iPhone 8 Plus cam­era test

The iPhone 8 Plus’s cam­era doesn’t seem much of an up­grade, so how does it com­pare to the 7 Plus’s?

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS - Adam Pa­trick Mur­ray finds out

Ev­ery new iPhone poses the same ques­tion: Are the im­prove­ments awe­some enough to war­rant an up­grade? Well, there are tons of rea­sons to up­grade, but for this ar­ti­cle we’re just com­par­ing cam­eras. Specif­i­cally, I put the iPhone 8 Plus against last year’s model, the 7 Plus, to see how much Ap­ple has im­proved its cam­era game.

A quick glance at specs doesn’t re­veal too much. Both cam­eras still rock dual 12Mp set­ups, with the nor­mal lens at an aper­ture of f/1.8, and tele­photo lens at f/2.8. Un­for­tu­nately, only the nor­mal lens has op­ti­cal im­age sta­bi­liza­tion (OIS), even though sta­bi­liza­tion would be even more use­ful on the tele­photo lens, as it’s more sen­si­tive to cam­era shakes.

None­the­less, the 8 Plus does up­grade its Sony sen­sor, which has so-called ‘deeper’ pix­els, and is more power ef­fi­cient. But, for the most part, the raw spec­i­fi­ca­tions look the same. So, let’s cut straight to the chase and check out how the pho­tos look in side by side com­par­isons.

For th­ese tests, we did our best to put the two smart­phone cam­eras in tough light­ing sit­u­a­tions. After­ward, I brought the pho­tos into Adobe Light­room, and what I found in the iPhone 8 Plus is im­pres­sive.

Colour

Right off the bat, we see big im­prove­ments in colour bal­ance. I’ve al­ways been crit­i­cal of Ap­ple for in­ac­cu­rate white bal­ance, but the 8 Plus fi­nally gets it right. Check out the im­age be­low: skin tones look so much bet­ter on the 8 Plus, even in low light. Ap­ple boasted about hav­ing a new colour fil­ter in­side the lenses, but I think some of the bet­ter colour re­pro­duc­tion comes down to more ac­cu­rate pro­cess­ing on the soft­ware side.

Low light

Speak­ing of low light, the iPhone 8 Plus per­forms much bet­ter than the 7 Plus when the lights go dim. We went into one of the dark­est parts of the base­ment and the re­sults are ob­vi­ous. I still wouldn’t rec­om­mend shoot­ing pho­tos in such a dark en­vi­ron­ment, but if you need to shoot in low light, then know you’ll get bet­ter re­sults from the 8 Plus.

Clar­ity

In al­most ev­ery sin­gle photo, the iPhone 8 Plus was no­tice­ably sharper than the 7 Plus. This is due to sharper lenses and the new Ap­ple-de­signed im­age sig­nal pro­ces­sor. Most peo­ple don’t pixel peep the way I do in the fol­low­ing sets of pho­tos, but I still think the re­sults show the 8 Plus’s su­pe­rior clar­ity

Ex­po­sure

For all its su­pe­rior per­for­mance, I did come across one in­ter­est­ing quirk on the 8 Plus: In some sit­u­a­tions it tends to ex­pose brighter than the 7 Plus. And it only seemed to hap­pen while shoot­ing in Por­trait Mode. Right out of the pocket, it’s a punchier photo, and tech­ni­cally the model’s face is ex­posed prop­erly. But in some ways I’d rather have the darker photo in or­der to have more dy­namic range to play with in post. So It’s re­ally up to you if you think the 8 Plus holds an ad­van­tage.

Por­trait Light­ing

When it comes to Por­trait Mode, the iPhone 8 does have a fea­ture that Ap­ple didn’t bring to the 7 Plus – it’s called Por­trait Light­ing. It’s still in beta, but the idea is sim­ple: Ap­ple uses the depth and fa­cial recog­ni­tion data in the photo to se­lec­tively al­ter the im­age to recre­ate a stu­dio light­ing ef­fect.

It sounds ex­cit­ing on pa­per, but Por­trait Light­ing de­liv­ers half-baked re­sults in prac­tice. In fact, of all the Por­trait Light­ing modes I tested, I only found one that made sense, and only in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions like heavy back­light­ing. I like the idea of where Ap­ple is go­ing, but as of right now, Por­trait Light­ing is mostly worth­less.

But don’t get too worked up about Por­trait Light­ing, be­cause the ba­sic Por­trait Mode (now called ‘Nat­u­ral Light’) is still su­per fun to play with. I mean just look at the pho­tos be­low. Even though the 8 Plus strug­gles with def­i­ni­tion around hair – just like the 7 Plus – I’m still sur­prised ev­ery time it takes a great shot. Is the bokeh any bet­ter on the 8 Plus? I couldn’t re­ally see too many ma­jor dif­fer­ences. But you get all the same ben­e­fits of the im­proved sen­sor, so I’d call the new Por­trait Mode a step up from the 7 Plus.

Con­clu­sion

Over­all, the iPhone 8 Plus is a huge step up from the 7 Plus. In­deed, af­ter look­ing a bit stag­nate for the past few years, Ap­ple has re­ally swung for the fences with its new pho­tog­ra­phy pack­age. I’d never switch over to iOS from An­droid, but I am def­i­nitely en­vi­ous of this cam­era.

iPhone 8 Plus

In this Por­trait Mode photo, we see a night and day dif­fer­ence in colour bal­ance. The 8 Plus has the best skin tones I’ve ever seen on a smart­phone cam­era

In one of the dark­est cor­ners of the base­ment, both phones struggle

Ev­ery type of light­ing sit­u­a­tion pro­duces the same re­sults: The iPhone 8 Plus takes clearer pho­tos

The iPhone 8 Plus blows out the high­lights in or­der to prop­erly ex­pose the model’s face. But this also re­sults in a loss of in­for­ma­tion

The blown-out leaf on the left is some­what dis­tract­ing. But once again, the model’s face is prop­erly ex­posed

Stu­dio Light and Con­tour Light are vi­able op­tions if they fit your taste

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