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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

iPad Pro DNG, Monochrome Quality

Shooting Monochrome DNG on iPad Pro 10.5

A couple of days back I posted a preview test of the iPad Pros’ DNG potential, this is a short follow-up that looks at using iPad Pro DNG for monochrome.

Yesterday I took my iPad Pro down to my regular camera testing ground, Goulburn’s Historic Railway Precinct.  The precinct has all the elements you need to run real-world testing, high contrast situations, muted and bright colours, lots of fine detail, near and very distant elements.  Been using it for years, the really good thing is I can make meaningful evaluations between cameras from different times as I’m comparing apples to apples, as they say.

Typical of Goulburn in winter it was bitterly cold, I’m normally fine with that, but we’ve now moved into Goulburn’s well-known “Windy months”.  Basically the wind yesterday would blow a pitbull of a chain, it was supposed to have been around 50km per hr but the railway station has a national reputation of being “windy on steroids” and it didn’t disappoint.

I mention all this because it just hammered home my main criticisms of using the iPad outside for photos, basically it’s a sail, catching the wind perfectly and making it very hard to get sharp shots in less than calm conditions – In Goulburn that would stuff you up around 286 days of the year (according to official weather data)!

Remember the iPad Pro has no image stabilisation, but I did use the “delay stabilisation in ProCamera to take the test frames, I still got a few blurry stinkers!

Anyhow, I was wanted to determine a couple of things:

First using my *TLC-DNG methods how would the files handle the conversion to monochrome.  

And second, how did the resolution compare to shots I had taken at the railway on the iPhone 6S plus using the same methods.

You can check out the iPad Pro pics at the end of the blog, but here’s what I can tell you in addition to the comments I made in the previous post.

First, the ergonomics for handheld shooting are just bloody awful, especially in the wind, I seriously don’t know how folks do this with any sense of comfort.  I’m sure it would all be fine on a tripod but I don’t have an adapter at present to try that.

I checked some adapters out on eBay last night and frankly most looked decidedly dodgy – and those that didn’t cost stupid money to have shipped to OZ from the US!

Honestly, I just don’t think I could use the iPad Pro handheld, I spent the whole time panicking I was going to have a very expensive accident.

But now the good news…

The *TLC-DNG files are without a doubt much better than those from the iPhone 6S Plus, in every aspect, but a couple of aspects are particularly noteworthy.

The older camera modules show strong red colour shift in the edges and corners of the image which requires heavy-duty fixing in the Raw extraction phase (Most folk would not know this because Lightroom Mobile for example dials it out automatically).  This colour shift degrades the potential of the file because once corrected is exacerbates the noise on the edges and corners of the frame.

The iPad Pro and I assume the iPhone 7 series cameras have far less red-shift/vignetting natively thus the edited results are consistently much better but note the issue still exists at a lower level.

The second item and I really do love this, the edge clarity of the lens is better.  Again most photographers will never have noticed this shooting JPEGs or perhaps casually tweaked base DNGs, but trust me the corners are much more evenly sharp than with all the previous “i” device camera modules.

Finally, and this excites me, the files convert to monochrome in a very filmic way if you leave the noise reduction dialled out.  Basically, the noise looks rather like fine analogue grain  (think 64 – 125 ISO monochrome films) and it just works a treat.

I’ll finish off by adding that my initial shots in Kiama had me thinking the files were far more pushable than the previous iPhone models files.  Well yep, they are, they can be pushed prodded, poked and stroked much more vigorously.

So it’s all good, except for the ergos, but it all tells me I’m going to love my new iPhone 8 Plus come November….I can hardly wait.

Ok so now you can check out the pic

*TLC stands for True Light Capture and is an advanced capture method I developed many years ago, it is especially useful for iPhone DNG pics and is explained in full detail in “Ultimate iPhone DNG”.

You can buy the book from the iBooks store by clicking on this link below  

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

 

Yellow locomotive flanked by grain freighters taken using DNG on iPhone Pro 10.5
How do iPad Pro DNG files edit?  I was interested in how the TLC-DNG files would edit once extracted, the answer is very well indeed, it’s quite easy to get nicely analogue results, no problems with tonal breakup/banding and colour can be nicely subtle. Importantly the files withstand all sorts of sharpening processes without cracking. It’s all good!
Hidden Loco
iPad Pro DNG Monochrome Quality? The monochrome conversions from the TLC-DNG files look really lovely, the tonality is terrific and detail really well resolved throughout the entire image. Noise (grain) is very analogue and should allow for some great inkjet print results. 
Mens on Goulburn Platform
iPad Pro DNG Resolution? You can’t see it at this size but in the full-size image, the bricks on that tiny building under the signals on the middle right can be seen. Which is to say…resolution and detail, in general, are not an issue.
 

iPad Pro 10.5 DNG, wide dynamic range, Goulburn Railway Station, Looking South

iPad Pro DNG Dynamic Range Ability. The impressive aspect of this test frame is the full tonality from shadow to highlight, this is not a HDR image. The deep shadows have been pushed in the conversion and held together well without breakup. Quite impressive really.
Shooting Monochrome DNG on iPad Pro 10.5
Testing the Dynamic Range of iPad Pro, this shot shows the possibilities, the fluorescent light was the brightest element, the shadows under the carriage are very deep. The result is excellent for a non-HDR capture, nothing is bleached and the dark tones sit where they should, it would be possible to pull more out of the shadows at the expense of a little more noise.
iPad-Pro-10.5in-DNG-Goulburn-Railway-Station-Bridge
iPad Pro Shadow Recovery with DNGs?  Sometimes test shots work out nice in themselves and I quite like this one, perhaps it’s the layered effect.  The pic shows how the deep shadows (under the bridge) hold up, nothing is clipped either.

DNG on the iPad Pro?

Can the iPad shoot DNG? One of my students asked me very a sensible question in an iPhoneography class a couple of weeks back, one I’d not really given much thought to before.

The short Answer is that only the iPad Pro models running the 12 mp iSight camera module are able to do this, so you have a choice between the 9.7 inch and the latest iPad Pro Models.  I have the 10.5-inch model so my comments apply to that only but I assume the larger 12.9-inch model exhibits the same attributes.

Yep, Ok Brad so the Pro model can do the DNG shuffle but is it any good?

The camera module is the same iSight unit fitted to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which is to say it’s the latest and best incarnation of the module having the f1.8 lens and the most sophisticated sensor.  The main difference is the lack of optical image stabilization.

So the short answer was there’s no reason the iPad pro should not produce excellent DNG image quality provided you have an app that allows it to shoot in DNG, but I thought being a dedicated teacher I’d better delve a little deeper for you.

I decided this past weekend to give that a try, now please note I’ve not had the chance to do any comprehensive testing,  there could be some hidden issues I have yet to uncover.

 

Kiama Blow Hole, testing the DNG photo quality iPad Pro
Kiama Blowhole, taken with my iPad Pro 10.5 using DNG (UniWb).
Crop of Kiama Blowhole taken with iPad Pro using DNG (uniWb)
Crop from iPad Pro DNG looks great, fine detail on the water is excellent and the highlight tonality is vastly better than what you would expect to get from the standard JPEG capture.

You have a few shooting choices because you can load any of the latest iPhone DNG shooting apps, they’ll only fill the middle of the screen but you can expand them to a 2X view and they’ll then fill most of the screen real estate.

You could also choose to shoot using Lightroom Mobile, the iPad version shoots DNG natively.

As far as I know all of the dedicated iPad apps, Like ProCamera HD only shoot JPEG or sometimes TIFF. (Let me know if you have any alternative knowledge and I can update the blog.)

I have to say that in past I’ve had a good chuckle at people wandering around shooting with their iPads, it just looks so…. odd.  Frankly the 10.5 inch iPad Pro is a pretty cumbersome camera and no doubt the 12.9 inch is getting more than a tad ridiculous for the mobile photographer.

There are a couple of issues that show up in a practical sense, first, it’s difficult to control and hold the iPad at the same time, for example, setting focus points and exposure and holding it steady etc really seems to need about 3 hands! The iPad is large enough to catch the wind and unless you shoot in landscape mode it just feels uncomfortable, I imagine the 12.9 in version would feel even more precarious.  I’m sure you could get used to it but honestly, I just couldn’t relax when doing the “iPad out in the big wide world” test.

And then there’s the issue of actually carrying it around, sure it’s not heavy by any means but try as I might it wasn’t going to fit into any pockets I had.

But by far the biggest issue is that, well I just felt ridiculous, nobody else seemed fussed about it but I really couldn’t wait to get back to the car.

Testing DNG photo quality iPad pro 10.5in using TLC method
iPad Pro raw dynamic range is better than expected. In this case the image is a TLC – DNG and even in this downsized image it’s obvious that the photo possesses excellent textural information, the contrast range is very high as the inherently dark rock face is in deep shade, still it holds some solid detail and the breaking surf on the distant rocks still has full tonality.

So it was all bad then….no not at all, there’s lots of good stuff as well.

The screen is just amazing, even in the bright sunlight I could see pretty clearly what was going on and it was really obvious if the shot wasn’t in critical focus. For me however the really neat thing is the color and tonal rendering of the new iPad Pro screen, it’s far better than my iPhone 6S plus and shows no banding that I could see, looks like all that Apple bragging regarding the new screens was justified.

In the end, I couldn’t happily shoot outside with the iPad Pro, DNG or not, and I certainly wouldn’t entertain the idea of shooting with any of the JPEG only iPad versions in the great outdoors or probably anywhere else for that matter.

But it got me thinking, what if you needed to shoot indoors studio style stuff and you could mount the iPad to a tripod, ah well, then I think the iPad Pro might actually be a very useful tool.

As said, the screen is just brilliant and the size makes critical focus and exposure accuracy a cinch, you could work at a greater distance from the screen, and seeing such a large image definitely improves your ability to judge composition.  So yep this could be a killer indoor studio camera for people who need to shoot products etc but don’t want the complications of a regular camera set-up.

The real clincher, however, could be the easy interfacing with the amazing editing tools you can use on the iPad Pro.  Lightroom mobile just rocks on the iPad Pro but even better the new “Affinity Photo” for iPad Pro is utterly incredible, so in short, you have the possibility of a rather compelling workflow.

Ok enough of the basic iPad Pro stuff, what about the photo quality?

Well, the news is great, the DNG photo quality is excellent.

Kiama Blowhole park taken with iPad Pro using DNG, Test image.
iPad Pro DNG records excellent fine detail, this image is particularly telling. First, we have a square crop of the original 4:3 aspect ratio frame taken using TLC-DNG, you can take it from me the cropped off sections are just as detailed and clear.  The sky is nicely done and shows no banding, this image has not been corrected for vignetting so the corners are a little darker than the middle but that’s easily fixed if desired.
Kiama Blowhole Park 100% crop iPad pro DNG image quality test
Look at this 100% plus iPad DNG crop,  (note this is TLC -DNG so represents the ultimate possible image quality you could get from a single frame capture), have a look at that sign,  you can’t read it of course but it’s pretty obvious it has writing and icons on it, what’s even more impressive is that tonally the sign is very high up on the scale yet it holds full detail, it’s not even close to clipped….impressive indeed!

I must point out however that when I test, I always aim to see just how high the quality bar can be for a particular device, which means the DNG test frames are extracted in Iridient Developer using custom settings and in this case some of the frames were shot using TLC (buy my “Ultimate iPhone DNG” book if you want to know about TLC).

Long and short of it, my results should show the absolute potential of the camera with optimal technique.

Back to the test then, basically the 12 mp iSight module in the iPad Pro is a step up from the ones used in all of the iPhones prior to the 7 series models.

Specifically, tests indicate it produces DNG files that are sharper, have less noise, better color accuracy, less vignetting (when uncorrected) and virtually zero chromatic aberration.  In other words, it’s pretty much better in every measurable respect.

The custom processed DNG files show truly excellent levels of sharpness and impressively better highlight retention that the iPhone 6 series sensors offer, additionally I think the edge definition is improved but I would need to carry out more exhaustive tests to confirm this.

Kiama Blowhole Lighthouse iPad pro dng test procamera
iPad Pro DNG and near white tones? This TLC -DNG image has impressive near white tonality and I expect that a monochrome image captured this way with the iPad Pro would be excellent.

On the other side of the coin, I don’t feel I can see any significant improvement in shadow detail, but again I’d need to run some additional tests to confirm this.

Most people probably want to know about the noise, well I can say that when optimally exposed the native level of chrominance noise is much less obvious, in fact, I’d rate it a non-issue at the lowest ISO and the luminance noise is actually very fine-grained and film-like, so not at all unpleasant.

So to sum up, ultimately I feel confident after this quick test in saying the potential of the iPad Pro camera easily bests that of all the pre-iPhone 7 models and is by all fair measures rather excellent, provided you can keep the whole thing rock steady as there is no optical stabilization.

The JPEGs? Basically, I don’t really care but I expect they would be fine for non-critical purposes etc, if I get a rush of blood to head on a day of rare boredom I might run some tests on those, but please don’t hold your breath.

What I do promise, however, is that soon I will do an exhaustive ISO ramp up at my regular test site to see how this sensor compares to the previous gen iSight sensor, I expect it will do quite well.

 

Buy Ultimate iPhone DNG from the iBooks Store:

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