One of the reasons I was excited about my new iPhone 11 Pro is that I would no longer have to carry my ILC1 to bars/taprooms/restaurants to get the “bokeh” shot of the beer glass with my pour of craft ale2. I expected that the iPhone camera app "Portrait Mode" would suffice. “Portrait Mode” uses multiple cameras on the back of iPhones and software algorithms to create an artistic depth effect, whereby the subject is in focus, and the background is blurred. It's an attempt to approximate the “shallow depth of field” photographs one can easily capture with an ILC and wide aperture lens.

The image below was captured with the 6mm (52mm FF equivalent) lens on the iPhone 11 Pro but with all the "portrait mode" software disabled.

Portrait mode disabled – Apple iPhone 11 Pro + iPhone 11 Pro back dual camera 6mm f/2 @ ISO 125, Captured on Focos app

The following image was captured in Portrait Mode.

"Not Bokeh” — 17 October 2019, Day 13 of 2019 Project 365 — Apple iPhone 11 Pro + iPhone 11 Pro back dual camera 6mm f/2, ISO 125

I have experimented with the iPhone 11 Pro and Portrait Mode. The software algorithms need some work. It can’t figure out what to do with the space inside the glass but found the “solid” portion of the water in the glass. I tried shooting some beer in Teku glasses, and the algorithm has the “body” of the beer in focus but blurred the stem badly.

I learned that I need the subject of the photo to be still and 2.5 metres or less from the camera. Good lighting is important. My experience is that the effect struggles in artificial light indoors. This "bug" could be a problem for how I want to use the camera, but this is to be expected for such a tiny sensor. Smartphones take great photos outdoors with good light but are complete shite for indoor images that are no challenge for a modern ILC.

But sometimes, it doesn't matter what you do. Sometimes AI is no substitute. The image below was captured outside in bright light on the iPhone 11 Pro in "portrait mode". There are noticeable artefacts around the outer edges of the can and especially the glassware.

Double Street Green by Other Half Brewing and Trillium Brewing – Apple iPhone 11 Pro + iPhone 11 Pro back dual camera 6mm f/2 @ ISO 100, Captured on iOS 13.1.3 camera app

The image below was captured on my Fuji X-T2 and Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR lens.

Double Street Green by Other Half Brewing and Trillium Brewing – FujiFilm X-T2 + XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR @ 55 mm @ ISO 400, Captured on Digital Camera X-T2 Ver4.30 app

More failures.

Apple iPhone 11 Pro | Fujinon iPhone 11 Pro back dual camera 6mm f/2 | f/2.0 | ISO 20
Apple iPhone 11 Pro | Fujinon iPhone 11 Pro back dual camera 6mm f/2 | f/2.0 | ISO 20

  1. ILC = interchangeable lens camera 
  2. Don't judge me! I want my beer porn to look good. Examples: Fustigated and Cainophobia by Troon Brewing at Brick Farm Tavern

You can see from the details below that the iPhone 11 Pro cameras are ISO, aperture and shutter speed constrained. Compare to my Fuji X-T2 + Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR lens. The iPhone 11 Pro cameras have a fixed aperture of ƒ/1.8, ƒ/2.0, ƒ/2.2 and ƒ/2.4. The lenses can not be stopped down. The iPhone 11 Pro always shoots wide open. The iPhone 11 Pro can not shoot at ISO higher than 3072. The slowest shutter speed is 1s which limits its use for long-exposure photography.

Fuji X-T2 + Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR

Min/Max Aperture: ƒ/22 / ƒ/2.8
Min/Max Exposure: 1/32Ks / 60min
Min ISO / Max ISO: 100 /  51200
Focal Length: 16-55mm (24-84mm FF) (depends on lens)
Image Size: 6000 x 4000
Autofocus Systems: Intelligent Hybrid AF (TTL contrast AF / TTL phase-detection AF)

iPhone 11 Pro (Frodo)

Back Camera:
Aperture: ƒ/1.8
Min/Max Exposure: 1/125Ks / 1s
Min ISO / Max ISO: 32 /  3072
Focal Length: 4.25mm (26mm FF)
Image Size: 4032 x 3024
Autofocus Systems: Contrast, Phase

Flash: Yes

Back Telephoto Camera:
Aperture: ƒ/2.0
Min/Max Exposure: 1/45Ks / 1s
Min ISO / Max ISO: 21 /  2016
Focal Length: 6mm (51mm FF)
Image Size: 4032 x 3024
Autofocus Systems: None, Contrast, Phase

Flash: Yes

Back Ultra Wide Camera:
Aperture: ƒ/2.4
Min/Max Exposure: 1/45Ks / 1s
Min ISO / Max ISO: 21 /  2016
Focal Length: 1.54 (13mm FF)
Image Size: 4032 x 3024
Autofocus Systems: None, Phase

Flash: Yes

Front Camera:
Aperture: ƒ/2.2
Min/Max Exposure: 1/48Ks / 1s
Min ISO / Max ISO: 23 /  2208
Focal Length: 2.71mm (24mm FF)
Image Size: 4032 x 3024
Autofocus Systems: None
Flash: Yes