iPhone 7 Camera Impressions. / by Alex Gesse

Every year Apple, Samsung, HTC and many other smartphone manufactures update their lineup with a new smartphone, with more features, faster, and with it better cameras. It's never been easier to capture that moment, to share memories, to tell stories through photographs, to create art like it is today.  Many of us have the privilege to carry one of those with us in our everyday life. 

I'm one of those people and I just bought the new iPhone 7, not the plus and I will be talking about what I think of its camera. I can tell ahead of time though that it's great and it's a very good upgrade in comparison to the iPhone 6s. Now, I will specifically be talking about the camera on the new iPhone 7, so don't expect anything else on it like new features, speed and all.

Nikon D3300 1/160 f/5.0 ISO 500

Nikon D3300 1/160 f/5.0 ISO 500

Here are some of the specs of this new iPhone 7 camera:

  • New 12MP sensor
  • Aperture of f/1.8
  • New 6 element lens
  • Optical image stabilization
  • 28mm focal lenght (35mm equivalent)
  • RAW support in DNG format
  • Quad-LED True Tone Flash
  • 7MP front facing camera with an aperture of f/2.2
  • New ISP or Image Signal Processor

Image Quality
I took the iPhone for a spin and I enjoyed using it a lot. I'm not going to compare with other phones out there, I heard already it's still not quite as good as the camera on the Galaxy S7, but this is all about the camera on the iPhone itself.

Image zoomed in 100%

Image zoomed in 100%

Images during daylight are impressive in quality with good exposures, beautiful vibrant colors as well as maintaining good skin color tones and very good image sharpness and details. However, during processing of the jpegs the phone will apply some noise reduction to the image even during good lighting condition and low ISO such as 20-25 causing it to lose some fine details, you will notice this especially in the shadows area of the image and especially if zoomed in to 100%. Still, the images look great and only those who are pixel peepers will notice this really.

Overall the images are very impressive, they are sharp with a lot of details, colors are vibrant, contrast is great and exposures are consistently good for a smartphone. White balance also looks very accurate to me as well specially in good lighting condition. 

iPhone 7 1/4 F/1.8 ISO 400
Click to enlarge

For photos in low light, the phone takes advantage of the new lens now with an aperture of F/1.8 which allows 50% more light in comparison to the last generation to enter the camera and hit the sensor, which helps with keeping your images sharp and improve the quality in low light situations. This photo of the Jeep shows how good the camera can handle low light. The scene was much darker than what it appears to be, you can tell the image has some noise to it even with noise reduction added to it, but look how much detail the photo was able to retain, this is a very usable image.

The phone now has an updated Flash as well with what Apple call it Quad-LED True Tone Flash and its supposed to be 50% brighter than the previous model and its suppose to adjust the color temperature of the environment. 

 iPhone 7 1/120 F/1.8 ISO 25 unedited

 iPhone 7 1/120 F/1.8 ISO 25 unedited

What I have noticed during my testing is that the iPhone tends to slow down the shutter speed as much as it can before raising the ISO, as you raise the ISO the sensor of the camera gets more sensitive to light  causing the image to start getting  grainy and lose sharpness and details. Instead Apple decided to slow the shutter speed to capture more light before raising the ISO too much and that's possible thanks to the optical image stabilization, otherwise images shot at a slow shutter speed would get blurred, like the iPhone 6 used to get.

The front facing camera also received a bump in specs, it now has a 7MP camera which should help you take even better selfies than previous generation. In this image below.. I took a selfie with my sister under some shade with a very bright background and the camera did a good job capturing details on both foreground and background.

Selfie of my sister and I using the front facing camera, unedited!!

Selfie of my sister and I using the front facing camera, unedited!!

Taking a photo is quick and burst mode makes sure you don't miss any action. I'm really happy with how the camera performed, images looks great and you will be able to capture and share fantastic photographs. 

Focusing was accurate and fast to acquire and lock in good lighting and it performed really well in low light situations as well, I've only noticed searching for focus in really tricky situations, overall it's really good and you can adjust the exposure as well while at it. The camera also have the same modes as before, you can create time-lapses, slo-mo video and panoramas, nothing new here. 

RAW Format
If you  have an iPhone 6s, 6s Plus or the new iPhone 7 with IOS 10 installed you can now shoot pictures in RAW under the adobe DNG format. Lightroom for iOS already offers that feature and you can edit images using the app and export to jpeg, unfortunately if you don't have a creative cloud subscription you cannot upload the DNG file to your computer to edit the photos there, but it won't take long until other apps offers the option to shoot in RAW and let you upload the images to your computer. Shooting in RAW is a really welcome feature to the smartphone.

iPhone 7 1/15 f/1.8 ISO 64 unedited

iPhone 7 1/15 f/1.8 ISO 64 unedited

Better than DSLR?
Every time a new iPhone or Galaxy or other high end smartphone comes along people start saying that it will replace DSLRs, I keep seeing people saying that the iPhone 7 is like having a DSLR in your pocket, but let me tell you... "NO" it's not, that's an absurd!! iPhone 7 or a Galaxy S7 and etc. have very capable cameras on them but they are not even close to replace a DSLR, they can't even replace high end compact point and shoot camera for that matter like the Sony RX100 Mark IV. Now, if you come and ask me to recommend a point and shoot for about $200 then my answer would be, do you have a good smartphone? iPhone 7, Galaxy S7, LG G5.... and if the answer is yes, then I would not recommend a cheap camera, unless having lots of zoom is important to you.

In Conclusion
I'm really happy with the new camera on the iPhone 7, I can see myself using more often than ever before. Those who enjoy selfies will be pleased with the bump in resolution of the front facing camera and the quality of the images as well. This phone takes much better pictures than the iPhone 6 and 6s.

One last thing, you don't really need the best camera to take good photos, anyone can take good photos, just be creative, work on your composition, try to send a message through your photos, try different styles, move around to get the best angles, you can take good photos with nearly any camera, just know its limitations and make the best out of it.

Gallery - These images are jpegs unedited.