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Which iPhones Have Portrait Mode?

by Walter Jules

Smartphones may never replace a good DSLR or analog camera, but they’re still a handy, portable substitute. They’re even decent solutions for taking up-close shots and portraits. This guide explains which iPhones have portrait mode.

What is Portrait Mode

This is a mode used in photography to capture images of a single subject. Traditionally this subject—whether it’s a human, a vase of flowers, a pet, and so on—stays in focus while everything else in the foreground and background is out of focus.

On a DSLR or analog camera, you can manually focus the lens on a subject while also capturing the surrounding out-of-focus elements. iPhones didn’t have this capability outside of using third-party external lenses until 2016 when Apple introduced the iPhone 7 Plus.

After that, Apple added Portrait Lighting on the iPhone 8 Plus a year later. This feature uses artificial intelligence to emulate studio lighting for a more professional look.

How Does Portrait Mode Work?

There are now two versions of portrait mode on select iPhone models: Rear and front.

Portrait Mode for the back camera requires two specific lenses: Telephoto and Wide-Angle. The telephoto lens captures the scene while the wide-angle lens scans the scene to create a nine-layer depth map. The phone’s image signal processor uses these layers to determine what remains sharp and what it should blur using an artificial bokeh effect. Layers located closer to the camera are obviously sharper than those in the distance.

Portrait Mode for selfies uses Apple’s TrueDepth camera design. In this case, the infrared camera component captures and analyzes more than 30,000 dots emitted by the phone’s dot projector to create a depth map. The phone’s image signal processor pairs this information with the scene captured by the front-facing camera to determine what should stay in focus and what requires the bokeh effect.

Below is a diagram of the iPhone X layout, as revealed during Apple’s special 2017 event.

Where is Portrait Mode?

Open the stock Camera app to find this option parked next to “Photo” on the sliding options list. For people, the app automatically renders a yellow box around faces. For other subjects, tap the object on your screen to define the focal point. The Camera app then acknowledges your focal request by rendering a yellow box around your subject.

On iPhones that support Portrait Lighting, you’ll see a circular slider with Natural Light, Studio Light, Contour Light, Stage Light, and Stage Light Mono effects. Tap the big white virtual Shutter button to take the picture.

What iPhones Support Portrait Mode (Rear)

Again, these phones must have two lenses or more to support Portrait Mode. Here’s the list:

  • iPhone 11 Pro Max (2019)
  • iPhone 11 Pro (2019)
  • iPhone 11 (2019)
  • iPhone XR (2018)
  • iPhone XS Max (2018)
  • iPhone XS (2018)
  • iPhone X (2017)
  • iPhone 8 Plus (2017)
  • iPhone 7 Plus (2016)
  • (And future iPhones)

Note that the iPhone XR has a single lens despite the hardware requirements of two. This phone’s portrait mode only captures a quarter of the depth typically made available on the other dual-lens phones. Due to this limitation, Apple’s Camera app for this specific model only supports humans in portrait mode.

What iPhones Support Portrait Mode (Front)

These phones must have Apple’s TrueDepth camera. Here’s the list:

  • iPhone 11 Pro Max (2019)
  • iPhone 11 Pro (2019)
  • iPhone 11 (2019)
  • iPhone XR (2018)
  • iPhone XS Max (2018)
  • iPhone XS (2018)
  • iPhone X (2017)
  • (And future iPhones)

Does Your iPhone Support Portrait Mode?

The easiest way to verify if you own an iPhone that supports portrait mode is to look at the camera lens group on its back. If you only see one lens, then it doesn’t support portrait mode. As previously noted, the iPhone XR is the only exception.

For portrait mode in selfies, the best way to confirm your iPhone supports this feature is to look at the screen. If there’s no physical Home button and the screen stretches from edge to edge, then you have a TrueDepth component.

Another way to verify is to check the iPhone’s model number. Here’s the list:

  • iPhone 11 Pro Max – A2160 (Canada, United States) / A2217 (China mainland, Hong Kong, Macao) / A2215 (Other)
  • iPhone 11 Pro – A2161 (Canada, United States) / A2220 (China mainland, Hong Kong, Macao) / A2218 (Other)
  • iPhone 11 – A2111 (Canada, United States) / A2223 (China mainland, Hong Kong, Macao) / A2221 (Other)
  • iPhone XS Max – A1921 / A2101 / A2102 (Japan) / A2103 / A2104 (China mainland)
  • iPhone XS – A1920 / A2097 / A2098 (Japan) / A2099 / A2100 (China mainland)
  • iPhone XR – A1984 / A2105 / A2106 (Japan) / A2107 / A2108 (China mainland)
  • iPhone X – A1865 / A1901 / A1902 (Japan)
  • iPhone 8 Plus – A1864 / A1897 / A1898 (Japan)
  • iPhone 7 Plus – A1661 / A1784 / A1785 (Japan3)

To find the model number on your device, tap Settings > General > About. Next, tap the part number listed to the right of “Model Number” to see the actual model number.

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