Apple’s new iPhones boast their best cameras ever, with many features that rival those found in $1,000 and up DSLRs. So we were excited to spend the weekend shooting in order to see if the results lived up to Apple’s hype.
The verdict: Shooting on the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is truly an improvement, the best iPhone photo/video experience yet.
But, get this: the ads and hype would have you believe that to get the ultimate iPhoneography experience, you’ll need the iPhone 6 Plus, the larger and more expensive of the two models, starting at $299 with a two-year contract, because of one feature that isn’t available on the easier to obtain iPhone 6.
But in my tests, the new feature didn’t outright trump what I was getting on the plain iPhone 6. The improved camera is that good.
The new feature only available on the 6 Plus: optical image stabilization, for steadying the shot with such precision that you don’t really need a tripod.
It’s fantastic. But the IS isn’t so bad on the iPhone 6 either.
Let’s dive in:
The new iSight camera has the same 8 megapixel sensor as the iPhone 5s, but Apple says the new camera has larger individual pixels. Additionally, the front-facing camera has been enhanced, and both can do a better job in low light.
We shot images in the near-dark while visiting the set of CBS’s new TV series, Scorpion, and got acceptable — but noisy results.
The advancement that most consumers will enjoy is a new “Burst” mode for selfies. Hold your finger down on the shutter, for as long as you like, and make multiple silly faces. I got 40 wacky selfies with Scorpion star Katharine McPhee and had lots of fun doing it. I did another test and quit after 175 shots — the camera showed no signs of letting go.
— Slo-Mo: This is a gimmick feature that everyone will use at least once. But it’s so good, you’ll want to come back for more. You can now get slower than ever motion, at 240 frames per second, up from the previous 120 frames per second, and it looks absolutely fantastic. Check out the accompanying video for an example.
— Time Lapse: This is the flip side of Slo Mo, where the world seems to fly by at the speed of sound. You’ve seen online Time Lapse videos, or perhaps Instagram’s popular new Hyperlapse app, watching sunsets zoom by or flowers bloom.
The feature is on both new iPhones’ cameras. And like Hyperlapse, Apple uses Image Stabilization to steady the shot. I like it better on the iPhone than via the Hyperlapse app, because you can shoot for longer periods. To make a really good time lapse video, you have to be willing to let it roll for at least five minutes. Even better would be 30 minutes or more.
As good as the image stabilization is on the new iPhones to help reduce the shakes, it’s not recommended for time lapse. You need to have the phone on a tripod. It’s a must.
— Dual-Pixels: Apple promises double the pixel power for faster auto focusing. Example: you’re in a room, shooting your aunt, and you quickly pan to your cousin, and then back to your aunt again. In the past, the camera would hunt around for a few seconds to get the focus right. Now, with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, both relatives come immediately into focus.
We tested this feature at the Scorpion set, at lunch at Chipotle, in the #TalkingTech garage, where it worked as advertised. But I’d only give it a 10-20% improvement over the focus on the 6. For most consumers, the focus on the 6 will be just fine.
— Better image stablization. The iPhone 6 Plus has optical image stablization, more precise tools to eliminate the shakes. We did shots where we would normally miss the tripod, but didn’t miss it. The 6 has “digital” IS, which isn’t as precise. Clearly the 6 Plus is better.
— Exposure control. After years of shooting everything in 100% auto mode, Apple has added manual exposure control to your images — both before and after the shot.
It’s great to see Apple put so much effort into improving the camera that’s already replaced point and shoots as the number one image capture device in the world.
But as good as the iPhone cameras have gotten, I still wouldn’t dream of leaving my real camera, with a fine glass lens and true optical zoom. I’d miss the manual controls and zoom lens, for getting closer to the action.