Review: iPhone 7 Plus camera

The iPhone 7 Plus is selling like hotcakes! But how good is the camera on the iPhone 7 Plus?

Apple must be very happy indeed with sales of its flagship iPhone 7 Plus phone. So far the larger iPhone has been outselling its smaller sibling by a ratio of two to one.

One of the biggest selling points of the iPhone 7 Plus is its camera. The larger version of the iPhone gets a dual camera system that is not available in the smaller iPhone 7. But how good is the iPhone 7 Plus’ camera?

Despite getting a ton of media attention, it’s hard to find a review that is solely about the camera in the iPhone 7 Plus. But Digital Photography Review has just released such a review and it’s a doozy! The review spans ten pages and covers just about everything you want to know about the camera in the iPhone 7 Plus.

Lars Rehm reports for Digital Photography Review:

With the iPhone 7 Plus Apple has done something that is has always been very good at: take an existing technology and lift it up to the next level. Dual-cams on smartphones have been around for a while now but the Apple version is the first to provide real added value, at least as long as you are shooting in relatively bright light. Yes, there is much room for improvement in darker conditions, but overall the Apple system is definitely a step in the right direction and a lot of fun to use.

Looking at camera operation and camera app features the Apple is, as usual, up with the best and the wide-angle camera offers very good color, tonality and dynamic range. It lags slightly behind the best in class in terms of pixel-level detail, though. Of course the 7 Plus also offers the excellent build-quality and materials, responsive operation and high-quality display you would expect from a premium brand.

Comparing the iPhone 7 Plus to the competition is not an easy task. The dual-camera, with its 56mm lens providing something of a tele-perspective, is currently unique in the market. As we have explained throughout this review, it’s not without its flaws and of limited use in low light, but the added reach and alternative angle of view it provides in good light conditions make it a real game-changer for mobile photography. That said, we are looking forward to the second generation of the technology which will hopefully be more useful for indoor and night shooting.

If you can live with the, compared to some rivals, slightly lower levels of image detail, the only thing that could potentially hold you back is the Apple’s rather steep price point of $769 for the 32GB base version. However, given the dual-cam’s advantages, many users might find the premium over the competition to me more than acceptable.

The good

  • Pleasant colors and good exposure
  • Dual-cam offers unrivalled creative flexibility 
  • Lenses sharp across the frame
  • Reliable and fast AF in all situations
  • Efficient OIS on wide-angle lens
  • Excellent video stabilization on both lenses
  • Very good sound recording quality
  • Very good slow-motion video mode
  • Well-rounded imaging feature set
  • Very intuitive camera app
  • Water and dust proof body
  • Excellent panorama mode, works with both lenses
  • Efficient and quick HDR mode on wide-angle lens
  • Portrait mode achieves better results than competing systems
  • Good front camera image quality

The bad

  • Noticeable smearing of fine detail and luminance noise at base ISO
  • Dual-cam of limited use in low light
  • HDR mode less efficient with tele lens
  • No manual control or Raw options in stock camera app
  • Camera settings only accessible via iOS settings app
  • Slow-motion video cannot be shared via USB-connection

More at Digital Photography Review

Of course the deep, detailed review of the iPhone 7 Plus’ camera spawned a long thread in the comments section on the DP Review site, and folks there weren’t shy about sharing their opinions:

SammyToronto: “Not sold on the usefulness of the short telephoto lens, even in bright light. It’s markedly less sharp than the main lens, which is, in turn, less sharp that the lens on the Samsung S7 (I’ve used the iPhone 7 and the S7). So I find that optically zoomed images on the iPhone are hardly any sharper than the digitally zoomed ones on the S7.”

Fullstop: “The portrait and bokeh aspects of the iPhone are beta and clumsy in their implementation. Like most companies they create on a trial and error basis with the consumer paying for the R&D directly.

This highlights the lack of understanding by technology companies like apple on the changes in social media. Making the cameras DSLR type is stupid considering most users have never used a DSLR nor do they care. All that is wanted is a good photographic result that they can use to communicate with not playing with some antsy fancy clumsy software.”

Menneisyys: “They could have come up with a far better implementation - one that does make sure of the stereoscopic information, provided by the two lens at the same time, to exactly know the exact distance of every pixel in the image.

Too bad they haven’t done so - this is why their fake bokeh implementation is so easy to fool with for example bike spokes or even earrings. (See my example shots below.)”

ZJ24: “Like the review and images that demonstrate the features. I think the phone pic haters have to get that the smartphone has promoted photography in a way that nothing has probably since the Kodak Brownie in 1900.

My kids are 15 to 21 and take at least 5 to 10 photos every day with their iPhones and Galaxies - meaning they are selecting subjects, distance, composition, lighting several times a day every day.

They use my gear for shooting sports occasionally and are interested in the way certain Youtubers use manual focus in their videos so that’s opened up a new set of conversations.

But for a lot of what they do, the quality, immediate feedback on a large high definition screen and access to filters and instant publication on social media is something we could have only dreamed of in the 80s.

It doesn’t replace the skills and equipment of traditional photography, it complements them and promotes them. And also keeps you on your toes - there are some great phone pics out there.”

Arizona Sunset: “Good review. I like the 7+ as a photo and video (especially video, it is exceptional) tool. It’s completely replaced my RX100 IV, and I’m left with only system cameras for more serious work.”

Jennysaurusrex: “Most ‘next level’ cameras are able to capture sports, action, or wildlife with ease. Examples of the iPhone’s prowess in this dept are strangely missing from the review.”

Fujica: “Compared to the new Google Pixel this iPhone 7 performs pretty bad. Its a sad week for us Apple users. :(”

More at Digital Photography Review

I’ll pass on the iPhone 7 Plus despite the camera

While I enjoyed reading the detailed review at Digital Photography Review, it’s still not quite enough to get me to actually buy the iPhone 7 Plus. Yes, the camera is certainly the best ever in an iPhone. There doesn’t seem much doubt about that if you compare the iPhone 7 Plus camera to previous models.

But I’ve always been a very casual photographer, so the camera on my iPhone 6s Plus more than meets my needs. Don’t get me wrong, the bells and whistles in the iPhone 7 Plus camera definitely have their appeal. I would certainly enjoy using it if I owned one already, but when I weigh the cost of the iPhone 7 Plus against the benefits of the camera, I quickly realize that sticking with my 6s Plus makes more sense for now.

That will no doubt change once the iPhone 8 makes its appearance next year. I’ve found that upgrading my iPhone every two years gets me the benefits of newer, better cameras in the phones without wasting money by buying the new model every year to get features I can live without in the short term.

Your mileage may vary, however, and if you are a true a camera fiend then the iPhone 7 Plus might just be a must-have purchase.

Did you miss a post? Check the Eye On Apple home page to get caught up with the latest news, discussions and rumors about Apple.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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