Can I take bokeh portrait photos with the single lens iPhone XR? - Kulör Cases

Can I take bokeh portrait photos with the single lens iPhone XR?

September 23, 2018

Can I take bokeh portrait photos with the single lens iPhone XR?-Kulör Cases


Even though iPhone XR only has single camera lens, it is capable of taking bokeh photos. However, please note that the bokeh photos taken by smart phones (with single lens, dual lens or even triple lens) are “simulated”, meaning the photo backgrounds are blurred artificially by the smartphone.

How do dual camera phones like iPhone 7 Plus produce bokeh photos?

A few years ago, only smartphones with dual camera lens could support the bokeh/portrait mode. This was the case with the dual-lens iPhone 7 Plus vs single-lens iPhone 7. A dual camera phone could snap photos of the same subject at slightly different angles at the same time and this allows the phone to compute and distinguish the main subject from the background area. And with this depth map/information, the phone specifically blur the background area, producing the simulated bokeh effect.


So how do single lens phones like iPhone XR produce the bokeh effect?

Apple has not fully disclosed how the iPhone XR does it but here’s a hint from them.

"We turned the model of a lens into math and apply that to that image. No-one else is doing what this does," said Apple VP of Software Camera, Photos, and Security Sebastian Marineau-Mes. "Others just do 'blur background."

We speculate that they are following what Google has done for the pixel 2 series. Google’s pixel 2 and the 2 xl have single lens setup and both could simulate the bokeh effect using a lot of computational crunching + machine learning. In layman's term, Google single-lens pixel phones use image recognition algorithm to determine the main subject in the photo, compute the depth map (by comparing pixels taken from different areas of the sensor) to distinguish the main subject from the background area, and finally apply the blur to the background area. Because of the beauty of this technique, the bokeh/portrait effect could be applied to photos taken by both the rear and front cameras.

If you're into technical details, Google has laid it out in its AI blog here

So how good is the Single Lens bokeh of iPhone XR?

Since iPhone XR has not yet been released, we have no way to test it. But Google pixel 2 has been in the market since Oct 2017 and its’ result is pretty damn good. You could check out the comparison between bokeh photos taken by pixel 2 and a full frame camera here.

Update (3/4/19): It is very good if you use Portrait mode to take photos of people. However, it somehow underwhelms when you use Portrait mode to shoot regular objects. It is possibly due to Apple's algorithm could recognize and highlight people in Portrait mode but not regular objects. The fact that Google Pixel 2 can take portrait style/bokeh photos of regular objects means that Google's AI algorithm is still superior to Apple's for now.


All sound very good and I'm getting the iPhone XR

From our point of view, iPhone XR is probably a better buy with its price range and supported features as mentioned in this previous blog.  But note that the iPhone XR has new dimensions and rear camera layout, so you cannot reuse your old phone cases for iPhone XR.

If you have time, please check out our iPhone XR leather case collection. Our cases are made from premium top-grain leather and we will help your personalize our cases to make them uniquely personal!

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Gold Foil Custom Monogram Phone Case - Gold Foil
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1. Both blind and foil stampings will appear in the approximate area shown.

2. Letter spacing might differ slightly from the preview due to the fixed width of copper die.

3. Foil is foil, it might come off when it is rubbed against over time.

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