Does the iPhone 12 Dream of Rendered Moments?

Josh Rose
5 min readJan 3, 2021

The way one is enticed to review the images of the iPhone 12 Pro Max is in a comparison of details. And it’s practically begging you to do it. Because it already knows how well it’s going to do there. So well practiced for that round of the fight is the new iPhone, it’s like it’s backing into an alley way, hoping you’ll come try to mug just so it can impress you with its judo. The images are designed to stun you. To flip your mind.

Pre-AI Nikkor-O 35mm lens, taken with the iPhone 12 Pro Max. Photo by Josh S. Rose, ©2020.

I showed this photo of an old 35mm Nikkor lens to my partner and she was duly impressed. I tried to point out some of the nuanced flaws — the muddled rendering of the fabric in areas, the overly uniform out-of-focus areas, and that esoteric, overwrought hardness of local contrast but it was lost on her. “But that detail… is amazing,” she said. She was right. The detail is nothing short of spectacular in the iPhone 12, which finds detail like a hunting dog, flushing it out of hiding and bringing it back to its owner, proud, satisfied and ready to go out again. Do it! Send me! Let’s go get it!

But there is another way to review the images of an iPhone 12 Pro Max. We still can compare images, but we might need to ask more delving questions.

The Voight-Kampff Test

In the movie Blade Runner, replicants are bio-engineered beings nearly indistinguishable from humans, created by the Terrell Corporation. Replicants are imbued with memories that aren’t their own. Replicants themselves don’t know they are replicants. You could be a replicant, so long as you don’t imagine too much more than what you already know. It’s an esoteric, philosophical discussion, but ultimately necessary to our survival. Because if all we’re talking about is how good replicant skin feels, well, then the Terrell Corporation succeeds and humanity is lost.

How The iPhone 12 Thinks For You

In the iPhone, there is no shutter. You don’t take a photograph, the iPhone does. Imagery is being collected in a buffer from the moment you open up the “camera” app. You don’t take it, you stop it. You don’t capture a moment, you gesture vaguely at the territory of a moment.

In the iPhone, what you get is not a photograph, not honestly. What you receive is a composite image of numerous…



Josh Rose

Filmmaker, photographer, artist and writer. Writing about creator life and observations on culture. Tips very very much appreciated: