Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Apple Previews iOS 10.1 With ‘Portrait’ Camera Mode

Earlier today, Apple pushed out a developer preview1 of iOS 10.1, which includes the “Portrait” camera mode for the iPhone 7 Plus.

Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch got an early look at the feature:

If you’ve skipped here to see how the heck it works, I don’t blame you. The short answer: incredibly, miraculously well in many instances. And pretty rough in others. Apple says this is still in beta and it is. It has trouble with leaves, with chain link fences and patterns and with motion. But it also handles things so well that I never thought possible like fine children’s hair and dog fur, shooting pictures with people facing away and objects that are not people at all.

Panzarino’s test shots look decent, but when Serenity Caldwell posted a side-by-side comparison with a DSLR, it was obvious to me which was which. There is an inherently more natural fallout from the point of focus that can’t be simulated with the nine slices of depth generated by the iPhone’s dual cameras.

But these photos are extremely impressive, especially from a smartphone. It’s a simulation, sure, but a very convincing one when these photos are shared on Instagram or Facebook.

William Wilkinson also posted some tests on Twitter — featuring a cat instead of a baby — that are worth taking a look at. I’d love to give this a try, but I’m not sure it’s enough to convince me to choose the Plus model over the regular iPhone.

Update: According to Jeff Benjamin at 9to5Mac, Portrait mode works with inanimate objects:

I was almost sure that it would be a people-only thing, at least initially, due to the way Apple was wording the feature during its event and in its press materials. As Apple often does, it under-promised and over-delivered; that much is obvious, even in this early beta stage of the game.

That’s impressive.


  1. If you’re part of Apple’s public beta program, you should be getting this update by the end of the week. ↩︎