill for Apple and The Patriarchy, how much did they pay you for this?!?! ;-)

Qoute: Instead, Apple has attempted to create a superior camera, one that rivals the DSLR, that requires a number of photos to be taken and merged in various ways to create a better single image.

What a load of drizzle and truely spoken as only the worst Apple fanboys can. I hope you realise that numerous mobile phone cameras have already taken HDR photos and merging them for years and years. There is absolutely nothing new about it. My Nexus 6p did it four years ago.

What is new is that Apple cannot merge them without messing up the picture by creating lots of noise.
It is hardly an advantage. Please get your facts straight.

This doesn't prevent the camera being quite good for a very hefty price.

Christopher Hill's picture

Na, fake news. Definitely a beauty filter.