The biggest new photography feature is Portrait Mode, something that simply wasn’t doable on the single-lens iPhone 8 back in the day. Apple actually introduced Portrait Mode with the dual-camera iPhone 7 Plus back in 2016, but it remained the exclusive domain of dual-lens iPhones until the iPhone XR was released in 2018, which featured a more powerful A12 chip and some machine-learning algorithms that enabled Portrait Mode to work with a single lens.
No doubt due to what Apple learned with the iPhone XR, and the even more capable A13 chip, bringing Portrait Mode to the iPhone SE should have almost been expected, and it’s a great new feature for those who still want to maintain the traditional and pocketable iPhone 8 design but take advantage of more advanced photography features. All six Portrait Lighting effects are available, along with the Depth Control feature that allows you to edit the bokeh effects after the fact.
What’s a bit more surprising here, however is that the iPhone SE can also take full portrait mode shots from the front camera, which has previously only been available on devices that feature the TrueDepth camera. Of course, this is also the first time a A13 chip has ever been used in a device that doesn’t have the TrueDepth camera, and if Portrait Mode shots were possible using the single rear camera on the iPhone XR, there’s really no reason that the front camera shouldn’t be able to do the same.
Note that both the front and rear cameras otherwise remain identical to the iPhone 8. The improvements in the iPhone SE come from the A13 chip, rather than changes to the camera sensors themselves.