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.