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Apple Sept. 2019 announcements

Apple, News
... All those pics will have to be written to RAM until the magic moment that the user presses the record button ... Never mind the “mad science” of stitching those images together afterwards, dealing with issues such as parallax error and so on. This type of post-processing (esp. with a 10-bit vs. an 8-bit pipeline) is non-trivial, esp. in a small embedded application like this one, with a limited battery budget and the consumer expectation that lots of pics can be taken quickly.
Is it really "mad science"? The new Image Signal Processor (ISP) has a pretty good chance of being as large, [in terms of transitors], as the CPU + GPU cores (minus cache and other stuff) of the first three (maybe four) iPhones. If you throw 10's of millions of transistors at some fixed-function logic (does just one calculation), then specific things can go quite fast (e.g., disk controllers like the T2 encrypt and decrypt in real time with no read/write overhead).

[The ISP is] probably in the same range with the Neural Engine – about as big a budget as the CPU+GPU logic section nine years ago but only covering a smaller computation problem.

The faster CPU+GPU in the A13 makes the camera GUI run better, but the real issue is the millions of transistors that Apple throws at camera sensor processing that do absolutely nothing when you are not using the camera sensor(s). The total transistor budget is so large that there are billions more to go around, and they work hard at being able to put unused subsections of the system on a chip to sleep when not in use.

The A13 has probably at least all the specialized camera "digital horsepower" as higher-end DSLR or video cameras, as a 'sidecar' to the main section of the chip. I'm sure there is some processing portion that flows over to the CPU+GPU, but that would be in the 'additional effects' zone.

It is more about how to capture stills from a video camera at this point (even for higher-end "mirrorless" DSLRs.)

Selling tens of millions of A13's per years helps Apple be several generations ahead in process tech vs. the older stuff the camera makers sit on to save money (because they don't generate the revenues through volume), so Apple ends up doing more with more (more transistors, do more work, get more done).

I was looking especially for information about possible extra, dedicated camera memory – here's what they said:
The Image Sensor Processor (ISP) is on the same die as the rest of the computation engines. Why would there be other memory? Probably want to do all this in a shared memory space, so do not have to move the data to different specialized processors to do work on the data at different stages.

The other factor is that iOS is pretty close to a single-app-at-a-time operating system. So when the camera app is running, pragmatically there are no other apps running (in low-latency user interactive mode). So why shouldn't Apple use the main RAM and the interprocessor shared RAM cache to do this? Nothing else has pressing issues when the camera app has fully consumed the screen.

If using the same high-bandwidth read/write infrastructure as the ISP to keep the GPU or Neural subsystem fed, then don't have to build redundant infrastructure. And if the OS helps single-track those competing consumers, all the better.

iPadOS gets trickier where there is another shared-screen foreground app doing heavy computations concurrently. macOS even more so.

Ric Ford

The other factor is that iOS is pretty close to a single-app-at-a-time operating system. So when the camera app is running, pragmatically there are no other apps running (in low-latency user interactive mode). So why shouldn't Apple use the main RAM and the interprocessor shared RAM cache to do this? Nothing else has pressing issues when the camera app has fully consumed the screen.
I don't have the link handy now, but I read some comments this week about how iOS would dump currently running apps out of memory when using the Camera app, due to its large RAM requirements. (I don't have any more information or testing on that, however.)

Ars Technica notes that iOS 13 drops support for iPhones having only 1GB of RAM:
Samuel Axon said:
iOS 13: The Ars Technica review
You can essentially summarize iOS 13's cuts as Apple declining to support all iOS devices that had only 1GB of RAM.

Ric Ford

DisplayMate has a dense (and pooly formatted) report on the iPhone 11 Pro Max display, rating it very highly:
Dr. Raymond M. Soneira said:
iPhone 11 Pro Max OLED Display Technology Shoot-Out
... As we will show in detail below, the iPhone 11 Pro Max has a number of notable improvements over the iPhone XS Max including:
• 17% higher Peak Brightness of 821 nits for a typical Average Picture Level of 50%, which improves screen visibility in high Ambient Light. On its Home Screen the iPhone 11 Pro Max produced an impressively High Brightness of 902 nits.​
• An HDR Peak Brightness of 1,290 nits for the standard HDR 20% APL, and 1,090 nits for Full Screen White with 100% APL.​
• Display Power Efficiency that has increased by up to 15% compared to the iPhone XS Max.​
In this article we lab test, measure, analyze, and evaluate in depth the display on the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Of particular interest to me were notes about color shift, which I personally find bothersome with OLED displays.
DisplayMate said:
Viewing Angles
Blue Primary Color Shift at a 30 degree Viewing Angle
Δ(u’v’) = 0.0188
4.7 JNCD

iPhone 11 Pro Max Absolute Color Accuracy Plots
Here we will use 3 JNCD for the threshold of a visually noticeable display color difference in images.
This looks better than the iPhone X OLED display color shift (while the testers apparently changed their criteria for "good" in the interim).
DisplayMate said:
iPhone X OLED Display Technology Shoot-Out
Primary Color Shifts at a 30 degree Viewing Angle
Δ(u’v’) = 0.0249 for Pure Blue
6.2 JNCD

I don't have the link handy now, but I read some comments this week about how iOS would dump currently running apps out of memory when using the Camera app, due to its large RAM requirements. (I don't have any more information or testing on that, however.)
iOS can compress memory, too, so apps could be squeezed down a bit, also. There are also four "low-power" cores with local cache. If they leave enough fragments of the currently running apps up in place, the "page in and get running" process will seem more fluid than if they had pushed everything out. (Run the low-power, smaller cores slower, and they'll ask for less memory, too. If you do less, you need less.)

But, yes, getting back to that third or fourth previous app you had running will be harder. The Camera app and another app that has a very high RAM consumption will page much more.

However, this is also why Apple has been ramping up the NAND storage speeds to leading-edge SSD zones. Paging back in off a top-end SSD is substantially less painful.

A 3GB buffer should work for the three cameras. If Apple can hold onto the swticher and home screen (how you transition out of Camera), then they could unweave some of the "freeze and page" while flushing the camera (don't need to save any of the completed camera buffer in RAM).
Ars Technica notes that iOS 13 drops support for iPhones having only 1GB of RAM:
That isn't just the camera, though. While there is just one primary foreground app on iOS, there is more stuff going on – more "picture in picture" contexts, more "smart" agents running around either doing more for the user or collecting more data on the user for someone else.

The other issue is that the older camera sensors are being left behind, also, by the new, deeper algorithms. The more tightly they tune the processing to the specific balance and fixed-function logic of their newer system on a chip (SoC), the less likely it backports. If the OS scheduler is coupled to the the hardware scheduler, there's a very similar impact over the long term.

Ric Ford

Apple's new ultra-wide iPhone 11 camera has limitations I didn't anticipate:
DPReview said:
The ultra-wide camera in the iPhone 11 models is fixed-focus, doesn't support Raw capture
Revealed by Halide developer Ben Sandofsky, the ultra-wide camera has a fixed-focus lens and doesn’t offer any Raw photo output. The reasoning isn’t yet known, but as noted by a number of responses to Sandofsky’s tweet, it’s possible the reason for not offering Raw output from the ultra-wide camera is due to the barrel distortion present in the uncorrected images from the ultra-wide camera. If not corrected, the distortion would be dramatic considering the 13mm (35mm equivalent) focal length, and without having iOS apps with that correction built-in it would result in rather distorted images.

Ric Ford

Here's a detailed review from Ars Technica:
Samuel Axon said:
iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max review: High quality for high prices
The good
  • You’ll get greatly improved battery life over your current iPhone
  • Its camera system is among the best in the smartphone marketplace, and a big step up over prior iPhones
  • The best display on any smartphone today
  • Unrivaled, likely multi-year future-proof performance across the board
  • A greater emphasis on user privacy and security than most competing phones
  • iOS is more powerful and useful than ever with iOS 13 (provided a few bugs get worked out)
The bad
  • Even with improvements to the glass, it’s still awfully fragile for something so expensive
  • LTE speeds still lag behind some of the competition
  • 3D Touch is no more
  • No modern, smaller, one-handed phone option exists in the iPhone lineup
  • Low user serviceability means many consumers will have to consider dropping even more money on AppleCare+
The ugly
  • Very, very expensive; most people would be better off picking up the iPhone 11 or iPhone 8 for substantially less money

Ric Ford

Here's a report on the internals of the updated entry-level iPad:
iFixit said:
iPad 7 Teardown
Apple’s 7th-generation iPad has arrived on the scene with some new bells and whistles! Along with the new 10.2” display, there’s … hmm. As the most basic tablet in Apple’s lineup, this iPad mostly inherits hand-me-down features from its more prestigious kin. What else has Apple re-purposed?
  • Well there you have it, the 10.2" iPad 6 iPad 7 laid out after facing the business end of a teardown.
  • This turned out to be a pretty light refresh! Just a size increase, the addition of a Smart Connector, and an extra GB of RAM.

Ric Ford

Apple is now previewing its upcoming iPhone 11 "Deep Fusion" photo system, but users apparently have no control over it.
The Verge said:
The iPhone 11’s Deep Fusion camera is now in the iOS 13 developer beta
Apple’s Deep Fusion photography system has arrived in the latest developer betas of iOS 13, hopefully hinting that it will ship for the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro soon.

To refresh your memory, Deep Fusion is a new image processing pipeline for medium-light images, which Apple senior VP Phil Schiller called “computational photography mad science” when he introduced it onstage. But like much of iOS 13, Deep Fusion wasn’t ready when the phones arrived two weeks ago. And although the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro have extremely impressive cameras, Deep Fusion’s is meant to offer a massive step forward in indoor and medium-lighting situations. And since so many photos are taken indoors and in medium light, we’re looking forward to testing it.

... Unlike Night mode, which has an indicator on-screen and can be turned off, Deep Fusion is totally invisible to the user. There’s no indicator in the camera app or in the photo roll, and it doesn’t show up in the EXIF data. Apple tells me that is very much intentional, as it doesn’t want people to think about how to get the best photo. The idea is that the camera will just sort it out for you.

Ric Ford

Here's a quite detailed review of the new iPhones:
Andrei Frumusanu/AnandTech said:
The Apple iPhone 11, 11 Pro & 11 Pro Max Review: Performance, Battery, & Camera Elevated

... At the end of the day, are the iPhone 11s worth it? For me, it depends on the model.

I wasn’t too impressed by the regular iPhone 11. It does bring the same performance upgrades of the rest of the line-up, and it does have the new cameras minus the telephoto module, but it lacks the other large generational improvements that the Pro models received such as the new display or the vastly improved battery life. And personally, I’m still put off by the prospect of buying a device with such a low resolution screen at the end of 2019.

The Pro models, on the other hand, I feel are proper and worthwhile generational upgrades. Users coming from an iPhone 8 (Plus) or earlier models can now upgrade to the new Pro models without having to worry about taking a hit to battery life. Meanwhile performance is self-explanatory, and the camera upgrades are very solid, albeit the wide-angle has some definite weaknesses. Still, the phones feel like very strong devices which notably improve upon the fundamentals, showing that even 12 years after the first iPhone, Apple is still capable of delivering meaningful upgrades to their high-end smartphones.

I'm curious. I'm about to upgrade an old iPhone. My daughter recently had her iPhone 6 crash and burn and bought a new iPhone 11. Today she reported troubles typing and swiping and took it to an Apple store where they swapped for a new one, because hers had "a display controller issue." There was a comment made that they had seen this before, and since she had it for only thirty days, it was better just to swap. While I appreciate the good service, especially since her job is phone-dependent, I am curious if others are seeing this issue. Frankly, for myself, I am inclined more toward an iPhone 8. Thoughts on either issue?
My wife upgraded her iPhone 8 to an iPhone 11 Pro. She is really glad she did. It may be that the difference between the iPhone 11 and the iPhone 8 is not as large, due to the iPhone 11's LCD screen. The iPhone 11 Pro is the size of her iPhone 8, but the screen [display area] is much larger.

In the iPhone 11 Pro, the battery life is so much longerm she goes to sleep with 40% left instead of having to recharge during the day. The camera is much better, and the screen is way ahead of what she had on the iPhone 8 in terms of visibility in bright light, color rendition, and contrast. Face ID is far ahead of Touch ID, based on two years of having used Touch ID. The phone is much smoother and faster. Little things just work better, such as the touchscreen responsiveness and how quickly apps open, and the gestures work more smoothly.

The upgrade went quickly and smoothly, and there were no issues as all. The only difficulty was learning some new gestures, due to not having a home button. Now, it seems all the gestures are more natural. But for the first day, it did take effort to remember how to do anything.

Our decision to buy the iPhone 11 Pro was made a lot easier for us because our carrier gave her $350 for her old iPhone 8, way above market value. So that made the net price a lot lower. If you're considering an iPhone 11, then it might be better to think of the iPhone 8. But if you're thinking of the iPhone 11 Pro, there's really no comparison.

Ric Ford

I've been waiting for an in-depth iPhone 11 review from these folks, and this just showed up...
DXOMark said:
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max camera review
Previous Apple iPhone generations have always been among the best smartphones for imaging, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max is no different. It matches our top score for Video, recording video clips with good detail, a very wide dynamic range, and smooth stabilization in most circumstances. Its still image results also put it among the best, thanks to consistently good results from the primary camera, which is now accompanied by a very capable ultra-wide lens with one of the widest fields of view we have seen. Bokeh simulation mode and zoom performance at long range are not quite up with the very best, but if those areas are not top priorities, the new iPhone is an easy recommendation for any mobile image creator, especially those who are already invested in the iOS ecosystem.


  • Good levels of detail in most test conditions
  • Accurate target exposure and wide dynamic range in most situations
  • Fast, accurate, and repeatable autofocus
  • Vivid and pleasant colors
  • Very wide ultra-wide lens, with good detail and dynamic range, and well-controlled chromatic aberrations
  • Good zoom performance at close and medium range
  • Noise visible in all light conditions
  • Loss of detail in long-range zoom shots
  • Ringing in outdoor images
  • Lack of detail in flash images
  • Strong yellow cast under low warm light
  • Lack of detail and noise in ultra-wide images

  • Wide dynamic range
  • Good detail and well-controlled noise in outdoor and indoor footage
  • Vivid and pleasant color
  • Effective stabilization
  • Jello effect when recording while walking
  • White balance instabilities indoors
  • Noticeable autofocus stepping when tracking
  • Aliasing is occasionally visible

Ric Ford

A pro photographer I know just bought an iPhone 11 Pro and noticed some anomalies in the images, blue flare-like effects with "very specular" lighting (e.g. birthday candles).

I remembered that the DXOMark review noted something similar (see the Artifacts section).

I was eventually able to recreate the issue with an iPhone X (iphonexflare.jpg), so it doesn't appear to be specific to the iPhone 11 Pro or its software, and it affects photos (with wide angle or portrait lenses on the iPhone X) and video both.

#flare #photography #iPhone

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