Apple’s Deep Fusion Camera technology is now available thanks to iOS 13.2. If you have an iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro, you can use this new image-processing tech to take better photos. Here’s how it works.
What Is Deep Fusion?
Smartphones aren’t complete replacements to professional cameras just yet, but Apple makes the iPhone a better camera every year.
This feature is available on the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max. These phones were released with Apple’s iOS 13. They came with several significant improvements to their camera setup, including improved sensors, an ultrawide-angle lens, a night mode, and slow-motion selfies. However, one improvement that didn’t come out of the box with their newest flagships is the Deep Fusion Camera, released with the iOS 13.2 update on October 28, 2019.
Apple’s Phil Schiller described it as “computational photography mad science.” While many smartphones are making great strides towards improving image quality in very dark environments with Night Mode and very bright environments with HDR, most of the photos we take fall somewhere in between. The Deep Fusion Camera is supposed to reduce noise and significantly improve detail for photos taken in medium to low-light conditions, mainly indoor shots.
To demonstrate, Apple used several samples of people wearing sweaters—an item of clothing that frequently loses detail in photos. The sweaters and other items in the shots taken with the Deep Fusion Camera are more detailed and retain their natural texture.
How Does It Work?
According to Apple, the new mode uses the iPhone 11’s new A13 Bionic chip to do “pixel-by-pixel processing of photos, optimizing for texture, details, and noise in every part of the photo.” In essence, it works similarly to the iPhone camera’s Smart HDR, which takes several shots at varying exposures and combines them to maximize the clarity in the finished image. Where they differ is in the amount of information that needs to be processed.
What Deep Fusion is doing in the background is quite complicated. When the user presses the shutter button in medium light, the camera immediately takes nine pictures: four short images, four secondary images, and one long exposure photo. It fuses the long-exposure with the best among the short images. Then, the processor goes pixel by pixel and selects the best elements from both to create the most detailed photo possible. All of that takes place in one second.
When you initially snap a photo, it immediately starts post-processing the image in your album. So by the time you open your camera roll to take a look at it, it will already have the effect implemented. This is made possible by the A13 Bionic chip, which is the strongest processor ever put into a commercial smartphone.
How to Get Deep Fusion on Your iPhone
You need an iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, or iPhone 11 Pro Max to use Deep Fusion. It will likely be compatible with future iPhones, too, but it’s not compatible with the hardware in past iPhones.
Your iPhone needs iOS 13.2, too. If it’s running an older version of iOS, Deep Fusion won’t be available. To update your phone, go to Settings > General > Software Update. Make sure you turn on your Wi-Fi.
When your phone is updated, go to Settings > Camera and turn off “Photos Capture Outside the Frame.” While it’s a handy feature, it’s incompatible with the Deep Fusion mode.
How to Use the Deep Fusion Camera
One of the other features Apple introduced this year is Night Mode, which uses multiple photos to come up with the brightest image. It is accessible via a toggle in the camera software or is automatically activated in very dark lighting conditions.
Unlike Night Mode, there’s no way for the user to activate the Deep Fusion mode manually. There’s no indicator that it’s even turned on. Apple’s AI automatically detects when an image is best suited for Deep Fusion and takes the shot in a way that is invisible to the end-user. The reasoning behind this is that they want you to be able to take the best photos during normal lighting conditions without worrying about which mode to pick.
However, there are several conditions where you can’t use the Deep Fusion Camera. At the moment, it’s only compatible with the wide lens and telephoto lens. Photos that are taken with the ultrawide camera default to Smart HDR if the lighting conditions are sufficient.
Also, since each image takes a second to process, it is not compatible with burst photography.
How Do You Know It’s Working?
In many cases, you can’t know if Deep Fusion is doing anything. On paper, the technology is a huge leap forward in mobile photography. In practice, the differences may be a bit difficult to notice for most people. This is especially true if you’re not comparing two images side by side.
Deep Fusion is mostly noticeable in objects with a lot of textures. Things like hair, detailed fabrics, textured walls, fur, and some food items will be more detailed, especially if you zoom into them. With the holidays coming up, expect to see some very detailed images of people donning sweaters in your feed.
Is It Coming to My Phone?
Deep Fusion will only be compatible with the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max. Apple’s older devices, including the X and the XS, do not have the A13 Bionic chip, which powers much of the new camera processing features on the latest models. It can’t be added in a future software update.
On the other hand, if you’re not on an iPhone, it’s definitely not coming to your phone. However, other smartphone manufacturers, such as Google’s Pixel line, will likely see this as a challenge and develop their processing tools to rival Apple’s new mode.