iPhone 11 Night Mode Brings Good Things to Light

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2019/10/31/iphone-11-night-mode-brings-good-things-to-light/

It has always been hard to take good photos in the dark, regardless of the camera. With the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro models, Apple has taken a new approach to shine more light on the problem.

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Thanks for covering night mode thoroughly. Unfortunately it just reinforces that it’s a big disappointment for me.

Apple pitched it as a nearly miraculous solution to what it finally admitted was lame low light performance in its iPhone lineup to date. You called it mediocre, but it has always been pathetic. I have lived in envy of droid owners who came away with bright indoor photos when my iPhones had dark, grainy, blurry results every time.

So imagine my childlike thrill when Apple made this announcement. A huge reason I was willing to walk away from my iPhone 8 Plus telephoto lens to get the iPhone 11.

But then I started reading the online reviews and was crushed when i heard that it relied on an extensive “duration” to get the job done. Then I reread Apple’s info and noticed that the sample pic was of a girl lying on a couch who was probably perfectly still.

And I was dumbfounded by all the big reviewers posting examples of closets and other “still life” as examples of how well this performs. Really?? If you have a still object, you can always use a tripod and even the dead of night will light up if you wait long enough. And that 0.1% of the population will find that night mode speeds things up.

But the 99.9% of the photos I take, my friends take, and I think most of the world wants to take that suffer badly from lousy low light handling is indoor and evening shots with friends: parties, concerts, gatherings. With people. People who are having fun. Who will pause for a moment, if you’re lucky, to take a group shot with drinks in hands between dancing or whatever, but that’s it. You don’t have 3s to work with. You can’t ask people to stay perfectly still. This isn’t the 1920s.

So the results I got are that the people who stay reasonable still come out decent. And those who move a bit too much are blurry.

But here’s the other sinker. When you’re taking low light shots at these parties, it’s extremely likely that you’re going to do so with the selfie camera, which has none of this technology at all.

I will admit that, given the right conditions, Apple has brightened up nighttime photos impressively. But the fact that it doesn’t support the selfie camera and requires your happy subjects to freeze for several seconds means that this has barely addressed the real life use cases.

The tripod and still life crowd can, however, rejoice that they have a much better tool at their disposal.

It’s interesting to read this view “from the other side”… about the Google Pixel 3 and it’s camera.

(Watch the video)

Have you seen the Milky Way with the naked eye? Because that “haze” is not it.

Speaking of using a tripod, years ago I purchased a holder for the iPhone that a tripod screw would fit. Every time I got a new iPhone it would not fit the mount/holder and I had to buy another holder. I had one that gently squeezed some arms apart to fit the phone, but then adjusting the phone’s controls would often cause the phone to slip and the angle to shift up, down or diagonally and it had to be repositioned. First, what’s the best product currently for a tripod mount on iPhone 11 Pro Max with the Apple leather case? And secondly, is there one that is generally future-proof for phone size variations?

Nothing is future- proof, but I have been happy with this:

Note that MeFoto also makes 2 other variants—one for phones under 3” wide and one for wider phones; if you want to get the full range, be sure to look for the all-in-one variant.

That looks like what I had in mind! Definitely more securely held in the grips than what I’ve had in the past. Thanks for the suggestion and link!

You realize that Google’s method does it much the same way? Exposure plus algorithms plus image stabilization.

Thanks for the note. I didn’t know how google did it but I’m not surprised. My point is primarily about my mismanaged expectations from Apple.