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New Cameras in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

Apple held it’s annual fall keynote in San Francisco and launched the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. While mostly an understated launch, Apple spent a lot of time hyping the new photography features, including introducing a brand-new dual camera on the iPhone 7 Plus. Let’s take a look at some of the new features from the keynote:

Having sold over 1 billion devices, Apple’s iPhone has essentially become the most popular point-and-shoot camera in the world. It’s the camera that’s always with you and the most accessible. Whether you’re a hobbyist or experienced professional, there’s something satisfying about being able to hold up your iPhone and capture a beautiful image without a thought about apertures or shutter speeds. But the camera is still 12 megapixels, so what’s new about it?

Wider Aperture

The optically-stabilized 6-element lens now has an improved aperture of f/1.8, which allows about 50% more light than the previous f/2.2 aperture. With the additional light, iPhone can take up to 3x longer exposures than previous models. This translates to sharper images at night.

Wide Color Gamut

The color gamut is similar to a color space. It’s the range of colors available on a particular device. The Phone 7 camera captures truer, richer colors that look similar to traditional film.

RAW Images

Finally…we can shoot RAW DNG images with iPhone using 3rd-party apps. Apple can’t shoot it natively, but apps like Instagram are able to. Now we just need Adobe to develop an iPhone camera application and we’re good to go!

Two Cameras that Shoot as One

The iPhone 7 Plus is the first Apple device to have dual cameras (and it’s the first to come in a polished jet-black color). In other mobile phones, dual cameras were used to create 3D images (like the HTC Evo 3D). However, this is not a 3D camera.

Apple has engineered each camera to have a different focal length lens. On the left you have a 12mm wide-angle lens, and on the right you have a 56mm telephoto lens. In the past, to zoom the iPhone you could either pinch-and-zoom (which degrades the image quality by using a software zoom) or zoom with your feet. With the iPhone 7 Plus, you can zoom 2x and iPhone will “change lenses” from the wide angle to the telephoto lens and eliminate the need to zoom with software and degrade the image. Pinch-to-zoom is still an option, but it now reaches farther than before thanks to the telephoto lens. Instead of the software zooming from 12mm, iPhone starts the zoom at 56mm which lessens the amount of software zoom applied to the image. Pretty neat!

Depth of Field

Apple introduced a new depth-of-field filter called “Portrait” mode. Using a new image signal processor, iPhone can create a depth map of your portrait and digitally blur the background. Creating a real-time deep depth preview is something that even powerful mirrorless and DSLR cameras can’t do, but it can be done on an iPhone. The key is to use this feature sparingly. It’s not possible to use it for every image, but I’m hoping it makes some beautiful images.

Quad LEDs

On-camera flash never really was appealing, but could help get a useable image when there wasn’t another option. Now iPhone sports a quad-LED true-tone flash, which is about 50% brighter. With the more powerful light, hopefully we’ll see the quality of light improve. We’ll have to wait for test shots to judge.

Flicker Sensor

The new camera features a flicker sensor that reads the flickering of artificial light. With the help of the flash, it can compensate for it when shooting images and video.

Video Upgrades

Nothing. Nada. Apple was focused (pun intended) on all of the photo features and didn’t do anything to improve the video. We’re still shooting 4K 30fps, 1080p 30fps or 60fps, and slow motion at 1080p 120fps. Kind of disappointing that there wasn’t anything new with video.

iPhone 7 and 7 Plus pre-orders start later this week. I’m still shooting with an iPhone 6 Plus (2 versions behind), so I’m looking forward to the upgrade.

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