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iphone-x-dual-lens-camera-250x280.jpg
The 2016 iPhone 7 Plus was the first Apple smartphone to feature a dual lens camera, and this year's iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X followed suit, improving upon last year's design with larger sensors and better signal image processing. The iPhone X also benefits from added optical image stabilization and larger aperture on the telephoto lens.

In what may come as a surprise to most casual snappers, the telephoto lens in Apple's dual camera isn't always activated when the 2x zoom is selected in the native Camera app. In some low light scenes, iOS opts to crop a wide angle image instead in an effort to obtain a better image with less noise and a lower likelihood of blurring.

With this in mind, Studio Neat designer Dan Provost recently conducted an experiment to see how much the telephoto lens in the iPhone X improves upon the one in the iPhone 7 Plus. To do this, he looked at how much light is required before an iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone X switches to the telephoto lens when the 2x zoom mode is selected. This would show Provost if the frequency of cropping an image is at all reduced in Apple's latest smartphone.
I placed an object (in this case, an old Rolleiflex camera) on a white backdrop, and flanked it on both sides with two LED studio lights. I set up the iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone X on tripods (using the Glif, natch) and positioned them to keep the framing as similar as possible. Then, starting from a completely dark room, I slowly raised the light levels and observed when the lens switched on each camera. The results are in the video below.

As the embedded video demonstrates, Provost discovered that the iPhone X switched to the telephoto lens much more quickly in his artificial low light scenes, requiring approximately 2 fewer stops of light before switching to the telephoto lens, compared to the iPhone 7 Plus.

"This is obviously great news, and speaks to how improved the second lens is after just one year," says Provost. "In my own use of the phone for the past couple weeks, it does indeed seem to be the case that I am very rarely presented with a 2X cropped image."

You can learn more about Provost's iPhone X low light photography experiment over on the Studio Neat website.

Article Link: iPhone X Low Light Photography Test Demonstrates Improved Telephoto Lens
 

maflynn

Moderator
Staff member
May 3, 2009
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[MOD NOTE]
A number of posts were removed as they were off topic. Please discuss the iPhone X's camera and low light performance.
 

alleggerita

macrumors 6502a
Dec 19, 2011
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Or you can just use a pro photography app like ProCam to force your iPhone 7/8 Plus or X to use the telephoto lens even in very very low light situations. Provided you have a tripod or some leverage to prevent blurring.
 
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wesley96

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Sep 21, 2009
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It would have been nice if the test was conducted with actual ISO / shutter speed measurements of the photos from the two devices.
 
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MacDevil7334

Contributor
Oct 15, 2011
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It would have been nice if the test was conducted with actual ISO / shutter speed measurements of the photos from the two devices.
Agreed. I think there is more to it than just ambient light level. I am sitting in my home office right now, which is lit by natural sunlight coming in through the windows. The lighting level is much greater than 16 lux (probably in the 80-150 range). If I point the camera at an area that is directly lit by the sun coming in through the windows, it uses the telephoto. However, if I aim it at my desk, which is in another area of the room and only lit by the ambient light, it switches back to a crop of the wide lens, even though the ambient lighting is still much greater than the 16 lux in that video.

16 lux is about what you get from a street light at night. Not once have I had the phone decide to use the telephoto over a crop of the wide angle in that situation. Maybe it's possible to get it to do it with a tripod. But I think you really need more light than that in real world use.
 
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lunarworks

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Jun 17, 2003
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That "feature" kind of annoys me. There should be a toggle to disable it. If I want to take a 2x photo in low light, I accept the possible noise and motion blur.
 
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Nr123*123

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Jul 1, 2014
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Yet, no OIS on the telephoto lens on the 8 plus. £800 for a phone that is purposefully handicapped.
 

PickUrPoison

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Sep 12, 2017
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Yet, no OIS on the telephoto lens on the 8 plus. £800 for a phone that is purposefully handicapped.
No, the iPhone 8 is not purposely handicapped. You are correct that it doesn’t have OIS on the telephoto lens like the flagship iPhone X does, but then again it is $200 cheaper than a X. The iPhone 8 also doesn’t have FaceID, and there are other differences.

Weird that this requires explanation, but you won’t get all the features of the highest priced phone unless you buy the highest priced phone.
 

miniyou64

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Jul 8, 2008
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Too bad the cameras are so good but with removal of an audio port a semi professional video setup is much more complicated.
 
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PickUrPoison

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Sep 12, 2017
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Sunnyvale, CA
Too bad the cameras are so good but with removal of an audio port a semi professional video setup is much more complicated.
Much more complicated or a little more complicated? Don’t you just use a Lightning port splitter so you can continue to use a Lightning cable along with the headphone adapter?
 
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climber2020

macrumors newbie
Sep 28, 2014
7
2
Is Apple still applying way too much noise reduction and JPEG compression? In other words, do the photos still look like smudged watercolor paintings when zoomed all the way in? Every model since the iPhone 6 has had this problem, and I'm surprised that none of the camera reviews so far has mentioned this.
 
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PimpDaddy

macrumors 6502
May 9, 2007
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How can you tell if it’s cropping the image from the sensor with wide angle lens or using the one with the tele lens?
 
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chfilm

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Nov 15, 2012
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Is Apple still applying way too much noise reduction and JPEG compression? In other words, do the photos still look like smudged watercolor paintings when zoomed all the way in? Every model since the iPhone 6 has had this problem, and I'm surprised that none of the camera reviews so far has mentioned this.
I feel it has gotten a little better with HEIF. But a scientific observation would be interesting in fact.

I was shocked when I took my first pix with the Lightroom app and saw the real quality that the camera can deliver without all this compression!!
 
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SamRyouji

macrumors regular
Jun 1, 2016
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No, the iPhone 8 is not purposely handicapped. You are correct that it doesn’t have OIS on the telephoto lens like the flagship iPhone X does, but then again it is $200 cheaper than a X. The iPhone 8 also doesn’t have FaceID, and there are other differences.

Weird that this requires explanation, but you won’t get all the features of the highest priced phone unless you buy the highest priced phone.

I agree. It's like you bought a Mercedes E-Class and whining why your E-Class doesn't have the S-Class features.
 

gavroche

macrumors 65816
Oct 25, 2007
1,407
1,474
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No, the iPhone 8 is not purposely handicapped. You are correct that it doesn’t have OIS on the telephoto lens like the flagship iPhone X does, but then again it is $200 cheaper than a X. The iPhone 8 also doesn’t have FaceID, and there are other differences.

Weird that this requires explanation, but you won’t get all the features of the highest priced phone unless you buy the highest priced phone.

The only good example i know of of “purposely handicapping” something is when Intel physically cut a circuit board line to disable the 486DX (they called it the 486SX)... so they could sell cheaper and more expensive options.
Choosing to not put a feature in a phone is not purposely handicapping.
 
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torukawahata

macrumors member
Jun 12, 2015
74
23
Is Apple still applying way too much noise reduction and JPEG compression? In other words, do the photos still look like smudged watercolor paintings when zoomed all the way in? Every model since the iPhone 6 has had this problem, and I'm surprised that none of the camera reviews so far has mentioned this.
This! I sometimes notice that too but no site ever talks about it!
 
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manu chao

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Jul 30, 2003
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That "feature" kind of annoys me. There should be a toggle to disable it. If I want to take a 2x photo in low light, I accept the possible noise and motion blur.
I highly doubt you'd actually accept the noise and/or motion blur. Once an image gets noisy (and/or blurry) enough, people tend to not display it at 100%, they'd display it smaller to hide some of the noise (and/or motion blur). And if a downsampled 'tele' photo looks worse than a full-size wide-angle shot in a double-blind test, there is zero reason to prefer it.
[doublepost=1511606027][/doublepost]
How can you tell if it’s cropping the image from the sensor with wide angle lens or using the one with the tele lens?
Unless the phone does upsampling, the image should have smaller dimensions (ie, less than 12 MP).
[doublepost=1511606513][/doublepost]
Yet, no OIS on the telephoto lens on the 8 plus. £800 for a phone that is purposefully handicapped.
£800 and it doesn't have FaceID. £800 and it doesn't have a 5.8" screen. £800 and it doesn't have an OLED screen. £800 and it doesn't have a 458 dpi screen.
 

wesley96

macrumors 6502
Sep 21, 2009
347
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I highly doubt you'd actually accept the noise and/or motion blur. Once an image gets noisy (and/or blurry) enough, people tend to not display it at 100%, they'd display it smaller to hide some of the noise (and/or motion blur). And if a downsampled 'tele' photo looks worse than a full-size wide-angle shot in a double-blind test, there is zero reason to prefer it.
[doublepost=1511606027][/doublepost]
Unless the phone does upsampling, the image should have smaller dimensions (ie, less than 12 MP).
[doublepost=1511606513][/doublepost]
£800 and it doesn't have FaceID. £800 and it doesn't have a 5.8" screen. £800 and it doesn't have an OLED screen. £800 and it doesn't have a 458 dpi screen.
1. Based on my experience, the zoomed wide angle lens shot is indeed better at a casual glance in most normal point-and-shoot situations. However, you can get a sharper result with the telephoto if you tweak the settings... but by that point you're just better off using a 3rd party camera app. They let you select the type of lens being used anyway.

2. It seems you haven't taken a look at how the default iPhone camera app takes photos. It always does upsampling regardless of the digital zoom level, so that the resulting photo has the same dimensions. It's frankly quite annoying sometimes.
[doublepost=1511610453][/doublepost]
How can you tell if it’s cropping the image from the sensor with wide angle lens or using the one with the tele lens?
Two ways.

1. Use a photo app with EXIF info display. You'll be able to know what lens the photo was taken with.

2. In the case of the video in the article, you'll notice a slight shift in the location of the object on the screen when the lens is switched. Because the two lenses are located apart from each other, this is inevitable (and also useful for obtaining depth information, to a degree).
 
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manu chao

macrumors 604
Jul 30, 2003
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2. It seems you haven't taken a look at how the default iPhone camera app takes photos. It always does upsampling regardless of the digital zoom level, so that the resulting photo has the same dimensions. It's frankly quite annoying sometimes.
I guess I never zoom in before taking a photo, don't see the point in it. IQ is limited as it is, zooming in only makes it worse. And for the very occasional shot where I want to document something and cannot get close enough, I always crop in post.
1. Use a photo app with EXIF info display. You'll be able to know what lens the photo was taken with.
Curious whether the 'equivalent focal length' is affected by zooming in. Actual focal length in EXIF should be a definite indicator.
 

wesley96

macrumors 6502
Sep 21, 2009
347
270
Curious whether the 'equivalent focal length' is affected by zooming in. Actual focal length in EXIF should be a definite indicator.
If you’re doing digital zoom, “focal length” number remains the same, but the “35mm equivalent focal length” number changes to reflect the zoom, with the “Digital zoom ratio” number showing the zoom power. With the default camera app doing the 2x digital zoom, the three numbers are 3.99, 63, and 2. With optical zoom, they are 6.6, 57, and 1.
 

lunarworks

macrumors 68000
Jun 17, 2003
1,972
5,211
Toronto, Canada
I highly doubt you'd actually accept the noise and/or motion blur. Once an image gets noisy (and/or blurry) enough, people tend to not display it at 100%, they'd display it smaller to hide some of the noise (and/or motion blur). And if a downsampled 'tele' photo looks worse than a full-size wide-angle shot in a double-blind test, there is zero reason to prefer it.
What I mean by "accept" the motion blur is that I will brace and hold my camera as steady as possible to get the shot, and a bit of noise does not bother me in my typical use case.

So yes, don't tell me how I take my photos. I have an artistic intent behind it.
 
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