The iPhone XS skin smoothing feature that some people have been complaining about is actually something else. It’s not a beautify feature, it’s a side effect of noise reduction (via Halide).
iPhone XS Skin Smoothing
If you bought one of the new iPhones, you may have noticed that your skin looks smoother, like a beautification feature that some Android phones have. But that’s not what is going on.
The developers behind popular iPhone camera app Halide spent a week testing and studying the iPhone XS camera. They found that it’s an entirely new camera and it relies heavily on computational photography.
Two popular effects of computational photography are Smart HDR and adjustable depth of field. Another effect is better and more aggressive noise reduction. This is because when the iPhone XS takes a photo, it actually takes several photos at different exposures. They get merged into a final image which is what gets saved to your camera roll.
The iPhone XS merges exposures and reduces the brightness of the bright areas and reduces the darkness of the shadows. The detail remains, but we can perceive it as less sharp because it lost local contrast. In the photo above, the skin looks smoother simply because the light isn’t as harsh.
Observant people noticed it isn’t just skin that’s affected. Coarse textures and particularly anything in the dark— from cats to wood grain— get a smoother look. This is noise reduction at work. iPhone XS has more aggressive noise reduction than previous iPhones.
The iPhone XS has a faster shutter speed and a higher ISO level than the iPhone X. This means that you can take photos faster, but your photos will have more noise. And because the front camera has a lower resolution than the rear camera, the noise reduction is more noticeable when you take selfies.