Apple iPhone 7 Plus: Jack of all trades

In the iOS 10.1 beta version, the Portrait mode lets you highlight the subject by gently blurring the background (above right) using a shallow depth of field. The iPhone 7 Plus (right) also does great panoramic shots.
In the iOS 10.1 beta version, the Portrait mode lets you highlight the subject by gently blurring the background using a shallow depth of field. The iPhone 7 Plus (above) also does great panoramic shots.PHOTO: APPLE
In the iOS 10.1 beta version, the Portrait mode lets you highlight the subject by gently blurring the background (above right) using a shallow depth of field. The iPhone 7 Plus (right) also does great panoramic shots.
In the iOS 10.1 beta version, the Portrait mode lets you highlight the subject by gently blurring the background (above right) using a shallow depth of field. The iPhone 7 Plus also does great panoramic shots.PHOTOS: TREVOR TAN

The dual-camera system consists of a 28mm wide-angle f/1.8 lens and a 56mm "telephoto" f/2.8 lens.

A focal length of 56mm is not really telephoto, but it is probably coined as such for the benefit of consumers. Essentially, it means the iPhone 7 Plus has a 2x optical zoom.

But only the 28mm camera has an optical stabiliser. It is a strange decision since the 56mm camera is the one with a smaller aperture.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: From $1,248 (without contract)

    REAR CAMERAS: 12-megapixel 28mm f/1.8; 12-megapixel 56mm f/2.8

    SENSOR PIXEL SIZE: Unknown

Two cameras seem to be working individually when you press the virtual optical zoom button in the native camera app, but this is not the case. Try placing a finger on one of the lenses and tap the zoom button - sometimes, both the wide-angle and telephoto views are blocked.

This is because Apple uses a "fusion" technique. Each time you take a shot, both cameras are used to capture the wide-angle and telephoto images. They are then combined to get the best details.

For this test, I used the iOS 10.1 beta in which the Portrait mode is available in the camera app. This mode allows a shallow depth-of-field or bokeh effect to be achieved when shooting portraits.

The app goes from start-up to ready-to-shoot in just under 1sec. In typical Apple fashion, the native camera app is pretty basic but easy to use.

In landscape orientation, swiping up or down on the viewfinder lets you toggle through the few shooting modes that are available, such as slow-motion and panoramic. On the left side, there are options for Live Photos, filters and timers.

Autofocusing (AF) is fast and accurate in bright sunlight. In dim lighting conditions, AF can take up to 3sec to secure a focus lock. Maybe Apple should copy Huawei and try using the flash as an AF assist light.

Images shot in the day show good sharpness, great details and wide dynamic range. But the pictures tend to have a greener tone than with the two other smartphones.

For night shots, the iPhone 7 Plus did a credible job in trying to reduce image noise by setting the aperture to the lowest. Lights in buildings were only slightly over-exposed.

But I found that even though the night scenes were shot in 2x optical zoom, the Exif data shows they were taken with an aperture of f/1.8.

Panoramic images were the best in this round-up, with no visible mismatches in the stitching. Exposure is very consistent across the various frames making up the shot, and the end-result looks almost like a true panoramic photo.

The blurred background in the Portrait mode looks more natural than Huawei's and more evident than LG's.

I have only one minor complaint - the bokeh effect looks a tad rough at the edges, especially around the subject's hair. But once Apple perfects the algorithm, I think this will be the mode to use when shooting portraits.

Trevor Tan

• Verdict: The Apple iPhone 7 Plus is a capable jack of all trades in terms of shooting performance, image quality and functionality, which will serve you well in most situations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2016, with the headline 'Apple iPhone 7 Plus: Jack of all trades'. Print Edition | Subscribe