Next level: iPhone 7 Plus camera review
The Apple App Store of course offers an endless supply of specialist imaging apps but by now the stock camera app comes with a good range of built-in features as well. The iPhone 7 Plus offers a Time Lapse Mode, image filters and Apple's Live Images, all of which we've seen on previous generations of the device. We take a closer look at the slow-motion video mode on the video page of this review. In this section, we'll focus on the most used features and those that are new on the latest iPhone generation.
The way panorama mode is operated has not changed on the iPhone 7 Plus but you can also now use it with the dual-camera's tele-lens. No matter which lens you use, the Apple panorama mode still produces the best smartphone panoramas in the business. With the mode engaged, you slowly pan the camera in portrait orientation to capture. A full 360-degree image measures approximately 16400 x 3900 pixels or a whopping 65MP.
|ISO 20, 16832 x 3842 pixels|
The stitching quality is the best of any panorama modes we have seen. Stitching errors in static scenes are very rare. They can occur on moving subjects, as you can see on one or two of the cyclists in the image below, but are noticeably better controlled than on most competing devices. Additionally, dynamic exposure does a very good job at balancing exposure across high-contrast scenes. Blown highlights are kept to a minimum, even in very contrasty scenes.
|ISO 25, 11292 x 3908 pixels|
In lower light panorama images display the same noise and effects of noise reduction as the iPhone's standard exposures but, thanks to the large size of the panos, they still look impressively good at typical monitor viewing size.
|ISO 640, 7610 x 3900 pixels|
On the iPhone 7 Plus panorama mode also works with the longer 56mm lens. This can be useful if you want to capture the most interesting elements of a scene, such as the Lower Manhattan Skyline in the shot below, larger in the frame and can't get physically any closer. Image output size is about the same as with the wide-angle lens but you cannot quite capture an entire 360 degree circle.
|ISO 20, 16346 x 3724 pixels|
HDR mode is controlled via a button on the camera app's main screen. 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 require HDR treatment.
|ISO 20, wide-angle, HDR off||ISO 20, wide-angle, HDR on|
|100% crop||100% crop|
When shooting with the iPhone 7's wide-angle lens the HDR mode delivers results that are practically identical to previous generations. In high-contrast scenes a noticeable amount of highlight detail can be recovered. Shadows are slightly lifted as well and overall the HDR images show a very pleasant tonality, without looking unnatural or over-processed.
When shooting with the tele-lens we found HDR mode to be less efficient, though. In some images the highlights are pulled back so far that the entire image looks slightly underexposed and ghosting artifacts or shaky images are much more common than with the wide-angle cam. The image below was taken on a sunny day but the Exif-data of the HDR exposure shows a shutter speed of a fairly slow 1/33 sec, which presumably caused the strong image blur.
|ISO 32, tele, HDR off||ISO 20, tele, HDR on|
|100% crop||100% crop|
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.
Thanks to the dual-cam and its 56mm camera module the iPhone 7 Plus camera allows you to zoom in closer to your subject, using a mix between optical and digital zoom. In the camera app you can switch between the 28mm and 56mm by the press of a button. You can then fine-tune your zoom factor using a virtual dial which triggers the digital zoom.
|1 x zoom, wide-angle lens|
|1.5 x zoom, wide-angle lens digitally zoomed|
|2 x zoom, tele-lens|
|5 x zoom, tele-lens digitally zoomed|
|10 x zoom, tele-lens digitally zoomed|
Looking at the full size version of 1.5x sample above, which shows noticeably worse detail than the 2x image, it appears that when you use a zoom factor smaller than 2, the camera is simply applying digital zoom to the wide-angle image. For zoom factors beyond 2x digital zoom is applied to the tele lens. You'll get the same pixilation and lack of detail as on any other digital zoom. However, given the 56mm lens is longer than usual smartphones lenses, at a given zoom factor the iPhone 7 Plus clearly has an advantage over the single-lens competition.
At lower light levels things unfortunately look slightly different. Due to the slower aperture and lack of optical image stabilization in the 56mm camera module, the stock camera app decides it is best to use the wide-angle lens and zoom digitally in lower light, as you can see in the samples below. This essentially means that with the stock camera app, in anything darker than a well-lit interior, the tele-lens is deactivated.
You can currently force the camera to use the tele-lens in low light by shooting with the Lightroom Mobile app, or using portrait mode and set the camera to save a standard exposure in addition to the portrait shot. We have included a sample in the Image Quality section of this review.
DPReview founder Phil Askey found on his device that he could convince the camera to use the tele lens by slightly "overzooming" to 2.1x. Unfortunately this method did not work on our test device. It appears Apple has been slightly tweaking the camera software between different releases of iOS 10.1 beta.
|ISO 100, 1/4 sec, 1x zoom, wide-angle lens|
|ISO 100, 1/4 sec, 2x zoom, wide-angle lens digitally zoomed|
Mar 23, 2017
Mar 21, 2017
Oct 25, 2016
Sep 30, 2016
|AT-6 Harvard by jarud|
from Trainer aircraft
|Monarch butterflies winter roost at Pismo Beach by cjf2|
from Safety in Numbers (Nature)