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Understanding your smartphone’s dynamic range

By April 19, 2018 Photography No Comments

Dynamic range is a way of describing the range of light values in a scene or photograph. It’s measured in exposure value (EV), or stops.

dynamic range

Photographically speaking, there are two kinds of dynamic range to understand: that of the scene you’re photographing, and that of the camera’s imaging sensor. These two are not always the same. The simple goal is to make sure that the dynamic range of the scene does not exceed the sensor’s.

Cameras vary in their ability to handle dynamic range. The iPhone, with its smaller 1/3” CMOS sensor, has an approximate 8-stop dynamic range. In contrast, most modern full-frame sensors have a dynamic range of 13–15 stops.

Let’s say that, for example, you’re shooting an outdoor, brightly lit scene with a 6-stop dynamic range. The iPhone camera will have no problem handling both ends of the exposure spectrum: highlights and shadow. But if this same scene had, say, a 10-stop dynamic range, it would exceed the dynamic range of the sensor, which would result in blocked-up shadows or blown-out highlights, otherwise known as loss of detail.

dynamic range

It so happens that the iPhone’s camera sensor is best-matched to evenly-lit, relatively bright, outdoor scenes. Even though the 6–7 stops of an indoor scene is a smaller range than that of the iPhone camera, it falls on the darker end of the spectrum (see illustration below), which isn’t the iPhone’s area of specialty.

You can be sure that our good friends at Apple are working overtime to deliver to us better technology on future models.

dynamic range

The Joy of iPhotography is Jack Hollingsworth’s guide to the best ways to approach every possible subject with your iPhone, offering tips as clear and simple as the iPhone’s interface.
Additionally you’ll see some great effects that you won’t find in Instagram (but your followers will love).

The Joy of iPhotography, Jack HollingsworthThe Joy of iPhotography
Jack Hollingsworth

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RRP for print edition: £9.99
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