Beautygate: Top camera developer debunks iPhone XS beauty filter

By

Beautygate
Some people get better looking with age and some get better looking with the iPhone XS.
Screenshot: Unboxing Therapy/YouTube

Turns out the entire “Beautygate” controversy has been much ado about nothing.

Corners of the internet have been up in arms over a perceived flaw in the iPhone XS camera that makes people in selfies look better than they should. Apple is supposedly looking to “fix” the undisclosed beauty filter, but developers behind one of the best iOS camera apps revealed today that such a filter does not exist.

Halide designer Sebastiaan de With explained that the camera on the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max has more noise reduction than on any previous iPhone. This is due to the fact that the camera on the new iPhones takes pictures at a faster rate than ever too.

“People feel the iPhone XS ‘smoothens’ things for two reasons,” writes de With. “Better and more aggressive noise reduction due to merged exposures. And merged exposures reducing sharpness by eliminating sharp light/dark contrasts where light hits parts of the skin.”

Killing the Beautygate controversy

apple
iPhone XS take computational photography to a new level.
Photo: Apple

In order to take a bunch of pictures in a snap and merge them together, the iPhone XS shoots at a higher ISO and faster shutter speed. This introduces more noise into photos, so to compensate, Apple has cranked up the noise reduction. Once noise reduction is added it removes some detail and local contrast.

Because the selfie-camera on the iPhone XS has an even smaller sensor and uses a higher ISO than the back cameras, the noise reduction is even more obvious. Instead of letting photos be noisy, Apple has chosen to smooth them out a bit.

“The good news is that Apple can also tweak this a bit if people find it too heavy-handed,” says de With. “But given it’s a simple choice between unflattering lighting and noise versus too much smoothness, it’s logical for version 1.0 to err on the side of smoothness.”

Future iOS updates might tweak the noise reduction a bit so that it’s not as drastic on skin tones. However, we don’t really mind that Apple’s making us look better in photos. In fact, that’s a hell of a reason to upgrade alone.