Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review

Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review ImageApple iPhone 7 Plus Review Image

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Introduction

The iPhone 7 Plus was announced at the same time as the iPhone 7, and is a follow-on from the iPhone 6 Plus. It features two 12 megapixel sensor cameras, each featuring a different lens, one of which is wide-angle, and one which is twice the focal length. The first camera is the same as the camera which is found on the iPhone 7 and has a 28mm f/1.8 lens, while the second camera has a 56mm f/2.8 lens. There are also other specifications which photographers should find useful, including a display which is capable of showing a wider colour gamut, a TrueTone flash, Live Photos, 4K video recording, panorama mode, and a 7 megapixel front-facing camera.

Ease of Use

In terms of the physical phone, Apple has stuck with the same design for the iPhone 7 Plus as we saw in the iPhone 6S Plus. The native camera app is also very similar to the predecessor, with just a couple of tweaks which are necessary to accommodate the dual lens setup.

It’s a very large phone, which for the most part you will need to use two-handed. On the plus side this means that the screen is very large which is great for looking at images, but on the downside it can be a little unwieldy.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Front of the Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Since the introduction of iOS 10, iPhones from the 6S onwards, have the lift to wake feature. This means as soon as you pick up the phone, the display switches on without having to press a button. From this screen all you need to do is swipe left and you’ll be taken directly into the camera app.

You’ll be able to use the camera app without unlocking the phone, and you’ll also be able to look at any photos you’ve taken in any given photo taking session, but if you want to look at photos you’ve taken previously, you’ll need to unlock the phone fully.

Once you’ve opened the camera app you’ll see the same layout you’ll be used to if you’ve used an iPhone before. You can either use a virtual button, a large white button on the screen, to take a photo, or you can use one of the physical volume buttons on the side of the camera. It may seem more natural to use one of the physical buttons to trigger the shutter release to make it more like using a “real” camera, but you’ll need to be aware that holding it in this way can lead to you obscuring the lens with your fingers.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Rear of the Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Along the bottom of the screen, or to the right if you hold the phone in landscape format, you’ll see the variety of different shooting modes that the iPhone offers. There’s Time-Lapse, Slow-Mo and Video which are your video options, while for stills there’s standard Photo, Portrait, Square and Pano.

The new Portrait mode you will only see if you download the public beta of iOS 10.1, which anyone can do. The portrait mode uses both lenses to recreate the look of a DSLR or CSC with a wide aperture lens. Even though it’s called Portrait, you can use it with other subjects that you might want to isolate from the background, but it will only work in certain conditions.

When you engage it, if you’re not close enough to the subject, it will tell you to get closer, once you are close enough, you’ll see that it displays the words “Depth Effect” and the background will appear blurred. You won’t be able to use the mode in low light – which doesn’t really need to be that low at all – if there’s not enough it will display “more light required”. When you take a photo with this mode, two versions of the same image will be saved – one which has the blurred background effect, and one which doesn’t. This is quite useful if the effect hasn’t worked all that well and you want to use the standard picture instead.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus
The Apple iPhone 7 Plus – Image Displayed

The other shooting modes are pretty self-explanatory. You can use panorama to take very wide angle shots, simply by sweeping the camera across the scene in front of you and it will stitch shots together.

Moving to the top of the screen (or the left hand side if you have it tipped horizontally) and there’s some options for changing a few settings. You can switch the flash on and off, switch HDR on and off, switch Live Photos on and off, activate the self-timer and shoot with a digital filter effect.

There’s not really anything in the way of more advanced settings changes, and despite the fact that you can now shoot in raw format with the new iOS 10, you still can’t do it from the native camera app. Instead, if you want to take full manual control or shoot in raw format, you can download one of the many third party apps available from the App Store (for example Manual or Lightroom). 

Apple iPhone 7 Plus
The Apple iPhone 7 Plus – Camera Mode

You can set the AF point by tapping an area on the screen that you want to use. You’ll generally find that the phone has chosen a suitable point, but it’s handy to be able to adjust that if you want to change the main focus of the image. When you do this you’ll see that a sun icon appears which means that you can adjust exposure by swiping up and down on the screen. Again, you’ll generally find that it’s not necessary to do this in all but the very brightest of conditions.

If you activate the self-timer, where you have a choice of 3 seconds or 10 seconds, a countdown timer will be displayed on screen and when the timer ends, it will take a series of photos in quick succession.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus
The Apple iPhone 7 Plus In-hand

You can switch to using the front camera by tapping an icon on the screen. You can still use all of the same settings as are available when using the rear camera, but if you use the flash, then this will basically light up the screen to act as a flash, rather than actual LED or Xenon flash like you’ll find on the rear.

The camera can shoot 4K video, but it won’t do that by default unless you change the settings from the main settings menu. You can also shoot in Full HD at either 60fps or 30fps, which is advisable if you’re looking to save space on the phone’s memory.

Unlike many Android phones currently on the market, it’s not possible to expand the memory with the iPhone 7 Plus. It’s worth therefore investing in the largest capacity iPhone that you can – there are three varieties available, with each one being more expensive than the last. You have 32GB, 128GB and 256GB. If you’re a photographer intending to take a lot of images or videos, then you’ll want to be looking at least the 128GB version.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus Review ImageApple iPhone 7 Plus Review Image

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Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3Mb.

In bright light, image quality directly from the iPhone 7 Plus is very impressive. Colours are vivid and bold, and especially if you view them on the iPhone 7 Plus screen they are great to look at. They’re also good if you view them on a computer or another device, but the iPhone 7 Plus’ screen really makes them sing.

The amount of detail is also good, but you can see some image smoothing if you examine them at 100% – how often you’re likely to do that with an iPhone image is questionable of course.

When it comes to the second camera, the performance is just as good when the light is bright, but you can really tell that the aperture isn’t quite as wide as on the first camera. If the light is a little darker, then the f/2.8 aperture compared with the f/1.8 aperture of the wide angle camera is pretty apparent as the ISO will be ramped right up. Remember that there’s no way to control the ISO from the native camera app, so if you’re finding this particularly problematic, it’s worth using one of the apps which gives you control over settings which you can change.

Still, it’s useful to have the “optical zoom” as it means you don’t have to use the digital zoom – which is still best avoided unless you’re absolutely desperate.

The Portrait mode yields some mixed results. It’s worth remembering that this particular function is only available in Beta right now, so it could be improved. The results tend to be quite impressive on the smalls screen of an iPhone 7 Plus, but if you blow them up to any decent size – even zooming in on the phone screen – you can see areas of the image where it hasn’t quite worked and looks a little fake, a bit like someone has faked the effect in Photoshop. Almost any DSLR or CSC would get you better results, but for something which you can slip in your pocket it’s an interesting development – and, it performs better than some of the other dual camera setup effects we’ve seen on the market lately (such as the Huawei P9).

Exposures are well balanced, and it’s rare you need to touch the exposure compensation, unless the scene that you’re photographing is particularly high contrast. Similarly, automatic white balance is pretty good in a range of conditions, erring slightly towards warmer tones under artificial lights, but nothing too problematic. Again, if you want to change white balance you’ll need a separate app which gives you manual control.

Optical image stabilisation does a good job of keeping shots blur free in most every day situations providing you’re not moving the phone too much, or of course if the subject itself is moving. The flash on the rear of the camera is a little harsh, and is probably best avoided unless the situation is really dark – certainly for portraits it’s a little unnatural looking.

Noise

There are 7 ISO settings available on the Apple iPhone 7 Plus. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting, with the JPEG version on the left and the RAW on the right.

JPEG

RAW

 

ISO 32 (100% Crop)

ISO 32 (100% Crop)

 
 
     

ISO 50 (100% Crop)

ISO 50 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

 
 

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

 
 

Focal Range

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus’s lens provides 2 fixed focal lengths, 28mm and 56mm, in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.

28mm

56mm

Chromatic Aberrations

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus handled chromatic aberrations very well during the review, with limited purple fringing mainly present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

Macro

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 5cms away from the camera.

Macro

Flash

The flash settings on the Apple iPhone 7 Plus are Off, On and Auto. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Wide Off

Flash Wide On

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Tele Off

Flash Tele On

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots.

Flash Off

Flash On

Portrait Mode

The portrait mode uses both lenses to recreate the look of a DSLR or CSC with a wide aperture lens. Even though it’s called Portrait, you can use it with other subjects that you might want to isolate from the background, but it will only work in certain conditions.

Portrait Mode – Off

 

Portrait Mode – On

 

Portrait Mode – Off

 

Portrait Mode – Off

Filters

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus offers 8 different digital filter effects.

Chrome

Fade

   

Instant

Mono

   

Noir

Process

   

Tonal

Transfer

Panorama

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by ‘sweeping’ with the camera while keeping the shutter release depressed. The camera automatically does all the processing and stitching.