Features cont.

Portrait Mode

Thanks to the slightly offset lenses of the dual-camera the iPhone 7 Plus is capable of distinguishing foreground from background. In the new portrait mode the latter is blurred in order to simulate the bokeh of a fast lens on a DSLR or system camera with large sensor. This is not a new effect, we've seen it on several devices before, for example the 2014 HTC One M8 or, more recently, the Huawei P9.

As with previous incarnations of this feature, it works best when foreground and background are clearly separated, like in the first sample below. In more complex scenes the system struggles to apply a smooth transition to the background blur and the end result can look somewhat artificial. And really, even the images that look good at screen size usually reveal some imperfections around the foreground subject when viewed at a 100%.

Despite the imperfections, thanks to the 'tele perspective' of the 56mm lens, Apple's portrait mode definitely has an edge over competing solutions, just don't ditch your DSLR quite yet.

 ISO 20, 1/50 sec
 ISO 20, 1/90 sec
 ISO 1250, 1/50 sec

DNG Raw shooting

With iOS 10 the iPhone is now finally capable of capturing Raw files in DNG format. However, the feature is not included in the stock camera app, so you have to use a third-party app, such as Adobe Lightroom or Manual. The former makes things a little difficult for those of us who like editing their Raw files on a computer. When shooting with Lightroom, the DNGs are not saved in the iPhone camera roll, which means that you cannot transfer them via a USB-connection. In Lightroom the only way to transfer them to a computer or other device is by syncing them via Adobe's cloud service which requires a subscription. Any other way of sharing the file, for example via email or Google Drive, will convert the Raw file to a JPEG before sending. 

So, if you don't think you'll use Lightroom's cross-platform editing features, the Manual app is a very good alternative. It saves the captured DNG files directly into the camera roll, and from there they can be easily transferred to a computer via the USB cable.

The first sample below was captured in the Apple stock camera app, the second was taken in Raw format with the Manual app and then edited using Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop. We slightly adjusted highlights and shadows for a more natural look and added some small-radius sharpening. If you click through to the full-size versions of the images, you can see that the converted Raw shows noticeably better detail, with less smearing of fine low-contrast textures. However, that comes at the price of increased noise. Especially chroma noise levels are quite high in the shadow areas of the frame, even in this base ISO shot. More Raw samples are available on the image quality comparison pages of this review.

Out-of-camera JPEG, ISO 20, 1/1473 sec
DNG Raw file converted in Adobe Camera Raw,  ISO 20, 1/1500 sec

Front Camera

The iPhone 7 Plus front camera has received another bump in resolution and now comes with a 7MP sensor, taking the Apple device pretty much on the same resolution level as most direct competitors. Aperture remains at F2.2 though.

 ISO 25, 1/1330 sec
 ISO 125, 1/33 sec
 ISO 250, 1/20 sec, display flash

In bright light detail is very good for a front camera and in lower light the image processing finds a good compromise between noise reduction and detail retention. The display flash function helps getting a shot when things get too dark and the subject is close.

Thanks to very efficient HDR and face detection algorithms the Apple front camera remains one of the best in terms of tonality and focus. The front camera is also capable of recording 1080p video at 30 fps and 720p slow-motion footage at 240 fps.

Gallery and Image Editor 

 Within an album, images can be browsed in a square thumbnail view.

Apple has made some subtle changes to the latest version of its Photos app but operation of the app mostly remains unchanged. When viewing images you can now choose from three tabs: Photos, Albums or Memories. Under Photos, images are automatically sorted into 'Collections' (grouped by time and place), and 'Years.' In the year view, you get a page chock-full of barely visible thumbnails, but running your finger over them pops up an enlarged view that makes it much easier to find a given needle in the haystack of photos rather than endless flick-scrolling. 

Under Albums images are sorted by several criteria, including image type, people or apps used for editing. Here you also have access to the old-fashioned iPhone camera roll that includes all camera files and you can add additional albums manually. Memories creates highlight reels, similar to what we've seen on other devices. You can select images and videos manually, add music and basic titles. On all screens, like on the iPhone 6s devices, thanks to 3D Touch technology, you can preview images by hard-tapping the thumbnail.

A map view is available in addition to gallery thumbnails. The gallery app automatically detects faces and use them as an image filter.
The editing module offers a large range of options for black and white conversion. Color and tonal corrections are available as well.

As before, in the editing module you can crop and rotate your images and apply the same filters as in the camera app. There is also a good range of controls for tonal and color corrections as well as black & white conversion.  Alternatively, you can simply rotate through a number of pre-defined setting options until you see a result that suits your taste.

You can access sharing options from the individual image view and, for example, send them to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, or email them via the Apple Message app. You can now also add additional apps to share your images with Instagram or Snapseed if you use them frequently. As before, photos and videos can be shared via the AirDrop feature that works on most newer iOS devices. Entire albums can be shared via Apple's iCloud service.