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DxO One review: A better camera for your iPhone

William Porter | Oct. 22, 2015
Camera add-on brings DSLR quality to the iPhone.

The DxO One’s 11.9 mm lens (32 mm in full-frame terms) was manufactured to DxO’s specs. Slightly less wide than the iPhone’s, its angle of view seems to me just about perfect for everyday photography.

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Credit: William Porter

But unlike the iPhone’s lens with its fixed f/2.2 aperture, the DxO One’s lens has a variable aperture with range from f/1.8 to f/11. This means you have all three of the options for controlling exposure that you have on a pro-level DSLR. The DxO One also gives you dramatically better control over depth of field—the larger sensor means that you can shoot at f/1.8 or f/2 and blur backgrounds nicely in your portraits. With the iPhone’s tiny sensor, you get a lot of depth of field all the time, whether you want it or not.

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The iPhone's small sensor provides lots of depth of field, whether you want it or not. This helps keep everything in focus but prevents you from blurring backgrounds artistically. Credit: William Porter

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The DxO One's much larger sensor, combined with its wider maximum aperture of f/1.8, lets you blur backgrounds. This shot was cropped to 4:3 to match iPhone's aspect ratio and both pictures got the same one-click black and white conversion; otherwise, both are JPEGs straight from the respective cameras. Credit: William Porter

The DxO One’s 1-inch backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor provides another advantage. It’s 6.5 times larger than the sensor in the iPhone 6, and, other things being equal, bigger sensors capture images with less noise.

And, unlike the iPhone, the DxO One offers the ability to save raw sensor data, in not one but two raw formats: ordinary raw (.DNG) and ”SuperRAW” (.DXO). SuperRAW files store data from four consecutive exposures made in a fraction of a second. Noise is a more or less random phenomenon; using sophisticated spatial and temporal analysis of the four nearly-identical exposures, DxO’s software identifies pixels that represent noise in each exposure and replaces them with non-noise data from the corresponding pixel location in the other exposures.

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DxO One, handheld at ISO 10,000 (!) in SuperRAW capture mode. The proprietary raw file was processed in DxO Optics Pro using SuperRAW noise reduction with a few tweaks. Click to enlarge. Credit: William Porter

DxO’s default processing of SuperRAW files generates results that vary greatly in quality. If you’re holding the camera in your hands and/or the subject is moving, analyzing the four exposures is a bigger challenge and the resulting image may display the smearing sometimes produced by aggressive noise reduction. But if the camera was on a tripod and the subject was stationary—say, shooting a building at night—the results are amazing. The main downside is that SuperRAW files are huge—upwards of 100MB. You will want to shoot ordinary raw most of the time, but it’s nice to have SuperRAW when you really need it.

 

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