Night mode shot by Austin Mann
As it has done over the past couple years, Apple granted Mann the chance to try out its latest iPhone model before launch. For 2019, the noted travel photographer took iPhone 11 Pro along during a trip through China, where he is documenting The Bach Project featuring cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Mann was eager to try the new ultra wide lens, Night mode and minor system improvements. Also of interest was “Capture Outside the Frame,” a camera app option that allows users to see the scene outside the frame as they shoot with the standard wide lens.
“One of the most interesting camera features introduced this year is ‘Capture Outside the Frame,'” Mann writes. “Basically, if I’m shooting with the Wide (26 mm), the iPhone 11 Pro is also capturing with the Ultra Wide (13 mm) so I can decide later about my framing. If the software detects a human on the edge of your frame, a little icon pops up to indicate you might want to crop out, which is pretty cool. As part of this feature, I can see what’s just outside of my frame (a preview of what would be included in my shot if I switched to the Ultra Wide 13 mm).”
Ultra wide shot on the iPhone 11 Pro by Austin Mann
Shooting with the ultra wide went well and Mann was glad he had the new lens in his pocket, though he noted it performed best in well-lit situations. As the environment gets dim, users will likely switch back to the wide lens with its faster aperture and Night mode capabilities.
Speaking of Night mode, Mann was blown away by Apple’s new technology.
“One thing I love about Apple’s approach to Night mode is the strategic balance of solving a technical problem while also caring deeply about artistic expression,” Mann writes. “When you look at the image above, it’s clear their team didn’t take the let’s-make-night-look-like-day approach, as some of their competitors have. Instead, it feels more like an embrace of what it actually is (night) while asking, How do we capture the feel of this scene in a beautiful way?'”
Showing the Night mode capabilities while shooting on a tripod. Source: Austin Mann
Mann delves deeper into what makes the iPhone’s Night mode stand out, particularly when compared to traditional cameras.
When shooting long exposure shots on a DSLR or mirrorless camera, an exposure of three seconds is a single shot, keeping the sensor exposed for that length of time. It allows more light in to better expose the shot and can capture light trails. On iPhone, Night mode captures a series of shots — over-exposed, under-exposed, long exposure shots, all captured together. The iPhone, powered by the A13 Bionic, then stitches all these together combine different aspects to create a well-balanced image.
This method allows users to shoot handheld and still pull off a sharp image. Shooting a long exposure handheld with a traditional camera would be a blurry mess.
Source: Austin Mann
Light trails on iPhone are still possible though, notes Mann, as the device is able to detect when it is placed on a tripod versus handheld and adjusts so that light trails are still captured.
Overall, Mann seems keen on the new iPhone 11 Pro as well as the ultra wide angle lens and new Night mode capabilities.
“I think I can say this is easily the most dramatic leap forward we’ve seen since the introduction of panorama mode on the iPhone 5 in 2012,” says Mann. “It’s the first time in a long time I’ve looked at an image and said to myself wow, I can’t believe I shot this with my phone.'”