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Cropping iPhone photos: how to deal with over sharpening?

Selwin

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Hey all,
For years on, I have been struggling when cropping iPhone photos. As we all know from our Lightroom workflows, the general best practice is: first you crop, then edit and then you apply sharpening. But the iPhone photos (the jpegs or HEICs) come "as is" as a final product, processed through the Apple Fusion engine and sharpened to Apple's liking. Sharpening is quite noticeable already when viewing the original, uncropped image, but it becomes really ugly after cropping. That said, I think it has improved a lot in recent times.

So do any of you recognise this and if so, what is your approach to make the best of it? You can find an example here and the crop here.
 
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I assume you use Lightroom Mobile, so why don’t you shoot using the built-in camera app? That allows you to shoot in DNG (unless you have an ancient iPhone that does not support that) and your edits will be non-destructive Lightroom edits.
 

Selwin

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Hi Johan,
I have LR mobile installed, as well as a couple of RAW capable 3rd party apps such as Halide. However, shooting RAW (DNG) bypasses the Fusion engine which at this point has become quite good. I am currently using an iPhone 11 that I can keep until mid 2022, then I will be debating 12 or 13 pro max. As from the iPhone 12 I could start using Apple RAW, so I will have the best of two worlds (RAW and Fusion), but I would need to splash out on lots of RAM if I were to use that all the time.
 
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However, shooting RAW (DNG) bypasses the Fusion engine which at this point has become quite good.
Sharpening is quite noticeable already when viewing the original, uncropped image, but it becomes really ugly after cropping.
I don’t know the Fusion engine, but somehow these two statements seem contradictory to me…
 

Selwin

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Joined
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Messages
852
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I am sorry, I probably failed to explain clearly. I'll try again.
Apple calls it "Deep Fusion" and it's available from the iPhone 11 and up. Basically it is a RAW editor (such as Lightroom) that processes every photo using the following steps (in short, you can read all about it if you do a search):
- camera takes 8 pics before hitting the shutter button
- when you hit the shutter button a 5th pic follows with a longer exposure
- the so called "neural engine" combines these photos (adding some HDR), detects subjects, adds colour / contrast according to Apple photo engineers' likings, to make the resulting photo "pop"
- then it performs a noise / detail analysis in which it - of course - adds sharpening
All of this is out of the control of us (post processing fans) but in most cases, the results are quite pleasing to my eye, unless in cases with very high contrast. The drawback is that sharpening is applied to the photo, assuming the user will not crop. If the photo is cropped afterwards, the artefacts, aliasing along sharp edges etc. that you also would see when you "oversharpen" in LR, become noticeable.

When you shoot DNG's along the side, you get two originals: Apple's Deep Fusion HEIC/JPG and a DNG. The DNG is RAW, which means it has not been through the above genius post processing steps. You'll need to do all of that yourself. And I must confess that in many cases, I have a very hard time processing the DNG to come even close to the Deep Fusion sample.

This is all going to change for iPhone 12 users, who can use Apple lProRAW, which combines the Deep Fusion neural engine and RAW. What it basically does, is apply the steps above to the RAW file and keep it RAW for the user to do further post processing.
The downside is that the resulting files are large, supposedly larger than real RAW DNG's coming from other apps such as LR, Halide etc.

I hope this explanation is more accurate.
 
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