The latest version of Apple’s iOS 15 beta seems to be making subtle improvements to photos by processing out the green lens flares that can show up in outdoor pictures (via 9to5Mac). News of the feature was posted to the iOSBeta subreddit by Reddit user Doubleluckstur, and The Verge was able to see it in action by testing with an iPhone 12 Mini running the public beta.
Many iPhone users will be familiar with the green blobs, and while taking a picture it seems like nothing’s changed — the flare still shows up in the viewfinder. But when you go to view the final picture, the flare is nowhere to be seen (in some cases; we’ll get to that in a bit). It does seem to be the result of all the post-processing that’s done to the picture, as the flare shows up in the alternate (and less-processed) frames that are available if you’re using Apple’s Live Photo feature.
So far it’s a bit unclear which iPhone models the processing happens on. In the Reddit thread, one user reports also seeing the green dot removal on their iPhone XS, while another says it doesn’t work on their iPhone 8 Plus. 9to5Mac speculates that the feature could be limited to phones with an A12 Bionic processor or newer (so the XS and XR onward). The feature only being available on newer phones wouldn’t necessarily be surprising: some of iOS 15’s features, like Live Text or Portrait mode for FaceTime, already have the A12 Bionic listed as a requirement.
Of course, with this discovery came people trying to chase it down and find its limitations. Reddit user -DementedAvenger- posted examples of the flare still showing up on top of trees or mesh bug-proof window screens, as well as flares that came from a bathroom light instead of the sun. I was also able to replicate his tree example, as well as get some indoor flares of my own (though it’s worth noting that they’re not the same green bubble flares that so often occur from the sun).
Another limitation is video: I couldn’t find any scenarios where flares showed up any differently in the final video than they did in the viewfinder. Of course, removing a lens flare from 30 or 60 frames per second 4K footage would be quite a bit more computationally intensive, and have a greater chance of looking a bit weird, so it’s not necessarily surprising that the feature seems to be photo-only for now.
As always with beta features, the functionality we’re seeing here could be different with the next release, or gone altogether. Still, it seems that Apple is at least experimenting with getting rid of the green blobs that can crop up in images from time to time, and it would be a welcome thing to see in the final version of iOS 15.