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Flagship iPhone 13 feature is rough around the edges

Apple is always trying to position the iPhone as a pro-grade camera. Whether it’s the quality of the camera itself, or by adding tricks like low-light capability and Portrait Mode.

Apple’s very good at using computational power to overcome the limitations of the camera hardware that is built into a smartphone.

A good example of this is Portrait Mode. This is a feature that emulates the shallow depth of field and that soft out-of-focus Bokeh that a wide-aperture lens on a traditional camera can pull off. The camera in the iPhone can’t do this, so Apple throws a lot of technical wizardry at the photo to fake the look.

It’s good, but it’s far from perfect. This is why hair or tree branches or leaves or your cat’s whiskers can look weirdly out of focus in these shots.

And there’s no way to massage the feature.

It either works or it doesn’t.

Ever since the beginning of digital photography, we’ve been using software to try to recreate what film cameras did, even going as far as capturing things like vignetting and grain, which were initially limitations of the lenses and film stock.

Now let’s take a look at the new Cinematic Mode feature that was introduced yesterday. Even at a casual glance during the event, I noticed that it looked rough in Apple’s own footage.

Here, take a look for yourself (the Cinematic Mode coverage begins at 46 minutes 59 seconds). Apple uses a scene from a short film it shot to highlight how Cinematic Mode looks.