Features

As with previous iPhone generations, the 6s Plus focuses on a few key features rather than offering an array of functions that don't add any real value for the average user. Given the endless supply of specialist imaging apps available in the App Store, this approach seems more than sensible. The only really new imaging feature on the 6s and 6s Plus is Live Photos, which we take a closer look at on the next page. On the video side of things, there's now 4K resolution which we cover on the video page of this review as well as the slow-motion video mode. The image filters remain unchanged from the previous model and are starting to look a little old but, again, there are plenty of alternatives in the App Store.

Panorama

Panorama mode works in the same way as before - you simply pan the camera in portrait orientation - but image output has been further increased. Depending on the capture and how steadily you move the camera while panning, you can record panorama images of up to almost 65MP in size, or approximately 16400 x 3900 pixels.

The stitching quality is the best of any panorama modes we have seen. Stitching errors and ghosting on moving subjects can occur but are noticeably controlled better than on most competing devices. Additionally, the iPhone panorama mode's dynamic exposure does a very good job at balancing exposure across high-contrast scenes. You can still end up with a few blown-out highlight areas but it's much less of an issue than we're used to. 

Overall, the iPhone 6s Plus panorama mode again sets the standard that other manufacturer will have to try and follow, in terms of both image size and stitching quality. The first sample below is a full 360 degree panorama, captured in good light. If you click through to the full-size image you'll get a good idea of the amount of detail that has been captured.

16382 x 3818 pixels

The second sample below was captured in a very difficult high-contrast light situation. As you can see the iPhone does an excellent job of balancing the exposure across the frame. 

16366 x 3882 pixels

If you look closely at the image below you'll notice a couple of minor ghosting artifacts in the scene but overall panorama mode deals well with moving subjects.

16368 x 3834 pixels

If you click through to the full version of the next image you'll see that, as you would expect, pixel-level image quality deteriorates in low light but again the iPhone handles movement in the scene well, allowing for decent panorama capture even in very busy areas. 

8566 x 3844 pixels

HDR mode

In the camera app HDR mode is controlled via one of the buttons along the left edge of the screen. As before, you have the option to turn HDR mode off, leave it on permanently or put it into auto mode and let the camera decide which scenes are most suitable for HDR capture.

On the iPhone 6s Plus HDR mode works very well and, in terms of tonality, the results are very similar to what we've seen on the predecessor. In high-contrast scenes a noticeable amount of highlight detail can be recovered. Equally, additional shadow detail is revealed, with the intensity of the effect adapting to the scene and therefore never resulting in an unnatural or over-processed look. 

In the settings you can opt to save both a standard and HDR exposure of an image which leaves you the option to decide later on which one you like best. So, as long as you've got enough free storage on your device, there's no harm in leaving HDR mode permanently engaged as it does not have any noticeable impact on performance either. 

The sample below was taken in the low but bright evening sun. As you can see, some clipped highlights in the brickwork of the tower and the rocks have been successfully recovered by the iPhone's HDR mode. The impact on the shadow areas is subtle but noticeable.

ISO 25, HDR off
ISO 25, HDR on
100% crop
100% crop

HDR mode also works efficiently in lower light conditions. In the scene below some clipped highlights in the light-flooded ceiling of the cathedral and the window were recovered. The iPhone HDR mode deals very well with moving subjects and we have not found any ghosting from moving subjects in any of our samples. 

ISO 200, HDR off
ISO 200, HDR on
100% crop
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There are both sunny and shady elements in the final sample scene below but the contrast is small enough to not cause any highlight or shadow clipping in standard mode. In these situations the iPhone HDR mode is smart enough to adapt its intensity and only lifts the shadows very slightly. Naturally, this results in shadow noise becoming more visible but overall the image looks very good.

ISO 25, HDR off
ISO 25, HDR on
100% crop
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Front Camera

The iPhone 6s Plus's front camera has received a much needed bump in resolution and now comes with a 5MP sensor. Aperture remains at F2.2. This is still at the lower end of the resolution scale compared to some competitors but as usual, thanks to efficient face detection and HDR, in terms of exposure and focus Apple's front-facing camera is currently one of the very best.

You can also record 1080p video and the 6s Plus front camera now comes with 720p slow-motion video at 240 frames per second. Also new is the flash mode which briefly cranks up the screen brightness to illuminate the subject in low light, similar to what we've already seen on the LG G4 and some recent Motorola devices. Don't expect room-filling illumination, but the feature does a good job at brightening your face in very low light.

ISO 32, 1/1992 sec
ISO 400, 1/17 sec
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