Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Austin Mann Takes the iPhone 8 Plus to India

One of the iPhone reviews I look forward to most every year is Austin Mann’s; it’s also the review that makes me the most envious. The new Portrait Lighting feature is particularly impressive, especially in Mann’s use. Also of note:

During my briefing with the Apple team, they mentioned I should expect to see improvements in how the iPhone 8 Plus meters for specific scenes like sunsets and concerts, and they also mentioned it should focus more accurately on fast moving objects.

I asked them if they had given these improvements a name and their answer was simple: “It’s a smarter sensor.” I noticed these subtle improvements every time I shot the sky and in the tack sharp images I captured of birds in super low light. It’s hard to describe with words, but it is a smarter sensor, indeed.

Though Mann quotes Apple as saying that it’s the sensor that’s responsible, I bet it’s helped a lot by some of the ISP improvements in the iPhone 8 as well.

Matthew Panzarino, reviewing the iPhone 8 for TechCrunch:

Noise reduction (NR) is the process that every digital camera system uses to remove the multi-colored speckle that’s a typical byproduct of a (relatively) tiny sensor, heat and the analog-to-digital conversion process. Most people just call this “grain.”

In previous iPhones this was done purely by software. Now it’s being done directly by the hardware. I’d always found Apple’s NR to be too “painterly” in its effect. The aggressive way that they chose to reduce noise created an overall “softening,” especially noticeable in photos with fine detail when cropped or zoomed.

One of the reasons I switched to shooting RAW on my iPhone is to have control over noise reduction. It’s especially noticeable in photos of trees and other foliage — here’s the same photo shot as a JPG and as a RAW file with my iPhone 6S.

Now that new iPhones are being delivered, I’m very interested to see how JPG and HEIF files perform compared to RAW, and whether noise reduction can still be disabled by third-party camera apps.