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What does Apple’s iPhone XS announcement mean for photography?

It never fails. Every fall, Apple announces a new iPhone that’s packed full of new technologies. An emphasis is placed on the camera, highlighting past features such as portrait mode, dual lenses and more.

This year, with the iPhone XS and XS Max, Apple has added one new killer feature to its camera — the ability to change your aperture after you take your photograph.

So, what’s this mean for photography? Will all our DSLRs and mirrorless cameras be overshadowed by this new, glorious iPhone?

Great technologies

The ability to change your aperture reminds me of the Lytro Light Field Camera, which was a camera a few years ago that allowed you to change your focus point after you took your photograph. That camera was discontinued earlier this year.

The technology was fantastic, and many looked forward to the day where it would be implemented by big players like Canon and Nikon. But the technology never saw the light of day, beyond Lytro’s own cameras.

The thing here though is that, during Apple’s demo, while adjusting the aperture adjusted the depth of field in the photograph, it didn’t impact the light being brought into the photograph. So while Apple may advertise this as adjusting the aperture, it’s really just blurring the background. It’s still a cool effect with a ton of technologies behind it, but it’s not truly changing the aperture — it’s just adjusting the blur in the background. You can see what I mean in the video below:

That said, there’s certainly a chance for this coming to DSLR and mirrorless cameras in the future. I can think of several times I’d use this, especially for environmental portraiture. But it’s not like pushing your aperture to f/5.6 or f/8 will help make your group shots more in-focus — this feature doesn’t increase your focus view.

Will the iPhone kill traditional cameras?

This is asked every year, and the answer remains the same — no. The iPhone is a phone that’s marketed as a consumer camera. While it might be a great option for when you’re on vacations, at the big game or hanging out with friends and family, there’s no way it can beat the feature sets of traditional DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.

Plus, without third-party apps, there’s no way to adjust things like ISO or shutter speed on the iPhone camera. Simply put, you don’t have full control.

Apple highlighted the fact that Time used an iPhone photograph on the cover of its magazine this year, taken with the iPhone X. And while that’s a huge milestone, nothing was said about how the shot was lit, whether third-party lens attachments were used or what the shooting environment was like. iPhone photographs are great for casual usage, but you’re going to be hard-pressed to find any professionals use it in-studio or on-location.

So while the new iPhone XS might be great new phones and awesome options for the everyday user to capture life at its fullest, it’s not going to replace that DSLR or mirrorless camera you rely on.

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