This morning, Apple held its annual event to unveil the new iPhones, along with some other information and upgrades. While there are many tech sites covering the announcements as a whole, let’s take a look at what was announced and what it means for photographers (whether you’re a casual hobbyist or a full time pro).
iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus
The next iteration of the mainstream iPhone is (unsurprisingly) named the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus (these feature the same size displays as the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, respectively).
Both phones feature an improved display, now offering what apple calls a Cinema color gamut for a wider range of tones in the image. Additionally, they’ve introduce a True Tone display to the iPhone for the first time, which optimizes the display based on ambient light conditions. This was first introduced on the 9.7″ iPad Pro, and I’ve used it personally for nearly a year. It’s subtle, but appreciated. You can read more about True Tone from AnandTech.
From a processor standpoint, this is the first iPhone to feature an Apple-designed GPU (graphics processing unit; the chip that is optimized for image and video display).
iPhone 8 and 8 Plus: The Cameras
The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus feature new cameras.
On the iPhone 8, there’s a 12 megapixel wide-angle camera with an f/1.8 aperture. It allows 83% more light to the sensor, and has a new color filter that provides a wider dynamic range for image capture along with lower noise. The camera features optical image stabilization.
For the iPhone 8 Plus, it’s dual cameras, each with 12 megapixels. The wide-angle camera is f/1.8 and the telephoto camera is f/2.8.
As with the previous iPhone, there are some additional software features only available on the dual-camera iPhone 8 Plus. We previously had Portrait Mode, and in a beta feature that will be releasing along with the camera, Apple is adding Portrait Lighting, a software processing feature that uses machine learning to analyze facial features in a photograph, and allows the photographer to adjust the lighting profile used for the face to improve facial portrait lighting.
I’m quite curious to see how this works and looks in practice.
From a video angle, the iPhone 8 captures 4K video at either 24, 30, or 60fps, with 1080p video at 30 or 60fps. Slow-motion video can now reach 240fps.
It’s a nice evolution of their current iPhone line. Preorders start Friday, and it’ll be available on the 22nd of this month.
iPhone X (pronounced “ten”)
The iPhone X is a whole new design for the iPhone, with many of the changes not directly impacting photography, but being design shifts for the phone overall. No more home button and an edge-to-edge screen mean a definite visual difference when compared with the previous generations of phone. The removal of the home button means that something had to replace Touch ID, and that’s a new facial recognition feature called Face ID, that will best be discussed by experts elsewhere.
That edge-to-edge screen features a new display, being called a Super Retina Display, which offers high dynamic range, including Dolby Vision and HDR10.
One thing to note is that with the removal of the home button and the new screen that extends to the edge of the phone, there’s a “notch” at the top of the screen to contain various sensors and cameras, so if you’re viewing video or an image at the full size you’ll have this to consider. See this home screen image from Apple:
iPhone X for Photographers: the Camera
Like the iPhone 8 Plus, the iPhone X contains two cameras, one that captures wide-angle images and one for telephoto. The wide-angle camera is the same as on the 8 and 8 Plus, but the telephoto camera is even faster at f/2.4. This allows 36% more light capture than on the iPhone 8 Plus.
Both cameras feature optical image stabilization, and there’s better low-light zoom (because of that faster telephoto lens) than on the 8 Plus.
Additionally, the flash now features four LEDs and True Tone, for even more realistic images when using the phone’s flash.
There’s one other big difference in the iPhone X from a camera perspective: the front-facing camera, often used for selfies, now supports Portrait Mode and the Portrait Lighting software discussed above.
It’s a fresh new design with some nice camera enhancements, and the iPhone X will be available for preorder on October 27th, available on November 3rd.
Not Just Product
The updates aren’t all product. Apple places a high value on its retail experiences, with Apple stores evolving into bigger and more open areas with more services beyond simple product sales. To reflect this expansion and to reiterate their commitment to the creative world, Apple stores now feature a new position for some employees: “Creative Pro.” The concept is such that what Apple’s Geniuses are for technology, the Creative Pros will be for art.
Expect to see continued support for creative professionals such as photographers, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see expanded offerings around education for photographers (both casual and pro).
I’m Getting One. Should You? I Can’t Answer That.
As someone who is deep into the Apple world and currently has an iPhone 7 with their paid-monthly upgrade plan, getting a new iPhone this year is pretty much a no-brainer as it won’t cost me any additional money if I get the iPhone 8. Is it worth it to jump to the iPhone X for the additional price?
For me, I’m pretty sure that answer is yes. For better or worse, I find myself using my iPhone for more and more of my personal photography whether that be family outings, sports, travel, or the like. A couple weeks ago, Derrick Story noted that photographers should look at the iPhone as a camera investment and that’s how I view this. For me, with the photos I make, I want the best possible camera in my pocket and right now that’s the iPhone X.
Is that the right answer for you? That’s a decision that you have to make. How important is your smartphone camera? If you routinely carry a DSLR or mirrorless unit, you might find that having the best possible smartphone isn’t worth the premium price.
That’s the beauty of our current choices: there are many, and everyone can choose the option that’s best for them.
product images courtesy Apple, Inc.