Photographer/Developer Explains Why iPhone XS ‘Beautygate’ Isn’t Real

Smart Hdr Apple Credit: Halide
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Apple’s iPhone XS and XS Max devices may result in smoother-looking selfies, but it’s not because of a covert “beauty mode,” according to one developer and photographer.

Sebastian de With, the creator of highly-rated photography app Halide, took a deep dive into the mechanics of the camera system on Apple’s new 2018 handsets. In a new blog post published on Monday, he offers a possible explanation for “Beautygate.”

Basically, de With said that a soft beauty filter on the new iPhone “doesn’t exist.” Instead, he attributes the smoother-looking selfies to a couple of upgraded camera functions, including merged exposures and aggressive noise reduction.

The former feature is a type of computational photography that merges several different exposures together to create a better-looking image. Or, in de With’s words, a “whole new look” that’s a “drastic departure” from previous iPhones.

Smart Hdr Apple 2

By reducing the brightness of bright areas and the darkness of dark areas, the iPhone XS camera ends up reducing areas of deep contrast. This doesn’t eliminate any detail, but it does result in images that may appear to be less sharp — and selfies that look smoother because the “light isn’t as harsh.”

The iPhone XS lineup also has much more aggressive noise reduction, which was theorized to be a culprit behind “Beautygate” last week.

Iphone Xs Beauty Gate
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New 2018 handsets have a camera that sports a quicker shutter speed and higher ISO, which results in more noise. Because of that, Apple has had to implement stronger noise reduction systems to compensate — which can result in slightly less contrast in images.

That’s especially true for the front-facing selfie camera, which features a smaller sensor than the rear-facing camera and, thus, more noise.

In other words, the aggressive noise reduction and the Smart HDR feature result in smoother-looking selfies — which is likely also why users who switched off Smart HDR noticed a difference in their own pictures.

“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,” de With wrote.

Of course, there are still some problems with the noise level, particularly when it comes to shooting RAW images with the Halide app — but the app has been updated with a new feature that could mitigate those issues.

But all in all, de With says the iPhone XS camera is significantly better than the iPhone X’s, despite any controversy.

Of course, some people still aren’t happy about the look. But de With notes that these photographic settings can be tweaked with a software update if enough people cause a stir.

De With’s full post is well worth a read for anyone interested in the new iPhone XS camera system, or in a reasonable explanation for “Beautygate.”

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