Will Off Camera Flash Make The iPhone a Professional Camera

The time has come that photographers are able to sync their powerful off-camera flashes to the Apple iPhone using Profoto’s new AirX syncing technology. Being the skeptical person I am, I decided to test myself if the use of 500 Ws of powerful strobe lights on your phone was just a joke or if it could be a game changer for the industry. Today, I’m in a state of disbelief.

And I’m sure many of you think: it’s the same thought that I’ve been thinking about for years. Cell phones are very convenient, and you can produce professional-looking pictures using a minimum of equipment so long as the natural light source is adequate. But, the reality is that cellphones are just twelve megapixels (with tiny sensors, too) and do not communicate with the high-end flash devices we’ve grown familiar with and using the iPhone to shoot professional photos isn’t the best option for the photographer who works full time. No matter how many iPhone photos we’ve posted in our Fstoppers Channel on YouTube, I’m aware of what limitations exist with “iPhoneography” all too well.

There are other drawbacks and limitations which come with shooting on your smartphone, such as workflow issues, the transfer of images to long-term storage resolution, resolution and proprietary file types and raw options dynamic range, a lack of options for fast lenses interruptions to phone calls and a myriad of other issues that make DSLR and mirrorless options far more appealing. I am aware of all of those. But, for me, an aspect that is the single most frustrating characteristic of a camera phone is the inability to connect to a flash.

The Profoto Air X app lets you control every aspect of I was, of course, somewhat doubtful. What camera can be able to record all the flash’s power when it has no shutter?

In all honesty, I’m not sure exactly what the secret behind how Profoto achieved this feat. It’s true that the iPhone X and 11 cameras both boast electronic global shutters. This implies that the camera will be able to take all data from the sensor immediately. The majority of DSLRs, as well as mirrorless cameras, don’t accomplish this and instead depend on an actual shutter to record certain portions from the camera. The ability to have a global electronic shutter in a camera is the ultimate goal of camera technology and is more innovative than the removal of any mirrors from the DSLR. The latest iPhones feature this type of shutter. What’s odd is that the AirX app also works with the older iPhone 7, which suffers from shutters that roll. It’s true that I’m not certain of how this process is working, but it’s closest as the fast sync feature that you can find on professional cameras when the shutter speed is set to more than 1/200th of an second. Whatever the reason, it’s quite efficient in that I was in a position to beat the sun with an aperture at a speed of 1/2000th of a second ISO 32 on the iPhone.

 Despite my research that suggests the iPhone has an international shutter however, the Profoto engineers Profoto have told me that the iPhone has global shutters at the moment. This means that Profoto’s application using AirX does not just sync their flash, which is then captured in a single shot by the camera of the phone. The process is more complex and requires more complex Bluetooth sync, a method which has been patent-pending by Profoto. For more information on the way AirX was developed and the ways it’s currently using with xenon light tubes, take a look at the piece posted on Medium from Profoto VP of Technology Tobias Lindback.

Below are some photos from my wedding shoot with the gorgeous Mya Puryear. Mya is a phenomenal Broadway dancer and a singer who hails from New York City, and it’s pretty amazing having the honor to photograph her in the dress she wore for their wedding day. As you can observe, exposing for the entire scene caused Mya completely underexposed. In contrast, exposure for Mya made her dress and the entire scene completely exaggerated. This is the point where Flash can be useful. In order to properly expose my shot, even with the speed of a shutter that was 1/2000th of one seconds, I was capable of lighting Mya independently of the surrounding light. This resulted in a photo that was balanced and full of details. The way you shoot provides your photos with more of an elegant fashion style. This isn’t to say that natural light photos aren’t useful, but in this bright and sunny environment, I believe the highlights are a bit too bright for my taste.

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