Sunday, April 9, 2017

Travel Photography with the iPhone II (dual lens!)

This is an update to my blog entry on Travel Photography with the iPhone. Specifically, an update to the point about add-on lens for the iPhone to expand its focal length. As many would have known by now, the iPhone 7 plus now comes with dual lens inbuilt. This effectively means that I can now have a always-carry-around-with-me camera which wields a nice 28-56mm focal length!

In addition to the expanded focal length, the IOS Camera app is also updated with a new feature called "Portrait Mode". Now, Photographers all over love taking people photos with beautiful "bokeh" - the creamy blurred background that makes the subject stands out so beautifully. The portrait mode in the Camera app essentially tries to emulate that - pseudo digitally. It uses the 2 lens in the camera, and digitally combine them to simulate the bokeh effect. The purpose of this article though, is not to explain the technical aspects of this portrait mode. Rather, my aim is to show what can be achieved with this feature in reality, esp for travel photography!

Now, the portrait mode is far from perfect. However, with some understanding of the behavior/quirks of the feature, I have to say that the results can be pretty impressive!  Here's a few pointers on utilising the portrait mode of the iPhone 7 plus :

  1. Firstly, while its labeled as "Portrait" in the Camera app, you obviously don't need to use it for people portraits.  You can use it for any subject that you want to isolate and have a nice blurred background. After all, after "processing" the shot, the image is marked with a "Depth Effect" label in your image gallery. So yes, essentially you can use "portrait mode" for anything that you want to create a "depth effect"...!
  2. In order for the Camera app algorithm to create the bokeh/depth effect, the focal length is fixed at the "tele" end,  ie 56mm, and the subject needs to be literally confined to a certain distance from the camera (the app will tell you to move further/nearer etc). So it is not as flexible as like a DSLR with a 50mm lens with a wide aperture. Learn to know this distance so that you know what sized subject is best for your creative composition.
  3. Choose well-defined subjects too, so that the app can clearly "guess" the whole subject. Subjects like bushes with thin branches/stems or subjects with fuzzy lines will confuse the app. 
That seemed rather restricted, isn't it? But the reality is that, I now DO have the additional creative capability. Remember, all my other points about travel photography with the iPhone (in my previous post) are still very much valid! I still carry a DSLR or mirrorless with me on my travels, but as a testament to what I've written about "the best camera is the one with you", 60+% of all my photos which I've selected and deemed suitable for sharing/display is from the iPhone!

Check out the gallery of images below taken during my 3-months trip to Europe and South America. They are all taken using the depth effect of the portrait mode of iPhone 7 plus. Looks good?


Finally, here's one example that the app failed to properly define the subject :

Notice how the leaf on the right has lost its branch, which has been "blurred" by the app...

1 comment:

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