As expected, Apple unveiled updates to its highly popular (and profitable) iPhone line this week. What’s somewhat unexpected though, was the release of a new “super premium” product, now known as iPhone X, into the mix. However, other than its gorgeous new screen in a radically redesigned chassis, its internal specifications are largely similar to the iPhone 8. This includes an “all new” 12-Megapixel sensors with a new color filter and “Deeper Pixels“.
Now, “Deeper Pixels“. What does that actually mean?
Pixel depth or Color depth refers to the range of values a particular pixel (or dot) in an image file can store. For example, an 8-bit pixel (think of most GIFs) can store a unique value out of 256 (28) color combinations, while a 24-bit pixel (think of most JPGs) can store a unique value out of 16+ million (224) color combinations. This means more displayable colors, which lead to smoother color transitions and extended color detail.
Example 1: Color (Pixel) Depth Comparison in Macro Photography
The 8-bit version on the left clearly shows loss of detail in the background due to harsh color gradients.
Example 2: Color (Pixel) Depth Comparison in Portrait Photography
The loss of detail is even more apparent here. Not only is the background bokeh hideously block, the model’s skin tones are muted with some loss of detail in the mouth region.
Example 3: Color (Pixel) Depth Comparison in Travel/Landscape Photography
This 8-bit shot of Times Square loses the most detail in the sky. However, the composition is busy enough that you can’t really tell the loss of detail in the crowd.
So, does Deeper Pixels = Better?
In a way, yes. Being able to capture more colors simultaneously will always make for high-quality images. This is the foundation of the emerging HDR (High Dynamic Range) display technologies in televisions and computer monitors that are able to render insanely brighter and more colorful scenes.
The question is, how much more color depth is each pixel capturing compared to the iPhone 8 and iPhone X’s predecessors? I guess we will never find out, but for now, let us all who get their hands on a shiny new iPhone enjoy relish in the knowledge of having “Deeper Pixels”.