Portrait mode perspective: the iPhone X versus the Canon M100

With all the latest photo-centric smartphones including a form of Portrait mode, are interchangeable lens cameras still coming out on top?

It’s safe to say that Portrait mode, the artificial blurry-background generator on modern smartphones, isn’t going anywhere. And now that it’s here, it’s only going to get better. It’s an incredibly handy feature to have, and for the vast majority of users, is easily good enough that they may rethink the need to purchase a so-called ‘real’ camera in the future.

But ‘good enough’ is a subjective assessment. So, we set up a tripod and grabbed an accessible entry-level camera that’s specifically aimed at smartphone users, and did our own informal comparison. It turns out, though, that things aren’t all that simple.

The first comparison

We found through our informal exercise that the iPhone X’s built-in Portrait mode on its default camera app appears to roughly approximate the blur from shooting a 35mm F2.8 lens on an APS-C camera. In this case, we used the Canon EOS M100.

iPhone X in Portrait mode Canon EOS M100 w/ EF-S 35mm F2.8 @ F2.8

Unfortunately, the tripod needed adjustment of an inch or two to make sure the iPhone image and the Canon image ended up a broadly similar positioning of the subject in the frame (there may be some distortion or other corrective effects at work that we don’t have full insight into).

For this comparison, the iPhone X had HDR enabled in Portrait mode, and the M100 image was processed through Adobe Camera Raw using an adapted EF-S Macro 35mm F2.8 lens.

Apple also includes ‘lighting modes,’ so let’s see if that makes a difference in your preference.

The second comparison

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