Halide Does Deep Dive Into iPhone SE's Software-Based Portrait Mode

Though it is a budget device with a single-lens camera, the iPhone SE features support for Portrait Mode, enabled through the powerful A13 chip in the smartphone.

iphonesehandson
It is the first of Apple's smartphones to offer Portrait Mode photos created entirely with software techniques rather than hardware, which prompted the developers behind popular iOS camera app Halide to take a deep dive into how it works.

The ‌iPhone SE‌ is equipped the same camera sensor as the iPhone 8, based on a recent teardown done by iFixit, but its camera can do more because it's using "Single Image Monocular Depth Estimation," aka generating Portrait Mode effects using a 2D image.

As Halide developer Ben Sandofsky points out, the ‌iPhone‌ XR is also a single-lens camera with Portrait Mode support, but the ‌iPhone‌ XR gets depth information through hardware. That's not possible on the ‌iPhone SE‌ because the older camera sensor doesn't support the feature.

Halide has discovered that unlike other iPhones, the ‌iPhone SE‌ can take a picture of another picture to attempt to develop a depth map. The app was even able to take a photo of an old slide film, adding depth effects to a 50 year old photo.

halideoldphoto

A picture of a picture and the resulting depth map from the ‌iPhone SE‌

The ‌iPhone SE‌'s Portrait Mode is somewhat limited because it only works with people, which is due to the neural network that powers the feature. When a Portrait Mode image without a person is captured, it fails in various ways because it can't create an accurate estimated depth map.

The ‌iPhone‌ XR also limited Portrait Mode to people alone, and using Portrait Mode with other objects requires upgrading to one of Apple's more expensive phones.

According to Halide, depth maps on the ‌iPhone SE‌ (or any phone with Portrait Mode) can be viewed by using the Halide app and then shooting in Depth mode. Halide's full breakdown of the ‌iPhone SE‌'s Portrait Mode can be read over on the Halide website.

Related Roundup: iPhone SE
Tag: Halide
Buyer's Guide: iPhone SE (Don't Buy)
Related Forum: iPhone

Popular Stories

new best buy blue

Best Buy's Memorial Day Sale Has Record Low Prices on iPads, MacBooks, and Much More

Friday May 24, 2024 7:12 am PDT by
Best Buy today kicked off its Memorial Day weekend sale, and it has some of the best prices we've tracked in weeks on iPads and MacBooks. Specifically, you'll find record low prices on the 5th generation iPad Air, iPad mini 6, M2 MacBook Air, and M3 MacBook Pro. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Best Buy. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment,...
macOS 15 Feature

macOS 15 System Settings to Get Design Overhaul

Thursday May 23, 2024 12:51 pm PDT by
With the macOS 15 update that is set to debut at WWDC in June, Apple plans to rearrange "menus and app UIs," according to a report from AppleInsider. The System Settings app, which was last updated with macOS Ventura, will get one of the biggest updates. With macOS Ventura, Apple renamed the System Preferences app to System Settings, introducing a design similar to the Settings app on the...
6chatgpt mac app

5 Reasons to Use OpenAI's ChatGPT App for Mac

Thursday May 23, 2024 6:07 am PDT by
On May 13, OpenAI during its Spring Update announced that it would be releasing a desktop ChatGPT app for the Mac in the "coming weeks," and said that ahead of a wider launch it had started rolling out the app to some ChatGPT Plus subscribers. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. After testing the app for a few days, we thought it was worth sharing some reasons why...
iOS 17

Apple Sheds More Light on iOS 17.5 Bug That Resurfaced Deleted Photos

Friday May 24, 2024 2:36 am PDT by
Last week, some iPhone users reported that Apple's iOS 17.5 update had introduced a bug that caused old photos that were deleted to reappear in the Photos app. Apple quickly released an iOS 17.5.1 update to fix the issue, but for many users, its explanation of "database corruption" in the release notes was all too brief, and did little to allay concerns about the privacy of their data. Apple ...

Top Rated Comments

luvbug Avatar
53 months ago

Could you have used a nicer pic? lol
She's probably the author's (Halide's) grandmother. Take a break, you'll be old too, sooner than you can imagine.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AngerDanger Avatar
53 months ago

Could you have used a nicer pic? lol
As you wish. :)



Attachment Image
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NickName99 Avatar
53 months ago

This is wildly impressive.
Agreed - this is far more impressive than most people realize. The Pixel phones and the iPhone XR achieve this with a single lens by leveraging focus pixels to generate a depth map from available 3D information. The SE doesn’t have enough focus pixels for that, so it’s relying purely on machine learning, building a depth map from 2D information.

I’m surprised it was more cost effective to do it this way rather than just make the changes necessary to fit the XR rear camera module. That really speaks to the expense of retooling manufacturing.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
farewelwilliams Avatar
53 months ago
Theoretically, you should be able to extract frames from a video, apply neural network from Portrait Mode on to each frame, and stitch it back into a video.

Highly likely iOS 14 will have Portrait Mode for video. Would be only enhanced with Lidar too. This will take cinematography on a smartphone to a whole new level.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NickName99 Avatar
53 months ago

I had assumed the criticism was because the image is low resolution and blurry, making it a poor test image.
I‘d say the worse the quality of the photo (resolution and sharpness), the more impressive that it works.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JSRinUK Avatar
53 months ago

wonder if it works on pets... or if it will in the future
Hoping that no one minds a photo of me here, but I did a test photo when playing with my dog yesterday.

I'm not sure how the portrait mode works, but I was quite impressed that both myself and my dog are in focus.



Attachment Image
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)