Apple’s iPhone XS: How does the variable bokeh effect compare to a real lens?

“One of the key new features of Apple’s latest iPhones is the ability to adjust the ‘bokeh effect’ on portrait images, after they’ve been taken,” Richard Butler writes for Digital Photography Review. “But, as well as letting you adjust the intensity of the effect, the function has been enhanced to more accurately represent the bokeh characteristics of a real lens, rather than just trying to blur the background.”

“Every time you shoot an image using the 56mm-equivalent F2.4 portrait camera on the iPhone XS you have the choice of editing the bokeh effect. This brings up a scale marked in F-numbers,” Butler writes. “This may sound like Apple just borrowing an interface from the real-world (a process called skeuomorphism), but it goes beyond this: the company says it’s modeled the bokeh characteristics to mimic the behavior of a Zeiss lens.”

“We thought we’d put this to the test: how convincingly does the iPhone XS resemble a real-world lens? Is the F-number scale anything more than a pastiche? To find out, we shot the XS alongside the Nikkor 58mm F1.4, mounted on a full frame camera,” Butler writes. “The end result isn’t going to convince anyone if they look too closely (the processing has cut-off some of the fine hairs, for instance), but for social media use, it’s hard to deny that the effect is impressive. And we have to assume this technology will only get smarter and more powerful in future generations.”

Read more, and see the examples, in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s iPhone XS is certainly “croppy” vs. the Nikkor, but it’s definitely not crappy.


  1. Yes the iphone looks crappy. Apple is pandering to the FB crowd who like fuzzy, blurry photos.

    The article uses ideal conditions to help the iphone, E.G. huge separation from the subject to background, well light.

    Please stop comparing an iphone camera to a DSLR, you just can’t. An iphone lens will NEVER be as good as a DSLR lens.
    An iphone sensor will never be as good as a DSLR sensor.

    An iphone will take “good enough” photos for the FB crowd.

    1. You do realize that it wasn’t MDN that compared the two, but DPREVIEW, a well-respected camera review site. If you got issues, then please let DPREVIEW know how you feel. Ranting here, won’t do a thing.

      And yes we all know that a big hunk of glass should be better than a small lens, and that a big sensor should be better than a small sensor, due to physics, but the point of these sorts of comparisons is to see how the gap has been narrowed.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.