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Which iPhone 6 Should a Photographer Buy?

If you’re like us… you’re staying up at night and worried. It’s time to make some hard decisions… ones that will have long lasting consequences. It’s time to decide which iPhone to buy (we know… first world problems).

The Dilemma

On Friday morning (at approximately 12:01 am PST) Apple will start taking online orders for the phone. If you’d like to be the first to have the phone, you’ll either order online or fight the crowds. You’d think by now they’d learn to have enough in stock (perhaps they manipulate the frenzy a bit). Regardless… whether you buy now or later you have a tough decision to make…

While Apple continues to sell the current iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C, they just announced their new, larger, and thinner, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Given that we’re both Apple fans who happen to have the need for new technology, we’re struggling with which to update to. For the record, Rich has an iPhone 5s and Mykii has the iPhone5.

6pluscamera

Let’s Compare from a Photographer’s Point of View

Since this is Photofocus after all… let’s start by evaluating these two phones as cameras. Before some of you roll your eyes… yes we both own and love “real” cameras… but the iPhone is often the camera in our pockets and it gets a lot of action.

iSight camera (Photo)

The iPhonographer scene may be disappointed that Apple didn’t bump the megapixels. You’ll still get just an 8 megapixel iSight camera. But we think most realize that the megapixel battle has ended a long while ago and it’s all about image quality.

  • Sensor improvements The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus claim to let in 80% more light for the front camera. Since the goal is to capture light, we’ll call this one a win and look forward to the hands-on testing.
  • f/2.2 aperture The aperture stays the same as the 5s (which was a slight improvement over the 2.4 of the past).
  • True Tone flash Again, the same that was seen on the current iPhone 5s. In our experience, this flash works well and there was no need for an upgrade.

phase-detect

  • Autofocus with Focus Pixels This is essentially Phase detection auto-focus and it is similar to what’s found in many DSLRs and MILCs. This adds speed over previous versions to aid you in capturing pictures thanks to better and faster autofocus.

burst-mode

  • Best Shot You can now shoot in high-speed bursts (up to 10 frames per second… insane right?) Just hold down the trigger and let the iPhone take a bunch of shots. When you lift the finger (or the memory buffer fills) your phone will evaluate the shots and look for thinks with smile and blink detection.
  • Exposure Control Here’s a novel idea… adjust shots before you take them. While this may seem completely standard to “real” photographers on a traditional camera… these controls are generally lacking on phones. The new iOS8 makes this part of the standard camera.
  • Image Stabilization The big change here is the optical image stabilization available on the iPhone 6 Plus. The test shots posted online make lowlight photography look great. This is only on the bigger version and is one of the biggest factors to consider. We’d like to know if it’s a lame marketing scheme, or an actual hardware limitation.
  • Panorama (up to 43 megapixels) We love great panoramas. The iPhone has always been surprisingly good at making panos. Now, they’re even better with more than enough resolution for printing and reasonable sizes.
  • Processing improvements With next-generation local tone mapping and advanced noise reduction, we’re glad to see Apple focuses on making better photos.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.59.41 PM

iSight camera (Video)

The improvements from a video point of view are most impressive with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. We have to admit we’re pretty excited by the new features.

  • Continuous Autofocus Easily deal with moving subjects and such. The camera can adjust focus as you pan and tilt or move through the scene. It looks like this feature focusses smoothly for non jarring changes.
  • More Frame Rates Being able to shoot at 1080p at 30fps or 60fps is a welcome addition. The slow-motion 120fps can now be doubled to a whopping 240fps. Here’s an example of the iPhone5s at 120fps (now twice as good).

  • Stabilization You may have seen some of the new hyper lapse technology to come on to the market which shows off impressive stabilization. Handheld video never looked better on the iPhone.
  • Timelapse While Rich loves to shoot timelapse with big rigs, the iPhone sees plenty of action too. Now a built-in timelapse app makes shooting easier.
  • HDR Video The improved tone mapping also comes to video to improve the dynamic range. A welcome plus.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.59.05 PM

A Killer Display

For us, the iPhone is often a mobile portfolio. Pull it out of a pocket and you can show off your photo and video work. The new display looks great. There are two sizes and resolutions to pick.

  • The iPhone 6 Plus is the heavy hitter for this new release from our friendly fruit-named friends. It’s coming in hot with a spacious 5.5 Inch 1080p Retina Display HD (1920X1080) with 401 pixels per inch), that will basically make anyone droolespecially us. This is essentially the same resolution as most people’s laptops and televisions in the palm of your hand.
  • The iPhone 6 doesn’t slack much, it has a more than 720p display coming in at 1,334 x 750 resolution (or 326 pixels-per-inch).
  • Both displays offer a rich sRGB accurate display. It’s got more than enough real estate to see some of your amazingly crisp pictures!
  • They also offer a great contrast ratio ranging between 1300:1 and 1400:1. Both models also offer a wider viewing angle when you’re showing off your images to a group.
  • The ion-strengthened glass is shared on both models and should hopefully prevent people from viewing your pictures on ridiculously shattered screens (and hopefully save people’s fingertips as well).
  • Both screens have an improved polarizer, and a very apparent ultra thin backlight that goes with the thinness of both phones.

Oh Yeah… It’s a Phone Too

Besides all the photographer/videographer related stuff, we’ve got the other awesome everyday upgrades to the phones. Faster processors and co-processors, faster LTE (capping at 150 Mbps, compared to the previous 100 Mbps) and 802.11ac WiFi for faster loading at home and at the office.

The longer battery life on both models is welcome. The road warrior (Rich) is pretty sure that longer battery life will win out… but the giant size is concerning. Fortunately both phones are thin. The iPhone 6 Plus is at 7.1mm while the little brother is 6.9mm, both of which are thinner than the iPhone 5s’ 7.6mm.

iPhone 6 Plus

iPhone 6

Talk time:

Talk time:

Up to 24 hours on 3G Up to 14 hours on 3G

Standby time:

Standby time:

Up to 16 days (384 hours) Up to 10 days (250 hours)

Internet use:

Internet use:

Up to 12 hours on 3G, up to 12 hours on LTE, up to 12 hours on Wi-Fi Up to 10 hours on 3G, up to 10 hours on LTE, up to 11 hours on Wi-Fi

iphone6_0001

Our Choices

Deciding which model is a tough choice. It’s clear that the iPhone 6 Plus is the better of the two with Image Stabilization and a great and large 1080p display, but it’s at the cost of an extra $100 across all capacities and extra space in your pocket.

Richs Choice

I cringe at the larger size… the current 5s just fits into a shirt pocket. I already own an iPad and frequently use it to showcase my work and do larger editing with apps like Snapseed, Mosaic, and Lightroom Mobile. But a better camera and longer battery life are sure appealing. I will probably flip a coin. Joking aside… I am strongly leaning to the 6 Plus… but I plan to test it out with a mockup.

I usually skip a version of the phone (going from the 4s to the 5s for example). With that said, the camera improvements for both photo and especially video make this a must upgrade for me.

Mykiis Choice

Now, just by personal preference, I’d get the original iPhone 6. First and foremost, I hope that the phone will do its primary function well, then provide me with some ease of access to the normal things I do anyway– banking, online shopping, YouTube-ing, occasional photo documentation of random and crazy events that happen without my actual camera being on my person.

I like traveling light, so that bigger display is just something to annoy me. Plus, I don’t want to be talking on a tablet. I already make fun of those who have those bigger phablets and I don’t even want to come close to it. Also, at that the relatively small 4.7 inches, the display, that is slightly bigger than 720p, should be more than enough to see clear images. I doubt that anyone would actually be able to see the difference otherwise.

I don’t rely on my phone much for photography, although the new capabilities of the iPhone 6 may open up new avenues for me. Since there’s the new f/2.2 aperture lens, and it is shared between the two models, I think that it should be good enough for me to take pictures in low light without the actual need of image stabilization.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 9.58.57 PM

Cost and Availability

The iPhone 6 comes in 1 standard and 2 roomy sizes: 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB burning pockets at $199, $299 and $399 respectively on with a two-year contract.

The bigger and better iPhone 6 Plus costs $299 for 16GB, $399 for 64GB, and $499 for 128GB on a two-year contract.

Pre-orders start on September 12 and 12:01 AM PST. Apple will begin shipping the devices September 19, and these phones will satisfy your fat fingers in gold, silver, and space grey.

Which one would you choose? Leave your thoughts below.

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