The iPhone 7 Plus Camera (and Portrait Mode)

TL;DR: The camera (and software) in the iPhone 7 Plus is making me take more photos again. It’s making me look more intentionally at the world on a daily basis again. And that makes it great. If you care a lot about the camera, carrying a big device around is absolutely worth it.


A couple of quick observations and opinions off the bat:

  1. Low light performance has dramatically improved, catching up to dedicated cameras
  2. Better dynamic range, which improves every photo, regardless of lighting condition
  3. The optics (both 28mm and 56mm) are a lot more crisp and allow for a bit more isolation of nearby subjects through optical bokeh
  4. The performance increase of the phone improves the experience of making a photo

When Apple announced the iPhone 7 Plus, and specifically their machine-learned depth of field, they completely changed the game. And even though my initial reaction was the tweet below, I was still pretty skeptical about the quality of the out-of-focus elements.


After using Portrait Mode for two weeks, I can say that the first public version of it is both fucking amazing… and clearly lacking.

Pros

  • Great for portraits (No shit.)
  • Portrait Mode is absolute magic in brightly lit situations.
  • Makes you think “HOLY CRAP, I CAN DO THIS WITH A PHONE?!

Cons

  • Slow process and slow focus. Open the camera, swipe to Portrait, then it has to find a focus point, then you need to be at the proper distance, the light needs to be strong enough, and then it generates the fauxkeh, etc.
  • Portrait Mode is bad at low light. My theory is that they are currently using the video feeds from both lenses, because calculating two 4MP images is easier than two 12MP images at a reasonable framerate. But this is just a hypothesis.
  • It’s buggy at times. It specifically has a hard time with glassware.

Should I get an iPhone 7 Plus?

Even though its size makes it less of a phone and more of an iPad Nano, and one-handed use is the closest I’ll ever get to doing acrobatics, it’s absolutely worth it if you care a lot about the camera.