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iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus cameras: What’s new and what's the difference?

Apple claims iPhone 7 has the best iPhone camera ever. Let's see how that claim stacks up.
iPhone 7 camera hero

Apple has finally announced the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus after months of speculation.

And this time one of the most crucial differences between the standard iPhone and its plus-sized brother is the quality of their cameras.

While the iPhone 7 has one camera, the iPhone 7 Plus features a dual camera and lens set-up - we’ll discover what that means as we go along.

The camera systems on both the phones are completely new, and are, according to Apple, a “huge advancement”, which makes them the “best cameras on a smartphone ever.”

So how do those bold claims stack up? And how exactly do the two phones' camera capabilities differ? Let's have a look, shall we?

The iPhone 7 is available to pre-order now. Head to our dedicated page to compare iPhone 7 deals.

iPhone 7 & iPhone 7 Plus camera resolution

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus size

The iPhone 7 has an all-new 12 million pixel iSight sensor. The iPhone 7 Plus has two cameras on the rear, which both also feature the same 12 million pixel sensor.

Both phones feature a seven-megapixel FaceTime HD camera at the front for selfies - up from five megapixels on the iPhone 6S.

iPhone 7 & iPhone 7 Plus camera lenses

iPhone 7 Plus bokeh

One of the big new upgrades this time around has been made to the lens aperture.

The rear cameras now offer a maximum wide aperture of f/1.8, which is great news for creating shallow depth of field effects and letting more light in when you’re shooting in low-light conditions.

In fact, widening it up to f/1.8 from f/2.2 of the previous generation lets in approximately 50 per cent more light.

Not only this, but the lenses now have six elements, which should result in sharper images across the frame, even when shooting at those wide apertures.

What’s particularly special about the iPhone 7 Plus is its dual-lens, dual-camera set-up.

It’s not the first phone we’ve seen to offer two lenses in one body, take a look at the Huawei P9 for another example.

However, what we’ve got here is different. One of the lenses on the Plus is the standard wide-angle (28mm) lens, but the other is a telephoto lens, offering a 56mm equivalent view.

Put simply, that means - in a roundabout way at least - that the iPhone 7 Plus offers optical zoom for the first time in an iPhone.

In other words, you don’t have to use lower quality digital zoom to get closer to a subject which is just a little out of reach, instead you can switch to the telephoto lens to get a two-times closer view.

To use this new feature, Apple has included a new virtual button as part of the native camera app - simply press it to activate the telephoto lens instead of the standard wide angle lens.

Alternatively, you can now digitally zoom up to 10x as well, if you still can’t get close enough.

But wait, there’s more. The dual-lens set-up will also allow you to create a new shallow depth of field effect which emulates the look of using a DSLR camera.

The iPhone does this by using both the cameras, scanning the scene to create a “depth map”, applying a blur to the background and keeping the foreground in focus.

This feature won’t be available at the same time the iPhone 7 Plus hits the shops, but a free update to bring this functionality will be introduced later in the year.

To access this feature, again it’s through the standard iPhone camera app - a new setting displayed along the bottom will show “Portrait”, as this is the subject Apple anticipates users will want to use the feature for.

We’ve seen pretty mixed results from the Huawei P9 which also offers a shallow depth of field effect, so it will be interesting to see if Apple has integrated it better (early results from Apple’s Special Event look promising, so watch this space).

iPhone 7 & iPhone 7 Plus camera: optical image stabilisation

It was one of the biggest rumours that was circulating in the weeks leading up to the Apple Special Event - Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) would be found in both devices, and not, as we saw on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, just on the Plus.

OIS is useful for helping to keep your shots nice and sharp if there’s any movement in your hands when taking a shot, and again, should particularly prove its worth in low-light conditions.

iPhone 7 & iPhone 7 Plus camera: speeds

Apple says that the new camera is now 60% faster and 30% more efficient. The image signal processor (ISP) has been redesigned and carries out a staggering 100 billion operations per picture - all in just 25 microseconds.

The ISP controls features such as face detection, focusing, colour and merging together photos.

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus camera: Live photos

iphone 7 and iphone 7 hero comparison

An upgrade comes to Apple’s moving image Live Photos. Now there’s stabilisation offered when you’re taking the moving image, which should result in a smoother overall effect. You can also perform some edits to live photos, such as cropping.

App developers will also be able to access the API to capture and edit Live Photos - in simple terms this means that third-party apps will now be able to access and use Live Photos, such as Instagram, which will be integrating the feature into an upcoming version of its popular app.

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus camera: raw capture and wide colour capture

Android phones have been offering the capability to shoot in raw format for some time now, so Apple is playing catch-up a little here, but for the first time you’ll be able to shoot in the raw DNG format.

There’s a snag though, for now at least, this possibility will be available through third-party apps, and not the standard iPhone camera app.

This being Apple though, if it proves popular, we wouldn’t be surprised if it became a standard feature in the not-too-distant future.

Also new is Wide Colour Capture, which promises to boost the vibrancy of images shot with the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus cameras.

This is another feature which will be accessible to third-party developers. Instagram has confirmed it will introduce a new filter to take advantage of the full gamut of colours now available.

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus camera: battery life and storage

iPhone 7 storage

If you’re someone who likes to use the iPhone camera a lot, both battery life and storage will be important to you.

Apple has done away with its old storage options, and now offers 32GB as the minimum size you can buy.

It goes all the way up to 256GB at the top (most expensive) end of the spectrum, giving you plenty of storage space for all your selfies. Sadly, there’s still no way to expand the memory by adding a microSD card.

Battery life, one of the biggest problems with iPhones to date, has also been improved.

Apple says that you can expect an extra two hours of battery life per charge when compared with the iPhone 6S.

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will be available to buy from September 16th, with pre-orders being taken from September 9th. Prices start from £599.

The iPhone 7 is available to pre-order now. Head to our dedicated page to compare iPhone 7 deals.

Category: Features
Tagged: apple, iphone 7, iphone

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