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Depth control: more camera improvements coming in iOS 12.1

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Apple introduced a new photography feature when it unveiled its new iPhones earlier this month. New depth control functionality allows users of the new devices to retroactively adjust the focus and depth of field of an image after its taken, allowing for impressive-looking shots with slick blur effects and enhanced bokeh. It looks as though this feature will be getting even better soon.

The same photo with different adjustments to the depth slider

The beta version of iOS 12.1, due out in the next month, adds this functionality to the Camera app itself, meaning users can access the depth controls even as they line up a shot. It makes Portrait mode even more versatile. This kind of on-the-fly depth mapping is only possible on the latest devices thanks to their super-powerful A12 Bionic chip, but once implemented it will likely become standard in all future iOS devices.

It’s worth noting that several Android smartphones have had a similar feature for a while already – but what Apple is doing here is a more nuanced effect. Competing devices are able to increase or decrease the overall blur effect on the background of an image, but Apple’s technique goes a step further and intelligently blurs each element depending on its distance from the lens, much like a classic DSLR camera would.

If you like the sound of this feature but aren’t planning to upgrade to a new iPhone any time soon, never fear: it’s possible to adjust your Portrait mode shots even on older devices.