It’s long been a creative credo that the equipment doesn’t matter; what matters is the person behind the equipment, or the vision, or passion, or what have you. It sounds nice and is a good idea to hold on to (especially if your equipment sucks), but the truth is, you can’t really produce professional photos or video from the likes of, say, a camera phone – right?
That’s not the case anymore. Over the last decade or so, improvements in technology have opened the possibility for creators without deep pockets to play, first with affordable DSLRs, and now, yes, with the cameras on your freakin’ telephones.
Still don’t believe in what’s possible from your cell? Just look at Tangerine, the Sundance hit that won several awards and was bought by Magnolia Pictures. It was shot entirely on an iPhone. Or look at these photos Sports Illustrated published from week one of the NFL. Again, iPhone.
There’s really no ceiling as to what you can produce out of the latest phone models, and the scary thing is, they keep improving. Apple’s latest keynote showed us the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and it appears as though we haven’t quite plateaued yet in regards to camera improvements. Let’s take a look at the new cameras on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and make sense of some of the technical jargon Tim Cook and co. threw at us.
12 MP Camera
12 megapixels (MP) is how many pixels (little squares) the camera uses to capture an image. The MP statistic can be meaningless without taking other camera specs into consideration, but 12MP will generally get a great image. For comparison’s sake, the iPhone 6 had 8MP while Samsung’s Galaxy 7 is at 12MP. The iPhone 7 plus comes with dual 12MP cameras, which we’ll get into later.
Optical image stabilization uses gyroscopes and small motor adjustments to compensate for movement while taking a photo or video. This eliminates or greatly reduces blur caused by camera shake, allowing for sharper photos, even in lower light situations where your shutter will be open for a longer amount of time.
The lower the aperture (or f-stop) number is, the wider the shutter opens, allowing more light to enter the camera. This allows for images to be captured in low light without grain or streaking. An f/1.8 is impressive for a camera phone, and Apple nears the Galaxy 7’s slightly wider f/1.7 aperture.
Lens manufacturers will use multiple lens elements to account for distortion and flare, but a higher number of elements doesn’t necessarily mean a better lens. Unless you are an optics engineer pouring over the blueprints, this doesn’t really tell us much and probably serves more to sound and look cool, which Apple does very well.
The sensor is 60% faster than before, when it was fast enough to make this improvement unnoticeable. What matters more in sensors is the size, and Apple did not disclose those specs. However, someone used some very clever sleuthing to figure it out based on data from those aforementioned Sports Illustrated images. The findings suggest the sensor is the same size as in the 6s model.
Quad-LED True Tone flash
The flash was upgraded from 2 to 4 LEDs, providing 50% more light that reaches 50% further. The flash’s color temperature adjusts to the room’s light, and a flicker sensor supposedly counteracts strobing from artificial lights. These are actually pretty big improvements.
The ISP, or image signal processor, is the brains of the camera and performs all kinds of tricks every time you snap a photo. Working with that high-speed sensor, the ISP detects faces, measures exposure, sets color, reduces noise, etc. It supposedly performs a staggering 100 billion operations in 25 milliseconds, which you are welcome to try and disprove.
Lastly, the camera captures the wide color gamut, with the idea being to capture more and therefore richer colors than before. There is also the ability to shoot RAW files, which means a few people will have more flexibility in Lightroom, and most people won’t use it or wonder why their storage is full in a week.
It seems Apple used the camera as the biggest differentiator between the 7 and 7 Plus. There are two side-by-side cameras on the 7 Plus, including both a wide angle and telephoto lens (27mm and 56mm). This gives users the option to zoom in a bit without the image immediately falling apart. By using the telephoto lens, the zoom is already at 2x without any software zoom (when it gets icky), and you can technically push that zoom to 10x. This dual lens setup does much to mitigate a main disadvantage in using phones for photography, and replaces the need for lens adapters like those from Olloclip (RIP Olloclip?).
Another photo feature exclusive to the 7 Plus is a software update that will simulate the effects of a shallow depth of field, creating soft shapes and bokeh. It promises to be better than existing blur effects, using depth-mapping software to isolate the subject from the background before applying the look. We won’t know how well it works until a software update later this year.
Lastly, a few video capabilities were updated or improved, but nothing too earth-shattering happened here. To be fair, the specs on the 6 and 6s were already pretty impressive (shoot in 4k, image stabilization, slow motion at 120 and 240 fps, etc.) The biggest improvement for video possibilities comes again with the dual lens on the 7 Plus.
So, whether you get your hands on the iPhone 7s or have one of the last few versions, know you are holding the potential to produce stunning and awe-inspiring creative work. You may also, of course, opt to do nothing more than vomit rainbows all day – but it’s nice to have options.
While BLASTmedia has been known to have some video fun with the iPhone, the equipment package is a little different for client work – see how BLASTmedia can help with your video needs by contacting Lindsey Groepper.