My favorite new iPhone feature isn't Portrait Lighting Mode

The newest iPhones -- the 8, 8 Plus and X -- all have a feature called Slow Sync Flash that makes photos taken with a flash actually look good.

Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
Expertise Apple, iPhone, iOS, Android, Samsung, Sony, Google, Motorola, interviews, coffee equipment, cats Credentials
  • Patrick's play The Cowboy is included in the Best American Short Plays 2011-12 anthology. He co-wrote and starred in the short film Baden Krunk that won the Best Wisconsin Short Film award at the Milwaukee Short Film Festival.
Patrick Holland
2 min read

My favorite feature on Apple's new iPhone isn't Portrait Lighting Mode. It's Slow Sync Flash.

Josh Miller/CNET

There are two types of people in this world. Those who use the flash on their phone and those who don't. I fall in the latter category and do everything in my power to avoid using my phone's flash.

A flash is distracting, and can make subjects look like a glowing white light zombie standing against a dark background. Flashes normally use a higher shutter speed, which in a low-light situation causes the zombie on a dark background effect.

But Apple addressed this on the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X with a feature called Slow Sync Flash. The name sounds technical, but it's a term borrowed from photography.

Basically the iPhone takes a photo at a slower shutter speed while firing the flash quickly. With the shutter open longer, the background is exposed more making it brighter. And with the flash going off for a shorter amount of time, it's less distracting to those around you. The results are to quote Larry David, "pretty pretty pretty good."

Check out the photos below taken with the flash inside a bar. The one from the  7 Plus  has a darker background and lots of nasty harsh light on the subject. There's even a little red-eye happening. The 8 Plus blends the light from the flash with the background. The overall image looks good.


These flash shots were taken in a bar. The left one is from the 7 Plus and the right is from the 8 Plus.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Slow Sync Flash is definitely my favorite feature on the new iPhones even more so than Portrait Lighting Mode. And the best part? You don't have to anything but enable your flash. The iPhone takes care of the rest.

See more from our iPhone 8 Plus vs. iPhone 7 Plus camera testing here.

Watch this: iPhone 8 Plus vs. 7 Plus: Dual rear camera shootout

iPhone 8 Plus and 7 Plus photos: What's the difference?

See all photos