Seems like everyone these days agrees the iPhone is a great camera, true enough, but it can be so much better.
Lots of people simply want to use their iPhone for everything, family portraits, events, holiday pics and more. Whilst there are still many reasons for photographers to use a regular camera a well-aimed iPhone can get you tantalizingly close to meeting all those needs in a convenient pocketable package.
Shooting with the RAW (DNG) format can turn out iPhone into compact imaging dynamo, all those positives of iPhone shooting remain, the “in your pocket” convenience, speed, ease of use, the great screen, powerful sharing options and more but most of the pesky downsides simply disappear and those deficits that remain are significantly diminished.
Don’t get me wrong, regular iPhone pics are pretty good for snaps and general stuff but the softish images, limited dynamic range, noise, watercolour like rendering and often unpredictable results take the shine off the camera for serious shooters. You can be sure that with properly captured and processed DNGs those shortcomings will no longer apply.
Of course just shooting in DNG will help, but your images will be better still when you actually know a few extra tricks to use for the capture process and editing. Frankly, I think you’ll be amazed at how good your DNGs can be when you apply an optimised workflow, and great news, it’s all pretty easy to do.
I’ve put together an easy to follow, plain English, jargon-free eBook that will teach you everything you need to know to become an iPhone DNG expert, and I’m confident in saying this just might be the best $14.99 you’ll ever spend on your iPhoneography, maybe even on photography full stop.
Along the way, you’ll learn stuff about image capture and processing that would take months of combing the internet to find and quite honestly you’d probably still fail to uncover the information gems revealed in this eBook.
Amazingly much of what you’ll learn applies to the shooting and editing with any camera, so even if you only occasionally use the iPhone the $14.99 will still be money very well spent.
Ultimate iPhone DNG is 380 pages and 23 Chapters of iPad optimised goodness, take it with you wherever you and your “i” devices go and of course you could pop it onto your Mac or Windows computer as well.
So what’s covered?
Three Ways to DNG The Best Shooting apps Optimising Capture Perfect DNG editing Shooting and Processing Optimal Monochromes Special Shooting Techniques Setting up and using Lightroom Mobile Setting up and Using ProCamera
……and so much more, I’ve even included a comprehensive dictionary of iPhoneography terms
Of course, there are lots of great sample pics of the sorts of real-world things the average person would be shooting, portraits of family, holiday snaps, landscapes, close-ups, and more. In other words realistic images that don’t require a studio, glamorous paid models and an array of lights, just the sort of photos you could expect to achieve if you put into practice the concepts and methods covered in the book.
So for the price of a coffee and a light snack you can change your iPhone shooting forever, I absolutely promise your pics will be better in every possible technical way.
And just to give you advance notice this is only the first in a series of 6 “Ultimate iPhoneography” eBooks, the next one is already close to completion and covers the fine art of iPhoneography composition!
When on holidays I take both my iPhone and my Olympus M4/3 camera kit, the Oly gets a workout on the more serious stuff, mainly when I need more reach or better low light capability, and the iPhone serves for most everything else. I thought some of my readers might be interested in seeing a little photo story of the Ginza district in Tokyo captured on my iPhone while my wife and I wandered the shiny streets of Ginza. I have another version of this article on my regular site with some extra pics taken on the Olympus EM5 MK 2, you can check that out here:
Ginza is 87 hectares of high end, over the top, consumerist worshipping retail nirvana for Japanese with money to burn and a need to proclaim their superior economic status. The greater Ginza area provides a fascinating insight into the culture of modern Japan and presents photographers with a veritable feast of options, both for the tummy and the lens.
My wife and I along with our Son Aaron and his partner Jain spent 6 days in Tokyo recently, staying in a hotel in Ginza. https://www.gardenhotels.co.jp/eng/millennium-tokyo/ . The lodgings were superb and ideally located for access to the Ginza district, subway system and great eateries where you can exercise your gastronomic muscles.
Like many high-end shopping precincts around the world, Ginza is dripping with the usual brands, except perhaps the presentation is little more excessive than usual. Considering that Ginza is home to some of the worlds most expensive retail real estate in “dollars per meter squared” terms, that excessiveness becomes all the more impressive, especially when you compare the retail space sizes to the residential spaces of Japanese units and homes.
Ah Ginza, it’s all “be-on-neon, sidewalk fashion parade and busy with a purpose”. But, my friends, in case you think it would be like, say Times Square or some similar location in other parts of the western world be assured that Ginza has a flavour that is entirely different and in many ways uniquely Japanese, which is what makes it so fascinating.
First the familiar, Ginza is devoted to the church of conspicuous consumption and the brands of choice are the same as almost everywhere else, Cartier, Hermes, Prada, Gucci and all the other usual suspects. Most of the shoppers are women, and indeed most of the stores are aimed at women, and of course, there are a lot of very nicely dressed people parading under the bright evening lights.
As always the store window displays are works of art but not dissimilar to the same store displays in other locations around the world, as you might expect in these days of corporate uniformity and branding.
The whole Ginza edifice is built on the concept of consumption rather than materialism, the joy is in the shopping, browsing, touching, and ultimately parading the high-end bags along the streets post-purchase. Of course, most non-food purchases fall into the category of a “declaration of status” rather than fulfilling any real need for body covering, personal hygiene or life’s practical necessities.
I read an interesting article yesterday on the issue of consumerism and materialism, it’s well worth a look if you have the time and probably typifies the drive behind Ginza more than anywhere else in the world except perhaps Dubai.
But now for something completely different. Ginza is also home to some incredible Japanese department stores that sell brands and foods that are uniquely Japanese, examples being Mitsukoshi, Matsuya and Wako. You may not wish to buy anything at all, but I promise a walk through the food halls alone will leave the average westerner agog at the quality and presentation of the foods and even more impressed at the range on offer.
Beyond the department stores, you have speciality shops that are uniquely Japanese, such as the G.Itoya stationary store and Hakuhinkan toy store (or more accurately, emporium).
It is possible to explore Ginza at a subterranean level moving from shop to department store etc. via the subway paths, convenient in Typhoons and many folk choose this option to avoid traffic and crossings. Move out onto the streets, and you’ll notice several other aspects. First, while there are a few high-end European cars, the vast majority of vehicles are taxis, and almost all of them are black old-school Toyota Crowns that seem ideally suited to their purpose and are immaculately clean. In fact, all vehicles in Tokyo including commercial trucks seem to be fresh from the carwash, which may be a little thing perhaps but quite profound when compared to cars in most cities around the world. The link below will give you some insight into the Tokyo taxis.
Private passenger vehicles in Ginza tend to by high-end Toyotas and Lexus, there are few other brands on display, maybe the occasional high-end Nissan, and frankly, I think about half the worlds fleet of Lexus HL600s must reside in Ginza alone.
The most unique Japanese vehicle you’ll see in Ginza are the Toyota Century sedans, Japans most prestigious vehicle and almost always chauffeur driven. The conservative but exquisitely built Century is the vehicle of choice for CEOs, Government Officials and the very wealthy, it’s the ultimate Japanese automotive statement. Oddly a Century with the Chauffeur in situ seems able to be parked anywhere with complete immunity from harassment by Police or parking officers. The Century looks bland in photos, but in reality, upon the Ginza pavement, a century seems imposing, regal and stylish in an old school way.
Your ears will notice, or should that be, not notice something else. For such a busy place the traffic seems remarkably quiet, no loud exhausts and definitely no horns, in our entire time there I only recall hearing a car horn on a couple of occasions. Generally, cars are driven in a calm, sedate and orderly fashion, the complete opposite to what you might experience in say, Rome.
The streets are a combination of broad avenues and narrow thoroughfares, and most are one way, but regardless of width, they are spotlessly clean, absent of buskers, beggars, pavement furniture, advertising boards and other physical impediments.
People move with purpose, but in an orderly fashion, there’s no pushing and shoving, talking loudly on phones, or aloud to one another, you could say those manners are pivotal to daily life in Ginza, but that’s true of Japan generally.
Regarding fashion, Ginza is conservative, the Japanese women do not flaunt sexuality but rather dress immaculately in beautiful materials, exquisitely cut and tastefully trimmed with discrete jewellery, refinement is a word that sums up the style. Men tend towards the universal black suit, black shoes and white shirt, in other words, the typical business uniform one would expect to see in the financial districts of Manhatten.
Of course, Ginza is not all about shopping, there’s much eating to be done as well. From the food halls in the basements of the department stores, through to the myriad of speciality restaurants, there’s an option for almost every palette, except perhaps for those looking for typical American style fast food. KFC and McDonalds are present but much rarer than in other cities.
One constant however are coffee shops, there are Starbucks and equivalent style shops on every block, but I’d say for “Coffee Culture” loving Aussies like ourselves the coffee is generally a disappointment except for a few specialist coffee shops.
Ginza is close to many of the other Tokyo delights such as the Imperial Palace and Gardens, the Fish Market, Tokyo Tower and a wealth of other tourist delights. The metro system is highly efficient and cheap, placing you within striking distance of almost anything you could wish to see within around 30 mins or maybe less. For Aussies used to the vagaries of Sydney trains and buses, forget everything you have ever experienced, Tokyo despite its massive 24 million population just works, on time, every time!
Just to finish up on the technical side of things, the pics are mostly DNG captures, but there are some JPEGs shot on the standard app when it suited, and the multiple exposures were all JPEGs shot using Average Cam Pro. As always the DNG files were extracted in Lightroom Mobile (now known as Lightroom CC), and I’ve done a little fine tuning on Snapseed. The frames were created in Photoshop on the PC, and in some cases, a few small selective edits were made while there.
Japanese take paper very seriously, I have never seen such an array of paper types in my life, G.Itoya has a whole floor just devoted to papers, Photo papers also come in a bewildering variety of options not seen in most other parts of the world.
Don’t forget you can learn how to make your RAW, DNG iPhone files rock by purchasing my “Ultimate iPhone DNG” book from the iBooks store. It’s the most comprehensive eBook around on the use of DNG on the iPhone and is the first in a series of 6 planned iPhone Photography publications from Zero One Imaging.
Frankly, I was pretty impressed, the quality was indeed considerably better than what’s possible on my “soon to be replaced iPhone 6S plus”. Those test results got me quite excited because I fully expected to find the DNGs produced by the new iPhone 8S Plus would be a small step further step up the quality ladder.
As far as I can tell the modules on the iPad Pro and iPhone 8S plus are pretty similar, save for the lack of stabilisation on the iPad, but like all things Apple it can be quite difficult to get any definitive answers on what’s going on under the hood. Anyhow, I’d have been happy if the iPhone 8 Plus DNG files were as good as the iPad Pro since it seems they’re actually a bit better I’m pretty chuffed. For comparison the shot below is one of the test images I took with the iPad Pro converted to monochrome, the overall quality is rather nice.
And so here we are just a few days after the iPhone 8 release with a peek beneath the DNG hood. Up front consider this as a preliminary test, it’s my wife’s’ iPhone and it only arrived Friday morning, so my time with it was a very limited, basically an hour or so on Sunday afternoon. Frankly dragging any new Apple device from Wendy’s’ hot hands when she’s in the first blush of Apple love is harder than getting our Border Collie to give up a bone. But Wendy is a lovely lady and terrific wife agreed to let me have a little free time with her new 8S Plus baby.
Note also, I only tested with the wide angle lens, not the telephoto, there’s no point comparing apples to oranges and then coming up with grapes, the 6S Plus has no telephoto lens option.
You still can’t shoot DNGs using the standard iPhone camera app, I imagine Apple decided the great majority of iPhone shooters will just want to deal with compressed finished JPEGs, except of course they’re not JPEGs anymore but rather the new HEIF and a big hooray for that. It’s certainly long past time when that clunky, chunky old JPEG format needed to be replaced with something much more modern.
If you want to know about the HEIF format here is a link for you to check out.
This review is not about the fancy schmancy modes that the standard app offers, you’ll find plenty of info in other places if you want to know the ins and outs of the portrait mode or that cool photo lighting mode, suffice to say I reckon they are pretty cool. Wendy gave those headline features a big workout over the weekend with our 8-month-old Grandson Milton and apart from having a lot of fun she found the results were actually pretty good most of the time.
This test is just about the potential of this DNG files but later I intend to explore the other options in depth, once I get my own iPhone X in a couple of months.
I actually think the iPhone 8 Plus DNG files have more relevance to the new iPhones that the previous versions because the general capabilities of the new cameras are much better all round. Now that might sound an odd thing to say since traditionally we shoot RAW/DNG to overcome the limitations of JPEG capture but bear with me. I reckon a lot more people are going to choose the iPhone as their only camera, I can easily see DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras being left behind sulking in cupboards whilst owners pop off for two weeks of R and R. That improved shallow depth of field effect will be enough to sway the choice for many casual and semi-serious users, most folk care little about how the result is achieved and just love the fact it can be done at all, much to the chagrin of many old-school shooters.
I can also imagine a lot of folk will still take their DSLRs on holidays and then faced with the choice of carting the gear around some foreign city for a day will decide…nah….leave it in the motel room, I’ll just slip the iPhone into my pocket. Next holiday the DSLR won’t even make it to the front door!
Think about that for a moment, iPhone pics have been fine for many needs for years now but the new features and HEIF format raise the bar to a point where many more photographers will see the iPhone as “perfectly sufficient”. What else out there combines lighting effects, great panorama modes, synthetic depth of field, slow-mo, great 4K video, time-lapse, perfect connectivity etc in the regular camera world…anybody…cmon…and of course you can shoot pretty good DNGs as well if you want an imaging edge.
At times more serious users will certainly want the wholesome goodness and flexibility that DNG capture offers, which brings us back to the question at hand, just how good or bad are the iPhone 8 Plus DNGs.
Whilst the following test pics are not fully comprehensive and nor are they great works of art, (but then what can you do when you only have the device for an hour or so), I reckon they give a pretty solid insight into the iPhone 8S Plus DNG option and its potential.
I always test with everything locked down with optimal exposure and focus control, I think when we test we should test “exactly” what we say we are testing, which means we need to eliminate the variables as much as possible. You can be pretty confident these pics are a valid representation of what you can expect from the DNG files if you take care shooting and spend some time doing proper edits.
As for the shooting, I use and recommend two applications, Lightroom Mobile and ProCamera, (both of which are covered in detail in my iBook “Ultimate iPhone DNG”, available on the iBooks store) between these two apps you can do pretty much anything you’d reasonably expect to be able to do when shooting with DNG on your iPhone.
The exposures were optimal and some were captured using a UNiWb method on both the iPhone 6S Plus and 8S Plus, read the book if you want to know about that.
The editing? I edited them in three applications, first Lightroom Mobile to get an insight into what’s possible by using only the Raw converter on the iPhone and then I carried out some post DNG tuning in the new version of Snapseed (which is very nice by the way). On the Mac, I used Iridient Developer, followed by some Photoshop CC time to check for iPhone DNG edit-ability.
Just so you know, nothing extracts detail from files like Iridient does, it represents the ultimate and additionally, there are an absolute plethora of ways the files can be processed within the application, including alternative noise reduction and sharpening methods. I came up with a few workflows for the files based on what I’ve done in the past with iPhone DNGs, these worked a treat but it’s worth adding that given some serious exploration time I can probably get more a little more out of the DNGs using more refined workflows.
My general principle with Iridient is to render out a result that can be fine-tuned in Photoshop. Some folk might say my approach is not relevant to them, well maybe true, but they can always use Lightroom Mobile. On the other hand if like me you really want to know what the iPhone 8S Plus DNG limits are then this is the way to do it.
You’ll find I refer to the iPhone 6S Plus as a comparison, I think that’s totally valid as most people buy their iPhones on two-year contracts or keep them for the two-year period, meaning the most likely customers for the new 8 series iPhones will be the 6 Series updaters who’ve skipped the 7 series models.
Alrighty, let’s get down to it….
Angle of View
The focal length of the lens on the 8S plus is slightly shorter than the 6S Plus, I assume the actual sensor dimensions are the same, (Maybe not, I haven’t been able to track down a definitive answer). From the comparison pics, it looks like the 8S Plus has a slightly wider angle of view but I’d need to lock both down on a tripod and shoot them side by side to be sure.
The 6S lens was 29 mm equivalent and I’d say the 8S is 27.5 equivalent or so but I’ll confirm this with future tests.
Depth of Field
Whilst the difference is not much the wider aperture on the 8S does seem to give slightly more separation when you shoot scenes that include near and distant objects, this is to be expected of course but it looks a little more pronounced than I had anticipated.
I assume that the higher level of overall lens/sensor performance in all measurable parameters is more important in changing that apparent depth of field rendering than the wider aperture. Basically slightly out of focus areas always look more out of focus if the in-focus areas are rendered truly sharply in comparison, which they are with the 8S camera module.
The distortion characteristics of the 8S Plus are benign, that is to say, I couldn’t see any change when I turned the lens correction on/off in Lightroom Mobile, even in Iridient Developer I couldn’t really see any distortion in the uncorrected files.
I’d need to run further tests on a tripod with fixed straight edged subjects to say with conviction that there’s no distortion but at this point that looks to be the case, which is quite impressive.
Compared to the 6S Plus
The 6 series modules have some pincushion distortion which in uncorrected files is just visible, so a win to the 8S plus, I’m just not sure by exactly how much.
With Raw files the colour rendering is mainly a product of the choices you make when extracting the files, the white balance, tint, saturation and vibrance are all adjustable but it’s also true that the sensor design and the processing chain will have an effect on how the final files respond.
Of all the criteria this is the hardest to qualify, I think Lightroom Mobile produces lovely colour with the 8S Plus but it’s pretty terrific on the 6S Plus files as well.
Colour can be fine-tuned in RAW converters or photo editors in post and the rendering of colours is not baked into DNG/RAW files in the way it is with compressed formats, at best I can make a couple of comments as to how the files look and responded when edited.
If anything the yellows are a little more dominant than ideal and blues are slightly cyan shifted, greens can end up a little yellow/green. All colours seem to accept selective editing really well and fine-tuning white balance is very easy. Really I’d need an opportunity to shot a wide array of shots including portraits and indoor lighting plus colour checker images to be able to make any meaningful judgement.
I did try a mixed lighting shot in my Daughters kitchen that had filtered window light and tungsten and overall the resulting image looked rather good, in other words, the tungsten lit elements were warm but controlled and the window lit areas not overly blue. Generally, the result was much better than what I saw with the 6S Plus.
Compared to the iPhone 6S
The 8S Plus seems to be a little less prone to accentuating certain colours, basically, it’s easy to get neutrals looking neutral and artificial light sources don’t seem to cause “runaway” colour tints. I’d judge the 8S an improvement but I need to investigate further.
I expected the noise levels would be reduced compared to the iPhone 6S Plus as the 7 series modules produce RAW files that are definitely better in this regard.
So what did I find, no competition here at all?
For those shooting in the standard camera format, JPEG and now HEIF, noise is usually a non-issue as the iPhone processing pretty much blurs all the noise away along with the fine detail. On the other hand with DNGs we have total control and can play the trade-offs against one another, that alone could be reason enough to shoot DNG.
The 8S Plus DNG noise is much lower than the older modules and especially the 6 series, you can see it everywhere in the image, but it’s especially obvious in blue skies and shadows. If the file is correctly exposed at the lowest ISO (as a RAW file, not as if it were a compressed processed file) you can turn off all noise reduction in Iridient, no qualms at all.
Initially when noise appears its low-level chrominance noise showing up in neutral toned areas, but I found it to be very acceptable at the low test ISOs and there’s almost zero luminance noise in smooth tones areas if the file is optimally exposed, i.e., at 20 ISO.
Compared to the iPhone 6S
No contest, the 8S Plus easily bests the 6S plus and importantly this means you can push the sharpening and micro tonal contrast adjustments more aggressively.
The DNG files from the 6S plus are vastly better than the JPEGs, the JPEGs always show unpredictable mushiness, lack of very fine detail and sometimes look very watercolour like. I expected the new HEIF format would be much less damaging to the files and thus the difference between DNG and compressed capture under normal shooting would not be as significant. So how did that assumption pan out?
Well, although not covered in this test, I did look at the compressed standard files and there’s no doubt they hold much better fine detail than the old mushy JPEGs on the 6S Plus, there’s far less of that watercolour rubbish I detest.
Frankly, I was not expecting a big improvement in detail rendition with the DNG files on the 8S Plus, the 6S DNGs were already capable of very well resolved results providing the exposure was nailed correctly. DNGs converted in Iridient extract about as much detail as you could ever reasonably expect from any 12-megapixel image. So are the 8S Plus better? In the centre of the frame it’s a pretty close call, the native files showed little difference in detail but the win goes to the 8S Plus…just.
But, there is much more to it, the 8S Plus shows a higher level of clarity across the entire frame because the lens is simply better and more importantly the native noise level are much lower, meaning you can apply correspondingly higher levels of image sharpening without the noise becoming obvious and degrading the image.
The lower noise level pays off, particularly when applying very low radius sharpening to bring out textural details. With earlier models, you really had to back off early as you’d get a combination of ugly colour flecking and rough grain. The 8S Plus files beg to be texture sharpened and respond really well to it.
Compared to the iPhone 6S
Better, but not a chalk and cheese difference, in the end, you have more sharpening flexibility with the new camera, that will be a big bonus for those wanting to crop the frames or blow up to larger sizes, in particular, the improvements in the corners of the frame are obvious.
The Raw files on the iPhone 6S Plus have considerably better dynamic range compared with the JPEGs, especially if they are captured using optimal UniWB exposure, (read about that in “Ultimate iPhone DNG). I’ve always felt iPhone DNGs did a much better job with the highlight end than the shadows, which despite all sensible efforts usually still ended up lacking good detail and tonality. Ultimately highlights are far more important than shadows so it was a fair trade-off, but now I don’t have to trade anything…cool!
I really need to run some comprehensive tests on this but I’m confident the iPhone 8S Plus will provide details with better highlights and much-improved shadow detail under almost all conditions. It boils down to this, even if the true dynamic range was no wider, (and I think it is) the shadows have far less noise and record more recoverable detail than the 6S Plus ever did meaning for DNG captures you can reduce the exposure to protect the highlights more, knowing you’ll be able to brighten the image in post without it turning it into an ugly noise-fest.
The 8S plus will still clip highlights, it is a small sensor after all, but I noticed that the highlight the recovery tools in Iridient worked a little better with the 8S files, tending to give a more neutral colour rendering and avoiding the harsh tonal breakup I’m used to seeing with clipped 6S Plus files.
Compared to the iPhone 6S
The 8S Plus is better but probably mainly due to the lower shadow noise levels. Neither device is going to be as flexible as a regular DSLR or Mirrorless cameras but if you’ve only ever shot JPEGs on a smartphone you’ll be quite amazed at how good these DNG files can be.
I thought the lens quality of the 6S Plus was pretty good though mine at least would sometimes render corners randomly soft, it might be the top right in one shot, bottom left in another and so on. I suspect this is due to weird interactions with the 6S Plus image stabilisation but I’ve never been able to conclusively prove that. Generally, the 6S Plus edges and corners are noticeably less well resolving than the centre.
The iPad Pro lens with its 7 series camera module is much better performing than the 6S Plus, this might be due to less diffraction as a result of the wider aperture or it could just be a better design, regardless the lens on the iPad Pro eats the 6S Plus for dinner, resolving very well across the entire image and my iPad Pro doesn’t show any uneven corner softness at all.
It makes more sense, in this case, to compare the lens performance of the 8 series to the 7 series module as it’s a given the 8S Plus will easily best the 6S Plus version.
So the answer? The DNG files look to have a little bit better edge definition on the iPhone 8S Plus when compared to the 7 series modules. Like most lenses the corners aren’t exactly equal in resolution, the bottom left is the softest on the test sample, but honestly, it’s still very very good. Let me put it this way, the cross frame performance is much better than any kit lenses I’ve ever tested on DSLRs or Mirrorless cameras when set at the wider end of the range, you certainly don’t look at the 8S Plus DNGs and think, “damn I wish that corner was sharper”.
Compared to the iPhone 6S
The improved corner definition compared to my 6S Plus is very obvious, especially when you look at the DNG files in their native state, no competition here, a knockout for the 8S plus and it looks a bit better than the 7 series modules as well, but this could be down to other processing chain factors rather than optics.
Just so we a clear, we’re talking about magenta/green and yellow/blue colour fringing here, not the purple fringing you can see around dark lines set against bright light sources, the later is not regular CA and has a different cause.
I’m very sensitive to CA, I find it visually disturbing and even little bit of CA gets me queasy. CA messes with the colour as you move towards the edges and corners of the frame and also reduces peak sharpness. Most photographers will argue, “yeah but it can be fixed in post”, that’s true but a CA fixed image will never be as sharp as one created with a lens that exhibited no CA at all. Give me optically corrected CA any day.
Now up front, I have to say those iPhone lenses since the 5S have been pretty good in this regard, each iteration seems to have reduced CA a bit and but frankly, it’s never the bothersome issue it is on most regular camera lenses (even expensive ones).
And now, I present with great fanfare…tadaa….the first lens I have ever tested where I could not actually find any Chromatic Aberration when zoomed into a 200% view on an uncorrected RAW/DNG file. Just pause for a second and ponder that, I said none, nada, nothing.
Yes, you’ll get a little purple fringing if you push the exposure hard enough but that’s a horse of an entirely different colour, literally, regardless the purple fringing is really well controlled, basically a non-issue, all of which tells me the lens must have pretty high native contrast, excellent coatings and superb design.
Anyhow folks, you can forget about worrying about chromatic aberration and also be confident that any residual purple fringing when it shows up can easily be sorted in the RAW converter or Photoshop (or something similar) with a fringing correction tool. Lightroom on the desktop computer does a great job of sorting this for example.
Compared to the iPhone 6S Plus
The 6S Plus always performed well in this area, but zoomed in the 8S Plus is much better, in particular, the high contrast purple fringing is not as well controlled on the 6S Plus.
Just One Thought
Killing chromatic aberration with lens design is very difficult for a whole array of tech reasons, most kit lenses don’t even get close to sorting the CA within the lens itself, that’s done in software when making the JPEG or via a profile in the RAW converter.
I checked the DNG files without any corrections enabled and found zero CA, this raises a question I can’t answer. Have Apple found some way to perfectly correct the CA before the DNG file is written and bypassed profile corrections in the RAW converter later on or is it just the lens is incredibly well corrected for CA? I don’t know but the results are great.
Colour banding has been a real bugbear of mine with iPhone images since the first iPhone I owned, a 3GS. I hate it banding, loathe it, detest it, I don’t like it and it makes me want to throw up, well not quite…. but you get the idea. Banding is also devilishly hard to correct in post editing without causing other flow-on problems.
Banding or posterization particularly show up in blue skies and on bright skin tones, but it’s also common on yellow objects with many cameras including iPhones. What complicates the matter is that some of the visual banding in the past was not due to issues with the files and inadequate bit depth but rather the display panel. I often found apparently banded images were quite OK when extracted and viewed on my desktop 5K Mac.
The iPhone 8S Plus has a much better display, not as good as the X promises but still much better than the 6S Plus, in fact as soon as you look at the images on the iPhone 8S Plus it’s obvious the display is way better so I expect that that display induced banding will cease to be an annoyance.
It’s a bit early for me to pass a definitive judgement, I really need the chance to shoot a lot more photos with large areas of blue sky, yellow cars, portraits in bright light etc to be sure….but it certainly looks like the banding issues are significantly reduced or eliminated. None of the quick test pics showed any tendency towards banding and breakup no matter how hard I looked or pushed them in editing!
Compared to the iPhone 6S Plus
Again its hard to be sure but the DNG performance looks to be much better, the real test will be when I can get the phone back off my wife later this week and torture test for banding using Lightroom Mobile HDR feature, I’m quietly confident that the “banding is on the run”, both for the files and the display! BTW its pretty easy to get the “bands” when pushing 6S Plus files in editing.
All iPhone/iPad raw/dng files I’ve tested have shown red tinted vignetting in the native state. JPEG shooters are likely unaware of this as the standard processing deals with it automatically, most Raw converters also deal with the worst of the issue via a built-in profile but sometimes you still see it in skies and smooth tones areas near the edges of the frame.
The red/vignetting shift is mainly caused by issues within the sensors design and the way it interacts with the lens, it’s diabolically tricky to eliminate the issue if present. In the case of past iPhones, the red shift in the DNG files became much worse as the ISO was raised.
The truth of the vignetting matter is revealed by taking DNG files and viewing them with all profile adjustments turned off, you can’t do this on the iPhone nor is it possible with many desktop editing apps but it’s easily done in Iridient Developer.
Does it matter? Absolutely, that vignetting not only causes colour shifts in the corners but increases the noise levels, reduces corner shadow detail and limits your ability to get the best possible results from the files. For example, you’d need to dial back the sharpening levels and increase the noise reduction if you don’t want messy corners and edges, it also means you need to perform advanced radial edits to get the most out from your DNGs. Red shifted vignetting might not be a big issue to many of you out there in interweb land but to me, it’s massive PIA.
So….the iPhone 8S Plus has much less native corner vignetting than the 6S plus models and a little less than the 7 series modules as well, additionally the vignetting is far more colour neutral, there’s a very slight colour shift but nothing like the horrible red shift on previous models and it’s only seen on plain blue skies if at all. With the 6S module, you could see it on every uncorrected frame and it even ran well in towards the centre of the image if the ISO was raised just a bit.
Response to Editing
This is where the rubber hits the road for DNG files, JPEGs are just so damned brittle, push the tones and colours or try to re-sharpen and all sorts of nasty things happen, I haven’t tested the HEIF files for edibility but the specs of the format tell me it should be pretty flexible.
The 8S Plus files edit very well in both Lightroom Mobile and on the computer in Iridient Developer. Shadows can be pushed, highlights recovered and selective edits applied without getting horrible tonal breakup. The files can be sharpened easily and the noise being much lower means you have greatly improved options for shadow recovery.
As a little test, I shot an image along an old railway bridge in Gundagai NSW after sunset, it’s an extremely contrasty lighting situation and the phone wasn’t level either as I was shooting through a crooked wire fence.
Looking at the original DNG capture you could easily decide all is lost, it looks hopelessly dark and honestly if this were a DNG shot on the 6S Plus there’d be no hope, but take a look at the recovered edited and cropped image, it actually looks pretty reasonable.
The processing was done via a combo of Iridient Developer and Photoshop CC, yes it has some luminosity noise but truly it’s far better than I expected.
Compared to the iPhone 6S Plus
Not even in the same ballpark. Net result then, the 8S Plus DNG files edit better period!
Where to From Here?
This is just the first in what will be a full battery of tests on the DNG, some of it will likely make its way into an update of my “Ultimate iPhone DNG” eBook.
So next I will explore the performance at the various ISO settings, try out the telephoto lens for DNG, run some comprehensive DNG colour tests, try different sharpening and noise reduction processes in Iridient, run some HDRs in Lightroom Mobile and probably a few other things as well.
Do come back again and if you really want to get the most out of your DNG captures on your iDevices why not pop on over to the iBooks store and buy a copy of my 400 page “Ultimate iPhone DNG”.
The theory behind image stacking to reduce image noise and increase resolution is solid, we’ve been doing this for years in Photoshop. Can this be done automatically inside your iPhone?
These days there are several iPhone photography apps claiming they can produce much better photos by stacking several quickly captured frames on top of another, and then blending them down, even the iPhones standard camera app uses a version of this idea.
Do the image stacking option really deliver on the promise?
The answer is sometimes……but find out a little more about this by watching this short video.
Yes, yes it’s true the iPhone doesn’t have the capacity for shallow depth of field rendering in the way your DSLR or Mirrorless camera does unless of course, you go very close to your subject.
However, there are some differences between what you can expect in terms of depth of field rendering from iPhone DNG and JPEG versions. Here’s a short video that discusses the differences, it may cause you to do a little re-evaluation of the accepted wisdom.
If you want to know more you can always buy my “Ultimate iPhone DNG” eBook on the iBooks store.
A quick trawl through the catalog of Camera Replacement apps on the Apps store will soon reveal a plethora of apps laying claim to being the greatest thing since sliced bread. It can be a little confusing to sort out what you need and what really works.
My eBook “Ultimate iPhone DNG” has information regarding App choices but you might also like to check out this little video where I discuss the items/features that you would ideally be looking for…fact is some of the apps have deficits that rule them completely out of contention.
Here’s a quick question for you. Considering we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to amazing cameras and uber lenses that are able to render the hair follicles and yet unborn zits on supermodels at 50 paces why would you even think about using a mobile phone for anything other than a casual snap of that coffee and cake you had for morning tea.
Serious photos with an iPhone, are you serious, that just sounds totally contradictory!
Well if you disregard the differences with Depth of Field and the iPhones’ wide angle lens perspective you soon realize that when shooting iPhone DNG the dynamic range, sharpness and color are not too bad at all for many needs.
And here’s the thing, not all serious photos are taken by serious people with serious gear. These days lots of people who are not photographers are given orders from on high…”go and get me some pics of that event, make it snappy, and when ya done get it posted to our Instagram account…….. oh, and I want it on Facebook before you leave the office tonight or you’re fired”
Fact is, and I know this will hurt the ears, feelings, and egos of many of the sensitive photographic souls reading this. I get lots, and I mean “lots” of people who turn up in my workshops on Lightroom, Photoshop, Photo Composition, iPhoneography etc who’ve been made “Chief Executive of Multi-Media, Instagram and Facebook, Resident Communications Dynamo, iPhone Wielding Guru” for their business or organization.
Often these folks don’t actually edit the pics, others further down or up the stream might do that, but sometimes they’re expected to also be the resident “Photoshop genius”, with all the impossible expectations that infers.
These people are not actually photographers, heck they never intended to be photographers but that’s what they’re now expected to do, and damn it, those pics better be good!
So here we are 2017, the iPhone has DNG and all the extra goodness that it infers upon one’s image options and we have an increasing number of non-photographers and indeed even some professional photographers who now use the tool for serious work.
When I was planning my new Ultimate iPhoneography series of eBooks it soon became obvious that one of those books should look at what photographers and non-photographers with serious needs could do with their iPhones. There’s definitely a strong demand for some wholesome but easily digestible information on how you might actually get the job done and importantly how to avoid the myriad of potential pitfalls.
Well that particular book’s still a way off, I’ve six planned for the whole series, the first book “Ultimate iPhone DNG” is already up on the iBooks store and the others are all well into the production phase but I thought it could be fun to show one of the sets of pics I’ve created in the preparation phase for upcoming “Ultimate Professional iPhoneography” book.
Lets just come back to the question of “why shoot serious (work) stuff with the iPhone”. I reckon there are several solid reasons.
The iPhone may be the only camera you or your workplace owns, maybe you or the workplace have decided that using a DSLR is just too complex. (I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that but I well understand the way many feel about this situation).
An obvious one is the need for rapid turnaround and the benefits of instant sharing and no doubt for a great many such uses the quality deficits are less relevant. You can easily crop the images severely and still have enough pixels for social media needs and honestly, regardless of how much traditional photographers protest, the fact remains only a very small proportion of images shot for promotional purposes find their way into print at anything larger than say 5 by 7 inches. Now even allowing for reproduction at 300 PPI, that 5 by 7-inch print only equates to around 3 mega pixels.
But I think you can make a case for iPhone shooting that transcends the traditional convenience and resolution sufficiency arguments, a case where sometimes the iPhone might technically be a great choice. (ASSUMING we are shooting in DNG)
Yep I know, right about now there are virtual knives and spears being thrust forth into computer monitors in the hope of impaling me or at least banishing my presence for the outer reaches of the inter-web, but please humor me, I’m just a country lad from a place that no-one much knows about.
So what might those technical benefits of the iPhone be?
Well, Depth of Field is enormous, it’s pretty easy to get everything in focus and sometimes that’s just what you need. This fact might seem a little surprising to many who have come to the photography table since the advent of digital but once upon a time getting deep depth of field was a challenge and something professional photographers went to all sorts of lengths and contortions to achieve.
Related to the depth of field rendering, the iPhone can easily get really close up photos nicely sharp and yet still have quite nice separation between the subject and background elements.
Going further the lens is wide-angle, but it’s actually sharp right out to the corners, which is not a given with many regular wide angle lenses on DSLRs and Mirrorless cams.
Better yet, the lens/sensor size combination enables you to have some interesting perspective renderings that are impossible with larger sensor sizes without image stacking.
Now yes the iPhone is potentially a noisy little blighter but actually, the luminance noise, when shot in the DNG format at slightly elevated ISOs, is rather filmic and has a certain artistic appeal that actually works nicely for some types of images and especially monochrome.
Another aspect that few people will have considered is that it’s relatively easy to get total deep focus rendering from very near to distant objects by using focus shift techniques with only 2 or 3 frames.
So that’s not a bad list and for the working photographer and a tool only needs to excel in one specific aspect to make it viable for some selected shooting needs, no-one’s claiming the iPhone is the perfect portrait device, the ideal copy camera, the most powerful landscape tool, the last word or even the first word in the world of sport photography shooting, but then it doesn’t need to be either.
On the other hand, let’s face it, most DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras are still pretty hopeless when it comes to social media duties and many are very difficult to use for close-up work unless you have lots of other macro bits to go with them.
So onto the pics, our subject is Mick McCarthy from MJM Vehicle Trimming in my hometown of Goulburn NSW. Mick is well-known for making the best custom motorcycle seats around for people who really want to be able to plant their butts on something more comfortable than the average plastic board with inverted nails that seems to pass for a motorcycle seat these days. He still does some regular motor trimming for folks with special cars but basically motorbike seats are his gig, he also happens to be my neighbor and a friend.
I’ve gotta say it amazes me that all of the bike manufactures can produce machines which are brilliant in every way, yet they still can’t make a seat that soothes the average butt for more than 20 kilometers. Maybe we’re not actually meant to ride modern bikes, maybe we’re supposed to take them to the coffee shop, park them and then proceed to talk all kinds of BS about how great my bike is compared to your bike. Anyhow Mick does great seats, the one he did for me totally changed the way I felt about my bike, that’s for sure.
Mick is a bit of “bike n car nut” and has a nice little collection of his own, and he really is a terrific bloke who loves to shoot the breeze on all those mechanical things that we fellas get excited about.
I wanted to create a set of images that gave a good account of the man and his craft, something that his family might treasure, but also something that told the story of MJM.
I think that shooting DNG files on the iPhone worked treat. I was able to get a tight close-up shot, super deep depth of field renderings (which I then dialed back to taste), a lovely filmic look and with appropriate editing some terrific shallow DOF stuff all with more than passable quality for most regular usages. And I have to say I love the fact you can get into tight confines with the iPhone, it really is easy peasy with the iPhone on a selfie stick.
Lots of people get really hung up on the issue of noise but the honestly the noise when you shoot in iPhone DNG isn’t too bad and importantly it can be fine-tuned and even used creatively. The key is not to shoot at high ISOs and before someone starts furiously typing a “full and well-expressed rebuttal on the folly of only having a low ISO option” think about it for a moment or two. The iPhone lens is fixed at f2.2 or f1.8 and you don’t need to stop down to say f5.6 or 8 to get some clarity or depth of field, meaning you don’t need high ISOs all that often, provided of course you have the camera properly supported. Some of the shots I took in his shed were at 1/5 sec or so but it all worked out fine.
And if the light is MIA and you need to bring in some artificial light via LEDs or tungsten then you don’t need near as much of it to lift the brightness levels to something workable when using f2.2 at say 100 ISO. If you needed to use f5.6 – 8 @100 ISO with a DSLR you’d need about 8 to 16 times as much lighting power, meaning either more lights or more expensive lights or a non-continuous light source, in other words, flash.
Yes, of course you could shoot your DSLR at a longer shutter speed, but then you’d risk subject movement or you could raise the ISO to 800 or 1600 ISO but then the difference between the quality of the two devices (when shooting in iPhone DNG) would not be near as wide as you might expect. In any case, this article is aimed at those who are shooting with the iPhone and really don’t want to use a DSLR.
And just so you know, yep of course these shots have been lit, but in keeping with the concept of making it practical for those who need to use the iPhone for work stuff I kept it simple, just a couple of LED work lights on a pair of cheap stands with a couple of bits of foam core board. All up the lighting stands and other bits represent about a $200.00 investment, which most businesses would pay for out of petty change.
Of course, if you want to compare JPEG outputs then all bets are off, those iPhone JPEGs are variable at best and the attainable quality level is nothing like that offered by the DNGs, so please don’t send me any arguments based on the JPEGs, I’d just be nodding my head in full agreement.
The big advantage of the DNGs over JPEGs is the pushability of the files, you can dodge and burn, sharpen and blur, crop and blow up in ways that the brittle JPEGs never allow.
I find the idea of shooting with the iPhone then working out the Depth of Field rendering in post quite appealing, I’d normally choose to use a different camera if I want the shallow DOF look, but the approach can work pretty well.
Sure it takes a bit of work but then with practice, you get pretty quick at it, more importantly, it allows me to create DOF renderings that would be difficult or impossible if shot with regular DSLRs or Mirrorless cameras. In some ways, and I know this will prove a challenging statement, but sorting the DOF out in post is close in terms of flexibility to what you could do by using a view camera with tilts, shifts, rise and fall, except without all the chemical and scanning stuff arounds. Yes, Yes I know it will not be as detailed etc, but we are not producing full-page spreads and billboards, basically most stuff goes straight to the web these days and honestly this approach looks fine for social media stuff and I reckon looks quite a bit better than the effects you get using the iPhone 7S plus portrait mode.
Going further on the Depth of Field simulation option, you can create looks that would not be possible with regular lenses, it’s easy for example to simulate the look of lens with significant field curvature or tilted focal planes such as with a tilt/shift lens, bokeh can be whatever you want and importantly you can create sharpness fall off characteristics that would be impossible with almost any regular camera. Ultimately if you start with an image that has overall sharpness, in other words, deep depth of field, you can blur it to anything your heart desires (given enough time/skill), on the other hand you can’t start with a shallow DOF image and then find clarity that was not recorded in the first place.
Sure this is a different way of working and it won’t suit everyone but like most techniques in photography, it’s just another option that might suit some specific needs. I imagine that those photographers who are fixed on the idea of photography being “what comes out of the camera” and with a strong belief that “editing is the devils work” will choke on the DOF simulation concept, but…. there are a great many of us who just accept and embrace editing as an integral part of the whole process.
I chose to go with a sepia monochrome look for this shoot but the colour versions are fine despite the basic light sources used, I’ve also added a little noise to give a more filmic feel.
iPhone DNGs can give quite different looks depending on how they are extracted and in this case, I used Iridient Developer with the noise reduction turned off. As you might expect that makes the files a little noisier but means they also look more film-like and more importantly they work really nicely with DOF simulation processes in Photoshop when you’re including added noise in the blurring process.
You might think, well sure the pics look OK on the WEB but surely the prints would be poor. Not so, 11 by 14s prints look rather nice and long ago worked out that if you make a good 11 by 14 you can pretty much print a file any size you want when you take into account the increased viewing distance.
I’ve put together a nice layout for Mick that he can frame and put up on his wall and despite the 36 by 34-inch size, the resolution is absolutely perfect.
Anyhow thanks for reading and I hope it has provided a little inspiration, Oh and if you want to know how to really shoot and deal with those iPhone DNGs check out my book “Ultimate iPhone DNG” on the iBooks store and you can also have a look at some other pics on my dedicated iPhoneography instagram site.
Just look for.. zerooneimaging or iphoneraw01 on instagram
A common comment made by some photography reviewers and even quite a few iPhone shooters is that they think the DNG files are more noisy that the JPEGs, is it true?
Again, like lots of things digital……it depends.
Yep the files will look noiser before you apply the appropriate noise reduction but in truth you have enormous control over this and the jpegs only look as smooth as a babies rear end because the in-camera processing just obliterates all noise….and fine detail and color subtlety along with it.
With DNG we have choices and that has to be a good thing! Anyhow check out the video to get a better insight and of course there is plenty more you can learn about noise control by reading “Ultimate iPhone DNG” which is now available on the iBooks store.