Apple unveils new camera, err, I mean smartphone

The new iPhone 11 is all about the camera… because everything else is boring.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

The new iPhone is so hard to differentiate from the old iPhone that Apple didn't really try and spent a big chunk of the iPhone launch event boasting about its array of cameras. Sure, the process is a bit faster, the screen a bit better, and there's the better battery life, but as rumors had led us to expect, this event was all about the camera.

Problem is, smartphone cameras have become so good most people don't care about minute improvements that only the most ardent pixel-peeper will notice.

Must read: Apple iPhone 11 models unveiled: Specs, features, and prices

Apple is proud of the new camera array on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. And from a technological standpoint, the tech is interesting. Apple has taken two or three 12-megapixel rear-facing cameras (the iPhone 11 wide and ultra-wide cameras, while the iPhone 11 Pro adds a 12-megapixel telephoto camera to the array), and a 12-megapixel TrueDepth front-facing camera, thrown in a lot of image signal processing and AI tweaking to create what seems to be the best portable camera available.

But is this what the iPhone is now? A camera? At the same time, Apple has redefined "Pro" to mean a 12-megapixel telephoto camera and bigger display.

If you are wondering why the cameras are all 12-megapixel units, it's probably because that reduces the load of the new A13 Bionic processor when doing image signal processing and AI wizardry on captures. The more pixels the CPU has to juggle, the heavier the workload.

There's a lot of photography tech built into the new iPhones, but I wonder how much people care. After all, they take a snap and then stick it on Facebook or Instagram where much of the detail is smashed out of the image by compression anyway. Few people bother to print images, fewer still want to do any serious editing or blowing up of prints, so all that detail is essentially locked up in an image that spends its life inside the iPhone's storage chips.

I also question the usefulness of some of the features. Crazy levels of image processing to bring out fine detail in an image is interesting, but now many people zoom in real close on an image to check out the quality anyway? If people cared about fine detail, they wouldn't upload images to social media sites which compress them down to a level where they look nasty. How many people shoot in super low light? How many will be able to compose a shot in super low light?

How many people bother with 4K 60fps video? For most, it's just a great way to eat up storage and iCloud space (and more storage space usage means more money for Apple).

For the average user, probably the single most useful feature will the 2x unzoom feature, which will allow them to recompose poorly composed shots after the fact by "zooming out" into a wider shot.

Sure, these features are interesting and might be of use to a niche group of hardcore pro-grade photographers, but for the average user, most of the new camera tech is overengineered and overpriced tech they will never come close to fully utilizing.

Will a better camera encourage you to buy a new iPhone? Let me know below!

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