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Apple's iPhone XS, XS Max, and upcoming XR come equipped with a new Depth Control feature enabled through camera upgrades that include a new image signal processor, an improved sensor, and the A12 Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine.

Depth Control, which we've featured in the video below, lets you adjust the amount of blurring in the background of your Portrait Mode images, giving you more control over how your images come out.


Depth Control can be accessed after you take a Portrait Mode image by tapping on the "Edit" button of a Portrait Mode photo in the Photos app. At the bottom of the editing interface, you'll see a new Depth slider, which is what you use to adjust the blurring or depth of field of the image.

depthcontroloptions-800x629.jpg

In a traditional camera, a larger aperture means more background blur and a shallower depth of field, while a smaller aperture results in less background blurring. This system is what Apple is mimicking with Depth Control.

depthcontrolnone-800x600.jpg
No background blurring with Depth Control set at f/16​

If you're new to photography, it's a bit confusing, but a larger aperture is represented by a smaller number, while a smaller aperture is represented by a larger number. So in the Depth Control slider, which ranges from f/1.4 to f/16, f/1.4 is the maximum amount of blur while f/16 essentially eliminates all background blur for an image that's sharp throughout.

depthcontroldefault-800x600.jpg
Default/medium Portrait Mode background blurring with Depth Control set at f/4.5​

By default, all Portrait Mode images on iPhone XS and XS Max start at f/4.5, and from there, you can move the slider along the bottom to the left or the right to add more or less background blur. Being able to adjust the depth of field is useful because you can tweak exactly what you want blurred, and it can save some photos that otherwise would have had key details (like the edges of hair or fur) blurred out by Apple's Portrait Mode software.

depthcontrolfull-800x600.jpg
Maximum background blurring with Depth Control set at f/1.4​

Depth Control is limited to Portrait Mode images taken with the front or rear-facing cameras because there needs to be blur to adjust in the image. Right now, editing the depth of a photo is limited to images that have already been captured, but starting in iOS 12.1, it will work in real time too.

In the iOS 12.1 beta, when capturing a Portrait Mode image with the front or rear facing camera, you can tap on the little "F" in the upper right hand corner of the display to access the Depth Control slider to see how more or less background blur looks in real time before taking an image. The camera app will also remember your preferred Depth Control settings from photo to photo, so you can always set it at the depth of field that you like best.

depthcontrollive-800x629.jpg

Live Depth Control lets you get the perfect angle and the perfect amount of depth for the portrait that you want to capture so you can make all of your real-time adjustments before snapping the photo.

What do you think of the Depth Control feature in the iPhone XS and XS Max? Let us know in the comments.

Article Link: Hands-On With the New Depth Control Feature in iPhone XS and XS Max
 

macduke

macrumors G5
Jun 27, 2007
12,296
17,605
Central U.S.
It's a nice addition but I think this functionality could be added to older models, just maybe not the real-time depth stuff in the iOS 12.1 beta. As for the effect itself, a lot of stuff at "f/1.4" looks goofy. Needs some more work. It has improved over the years but it's not there yet and can't compare with the bokeh found in a mirrorless or dSLR. But you know that's Apple's goal and I look forward to seeing what they can do in a few more years. The dynamic range on the XS is pretty great.
 

WaxedJacket

macrumors 6502a
Oct 18, 2013
666
1,028
Hey Juli Clover, could you use a better picture as an example? The bokeh effect really doesn't work well with the distance, background, and angle with your cat.
 

Vjosullivan

macrumors 65816
Oct 21, 2013
1,162
1,415
I want to pet that marvellously fluffy cat.
You will end up surrounded by a cloud of cat hairs forever. All you home will be covered in cat hairs, your car will be lined in cat hairs, your clothes will be covered in a protective and highly visible layer of cat hairs. I hope you don't have any interviews planned any time soon. They'll put a red line through your resumé (and say it's a cat hair).
 

MacWorld78

macrumors 6502a
Jul 25, 2012
616
400
Apple, i find really hard to believe that you need to upgrad Iphone Xs or MAX in order to get this feature Depth Control, where i could do so easily using this app called "FOCOS" that will do the trick as well...

This can be done mostly software based not the hardware.
 

jaychow

macrumors newbie
Mar 23, 2017
18
8
How is this any different from what Focos already does on the X?
It seems to me that the effect was done with software algorithmically after the images were captured. Look at the hair around the edges nand the adjacent background, which dropped out of focus almost immediately. It is not the same as true optical depth of field achieved by opening/closing the lens aperture, which would be gradual.

Would someone shoot a deck of domino tiles and lining up from foreground to background and play with it?

If that’s the case, I consider this as a gimmick. Any serious photographer will snicker at it.
 
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WilliamG

macrumors G3
Mar 29, 2008
9,616
3,356
Seattle
It seems to me that the effect was done with software algorithmically after the images were capture. Look at the hair around the edges. It is not the same as true optical depth of field achieved by opening/closing the lens aperture.

If that’s the case, I consider this as a gimmick. Any serious photographer will snicker at it.

I'm a serious photographer, and I don't snicker at it. Nobody is saying it's a replacement for a nice wide lens, but it definitely does an acceptable job - and at times can look excellent.
 

cliffster82

macrumors 6502
Sep 27, 2013
322
375
Not a photographer at all, even so this is the reason I'm waiting for the XR opposed to grabbing a X from last year, which apparently won't be able to do this adjustment. Love this feature.
 
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Chrjy

macrumors 65816
May 19, 2010
1,095
2,097
UK
It's clever what they're doing with the software and overtime I'm sure they'll make improvements but based on that cat image it proves you can't beat real glass and a proper camera to get the desired results.

Having said that I'm sure it would work much better for different types of photos, I just thinks it's a matter of choosing when to use it to get the right results, not forgetting that this is a camera you pull out of your pocket.
 

RemE

macrumors regular
Mar 19, 2012
213
223
These are fun features to play with. The app "Focos" has been out for some time and allowed the X to do this and more, it's a fun app to use, you can change the shape of the Bokeh highlights into things like hearts, stars, etc. Focos allows you to edit your previously taken portrait photos and adjust focal length etc. No need for an XS to enjoy these features!
 

jona2125

macrumors 6502a
Jul 12, 2010
780
651
So if the XR can do this and it only has one rear camera, plus the front cameras on all the X phones can do it, why can't the iPhone 7 or 8 do it? Does it have to do with the graphics chipset?

I think it's more of Apple restricting features to certain devices to maintain a sort of superiority factor to more or less pad the sales from the "gotta have it all" people. The original explanation about why Portrait Mode didn't exist on the non plus models was that it lacked the dual camera system, and that's obviously been defuncted. I'm guessing the Apple reason for why it can't is probably down to algorithmic processing ability of the A12 which is fair but more of an excuse than anything as it could have been worked into the older devices especially given that the XR will feature it and that it's just an extension of Portrait Mode which ran fine on the 7 Plus.
 

jclo

Editor
Staff member
Dec 7, 2012
1,880
4,030
Hey Juli Clover, could you use a better picture as an example? The bokeh effect really doesn't work well with the distance, background, and angle with your cat.

I'd be happy to, but my cats are the only subjects around right now so I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get a better example right at the moment. There's one in the video if you watch that, and some other people may have good Depth Control pics to share.
 

nvmls

Suspended
Mar 31, 2011
1,758
4,724
Kitties everywhere :eek:! me <3.

Cats > Chuck Norris > God. Stop the whine.
 

citysnaps

macrumors G3
Oct 10, 2011
9,898
20,740
It seems to me that the effect was done with software algorithmically after the images were captured. Look at the hair around the edges nand the adjacent background, which dropped out of focus almost immediately. It is not the same as true optical depth of field achieved by opening/closing the lens aperture, which would be gradual.

Would someone shoot a deck of domino tiles and lining up from foreground to background and play with it?

If that’s the case, I consider this as a gimmick. Any serious photographer will snicker at it.

As a serious photographer I'm not snickering. But then I'm not expecting it to match the level of my 35mm f/1.4 L lens.

It's a camera you can put in your pocket and have with you all the time.
 
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