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iPhone Product Line Manager Francesca Sweet and Apple Camera Software Engineering Vice President Jon McCormack have provided a new interview to PetaPixel, offering insight into Apple's approach to camera design and development. Crucially, the executives explained that Apple sees camera technology as a holistic union of hardware and software.

iphone12protriplelenscamera.jpg


The interview reveals that Apple sees its main goal for smartphone photography as allowing users to "stay in the moment, take a great photo, and get back to what they're doing," without being distracted by the technology behind it.

McCormack explained that while professional photographers go through a process to fine-tune and edit their photos, Apple is attempting to refine that process down to the single action of capturing a frame.

"We replicate as much as we can to what the photographer will do in post," McCormack said. "There are two sides to taking a photo: the exposure, and how you develop it afterwards. We use a lot of computational photography in exposure, but more and more in post and doing that automatically for you. The goal of this is to make photographs that look more true to life, to replicate what it was like to actually be there."

He went on to describe how Apple uses machine learning to break down scenes into natural parts for computational image processing.

"The background, foreground, eyes, lips, hair, skin, clothing, skies. We process all these independently like you would in Lightroom with a bunch of local adjustments," McCormack continued. "We adjust everything from exposure, contrast, and saturation, and combine them all together... We understand what food looks like, and we can optimize the color and saturation accordingly to much more faithfully.

Skies are notoriously hard to really get right, and Smart HDR 3 allows us to segment out the sky and treat it completely independently and then blend it back in to more faithfully recreate what it was like to actually be there."

McCormack explained why Apple chose to include Dolby Vision HDR video capability in the iPhone 12 lineup.

"Apple wants to untangle the tangled industry that is HDR, and how they do that is leading with really great content creation tools. It goes from producing HDR video that was niche and complicated because it needed giant expensive cameras and a video suite to do, to now my 15-year-old daughter can create full Dolby Vision HDR video. So, there will be a lot more Dolby Vision content around. It's in the interest of the industry to now go and create more support."

The executives also discussed the camera hardware improvements of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, commenting that "the new wide camera, improved image fusion algorithms, make for lower noise and better detail." The specific camera advancements of the iPhone 12 Pro Max were also an area of interest:

"With the Pro Max we can extend that even further because the bigger sensor allows us to capture more light in less time, which makes for better motion freezing at night."

When asked why Apple has only chosen to increase the sensor size now with the iPhone 12 Pro Max, McCormack revealed Apple's perspective:

"It's not as meaningful to us anymore to talk about one particular speed and feed of an image, or camera system," he said. "As we create a camera system we think about all those things, and then we think about everything we can do on the software side... You could of course go for a bigger sensor, which has form factor issues, or you can look at it from an entire system to ask if there are other ways to accomplish that. We think about what the goal is, and the goal is not to have a bigger sensor that we can brag about. The goal is to ask how we can take more beautiful photos in more conditions that people are in. It was this thinking that brought about deep fusion, night mode, and temporal image signal processing."

Read the full interview with Sweet and McCormack at PetaPixel.

Article Link: Apple Executives Discuss iPhone 12 and Apple's Approach to Camera Design
 

Chuck Kemp

macrumors newbie
Oct 28, 2020
4
7
I personally don't care about the camera, it is the least thing on my list of what I need. I have hearing issues and I wear hearing aids, and I want the ability to smoothly move from device to the next with streaming to my aids, and that still isn't possible. And the use of Airpods isn't an option for my hearing needs.
 
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jz0309

macrumors 68000
Sep 25, 2018
1,967
5,161
Temecula, CA
What Apple has done with regards to camera abilities is quite impressive, my 11 ProMax continues to impress me and I'm looking forward too next years model and beyond. though it will not be able to replace my DSLR as the phone form factor just cannot truly compete with that ...
 
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Deinocheirus

Suspended
Oct 5, 2020
380
562
"As we create a camera system we think about all those things, and then we think about everything we can do on the software side... You could of course go for a bigger sensor, which has form factor issues, or you can look at it from an entire system to ask if there are other ways to accomplish that. We think about what the goal is, and the goal is not to have a bigger sensor that we can brag about. The goal is to ask how we can take more beautiful photos in more conditions that people are in. It was this thinking that brought about deep fusion, night mode, and temporal image signal processing."
An incredibly significant insight and perspective that will be absolutely lost on everyone.
 
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otternonsense

macrumors 68020
Jul 25, 2016
2,087
6,071
Berlin
Miserable answer for why only the Pro Max got the best camera. I just can't live with the size of the Max, but want the best camera possible. I personally think the Pro line should all have the "Pro" features.
Just like the 11 Pro did. It's foolish and greedy IMHO that they'd backtrack on the two best things they did for the 11 Pro: camera parity and amazing battery size/lifespan.
 
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Caliber26

macrumors 68020
Sep 25, 2009
2,100
2,401
Orlando, FL
Miserable answer for why only the Pro Max got the best camera. I just can't live with the size of the Max, but want the best camera possible. I personally think the Pro line should all have the "Pro" features.
This review will make you feel better about going with the smaller Pro. Much like the reviewer, I was hoping that the new sensor would be a noticeable upgrade over the sensor in the smaller Pro but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I still pre-ordered the Max just because of the display size but I’m feeling a little underwhelmed by the camera review.
 
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NMBob

macrumors 65816
Sep 18, 2007
1,374
1,315
New Mexico
Does the "glass" of the lens really stick out beyond the metal like in the picture? If it does, wow! I don't suppose there is a screw-on Hoya UV filter to protect anything, is there?
 
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nwcs

macrumors 68020
Sep 21, 2009
2,023
2,774
Tennessee
What I’d like to see Apple focused on in photography (pun intended) is ergonomics. The slab is about the worst ergonomic way of taking photos. Yes, some cases can mitigate some of it but it needs to start with Apple. Especially if they are pivoting to a camera-first smartphone as a differentiator seeing as the market is well into maturity.
 
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xander09

macrumors member
Mar 15, 2018
49
81
Miserable answer for why only the Pro Max got the best camera. I just can't live with the size of the Max, but want the best camera possible. I personally think the Pro line should all have the "Pro" features.
Totally agree. The "Pro" and XS lines having the same feature set was a delight after the bifurcation present in the "Plus" era. Sad to see it go. I have a XS Max but would love the smaller form factor of the 12/Pro, and really don't want anything larger or heavier. I'm holding out for next year in the hopes of a return to camera parity in the Pro line (or at least the 12 max's camera system in the 2021 6.1" model) and high refresh rate displays. The 12 Pro really seems like an afterthought compared to the engineering present in of all the other models this year.
 
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locrumo

macrumors regular
May 11, 2020
233
199
Why still using the same cameras from last year?
iphone 12: selling last years camera tech
The only new tech is in the 12 PRO. We want more from APPLE.
 
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blinkytoo

macrumors member
Mar 9, 2009
43
160
Calipornia
Why couldn't they include an option to turn on Manual Focus? Most people would never use it but it would give the PRO in iPhone Pro a genuine legitimacy. Dear Apple, make a Focus Slider option that would work like the zoom dial, PLEASE!!!
 
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goobot

macrumors 603
Jun 26, 2009
5,939
2,968
long island NY
That last quote makes no sense, he was asked why the max has a bigger sensor and he basically said the bigger sensor doesn’t matter, then why include a bigger sensor? It’s just Apple trying to upsell that’s why.
 
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citysnaps

macrumors 604
Oct 10, 2011
7,062
12,123
San Francisco
I'm super pleased with my 12 Pro. The Pro Max was a non-starter for me not being able to put it in my shirt pocket. As I've been shooting exclusively with a phone for the past five years, that was critical. And not being to being able to navigate the screen easily with one hand sealed it as a deal killer..

The camera on the Pro is superb. Here's a recent photo:

Funston Crows-4.jpg
 
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ian87w

macrumors 68030
Feb 22, 2020
2,709
3,416
Indonesia
I personally don't care about the camera, it is the least thing on my list of what I need. I have hearing issues and I wear hearing aids, and I want the ability to smoothly move from device to the next with streaming to my aids, and that still isn't possible. And the use of Airpods isn't an option for my hearing needs.
Wouldn't that rely on the hearing aid manufacturers? I mean what Apple can do, other than actually make their own hearing aid device?
 
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