iPhone X Takes on M43

We all assume that a mirrorless or DSLR camera is going to pulverise an iPhone concerning image quality, but, there are degrees of pulverisation.  Questions my dear reader come into play, like…

Are we talking about shooting in good light or poor light?

Are we comparing a fixed focal length lens to the equivalent on the iPhone X?

How big are we going to print?

……and so on.  It’s not a straightforward comparison to make.

On the surface it seems ridiculous to even consider making this comparison, the outcome is evident before we even start….. or is it?

When I was testing the telephoto lens on the iPhone X and 8 models I came to a conclusion pretty quickly that these dinky little glass constructions were mighty fine from the optical perspective, so that raised my initial question.  How might the iPhone in telephoto mode compare to my M4/3 camera at the same focal length?

Which then led to another question, well then what about the standard wide-angle lens….

Which begat the idea of what if I shot a mild panorama and compared that to a wide angle on the M4/3…….

Which naturally led to, yeah, but how about cropping the telephoto shot and seeing how it compares to M4/3 with a 40mm lens…….

And on it goes, so many questions, so many possibilities.

So here we are with my, “let’s shoot the same test pics at my trusty test location on both devices and see what flows from that”.

Test image iPhone X telephoto, full frame, Goulburn Railway Station.
Goulburn Railway Station, my regular lens and camera test location. Problems show up very quickly due to all the straight lines, lots of fine details and the high contrast subject. This is a test frame taken with the iPhone X telephoto lens, for a previous article looks good, but let’s see how the iPhone X compares to M4/3.

Students and iPhones

I’ve had more than a few students in my classes claiming their iPhones produced photos as good as their DSLR and Mirrorless cameras, I don’t discount their claims either, but like you, I want to see some hard evidence?

To be fair we can’t make comparisons under very low light situations (though I have, but that’s another story), that would be kind of meaningless, we can take it to the bank that a small sensor camera like the iPhone will be severely disadvantaged and underwhelming in low light. But what about in reasonable to good light, you know, the sort of light that most folks have when they take their holiday snaps etc.  I never get students making grand claims about shooting starfields with their iPhones etc. All of these “iPhone boosters” are talking about regular daylight type stuff.

NOTE:  I have run a series of test on the low light options including stacking, HDR etc, If you want a sneak peek at one of the single frame capture comparisons have a look on my other blog at this article:    

https://braddlesphotoblurb.blogspot.com.au/2018/03/low-light-and-high-contrast-m43-and.html

Of course, my students are referring to JPEG output, I’m more interested in absolutes, so it’s DNG/RAW only here guys, but a tremendous RAW result should translate to a good JPEG result unless the camera maker is doing something completely crazy in the processing department. (We shouldn’t discount the power of all the computational imaging methods used for iPhone compressed files either, but that’s too much to deal with for one article)

Obviously, a comparison like this is not about depth of field rendering abilities, if you’re seeking shallow depth of field control, you wouldn’t be using a smartphone in the first place, so I’m not going to entertain any arguments/comments about DOF.

I chose to compare the iPhone X Tele to my Olympus EM5 MK 2, which is an M4/3 format device.  Lens choice on Mr Oly was the 12-40 f2.8 zoom, it’s a well-known player regarded as a stellar performer.  The Olympus was shot at the lowest 200 ISO (regular range) and the iPhone at 16/25 ISO. In other words, I tried to make it optimal for both devices.

All test have been carried out using RAW/DNG files, and the processing of those files was handled by Iridient Developer on my Mac 5K. Iridient was also used for images that needed to either upsized or downsized.  Generally, I think I’ve done a reasonable job of making the comparison fair.

Aperture-wise I chose to use f5 on the Oly to give roughly the same depth of field look regardless of the focal length for both devices, the shutter speeds on each camera generally ended up being pretty similar, within 1/2 stop typically, so it makes for a fair comparison from a utility perspective.

Both devices shoot natively in a “Three to Four” aspect ratio, and I chose to compare the results for 12mm, 14mm, 17mm, 25mm and 40mm on the Olympus, these correlate to 24/28/35/50/80mm on full frame cameras.  To make the comparisons some of the iPhone images have to be cropped and upsized or in the case of the 12mm equivalent a two frame panorama stitch made.  The chosen focal length range represents what most people would shoot with a kit lens on a DSLR or mirrorless camera. I must emphasise however that the Olympus 12 to 40mm is a much higher quality lens than any kit lens, so the results for that side of the equation represent a best-case scenario for M4/3

It’s hard to get colours and tonal renderings identical, but overall I was more interested in the lens performance and detail. Nonetheless, I did try to get a similar white balance and colour rendering.

There’s an additional complication, the Olympus is 16 megapixels and the iPhone 12 megapixels, so I chose to test it both ways.  First, upsize the iPhone files in the RAW converter to match the Olympus and second downsize the Olympus in the converter to match the iPhone.  Neither approach is perfect but what else can you do? In the end, I have presented the files here at the Olys 16Mp size, which gives the Oly a bit of built-in advantage I guess.

Finally, I had to think about my target rendering, I could have gone for the web, small print etc.  In the end, I felt that judging for a file that could produce an excellent 8 x 11-inch print would suit best as this would easily cover most bases for most folk.

Initial Comparison

Alright, the obvious question out of the way first!

Yes, of course, the iPhone shows a bit more noise.

Would it matter? Probably not because I normally couldn’t see the noise differences at a 50% view on my 5K Mac screen, you have to zoom into a 100-200% view to pick it easily. Even then the noise in the iPhone images was in no way objectional and purely of the luminance variety.

And here’s a fun fact for you, many Pro Printers and Editors actually add noise to the file to make the image print more organically, just the sort of noise the iPhone DNG files exhibit in fact.  Trust me, noise is not necessarily the enemy!

Surprises were in store, however, first up, looking at the uncropped standard and telephoto iPhone images on my iMac it’s easy to see the cross frame sharpness of the iPhone tele and standard lens are a little more even than the equivalents on Olympus 12-40 f2.8.  That’s a serious wrap, cause the near $900 Oz dollar Oly lens is very highly regarded for its consistency, especially in the mid-focal length range.

oly14mmweir

iphone4mmweir
So Which one is the iPhone and which is the Olympus 12-40mm? Ok, the lower one is the iPhone, at this size they look pretty close, there are tonal, and colour differences but the differences are not vast.

Even more impressive both iPhone lenses actually seem to natively resolve a little more fine detail.  I’m very confident that if you were sitting next to me looking at the image pairs on screen at 100% views, you’d pick the iPhone shots as slightly more detailed and sharper (though a little bit noisier).  I realise that sounds heretical, but I stand by those words 100%.

But here’s the clincher, the uncropped iPhone shots are often sharper when both up-rezzed to the Oly’s 16 mp or the Oly is down-rezzed to the iPhone’s 12 mp, I imagine there are quite a few folk who did not want to hear that, I was one of them.

Now I can hear a whole bunch of Sony, Nikon and Canon fans out there saying so what, APSC is bigger than M4/3 and it will eat your puny iPhone Tele and Oly for lunch and then take your afternoon tea as well.  Mmmm, I wouldn’t be too sure about that, I didn’t test that, but I have tested enough of all of those brands and their kit lenses to make a couple of comments that just might have some bearing on this comparison.

Yes the APSC models will have lower noise, but in the good light like this at low ISOs, the difference between APSC and the M4/3 sensor is small, small enough to be a non-issue.  More importantly, the lenses for APS-C are very rarely as good as the 12-40mm Oly is, if you were comparing to any Nikon, Sony, Canon kit lens then forget it, I’ve tested several, they’re not even close, you’d have to be talking about a Pro-Grade lens.

I’d suggest in the washup the central core of the APSC images will be comparable maybe a tad better, but the outer edges and corners will be worse than the iPhone X lenses.  But I’m happy to be proved wrong if someone wants to do some rigorous testing (using correctly processed raw files of course).

APSC cameras also have a different aspect ratio, so in an “apples to apples” comparison, you need an 18 mp APSC to directly compare to the 16mp M4/3 regarding matching the vertical dimension.  Frankly, there’s very little difference between the 20 and 18mp sensors in performance or resolution so I expect it would it only be with the 24mp sensors that an APS-C camera may gain some resolution ground and only if the lenses were really up to snuff.

So if the iPhone lenses are possibly sharper, what about the dynamic range, vignetting, chromatic aberration and all that other stuff everyone pixel peeps and gets excited about?

Oly14mmweiredge

Edge crops to show resolution difference between iPhone X and M4/3, daylight at Marsden Weir Goulburn.
100% edge crops. Again the iPhone is on the bottom, detail-wise there’s very little in it, the iPhone seems a little more resolved, but you trade that off for a bit of luminance noise, which would be invisible in print. Both original files have been outputted at the Olympus EMs 16 megapixels, which should disadvantage the iPhone.

Chromatic Aberration.

The Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 is an excellent performer for CA, it shows very little if any at most focal lengths and is easily corrected, in short, its vastly better than most kit lenses, many of which are dismal CA performers only made good by extensive software correction in the processing stage.

But, take a look at the samples frames made from the left side of the 14mm shot, these are uncorrected RAWs, if you compare the Oly and the iPhone 4mm X lens it’s clear who is eating whose lunch as far as CA goes.

The iPhone X lenses are as close to CA free in the native state as I’ve ever seen, you have to zoom in too 200% or so to see any CA at all, correcting it is not really required at all.

I know photographers gloss over CA performance, saying it’s easily fixed in software, but you’ll always get better results from a lens that requires no correction.  The CA fix softens the edge and corner detail a little, anyhow the iPhone X lenses look to be gems of modern lens design in this regard.

These two crops also show that if you factor the iPhones higher noise out of the equation, it displays slightly more detail on the edges of the frame than the Oly does at 14mm in the native RAW state.

rawcropoly14mm

Comparing native chromatic aberration of iPhone x 4mm with M4/3 Pro lens.
You’re looking at 100% views of uncorrected Raw images taken from the left side of the 14mm frames, yep, this is how your RAWs/DNGs look under the hood. The top one is the Olympus 12-40mm and the bottom the iPhone 4mm. Disturbing telltale CA is visible in the Olympus frame whereas the iPhone has no visible CA and needs no correction.

Vignetting/Distortion

To see the vignetting in pics from either device you have to turn off the Raw Convertors built-in profile, resulting in the somewhat rubbish looking images below which reveal the unvarnished truth.  For this test, the Oly is set at 14mm and the iPhone X on the 4mm standard lens.

Those two pics are straight extractions with everything zeroed out except for a little brightness/gamma boosting to make things a bit clearer for you all to see.

Neither of the devices shows any issues with vignetting at 25mm on the Oly or with the iPhones’ X 6 mm Tele, so I have not included samples here.

It’s an interesting exercise which reveals a couple of significant points. First, the Olympus lens is very even in the scheme of things, most kit lenses show vastly more vignetting than this in their native state.  On the other hand, the iPhone X 4 mm lens is not exactly a weak performer either, sure there’s vignetting, but it’s only in the sky areas that this is really obvious and regardless, it’s well within the easily fixable range.

Next, we can see that the Olympus lens has a much broader angle of view when the lens profile is disabled, this is normal by the way, it allows for software correction of distortion, and folks, we do have some reasonably noticeable barrel distortion here.

The iPhone X 4mm has virtually zero distortion, I tried flicking the profile on and off and couldn’t really see any difference, and I can’t see any noticeable curvature of straight lines in this sample.  That’s great news because it means the edges and corners of the image don’t get degraded by the correction process, all of which probably explains why I found the processed 14mm shots from the Oly were not quite as well resolved as the iPhone X 4mm along the edges and into the extreme corners.

Uncorrected RAW frame of Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 at 14mm, showing distortion and vignetting in native file.
The Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 at 14mm without any corrections/adjustments applied to the RAW file. Vignetting is quite low in comparison to most lenses. Barrel distortion is evident, and the angle of view is wider than the iPhone as the Olympus uses the extra angle of view to allow for the needed distortion corrections. Once corrected the coverage is the same as the iPhone X at 4mm.
The iPhone X 4mm shows more vignetting than the M4/3 Pro Lens but is devoid of distortion. The native file does look far more subdued than the M4/3 file, but this has little effect on the final edited colour reproduction.
The iPhone X 4mm shows more vignetting than the M4/3 Pro Lens but is devoid of distortion. It is possible the iPhone does some distortion correction to the file in writing the DNG file, but I have no documentation of this. The native file does look far more subdued than the M4/3 file, but this has little effect on the final edited colour reproduction.

Dynamic Range

Well, oddly there’s very little difference between them, at least for the shots I took on both cloudy and sunny days, (note: cloudy days are more demanding on the dynamic range than you might think when white cloudy skies are included in the frame). All of the files have similar levels of tonal recoverability, you just get a little more shadow noise with the iPhone shots.

The unprocessed images above show basically the same RBG numbers in both the highlights and deep shadows, though obviously the mid-tone tonality and saturation are far punchier on the native Oly files.

Importantly your editing choices will have an enormous effect on the results so your mileage may vary depending on your skills and software, but either device will render files that are about equally malleable.

I’ve no doubt any full frame camera would eat both alive and spit out the bones, but many APS-C cameras, especially older sensor Canons will be little if any better in this area.

Ultimately I think the limit for both of the X lenses is the noise on the sensor, there’s undoubtedly no optical issues to be concerned about, and the native dynamic range is really not too bad at all.

What about Crops?

17mm Equivalent.

This test surprised me, the iPhone X didn’t win, that would be crazy, but it was nothing like a walkover either.  Consider that to get the equivalent of the 17mm lens you have to crop the iPhone down to just 8 megapixels and then blow it up to equal the Olympus EM5 Mk2s 16 megapixels!

The path I took was slightly more circuitous, I cropped the file in the RAW state and then upscaled it 200% on export, tweaked it in Photoshop CC and then resized it to match the Olys 16Mp. But my friends, facts are facts, if the pixels and detail aren’t good to start with no process will make any difference, you’ll just end up with more mush than you started with.

At a 100% view, the Oly looks a little more resolved, hell it would be the digital equivalent of walking on water if it didn’t, but here’s the thing, at a 50% view or for an 8 x 11-inch print size the images look almost identical regarding detail. Differences?  The Oly shows less luminance noise in the blue sky and very dark greys, and the tonality on the iPhone shots looks more filmic and to my eyes nicer (Yes I could probably get a perfect match, but oddly the Oly files just don’t seem quite as flexible).

There would be another way to skin this digital cat, you could shoot a two frame stitch with the Telephoto lens on the iPhone, I’m pretty sure judging from extensive tests I have made with that lens, the iPhone would then wipe the smile right off Mr Olys face.

Honestly, I reckon most people could shoot the iPhone X wide angle in DNG and crop the image to 17mm equivalent (or 35mm for you FF shooters) and get a result that is absolutely fine for 95% of non-pro needs.

oly17mm

comparison of 17mm focal length with iPhone X cropped to match
At the top is the Olympus 12-40mm at 17mm and below is the iPhone 4mm cropped and upsized to match. This would equal 35mm for full-frame shooters. There’s little apparent difference in clarity and tonality, though there are some visible differences in colour reproduction which are easily tuned in editing if desired.

17mmOlycrop

Centre crops comparing 17mm equivalent output for iPhone X at 4mm and Olympus EM5 mk 2, 12-40mm f2.8, the iPhone X is much better than expected.
It’s only in these 100% centre crops that any real advantage for the M4/3 is visible, the larger sensor resolves a little more effortlessly, whether you could see this in print is open to debate. Considering the iPhone image is both cropped and upscaled from its native 12 megapixels to match the Oly’s 16 megapixels the result is mighty impressive.

80mm Equivalent.

Whoa there, now we are really stretching the bounds of credibility because to pull this trick off you are turning just 5.2 megapixels of iPhone X tele into 16 megapixels. Doesn’t sound like much of a contest, does it?

So you have two options here to get your 80mm full-frame equivalent, upsize the RAW file after cropping before export and make the most of a single frame or take a multi-frame capture and then stack and blend them in Photoshop.  I tried both.

Now neither of the above approaches gave a result that looked close to the Olys 40mm shot at a 100% view but I was surprised that a 50% view seemed about the same in detail and I kind of preferred the cropped non-stacked version of the X file.  This held true for the 8 x 11-inch test print crop as well.

The stacked version comes tantalisingly close for detail, but it just looks a little more forced and digital at a 100% view.

In the end, I’d have no qualms at all in cropping the iPhone X frames to the equivalent of 30-35mm, I feel the 40mm crop is excellent for web stuff and moderate size prints, but if I need to blow the image up, I’d much rather start with the Oly.

I imagine that if you saw any of these versions in isolation, you’d be perfectly fine with the print or screen image, so from a practical point of view, yes, you could shoot your iPhone X RAW in the tele mode and severely crop for that longer tele framing.

40mmOly

40mmiphonecrop

iPhone 6mm X lens DNG cropped to compare with m4/3 40mm lens.
Ok so now we are pushing the envelope, the top image is the Olympus at 40mm, the middle one the iPhone 6mm X Tele lens cropped severely to match the Olympus. This image is Ok but lacks the detail of the Olympus as expected, and the noise level is easily noticeable. The bottom frame is a 4 frame image stack which was blended in Photoshop, it is much less noisy and competes reasonably well with the Oly version. The stacked version has ghosting on the quickly moving foliage, it was a very windy day, but I actually quite like the effect.

40mmcropOly

iphone x crop to match 40mm M4/3 image using DNG files.
Top, is the 100% crop from the Olympus at 40mm and below we have the iPhone 6mm which has been cropped and upsized to match the Oly’s 16 megapixels. The differences are apparent, but the iPhone is better than I expected, the stacked version, not shown here is much closer to the Olympus.

Say what about 100mm?

Got to be kidding, right?

You’re surely not going to get a great result with a crop like this from a single frame, but I did try an 8 frame stack which involved cropping the raws, exporting at 16 megapixels then doing a blend of the 8 frames in Photoshop.  This is not as radical as it might seem, there are several iPhone Apps that do something very similar on the iPhone in either JPEG or TIFF.

So what did that taste like?

Well not perfect by any stretch but the result would be excellent for a 5 by 7-inch print or for web use, with the right stacking/blending method the result is likely better than you might expect.

100mm equivalent stacked frame image from iPhone x 6mm DNG, railway station test image.
Yes, this is a pretty serious crop. The image was created with an 8 frame stack using the 6mm iPhone X lens, the movement in the trees is due to the stacking though this is possible to avoid with a different stack method. This image would easily make a nice 5 by 7-inch print, maybe even larger, the option could get you out of trouble in a pinch. I find these stack images give a lovely long tonal range look.

And the Panorama Option?

I’ve got all sorts of lenses in several formats, but the one thing I don’t have is an ultra wide M4/3 jobbie, 12mm is as wide as I can go, which by the way is usually just fine.  Sometimes I want more, and I’ve become pretty adept at making holiday panoramas that cover the 8 to 12mm range with my M4/3 gear using stitch options.

Simulating the equivalent of 12mm with the iPhone is simple enough, just shoot two frames in the vertical orientation with about 20% overlap and stitch them in your favourite editing application.  I prefer Photoshop CC, but many other apps will also do a great job.

The more obvious alternative is to use the Panorama mode on your iPhone via the standard App, again this is super easy, but the results are nowhere near as good as those you can achieve via the DNG/RAW file image stitch pathway. The Attached pics make the differences easy to pick.

First, the iPhone Panorama mode produces nicely sharp results, surprisingly sharp in fact, but there are a few deficits compared to the two other options.  First, you get an image which doesn’t have straight lines, and while it’s possible to correct this in editing, it’s by no means easy to do well.

Second, even if you’re very careful and keep everything entirely on the level, you’ll still get small stitching errors which ruin the result, though you probably won’t see these in small prints and on-screen views.

The last issue with the panorama mode relates to the rendering of highlight tones and colours.  Highlights are often severely bleached/clipped and colours sometimes a bit over-cooked.  You can control the exposure, but it’s usually impossible to get an exposure level that gives an optimal result for the entire image, especially skies.

Ultimately you could use the Panorama mode as an alternative in many situations, provided you wanted a quick and dirty result, but post editing an in-iPhone panorama to get a top-drawer final result is likely far more work than the other two RAW options, and remember the panorama mode is a JPEG once exported.

The Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 is really stellar at the 12mm setting, you’d have to be super picky to find fault, and honestly, for an overall result it wins the contest, but it’s very close.  In the centre of the image, there’s nothing to pick between iPhone two-frame stitch and the Oly @ 12mm for clarity.  It’s only on the edges of the frame where the necessary panorama transformations and slightly higher iPhone noise level conspire to allow the Oly to win the contest, but again you’d need to be pixel peeping at a 100% view to see it.  I seriously doubt you’d notice any differences in clarity between them in an 11 by 8-inch print.

Tonally for this, I preferred the look I got from the iPhone DNGs, the highlights look nicer though the shadows are an even contest, meaning, the dynamic range seems to be about the same, heretical I know but I stand by that statement.

In the end, the only downsides in shooting the wide shots with the iPhone X are that it doesn’t suit moving objects, you lose the instant “in-camera” result, and there’s a little extra work in the editing phase.  On the other hand, you probably have the iPhone on you anyway, the results give next to nothing away in detail and actually the process is more flexible as you can easily go much broader if you want from the same two captured frames.  Personally, I wouldn’t hesitate to go down this path when I need something wider than my M4/3 gear offers or don’t have the Oly with me.

12mmOlyfull

iphonepan

comparison of 12mm wide angle image from M4/3 to iPhone X panorama and two frame stitch.
Three versions of 12mm, the top image is the Olympus 12-40mm, the middle one is the iPhone Panorama version and bottom, the iPhone two frame stitch. There will always be differences in the perspective, but generally, the two frame stitch is more flexible and gives nothing away in quality.

12mmOlycentre

Centre crops iPhone two frame stitch and Olympus 12-40mm at 12mm
Finally centre crops from the 12mm Oly and iPhone X two frame stitch. Oly at the top and iPhone bottom, there is really nothing in it, either is excellent and suitable for any practical purpose.

What to Choose and Why?

So there it is, both lenses on the iPhone X are terrific and offer excellent imaging potential for DNG shooters and the iPhone 8 Plus is very similar.  That the X competes favourably with my M4/3 gear in reasonable to good light is quite extraordinary.

My iPhone X won’t replace my M4/3 gear, I didn’t expect it would, to do that, low light performance would need to improve by another couple of steps. However, the potential shooting envelope is much wider than with previous iPhone models and the gap between the two formats in “reasonable to good” light is very much closer than I expected and probably closer than you expected also.

And let’s not forget, you’ve been looking at RAWs from both devices processed in a state of the art RAW converter known to extract more detail than most converters. JPEGs from either camera are far less well resolved than the samples shown here and most folks are just fine with the JPEGs, that said, the iPhone gains far more from the RAW/DNG option than the Olympus does.

It’s the addition of tele lens that makes all the difference for the iPhone, I couldn’t consider the single lens models as a complete potential “personal camera” replacement.  Hence I always needed to have my regular camera with me at all times while on Holidays and at family events, the tele lens bridges an enormous gap and the improved image quality of the new iPhone models in RAW/DNG strengthen that bridge.

The most significant impediment for serious shooters would be the lack of depth of field control with the iPhone rather than image quality deficiencies.  Truth be told the majority of photos most folk shoot are not dependent shallow depth of field to work and ultimately computational imaging methods may well render this a non-issue within just a few years, the portrait mode on the iPhone and other smartphones is indeed promising.

Ultimately with RAW/DNG files, it’s the potential of the file that matters, if the file is malleable, well resolved, contains all the data you need to push and prod the tones into shape, the results can be excellent.  A combination of excellent optics and remarkable sensor performance on the iPhone X and 8 provide a great starting point, if you don’t get good or even great results you’ve either fluffed the capture or haven’t yet nailed the processing end of things.

For now my M4/3 wins, sort of, but in another couple of years, the result could well be a tie or even a loss. In the interim, I’ve no worries about using my iPhone X for a wide array of Photographic tasks in full confidence that quality wise it will deliver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Good is DNG on iPhone 8 Plus

iPhone 8Plus DNG, test shots, Iridient Developer, High Contrast,

A few weeks back I ran some tests on the RAW files taken with the latest iPad Pro, you can read about that here.

https://iphoneraw.com/2017/07/18/dng-on-the-ipad-pro/

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.

iPad-Pro-10.5in-DNG-Goulburn-Railway-Station-Bridge
Sometimes test shots work out nice in themselves and quite like this one, perhaps it is the layered effect. Anyway, it shows how the deep shadows (under the bridge) hold up pretty well. Nothing is clipped either.

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.

https://www.cultofmac.com/487808/heif-vs-jpeg-image-files/

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….

iPhone 8Plus DNG, test shots, Iridient Developer, High Contrast,
A very high contrast scene but the 8S Plus DNG format holds detail throughout the entire range. The lens shows no obvious distortion despite the relatively wide view.

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.

Distortion

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.

iPhone 8S Plus colour rendition for DNG, neutral colour renderings.
The DNG has been edited in Iridient Developer for a slightly filmic look, the iPhone 8S Plus doesn’t seem to have strong colour biases, making it easy to liberate any rendering style you want.

Colour

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.

mixed light kitchen
I took this rough shot in my Daughters kitchen to see how the iPhone 8S Plus DNGs handles mixed colour temperature lighting. Very well, in fact, the tungsten is not overpowering and the filtered blue daylight through windows is not overly blue. It’s a win.

Noise

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.

Derelict home taken with iPhone 8S Plus DNG, Test shot, edited Iridient Developer, tuned Photoshop CC
This home has seen better days, looking at this downsized image its obvious that the clarity across the entire frame is excellent, detail is held right out to the corners and the tonal range looks natural, it looks like it could have been taken with any high-quality camera. It should be noted too that the afternoon light was highly contrasty.
Crop from Verandah test image, iPhone 8Plus DNG,
This small 100% crop from the Verandah shot earlier in the article gives a good idea of the sort of detail the iPhone 8S Plus DNG files liberate. Textural information, in particular, is well expressed and should look nice in print.
100% view of iPhone DNG files, iPhone 8S Plus
Here we have a 100% crop (approx) of the home, the detail rendering is excellent with the DNG files and you can even see the twist in the barbed wire on the top of the fence, look even closer and you can see the nail holes in the timber on the side of the verandah. Detail and resolution are certainly not an issue.

Detail

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.

Dynamic Range

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.

Crop colours iPhone 8S plus DNG file, Detail and tonal rendering
This 100% crop from the Tea Towel shot above gives a pretty good idea of the degree of detail and micro tonality on offer with the DNG files. Really there is nothing to make you think that this is shot with a smartphone camera.
iPhone 8Plus DNG test image, late Daylight Condition, green field and blue sky with trees in distance.
Taken late in the afternoon just before sunset near Gundagai NSW. Even in this downsized version, you can see the DNG file holds a lot of fine detail in the grass. That ability makes photos look more 3 dimensional. Clarity in the close corners looks spot on too.

Lens Quality

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.

Image of bare tree displaying corner performance of iPhone 8S Plus lens and DNG files.
Taken from the extreme top right corner of the derelict home image a couple of points are obvious. First, there is no chromatic aberration and second very little purple fringing, bear in mind this is exactly the circumstance where you would expect see both. Additionally, the shadows hold tonality and with selective editing, more detail could be brought out. Also, note that there is no noise in the blue sky and this image has been processed with all noise reduction turned off! It’s really only the very outside corner area where clarity falls off a bit but honestly, this is quite excellent compared to pretty much any lens and who really pixel peeps the extreme corners anyway.

Chromatic Aberration

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

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.

Vignetting

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.

Unprocessed iPhone 6S Plus DNG image, analysis of real RAW image quality.
This is what your iPhone 6S Plus DNG file looks like when you turn off all adjustments and profiles in the RAW converter, in this case, I used Iridient Developer on my Mac. A couple of points to note, the DNGs were shot with the exposures set right to the clip point using UNiWB in ProCamera, for the iPhone 6S Plus this renders a darker image as the sensor cannot accept as much light before clipping.  Next, have a look at the vignetting, it’s far greater than the following 8S Plus frame and also shows a significant red shift in the corners which gets much wrote as the ISO is raised.
iPhone 8Plus DNG test file, unprocessed image of derelict home, shows good vignette performance and clarity.
This is the unprocessed DNG from the iPhone 8S Plus, apart from being lighter the most obvious difference is the file has much lower vignetting and very little red corner shift, it also looks a bit better resolved.
Test frame iPhone 6S plus showing red/magenta vignetting shift in unprocessed files.
This is a basic extraction process of the iPhone 6S Plus DNG file using Iridient Developer, I’ve left the lens profile turned off so you can see just how much that red/magenta colour shift effects the corners of the frame. It really has a pronounced effect right in towards the central 30% of the frame. Even properly processed files (and that includes JPEGs) will often display this red shift problem, especially if the ISO is raised beyond about 100.

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.

High contrast iPhone 8Plus DNG torture test. Dark bridge taken agains light from setting sun, very dark exposure.
The DNG Torture Test.  I shot this image straight into the light just after sunset and exposed to try and keep some colour and detail in the highlights. By the way, I did the same with the 6S Plus file but the image was beyond recoverable.  You’re looking at the unprocessed image, all I did was open it in Iridient Developer and then click export JPEG. Yep its pretty terrible.
Shadow recovery test using Iridient developer on grossly under-exposed iPhone 8Plus DNG file
Extracted File. This is the image that came out of Iridient Developer once I had tweaked and fiddled to get the shadows recovered, I left the noise reduction turned down low as I was interested in seeing just how terrible it could be. This version looks much better but not great and don’t you just love the crooked stance!
Fine tuned version of shadow recovery DNG test file taken with iPhone 8S Plus.
So after a spin through Photoshop CC and some selective edits we get this, oh and of course I straightened it a bit as well, though it could use more. Now, this is quite acceptable and certainly much better than I expected would be possible. This is a downsized pic but even the full-size version is nicely sharp and nowhere near as noisy as you might expect from such an extreme edit. The HDRs taken in Lightroom Mobile should work really well with the 8S Plus, this test also shows why the lighting modes on the 8S plus work as well as they do…basically the shadow recovery is much better and that makes for a more flexible post-capture approach.
Monochrome conversions from iPhone 8Plus DNG, vacant shop interior Coolamon NSW
Just to finish off on the edibility aspect, this monochrome image was extracted in Lightroom Mobile and then turned into mono in Snapseed. I added a film grain effect whilst in the app. Anyway, I found the files easily converted to monochrome and provided plenty of creative flexibility. That is not always the case with smartphone images. And just in case you are wondering, it’s a vacant shop in the main street of Coolamon NSW, Coolamon has lots of vacant shops.

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”.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/ultimate-iphone-dng/id1274334884?ls=1&mt=11

Cheers

Brad

 

 

 

 

 

 

Depth of Field and iPhone DNG

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.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/ultimate-iphone-dng/id1274334884?ls=1&mt=11

Check out the video here:

 

 

The Ideal DNG Capture App?

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.

Buy Ultimate iPhone DNG on the iBooks store:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/ultimate-iphone-dng/id1274334884?ls=1&mt=11

Check out the video here:

Are DNG Files Noisier?

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.

Buy Ultimate iPhone DNG for the iBooks store:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/ultimate-iphone-dng/id1274334884?ls=1&mt=11

 

Check out the video here

 

Video – Why Shoot iPhone DNG

It’s a common question and there are several reasons.  In the end, DNG is not really an impediment to your mobile photography but rather a powerful option that will almost always improve the results you get from your iPhone……provided of course you have an understanding of the core concepts and don’t mind doing some post-shot editing.

 

Buy Ultimate iPhone DNG from the iBooks Store:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/ultimate-iphone-dng/id1274334884?ls=1&mt=11

Check out the video below for some inside info in DNG.

 

 

 

Commercial Photo Quality using iPhone DNG

 

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 un-born 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 iPhones’ depth of field differences and the wide-angle lens perspective you soon realize when shooting in DNG that the dynamic range, sharpness and color are not bad at all for a great 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…….. and I want it on Facebook before you leave the office tonight or you’re fired”!

Appleby Link 3
A multiple exposure capture of the famous Appleby Beam Engine at Goulburn’s Historic Waterworks, this image was part of a series taken using the iPhone which capitalised on the iPhones extensive depth of field in close-up situations, it is capable of being printed at least to 20 by 20 inches.  For web use, well you can see that’s hardly a challenge.

Fact is, and I know this will hurt the ears, feelings, and egos of many of the sensitive photographic souls reading this, but 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 “Resident Dynamo Chief Executive, iPhone Wielding Guru of Multi-Media, Instagram and Facebook”, for their business or organisation.

These people are not normally 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 with all the goodness that it infers upon one’s image options and we have an increasing number of non-photographers and indeed actual photographers who 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 needed to look at what Photographers and non-photographers with serious needs could do with their iPhone. There’s a need for some wholesome yet easily digestible information on how they might actually nail those needs and importantly how to avoid the potential quality pitfalls.

Oil Loco 2
This old oil burning loco at Goulburn’s Rail heritage museum is part of a series of images I took for a brochure using DNG HDR, the textural quality is lovely and the file is very pushable in post, I doubt most people would pick it as a mobile phone image unless told.

The Ultimate iPhone Professional book dealing with lighting etc is still 6 months off,  (There are six books planned for the series) but the first book, Ultimate iPhone DNG is already up on the iBooks store and the others are all well into the production phase.

Coming back to the question of “why shoot serious (work) stuff with the iPhone”,  I reckon there are several solid reasons.

The obvious one is the need for rapid turnaround and the benefit of instant sharing, no doubt for a great many commercial uses the quality deficits are not relevant, you can easily crop the images and still have more than enough pixels for social media needs. Honestly regardless of how much traditional photographers protest the fact remains only a very small proportion of images shot for promotional purposes ever 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 still only equates to around 3 megapixels.

But I think you can make a case for iPhone shooting that transcends the traditional convenience and resolution sufficiency arguments, a case that says sometimes the iPhone might technically be the better 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 inter-webs, but please humor me, I’m just a country lad from a place that no-one much knows about.

Waieko River NZ
Taken along the Waioeka River on New Zealand’s North Island, the extensive depth of field works a treat and the image has plenty of DNG clarity, even for a wall print, the subtle tonality on the highlights is very nice and much better than you get from iPhone JPEGs.

So what actually are the benefits the iPhone could offer in a technical sense.

Depth of Field is enormous, it’s pretty easy to get everything in focus.

Related to the depth of field, the iPhone can easily get very close up photos nicely sharp and yet still have a nice degree of separation between the subject and background elements.

Going further the lens is wide-angle, but it’s actually tack sharp right out to the corners, which is not always true of wide-angle lenses on regular DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras.

Better yet the lens/sensor size enables you to have some interesting perspective renderings and looks that you can’t achieve in other formats.

Now yes it’s potentially a noisy little blighter but actually, the luminance noise when shot in DNG at slightly elevated ISOs is rather nice and filmic with a certain artistic appeal.

Another aspect that few people will have considered is that it’s relatively easy to get complete in-focus rendering for very near and distant objects easily by using focus shift techniques and only 2 or 3 frames.

Goulburn Courthouse Entrance
A two frame focus stack, with the iPhone just two frames will probably be enough to render from very near distances through to infinity.  Three frames is as many as you would ever practically need.

For the working photographer a tool only needs to excel in one specific aspect to make it useful for some select 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 it doesn’t need to be either.

And finally, 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 bits to go with them.

So yes the DNG shooting iPhone is potentially a serious camera for serious needs, it all comes down to way you choose to use it and of course what you want to use it for.

Buy Ultimate iPhone DNG here:   

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/ultimate-iphone-dng/id1274334884?ls=1&mt=11

 

Steampunk Lass
Here we have a lovely young lady dressed in all her steampunk finery, the image has been selectively blurred (DOFsim’d), in reality, it gives little away in terms of quality or look and is perfect for most publication needs.