The nerd in me is really intrigued by the camera on the new iPhone 7 Plus. It features a dual camera system with one 28mm wide angle lens camera and one 56mm tele photo lens camera. By using a dual camera system the phone can offer you a 2x optical zoom. It can also offer some interesting features by coupling those two cameras together with some software magic. Enter portrait mode.
Portrait mode is the star feature on the iPhone 7 Plus. It works by using both cameras to create a depth map of the image. With that depth map it is then able to attempt to intelligently blur out the background sorrounding the subject. It’s able to do this more or less in real time and even has a live preview on the screen as you capture the image.
The feature is not perfect, as a matter of fact it is only available at the moment as a beta. However stop and think about what this means. Next year will be the 10 year anniversary of the iPhone, and in that period we went from that very first incredibly limited camera to this moment. The moment when the device is powerful enough to do incredibly complex computations in milliseconds as it captures an image.
There is a lot being written about this feature. A lot of people have been posting and analyzing images. Pointing out the things it does well and the things it does bad. Plenty of people are claiming this kind of fake depth effect can never match real depth of field. I think all of that is very minor stuff. The big thing to take away is that this is when the other shoe drops for modern photography. The first shoe dropped with the introduction of smartphones. The fulfillment of being able to take a picture, make some adjustments, and then release it into the internet all from one single device. Now comes the second phase as the computational power becomes strong enough to help overcome physical limitations.
This kind of thing can only improve as we march forward. The people claiming this effect can not replace the true optical version are wrong. This can only improve and it will become more than good enough for the vast majority of people. This is a real exciting moment for modern photography.
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