The iPhone 7 Plus: A Total Gamechanger

I have had butterflies in my stomach ever since the iPhone 7 Plus was announced. As a professional photographer and content creator, the new iPhone's camera specs had me drooling. I preordered the 128 GB Black Plus model shortly after they were released and it arrived in mid October. Shortly after that, iOS 10.1 was released which included the new Portrait Mode feature in the native Camera app. 

Since this release, I have entirely changed the way I document life. Instead of having a DSLR at my hip all the time to capture home memories or photos for my blog or Instagram, I now have a high quality camera in my pocket. After looking closely, there are some major differences between the photos taken with my iPhone and my Nikon D750. Apple still has a lot of work to do, but I am still extremely impressed with the results. 

Because I have been so blown away by the photos from my iPhone, I decided it would be fun to do a comparison shoot. With the help of my friend Courtney, we went to Old Town, Lansing and took some side by side comparisons!

Before showing the photos, first let me explain some of the updates to the camera and the details of what Portrait Mode is. 

The iPhone 7 Plus is the first iPhone to have two lenses built in. 

Now, you might be asking yourself, "Ummmm, why would I need two lenses?"

Great question.

One of the lenses is the standard 28mm focal length that has been in the previous iPhone models. However, now there is an additional 56mm lens next to it! This means you can take photos like you always used to, or you can hit a little "2X" button on the screen and you have double the zoom! The Camera app also has a 10X digital zoom. 

Not only did Apple add a new lens, they also improved the existing one! The 28mm lens also has an improved aperture. It used to be f/2.2, but it is now f/1.8! This allows your camera to focus more on the subject and blur out the background even more. The camera also has a more sensitive sensor which will allow for better low light photos and more overall sharpness.

Ok, I think that covers the hardware updates. Now let's move on to the software. When iOS 10.1 was released, it included a new feature called Portrait Mode. In the Camera app, if you swipe to the left, you will see this new mode listed on the bottom of the screen. When you point your camera at a subject, you will see instructions on screen. It will tell you to either move closer to your subject or move farther away. The camera works best if you are within 8 feet of your subject. Once you are in the right spot, you will see the background of your photo completely blur out. This is completely software based. The app analyzes your subject and automatically finds areas of the foreground or background and blurs them out like a DSLR camera would do. 

This feature is so incredible and you will be so hooked once you try it! It has a lot of limitations because it is software based, but I'm hoping updates in the future will continue making it even better. 

Now that you know what it is, check out some photos from our shoot. Here are three photos taken with the iPhone 7 Plus.

Photos

Pretty impressive, right? The software typically does a great job finding which parts of the image to blur out, especially if you are shooting in a bright area. These photos were taken about thirty minutes before sunset, so it was fairly low light, but it still did great!

Now let's compare these photos to my full frame beast, the Nikon D750.

When you look at them side by side, you can see there are some pretty significant benefits to shooting with a full frame DSLR, but the iPhone photos still look impressive. One thing to note is that the iPhone photos were taken as .jpeg files and the Nikon photos were shot as RAW, which is why the colors look a bit different. The same settings were applied to each in Lightroom.

From a distance, these photos look comparable, minus the color difference and the bokeh in the Nikon's photos being a lot creamier. But what happens when we take a closer look?

In this close up comparison, you can see the photo from the D750 is a lot clearer and more crisp than the photo from the iPhone. The iPhone photo has a lot of grain and pixelation when zoomed in this much.

Another huge issue I have seen with Portrait Mode is contrasting edges. When you look close at some hard edges in the image, you will see that the software doesn't quite blur enough of the background and leaves a strange looking line. Look at this close up as an example:

When you zoom in to the edges in the iPhone photos, you will see issues like this quite often. It's frustrating, but it's fairly minimal when you aren't zoomed in and I'm hoping that this can be fixed with software updates in the future. 

Summary

The iPhone 7 Plus is far from perfect. It's lacking in sharpness, low light capabilities and edge recognition. However, that's only when comparing it to a full frame DSLR, which isn't really a fair comparison. When you compare this camera to other smartphone cameras on the market, I would say it is definitely in the top three, if not the best. 

Portrait mode is a great tool for creatives and content creators. If you run a blog, have a large Instagram following, or just like taking photos, the iPhone 7 Plus is the best camera you will ever have in your pocket! Below you will find a few more photos I have taken with Portrait Mode. Enjoy and please share this article if it has helped you at all! And make sure to follow me on Instagram and Snapchat for more articles, tips, tricks and awesome photos posted daily! 

Stay Awesome!

 

Ethan

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