Apple

In the iPhone XS, pictures with HDR are no longer marked in a special way. Bloggers had time to think that the function does not work

Immediately several well-known bloggers complained about the camera in the new iPhone. To understand, we had to conduct an experiment.

What is Smart-HDR in iPhone XS?

At an hour and a half conference on September 12, Apple devoted 2.5 minutes to the story about a new feature that appeared in the iPhone XS and XS Max. It’s called Smart HDR and in iOS 12 is enabled by default.

Thanks to the power of the A12 Bionic processor, the system of two cameras in the iPhone XS makes four shots in one press of the shutter release, for each of them – one additional photo with a darkened exposure, and one more picture with the clarified one. The most successful details from nine (4 × 2 + 1) images are combined into one – so as to achieve the greatest clarity and eliminate dark or overexposed places.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range – and the task of this technology is to make pictures with different illumination in the frame (for example, a dark room and a bright sky outside the window) still get clear, without too dark or bright areas. In this sense, Smart-HDR continues the logic of the development of HDR technology in smartphone cameras.

Frame from the September presentation of Apple
 

What is the difference between Auto-HDR in the iPhone X from Smart-HDR

In 2017, the iPhone X had a similar innovation. It was called Auto-HDR and was also included in iOS by default.

Although in the settings of the camera under both functions the settings are the same, in fact Auto-HDR works differently than the Smart-HDR. If Smart-HDR processes nine pictures at once (because A12 Bionis allows to shoot frames so often), then Auto-HDR actually processes only three, as stated in the settings: one – with normal exposure, one with darkened and one with clarified .

Left - camera settings on the iPhone X, right - on the iPhone XS Max
Left – camera settings on the iPhone X, right – on the iPhone XS Max

With Auto-HDR, the system itself decided when it needed to turn on HDR, and when not – but the function could be disabled and HDR manually set from the camera interface. At the same time, by default the system took two pictures – one with HDR (with the corresponding notation), one without.

Obzorschiki gadgets often pay attention to that manual operation HDR improved image quality as Auto-HDR for an unknown reason (as decided chamber algorithm) in some cases did not shoot HDR-photo. The situation was complicated by the fact that when the settings of the Auto-HDR camera were turned off, it still switched to “Auto” every time the camera was turned on, and it had to be manually switched to “On” so that the function worked just fine.

Either way, in the past, when a successful HDR function was triggered, the corresponding badge was applied to the resulting image. However, judging by everything, the system of tagging pictures changed in the iPhone XS, and this made people think that the Smart-HDR in the iPhone XS does not work.

Complaints on Smart HDR

Some bloggers noticed that despite the included Smart-HDR they did not have any situations when the camera would take an HDR photo.


I checked the pictures in my film and asked other people to get acquainted with the new iPhones – indeed, HDR badges were taken on the iPhone X photos, and the images taken on the iPhone XS did not show up, as if the HDR did not work there at all.

After that, I made a few photos on the iPhone XS in situations where I thought the HDR should have worked perfectly – in the frame of the zone of different illumination level, HDR is turned on – but the pictures came out ordinary, as if the HDR did not work.

Below is an example of one of these shots: the iPhone XS camera has relatively well removed the tunnel, but it did not cope with the bright light outside, although the HDR was manually turned on.

HDR is one of the main features of modern smartphone cameras , technology is being introduced by all major manufacturers. And if for some reason this function did not work on the iPhone XS, it would be a big mistake.

Since I have not found official information about the display of this badge and the possible reasons for the non-working HDR, I sent a request to Apple. For two days from there, no answer came. Therefore, I had to conduct an experiment to determine the quality of the captured photos to determine how Smart-HDR works on the iPhone XS and whether it works in principle (or something broke).

Experiment: trying to figure out how the Smart HDR works

For the experiment, I made a series of photos on the iPhone XS Max and last year’s iPhone X, which accurately knows how to make an HDR photo. Pictures I made on the same algorithm, and placed below they will be in the same order.

  • iPhone XS, enabled Smart-HDR in the settings;
  • iPhone XS, the original photo with Smart-HDR enabled;
  • iPhone XS, Smart-HDR is disabled in the settings, but HDR is manually enabled through the camera interface;
  • iPhone XS, off Smart HDR in settings, HDR is manually turned off via the camera interface;
  • iPhone X, Auto-HDR is turned off in the settings, but HDR is turned on manually through the camera interface;
  • iPhone X, Auto-HDR is turned off in the settings, HDR is manually turned off via the camera interface.

As a first example – two lanterns on a background of a medium-brightness sky, standing on a rather dark lawn. There is not a big difference between the pictures: lights are shining in different lights somewhere, no more.

iPhone XS, enabled Smart-HDR in settings iPhone XS, original photo with Smart-HDR enabled iPhone XS, Smart-HDR is disabled in the settings, but HDR is manually enabled via the camera interface iPhone XS, disabled Smart-HDR in settings, HDR is manually turned off via the camera interface iPhone X, Auto-HDR is disabled in the settings, HDR is manually enabled via the camera interface iPhone X, Auto-HDR is disabled in the settings, HDR is manually turned off via the camera interface

 made 13 more series of pictures in other situations – only in two of them the iPhone XS managed to make HDR pictures. In the remaining corresponding dies did not appear even when the HDR was turned on manually. For example, one of the typical situations: an HDR image taken on the iPhone X shows the effect of HDR (the sky is brighter), and all the photos taken on the iPhone XS are more or less the same.

iPhone XS, enabled Smart-HDR in settings iPhone XS, original photo with Smart-HDR enabled iPhone XS, Smart-HDR is disabled in the settings, but HDR is manually enabled via the camera interface iPhone XS, disabled Smart-HDR in settings, HDR is manually turned off via the camera interface iPhone X, Auto-HDR is disabled in the settings, HDR is manually enabled via the camera interface iPhone X, Auto-HDR is disabled in the settings, HDR is manually turned off via the camera interface

One of the cases when HDR worked on XS – this series of images of the shopping center. Perhaps, the algorithm worked just in this case because of the different illumination of signboards in the background and people on the front. However, in the past example, the navigation signs and the sky also had different illumination due to the backlight.

The collage shows that on the second and fifth shots (when the HDR worked) the inscriptions “Aviapark” are equally white, and “Auchan” – equally red. In other cases, “Aviapark” turned out to be more yellow, and “Auchan” received an orange edging. However, the color of the sky in no way with the work of HDR, it seems, does not correlate here.

Finally – the classic situation: a dark archway and a bright light on the background. Here, the Smart HDR worked as it should, and it was on this occasion that I noticed a certain sequence.

The picture taken with the Smart HDR was the same as the quality made when the Smart HDR was off and when the HDR was manually turned on. But in both cases the HDR did not exist – it appeared only when I turned on the Smart HDR with the option “Save the original”: the first shot received a die, the second one was left without it. As in the case of the shopping center!

iPhone XS, enabled Smart-HDR in settings iPhone XS, original photo with Smart-HDR enabled iPhone XS, Smart-HDR is disabled in the settings, but HDR is manually enabled via the camera interface iPhone XS, disabled Smart-HDR in settings, HDR is manually turned off via the camera interface iPhone X, Auto-HDR is disabled in settings, but HDR is manually enabled via the camera interface iPhone X, Auto-HDR is disabled in the settings, HDR is manually turned off via the camera interface

A bug, a mess or an undocumented feature? Rather, the last

After taking a few more pictures in similar conditions, I made sure that the Smart HDR for some reason marks HDR with only the pictures that were taken with both the included camera settings (“Smart HDR” and “Save original”). Earlier, in the iPhone X, such a die was marked in principle with all the pictures, where the work of HDR technology was involved.

It is absolutely clear that in some pictures Smart HDR still works – at least the badge appears, there is a difference in the image quality, so the function is not disabled in the iPhone XS, as Eldar Murtazin suggested. And although everything that happens looks like a big mess, it seems that I managed to sort out empirically.

In the Smart-HDR mode, the smartphone decides whether to take an HDR on the picture or not. If the user does not specifically include the “Save original” option in the settings, then he does not care if there is an HDR in the photo or not – the main thing is that it looks good. Therefore, Apple in the iPhone XS has ceased to mark all images with HDR in a special way .

The reason why users of the iPhone XS in the film do not have any pictures with an HDR badge is that the Smart-HDR is turned on by default, and the option “Save original” is not. In this case, the technology itself HDR in the camera iPhone XS works – only here to determine in which picture it worked, and on which there is no, in this case will not work.

The reasons for which such a situation could arise, I see three:

  • HDR has become the standard for mobile photography, and there is no point in marking each snapshot;
  • Badges HDR caused too many questions and misconceptions from users, and without badges, they will be less;
  • The algorithms of the Auto-HDR and Smart-HDR technologies are far from ideal, and in order to hide their flaws, Apple has made it so difficult to distinguish an ordinary picture from a picture with an HDR.

Which of the reasons is more realistic, everyone can decide for himself.

Waiting for your observations and response from Apple – maybe I’m wrong.

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