One week has passed since Apple unveiled the iPhone 7 camera and iPhone 7 Plus dual camera to the world, and since then, we’ve seen many a critic pout or croon over what each camera/handset has to offer. But we’re not going to get bogged down by the headphone jack debate. Instead, we’re going to be specific and take a look at the cameras on each handset and determine which is better.
Photography and the iPhone 7 camera
Before the launch of Apple’s latest handsets, there had been rumors about what Apple may provide this year. As it turned out, many of those rumors were quite accurate, especially where the dual-lens camera of the 7 Plus is concerned.
Features found on both cameras
So with the iPhone 7 camera and iPhone 7 plus dual-lens camera, many believe Apple has laid itself a solid foundation. Gone are the cameras found in the previous models; instead, Apple has redesigned them creating a six-element lens. Included with this new lens is a 12-megapixel sensor which Apple claims is 60% faster and 30% more energy efficient.
As for what else is new, there’s optical image stabilization and a bigger f/1.8 aperture lens for 50% more light. Plus, both the iPhone 7 camera and iPhone 7 Plus camera benefit from True Tone flash. Furthermore, there are four LEDs that enable the flash to put out 50% more light.
In my opinion, one of the biggest improvements in these cameras is the inclusion of a flicker sensor. This allows the camera to detect the cycling of artificial light and automatically compensate in video and photos.
The last common feature found on both camera is the Apple-developed image signal processor. This new chip can detect faces and bodies, set white balance and exposure, reduce noise, and capture wider color.
And this is where the iPhone 7 camera and iPhone 7 Plus camera similarities end.
iPhone 7 Plus’ dual-lens camera
While everyone had expected a dual-lens camera to feature on one of the new iPhone 7 handsets, no one knew for sure. However, when Apple revealed the camera, I bet there was a momentary pause for breath among everyone watching the event.
Just a couple of days before the announcement, rumors began emerging about the handset being able to output DSLR-quality images. While this may have been a slight exaggeration, the inclusion of a telephoto lens with optical zoom certainly helps. Now thanks to this new zoom feature, we have a smartphone with a 2X manual zoom and an up to 10X software zoom. However, the telephoto lens is smaller than wide-angled lens at f/2.8.
Apple displayed images taken at sporting events with the iPhone 7 Plus’ dual-lens camera at its event last week. From this, we learn that the primary sensor is the same 1/3-inch size that was seen on the iPhone 6s. Also the size of the telephoto lens is smaller at 1/3.6-inches.
Beyond the telephoto lens and optical zoom, the iPhone 7 Plus’ dual-lens camera is capable of much more. One of these extra capabilities is range finding in a picture. It enables the camera to produce an image in which the background is out of focus.
This technique called bokeh has been around for a while and is used in many different digital implementations. As for how the iPhone 7 Plus camera implements this method, it creates what is called a depth-map of the subject and background during shooting. It then applies the blur effect to the required portions of the image and not the subject of the image.
iPhone 7 camera vs. iPhone 7 Plus dual-lens camera: conclusion
With iOS 10, Apple has promised some big improvements for photographers in RAW support. However, bokeh, will not be ready in time for the launch of the iPhone 7. Apple has said it will be made available before the end of this year.
Now for the most important part. Which is better: the iPhone 7 camera or the iPhone 7 Plus dual-lens camera? The telephoto lens in the Plus is certainly a huge bonus for those who want to take the best shots possible, and while it does take the camera to a whole new level, for the average user, it’s overkill.
So if you don’t need all of these bells and whistles, I would stick with the standard camera. However, if you’ve become accustomed to using a handset with a larger than 4.7-inch display, your choices are limited.