iPhone 7 Plus photo shoot

Just for fun, we pushed Por­trait mode to the limit and com­pared the re­sults to a DSLR. re­ports

Macworld - - Contents - Susie Ochs

The best cam­era is the one you have with you, the old cliché goes, and as we found in our ex­per­i­ment, if that cam­era hap­pens to be an iPhone 7 Plus, you’re go­ing to be just fine. The dual-lens cam­era sys­tem lets it take bet­ter pho­tos than any smart­phone we’ve tried, and the Por­trait mode in iOS 10.1 is a lot of fun to play with. Adam, staff pho­tog­ra­pher at our sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion Mac­world US, was ea­ger to see what the 7 Plus could do, so we hired a model to recre­ate the kind

of fash­ion photo shoot that he would nor­mally do with his trusty Sony a7R II with a Canon 50mm lens.

We shot in­doors in low light­ing as well as full light, then took the show on the road for out­door shots in a cou­ple of lo­ca­tions near the of­fice. Our model, Alina Lee, did a won­der­ful job, and Adam came away more than a lit­tle im­pressed with what Por­trait mode could do.

Now, we must note here that we tested Por­trait mode while it was still in beta, and this isn’t a for­mal, scored re­view – just an ex­per­i­ment we did for fun. We wanted to see how Por­trait mode (this first ver­sion of it, any­way) would re­act to dif­fer­ent light­ing con­di­tions, and how its method of keep­ing your sub­ject in fo­cus while blur­ring the back­ground would com­pare to a full-frame DSLR. Plus, Adam is a ded­i­cated An­droid user, and he just wanted to

see how far Ap­ple has come with the iPhone 7 Plus. Who could blame him, right?

We started in low light, in­doors (Photo 1). This is barely enough light to trig­ger the depth ef­fect – you’ll see a yel­low Depth Ef­fect la­bel ap­pear on the screen when you’re at the right dis­tance and light­ing level to make it work.

In this shot, we’re push­ing the dis­tance a lit­tle bit too – typ­i­cally, Adam says, a por­trait would be a lit­tle tighter on her face. Since Por­trait mode uses the 6.6mm ‘tele­photo’ lens on the iPhone 7 Plus, which has an f/2.8 aper­ture and no op­ti­cal im­age sta­bi­liza­tion, you can see some noise, but all in all this isn’t too bad for an in­door photo.

Another low-light, in­door shot (Photo 2) and we still get the depth ef­fect. In the depth ef­fect shot on the right, you can see how some of the fine pieces

of hair around her head get com­pletely blurred out, but the blur ef­fect also smooths out some of the noise on her arms.

Again, we’re push­ing what Por­trait mode is in­tended to do – this isn’t enough light for the best re­sult, but it still looks in­ter­est­ing. And since the mode de­faults to keep­ing both the orig­i­nal and blurred ver­sions of each photo, you re­ally don’t have much to lose by ex­per­i­ment­ing.

For our next set of pho­tos, we stayed in­doors but cranked up the light­ing. In this shot, Adam was again ex­per­i­ment­ing with how far he could get from Alina and still get the depth ef­fect (Photo 3). It seems like we got the best re­sults in­side of 2.5m, but it was pos­si­ble to push it up to 3.5m and still get it to work. The blur­ring is min­i­mal in this im­age be­cause she’s rel­a­tively close to the back­ground.

Once we got close up (Photo 4), we started to see how Por­trait mode works to iso­late Alina’s face. In this im­age, you can see how her en­tire face is kept per­fectly in fo­cus, like it would be if you masked it in Pho­to­shop, while her hair (seen on the left side of the photo) is im­me­di­ately very blurred even right next to the face.

Tak­ing this same shot with a DSLR, we wouldn’t expect her en­tire face to be in the same plane of fo­cus. Her left eye, for ex­am­ple, and her nose are an­gled closer to the cam­era lens than her right eye, but the iPhone 7 Plus keeps them in the same fo­cus. The strap on her dress is even closer to the cam­era lens, but it’s blurred be­cause the cam­era didn’t iso­late it to stay sharp along with her face. It’s an in­ter­est­ing ef­fect, just not what we would expect from a full-frame DSLR.

Then we went out­side (Photo 5), where we found an al­ley il­lu­mi­nated with beau­ti­ful af­ter­noon light re­flect­ing off the win­dows of the build­ing be­hind us, al­most like we’d planned it that way.

In this shot, you can see Por­trait mode hav­ing some prob­lems with the very outer edges of Alina’s hair. (Some­times you can con­trol for that, if it’s less windy or you load up on hair prod­ucts, but for this ex­per­i­ment, the fly­away hairs are our friends.) It does okay with the larger pieces, and it’s un­der­stand­able that it couldn’t iso­late ev­ery strand.

The depth ef­fect also blurs the tex­ture of her shirt a lit­tle, and it’s slightly odd how the back­ground is equally blurred right be­hind her as it is all the way back. With a DSLR, the amount of blur would in­crease as you ap­proach the hori­zon. Adam says that a tal­ented Pho­to­shop user could

re­pro­duce this blur ef­fect with soft­ware, but it’s pretty re­mark­able that the 7 Plus cam­era can do it for you, in real time as you’re tak­ing the photo.

Dur­ing the shoot (Photo 6), we started see­ing a lens flare leak­ing in, but that lets us point out the way Por­trait mode iso­lates just a per­son’s face and blurs ev­ery­thing else. Here the flare ap­pears in the fore­ground, but since it doesn’t cross her face, Por­trait mode still ap­plies the blur ef­fect.

In the next shot (photo 7), Adam man­aged to catch the flare across Alina’s face. On the right, you can re­ally see how Por­trait mode masks her face. The flare ac­tu­ally widens on the top of her head, then snaps back to its orig­i­nal shape as it crosses her face.

The blur on her shirt is pretty no­tice­able in this pair too. Since it’s just a tex­ture, it’s not a big deal

here, but another time when I used Por­trait mode to photograph my hus­band wear­ing a San Fran­cisco Giants sweat­shirt, it was a lit­tle odd to see the type in the logo be­come harder to read.

In Photo 8, Adam in­cluded a cou­ple of dis­tract­ing el­e­ments in the back­ground – the speed limit sign in the al­ley along with a cou­ple of guys drink­ing beer or some­thing. Por­trait mode did a great job keep­ing the fo­cus on Alina. We like how the brick wall on the photo’s right side doesn’t blur out too much, and her hair looks great. But we did lose a lit­tle bit of sharp­ness in her clothes– check out the bit of zip­per and the two snaps you can see on her jacket, for ex­am­ple.

Mostly we think of por­traits (Photo 9) be­ing taken in por­trait ori­en­ta­tion, but it’s worth men­tion­ing that iOS 10.1’s Por­trait mode works

in land­scape ori­en­ta­tion too. This is one of our favourite shots from the day.

While iOS 10 does sup­port cap­tur­ing and ex­port­ing RAW images, Ap­ple’s own Cam­era app sticks with JPEGs as a rule. In fact, Adam no­ticed that the Por­trait ver­sions are about half the file size as the un­touched pho­tos, so the Cam­era app is al­ready mak­ing all the de­ci­sions about what data to keep and what to dis­card. So it’s un­likely we’ll see RAW sup­port added to the Por­trait mode any­time soon, but it sure would make Adam happy. He ex­ported the Por­trait photo and edited the JPEG to get the fi­nal re­sult, but nat­u­rally, a JPEG is al­ready com­pressed and doesn’t of­fer the edit­ing flex­i­bil­ity that a RAW file would.

Some­times, we found we liked the sharp im­age bet­ter than the depth ef­fect ver­sion. This shot

(Photo 10) in front of the Bay Bridge is one of those times, but maybe we just don’t have the heart to blur out such a no­table land­mark.

Adam did some ed­its on the Por­trait ver­sion of the bridge photo (Photo 11), to at­tempt to bring some sharp­ness back to Alina’s sweater and the stitch­ing on her jeans.

For a few images, Adam put an edited Por­trait photo (Photo 12) taken with the iPhone 7 Plus next to a photo taken with his Sony a7R II. Then we showed them to a bunch of peo­ple around the of­fice and had them guess which was taken with the ‘real’ cam­era and which was taken with the smart­phone. Not ev­ery­one got it right!

This close-up in the al­ley (Photo 13) is another one of our favourites, but since the back­ground isn’t so far from the sub­ject, the blur­ring ef­fect is

some­what sub­tle. You can still no­tice the ef­fect hav­ing trou­ble with the edges of her hair, and adding a lit­tle too much blur to the tex­ture of her shirt, es­pe­cially the col­lar.

But when Adam edited the Por­trait mode ver­sion in Pho­to­shop (Photo 14), he was able to get some of that tex­ture back.

The pair­ing (Photo 15) show­ing the edited Por­trait mode photo on the left, and a sim­i­lar shot taken with the Sony a7R on the right, im­pressed ev­ery­one we showed it to. In fact, even a fel­low cam­era geek on our video team was fooled, iden­ti­fy­ing the iPhone 7 Plus shot as be­ing taken by a DSLR. If you know to look at the fine fly­aways around her head, you might get it right. But oth­er­wise, th­ese are de­light­fully close.

In the end, Adam ad­mit­ted he’s more than a lit­tle jeal­ous of the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the iPhone 7 Plus – even with the Por­trait mode in beta. It’s not per­fect, and we are ea­ger to see how Ap­ple might im­prove it in fu­ture ver­sions – now that the full re­lease is out, we’ll be do­ing some fol­low-up test­ing. But just the fact that you can do this with a smart­phone is in­cred­i­bly cool.

For video clips, go to tinyurl.com/zqac­nmo

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Photo 12

Photo 15

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