2018 MacBook Air's FaceTime HD Camera Quality Issue

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Apr 12, 2001
7,184
8,361
0
19
www.macrumors.com



After the 2018 MacBook Air launched, complaints began surfacing about the machine's 720p FaceTime HD camera, with users suggesting it was noticeably worse than the FaceTime cameras on other MacBook machines, including the 2018 MacBook Pro and the previous-generation MacBook Air.

All 720p cameras are rather poor in quality compared to the FaceTime cameras that we get in iPhones and iPads, so we initially believed these complaints were coming from people who just expected more from a 2018 machine.


Given the sheer volume of complaints, though, MacRumors decided to do some investigating and found that the 720p FaceTime HD camera in the 2018 MacBook Air does indeed appear to be worse than the FaceTime HD camera in some other models, specifically the 2015 MacBook Air.

2018 MacBook Air vs. older MacBook Air

Compared to the 2015 MacBook Air, the FaceTime HD camera in the 2018 MacBook Air is noticeably worse. It's darker, grainier, and lower in quality. To be clear, neither camera is good because we're talking about 720p video here, but there is a visible difference in side by side photos.

2018 MacBook Air on left, 2015 MacBook Air on right​


Just got my new Macbook Air 2018 edition. Sadly I did not research enough and was badly surprised by the camera problems. For comparison Macbook Air 2013 vs Macbook Air 2018 photos in same indoor light. I really hope this is not the expected quality.@AppleSupport @MacRumors pic.twitter.com/hYsacjcogk - Boris Nikolai Konrad (@borisnkonrad) January 10, 2019


2018 MacBook Air vs. 2018 MacBook Pro

The 2018 MacBook Air's FaceTime HD camera is actually pretty similar to the FaceTime HD camera in the 2018 MacBook Pro. There's little difference that we saw in comparison images, suggesting that the two machines are using similar cameras, neither of which is particularly good.


720p camera quality

The FaceTime HD camera that Apple is using in the 2018 MacBook Air is far worse than the cameras on modern iPhones and iPads, and quality hasn't been bumped up for years, which is the real problem.

FaceTime streaming is limited to 720p, but we do use our front-facing cameras for other purposes, and the poor quality of the cameras Apple uses in its notebooks is a stark contrast to the sharp 7-megapixel front-facing camera in the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, X, XR, XS, and XS Max.

Even bumping that camera up to 1080p would make a world of difference when it comes to quality, as evidenced in photos captured using the 1080p FaceTime HD camera in the iMac Pro.


The 720p camera in the 2018 MacBook Air does suck, but so do the FaceTime HD cameras Apple uses across the Mac notebook lineup.

Which models are affected?

All MacBook Air models appear to have the same FaceTime HD camera and thus all models are impacted. The quality of the camera is less bothersome to some users than others, but there have been a large volume of complaints.

What does Apple have to say about the issue?

Nothing. Apple hasn't yet commented on the complaints over the 2018 MacBook Air's camera.

What can I do if I'm unsatisfied with my camera?

If you're unhappy with the FaceTime HD camera in the 2018 MacBook Air, the only recourse seems to be to return it. There's nothing that can be done to improve the camera at this point in time, though buying an external webcam is also a possible solution.

There is a possibility that there's a software issue that could be fixed via an over-the-air update, based on the testing of some users who have claimed to see better quality video in some apps compared to others, but the results have been inconsistent and it's unclear if hardware or software is to blame.

Is it still worth buying a 2018 MacBook Air?

If you're buying a notebook for its front-facing camera, the 2018 MacBook Air isn't a great choice, nor is any other Mac. The same is true if the front-facing camera is an important feature to you.

If you just use FaceTime occasionally, have other devices to fall back on, and don't need to rely on the front-facing camera, the MacBook Air is a capable machine with a Retina display, T2 chip, Touch ID, support for up to 16GB RAM, a third-generation butterfly keyboard, a Force Touch trackpad, and Thunderbolt 3 support.

Article Link: 2018 MacBook Air's FaceTime HD Camera Quality Issue
 

BenLake

macrumors newbie
Sep 13, 2018
2
5
0
I heard 2 senior podcasters with access to Apple mention it was due to the lids being too thin for a better camera sensor to fit. There is no backlight for the Apple logo for the same reason. I believe this applies to 2018 MB Pros as well.
 

PickUrPoison

Suspended
Sep 12, 2017
4,322
4,587
0
Sunnyvale, CA
It seems fine to me, there really doesn’t seem to be all that much difference between your side by side comparison pics. My guess is that it would be possible to adjust it via software, but I’m just guessing.

In any case, I think you’re making a bigger deal of this than is warranted. Seems mostly like a non-issue to me.
 
  • Like
Reactions: fonzy91

johannnn

macrumors 65816
Nov 20, 2009
1,360
714
0
Sweden
I heard 2 senior podcasters with access to Apple mention it was due to the lids being too thin for a better camera sensor to fit. There is no backlight for the Apple logo for the same reason. I believe this applies to 2018 MB Pros as well.
Too thin for a functioning keyboard, too thin for an adequate webcam. This makes me wonder what they will break next time they make their laptop 0.1mm thinner.
 

hagar

macrumors 6502a
Jan 19, 2008
737
1,325
0
I like the tone and structure of this article. There should be a an article like this for every Apple quality issue. With clear advice not to buy the product or workarounds. Hopefully Apple will notice we’re not buying at those prices, especially if the quality is not there to match it.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Kris28

Classie

macrumors regular
Nov 3, 2018
237
243
0
Sweden
I agree that it’s not necessary to have a great camera in an MacBook Air. That being said I find it strange that a new products so obviously is downgraded -especially an Apple product.
Maybe it’s due to the thickness of the screen... but still, I find it a bit strange
 
  • Like
Reactions: Kris28

Fzang

macrumors 65816
Jun 15, 2013
1,307
1,058
0
I’m pretty sure they could preprocess the signal with some fancy machine learning techniques like Google does.

But they’re not going to. Because they don’t care.
 

Mydel

macrumors 6502a
Apr 8, 2006
702
376
0
Sometimes here mostly there
Yeah I agree with the article. The quality of cam in the laptops is really horrible. That single issue stopped me from getting new MBP. I mean my 2006 isight was 15x better and cams on multiple window laptops are way better. Why not to put front cam from iPhone? Blows my mind...
 

Manzanito

macrumors 6502
Apr 9, 2010
344
395
0
I agree that it’s not necessary to have a great camera in an MacBook Air. That being said I find it strange that a new products so obviously is downgraded -especially an Apple product.
Maybe it’s due to the thickness of the screen... but still, I find it a bit strange
For the sake of thinness they’ve sacrified keyboard quality. Also presumably magsafe and useful ports. Front facing camera is not so strange in comparison.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Kris28

MauiPa

macrumors 6502a
Apr 18, 2018
505
678
0
1) it is a face time camera, not a selfie camera, 2) face time is limited to 720. period. As far as I know, only Skype can utilize 1080 cameras (ooh, ooh, that is not 7 MP front facing selfie cameras either). so all the usual haters line up in a row and say the same stupid stuff they always say and try to create yet another fake scandal. Old
 
Last edited by a moderator: