Halide Developer Takes a Deep Dive Into iPhone XS Camera and Skin Smoothing Rumors

Sebastiaan de With, the developer behind photography app Halide, has taken an in-depth look at the front and rear-facing cameras in the iPhone XS and XS Max, providing some insight into complaints about a possible skin smoothing "beauty mode" that results in less realistic selfies than prior iPhone models.

A soft filter on selfies "doesn't exist," says de With, with the smoother look attributed to more aggressive noise reduction techniques and the merging of exposures that eliminates sharp light and dark contrasts where light hits the skin.

iphonexsmaxskinsmoothing

Camera differences between iPhone X and XS Max demoed by a Reddit user

Both the front and rear-facing cameras in the iPhone XS and XS Max are using computational geography to improve photo quality, a feature that takes multiple shots at once and then merges them into a single perfect photo.

Apple's iPhone XS website explains all of the different things that are going on behind the scenes when an image is captured, and part of the process involves taking shots that are underexposed, overexposed, and captured at different times, with the camera taking the best elements of each shot and combining them.

iphonexscamera

Apple says the iPhone XS performs 1 trillion operations per photo

According to de With, this results in a "whole new look" for photos that represents a "drastic departure" from images captured with previous-generation iPhones. As the Halide blog post explains, the small areas of contrast seen in photos from older iPhones can make images look sharper, but these areas of deep contrast have been eliminated in the iPhone XS models.

Using the exposure merging techniques, the iPhone XS reduces the brightness of the bright areas and the darkness of the shadows. While the detail is still there, we see it as less sharp because of this loss of contrast. Skin ends up looking smoother because the "light isn't as harsh."

The iPhone XS and XS Max are also using much more aggressive noise reduction techniques than in previous iPhones. de With says this is because the iPhone XS models prefer a faster shutter speed and a higher ISO level, capturing photos quicker but resulting in more noise. Taking care of that noise sacrifices some detail and contrast.

iphonexsnoisereduction

Noise in a RAW iPhone X image (left) compared to RAW iPhone XS image (right)

In the front-facing camera specifically, which uses a smaller sensor than the rear-facing camera, the heavy noise reduction paired with the image merging techniques leads to the noticeably smoother selfies that people have seen with the iPhone XS camera.

The tradeoff is that selfies, which traditionally are worse in mixed or harsh lighting (the majority of lighting!) are now no longer blown out, and in most cases it just looks better, if just a little on the smooth side.

According to de With, Apple can tweak these settings through software updates if the majority of people are unhappy with the selfie camera, so we may see a better compromise between noise reduction and the filtering of harsh lighting in the future.

All in all, de With believes the iPhone XS camera is better than the iPhone X camera thanks to its superior dynamic range, with some post processing able to re-add the contrast where necessary.

There are issues with RAW image capture because of the noise level. When taking RAW photos with an app like Halide, de With says it is a must to do so manually and to reduce the exposure. Otherwise, RAW images will end up looking worse than Smart HDR JPEGs.

To account for the changes to RAW image capture, Halide is gaining a new Smart RAW feature that uses the new sensor tech in the iPhone XS to get better images. It avoids Smart HDR all together to cut down on noise reduction and pull out more detail.

Halide's full blog post is well worth a read for anyone interested in an in-depth look at the camera changes Apple has introduced in the iPhone XS and XS Max. The Halide app can be downloaded from the App Store for $5.99. [Direct Link]

Top Rated Comments

1050792 Avatar
48 months ago
Also known as beauty mode or wax mode... :rolleyes:


Attachment Image
Score: 49 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Pelea Avatar
48 months ago
Complete bs. U can say as many fancy words as u like, anyone with at least one brain cell should understand that these new phones sacrifice massive amounts of detail in exchange for an unnatural look to please 12 year old Instagramers.

All evidence shows that.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mariusignorello Avatar
48 months ago
Complete bs. U can say as many fancy words as u like, anyone with at least one brain cell should understand that these new phones sacrifice massive amounts of detail in exchange for an unnatural look to please 12 year old Instagramers.

All evidence shows that.
Ok prove it then. List all the evidence. We can wait.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BootsWalking Avatar
48 months ago
Apple is using the Bionic processor’s 600 billion operations per second to turn your photos into noise-reduction watercolor paintings.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ender21 Avatar
48 months ago
Aah, the lede was buried....

To account for the changes to RAW image capture, Halide is gaining a new Smart RAW feature that uses the new sensor tech in the iPhone XS to get better images. It avoids Smart HDR all together to cut down on noise reduction and pull out more detail.

Halide's full blog post ('https://blog.halide.cam/iphone-xs-why-its-a-whole-new-camera-ddf9780d714c') is well worth a read for anyone interested in an in-depth look at the camera changes Apple has introduced in the iPhone XS and XS Max. The Halide app can be downloaded from the App Store for $5.99.

So, long story short, this is an ad.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macduke Avatar
48 months ago
It's the same principle as having your portrait taken by a professional photographer in a studio vs. some guy on Groupon. It looks better because it is better. It handles the light better.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

apple ar headset concept 1

Apple's Headset Said to Feature 14 Cameras Enabling Lifelike Avatars, Jony Ive Has Remained Involved With Design

Friday May 20, 2022 6:50 am PDT by
Earlier this week, The Information's Wayne Ma outlined struggles that Apple has faced during the development of its long-rumored AR/VR headset. Now, in a follow-up report, he has shared several additional details about the wearable device. Apple headset render created by Ian Zelbo based on The Information reporting For starters, one of the headset's marquee features is said to be lifelike...
iPhone 14 Purple Lineup Feature

Will the iPhone 14 Be a Disappointment?

Saturday May 21, 2022 9:00 am PDT by
With around four months to go before Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 14 lineup, the overwhelming majority of rumors related to the new devices so far have focused on the iPhone 14 Pro, rather than the standard iPhone 14 – leading to questions about how different the iPhone 14 will actually be from its predecessor, the iPhone 13. The iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are expected...
sony headphones 1

Sony's New WH-1000XM5 Headphones vs. Apple's AirPods Max

Friday May 20, 2022 12:18 pm PDT by
Sony this week came out with an updated version of its popular over-ear noise canceling headphones, so we picked up a pair to compare them to the AirPods Max to see which headphones are better and whether it's worth buying the $400 WH-1000XM5 from Sony over Apple's $549 AirPods Max. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. First of all, the AirPods Max win out when it comes ...
studio display 3

Apple's Rumored 27-Inch Mini-LED Display Now Said to Launch in October

Friday May 20, 2022 8:07 am PDT by
Apple now plans to release a new 27-inch display with mini-LED backlighting in October due to the Shanghai lockdown, which has resulted in production of the display being delayed, according to display industry consultant Ross Young. In a tweet, Young said Apple is in the process of moving production of the display from Quanta Computer to a different supplier and/or location, resulting in a...
HomePodandMini feature green

Kuo: Apple to Release New HomePod in Late 2022 or Early 2023

Friday May 20, 2022 8:55 am PDT by
Apple is working on an updated version of the HomePod that could come in the fourth quarter of 2022 or the first quarter of 2023, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo says that there "may not be much innovation in hardware design" for the new HomePod, and there is no word on what size the device will be and if it will be a HomePod mini successor or a larger speaker. Apple would ...
airtag purple

Best Apple Deals of the Week: Save on AirTag, AirPods 3, and iPads

Friday May 20, 2022 8:01 am PDT by
Solid markdowns on the AirTag, AirPods 3, and a few iPad models were introduced this week, and below you'll find all of the best deals of the past few days that are still available to purchase. AirTag Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running. What's the...