The iPhone's camera is always my main reason for getting the new phone each fall.
4-or-so years ago it was the iPhone 5s's camera that helped me truly get into taking pictures and seeing the world through a lens - and since then I'm sure the majority of photos I've shot have come from an iSight module.
My iPhone's camera is only ever a couple seconds away, and it's that along with the ease of editing and sharing with others that keeps me hooked. I also consciously enjoy how even just a quick iPhone photograph gets me thinking creatively, and how each year upgrading to the new camera helps you notice & appreciate the standout and nuanced improvements alike.
I've had Apple's latest photographic marvel - the iPhone 7 Plus - in my hands now for about 2 weeks. And I've been putting it's dual-cameras through their paces in a myriad of ways.
There will be plenty of articles and rundowns in the next 12 months analyzing and pixel-peeping through this iSight Duo camera, so for now here are some simple shots - and some thoughts - from mine.
28mm Wide Angle
The iPhone's 28mm wide-angle lens is it's bread & butter. This camera+sensor duo is the most widely-used in the world, and while it was already good last year it's been pushed even further in the iPhones 7 & 7 Plus.
Look for the sneakily shallow depth of field, improved dynamic range and sharpness, as well as a little better low-light performance. It's a small overall improvement, but one that's evident everywhere.
Let's get this out of the way first; where the 28mm is refined and reliable, the completely new 56mm telephoto camera on the back of the iPhone 7 Plus is still an experiment in many ways.
Even from the first glance, you can tell that this is a lesser camera than the 28mm in everything but optical reach. It resolves less detail across the board, has a wider depth of field due to it's smaller aperture, and pales in low-light performance. And yet, it still handily makes up for all that.
Not from the extra zoom itself - though that has already come in handy several times - but for the completely different focal length and the artistic freedoms & challenges that allows for.
I've always been primarily a 35mm shooter, so shooting with the 56mm lens - which falls inbetween a true 'normal' and 'telephoto' focal length - is forcing me to experiment in new ways. I have to zoom less with my feet than I'm used to, the framing is completely different, there's the telephoto lens compression that I have to account for - it all comes into play.
For an amateur/enthusiast photographer like me this is extraordinary. Not only is there some handy extra reach when you need it, but there's twice the number of photographic possibilities with the inclusion of a second focal length built in.
Please don't think about it merely as 2x zoom, think of it like a whole second lens you're detaching & swapping onto your camera with only a tap of the screen. The creative options this affords - even with the merely okay image quality - are what make me love the iPhone 7 Plus's camera.
Two weeks ago when I started taking notes for this piece my opinion of RAW support on iOS was that it was a hot, unfinished mess.
I didn't realize at the time that while a few apps had been updated to support iOS 10's RAW capture & editing, pretty much none of them had been updated to support the 7 Plus yet. Thankfully a few apps have now, and so we can see just what this sensor resolves on it's own.
The look is not for everyone or for every shot, but I love getting to see the raw detail and grain straight out of the iPhone's sensor - and thanks to quality software like Obscura Camera & Lightroom Mobile, now I can.
Some might just see a grainy image here, but if you've been looking at smear-y iPhone shots for years now then the grain might just look gorgeous. At least, that's how it looks to me.
Yeah, I'm back running prerelease software.
I was planning on sticking with the stable releases of iOS for at least a couple months this fall, but last week's 10.1 beta release that included the new 7 Plus portrait mode was too enticing to pass up.
The feature is admittedly a little janky around the edges, and I can spot the points where Apple's algorithms miss a beat. Especially when shooting human subjects though, the portrait mode makes these photos look good for a phone.
Don't believe me? Well here's a side-by-side comparison with two of my fellow baristas.
One shot is from my FujiFilm x100s, and the other is from the iPhone 7 Plus. I can tell the difference - and I'm sure many of you can too - but the end result still a lot better than the same portrait with a busy background.
It's still up in the air as to if Apple will turn this into a major feature of the iPhone's camera, but for now it's certainly a cool look to experiment with - even if it breaks sometimes.
After these two - still early on - weeks with the device, I think the best way to sum up the 7 Plus's camera updates is that they're a very 'Apple' upgrade.
For people who don't care much about photography there's the new 2x zoom and portrait mode features, which can be enjoyed and appreciated without much trouble. That'll make a lot of people happy.
Then there's the more enthusiast and professionally-aimed features like the subtly improved image quality, RAW support, and an entirely new focal length built right in to play around with and enjoy. As someone who shoots with their iPhone a lot, these are exactly the kinds of additions I look for in a yearly update.
These first two weeks using the iPhone 7 Plus have been the most fun I've had with photography in a long time. And while I'm sure that initial enthusiasm will fade a bit, I can't argue with the fact that I have better optics, better image quality, and more creative options in my pocket than ever before.
If that's not a good recipe for one hell of a camera, then I don't know what is.