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Apple iPhone 6s Plus camera review: smartphone photography at its best

|November 20 2015 |Apple iPhone, Reviews, Apple, Camera Review

"The iPhone 6s Plus packs in new and improved snappers. Is it still the best camera phone?"

iPhone 6s Plus_8

Even though Apple has stoicly refused to indulge in the megapixel count game, the iPhones have widely been regarded as having one of (if not the) best smartphone cameras in the industry. The simple, no-frills interface makes it super easy to just whip out your iPhone and capture the moment – which is frankly what most users are looking for. The 8MP/1.2MP cameras of the iPhone 6 (review) and 6 Plus (review) were starting to feel a bit dated though, which is probably why Apple decided to give the snappers a much needed upgrade with the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. The new iPhones now feature a 5MP FaceTime camera in the front, and a 12MP iSight camera at the rear, which supplemented by a True Tone dual-LED flash. Apple has also taken the selfie craze into account, letting you use the display to act as a 'Retina flash' in low light. The optics at the rear feature an aperture of f/2.2, PDAF (or as Apple calls it, Focus Pixels), a five element lens, Hybrid IR filter, BSI sensor and a sapphire-coated lens cover. The iPhone 6s Plus (unboxing and first impressions | frequently asked questions), which is what we're reviewing, gets an extra in terms of Optical Image Stabilisation, for less blurry shots. The front camera also gets an f/2.2 aperture as well as a BSI sensor.

iPhone 6s Plus_Live Photos iPhone 6s Plus_filters

The simple UI allows for auto HDR and exposure control at both the front and rear, face detection, a timer, a burst mode and a range of live filters. In terms of video recording, the rear camera can capture 4K, slo-mo and timelapse reels. The front camera can record in 720p. And lest we forget, the new iPhones also get an interesting (but not revolutionary) feature with Live Photos, which captures 1.5 seconds of video and sound before and after you snap an image to create moving photos, similar to what we've seen with HTC's Zoe. For the purpose of this camera review though, we're going to stick to a few basic shots most users will be likely to capture, across a variety of shooting conditions. 

Close Up

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There's a reason why people love the iPhone's camera so much, and here's the proof of the pudding. The macro shot above lets you see the subject in sharp, stunning detail, while creating a soft background. Colours are true-to-life, and you won't find any noise creeping in either.

Close Up (Zoomed In)

iPhone 6s Plus_camera review_close up zoomed in

A close crop of the image above reveals just how much detail has been captured. Magnified, you can see the bug in all its tiny glory. The colours and scaling on its body, the little beady eyes, the faceted legs, and even the spiny protrusions on the side are clearly visible. Even the veins and texture of the leaf are plain to see. 

Long Shot

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We captured this long shot from the roof, after the sun finally peeked out following days of rainy weather. You can see all the elements clearly, from the leaves in the various trees, the looming clouds, and even the laundry hanging in the apartments in the background. Zooming in will reveal a small amount of noise, but otherwise we have no complaints.

HDR Off

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Even without the HDR mode, this is a decent image. However, you can see some haziness and washing out, especially around the edges. 

HDR On

iPhone-6s-Plus_image-sample_HDR-on.jpg

Apple's HDR mode has always worked subtly, and in this image, you can see the small, but effective way it's worked. Detail seems to be visibly improved, with the image appearing sharper and more balanced, and the washed out areas brought to life. The change isn't as drastic as HDR modes on some other cameras, but on the plus side, you get very natural-looking results. 

Front Camera

iPhone 6s Plus_camera performance_front camera

With the front camera slowly overtaking the rear, it's no wonder that the FaceTime camera received a significant upgrade this time around. Despite its low megapixel count, the front camera of the iPhone 6 was still among the best, and with the 6s Plus, it's gotten even better. This doggie selfie is sharp and in focus, with natural colours and minimal noise. 

Night Shot

iPhone 6s Plus_camera test_night shot

This night shot has captured all the elements nicely, including the reflection of the lights on the glass. Colours have been retained as well. There is visible softening though, and zooming in will reveal a fair bit of noise. Even so, it's a very usable image.

Low Light

iPhone 6s Plus_camera review_low light

Taken in very poor lighting, this sample suffers from an influx of grain. The camera has cranked up the ISO level though, so you can still make out the subject and background. 

Low Light With Flash

iPhone-6s-Plus_camera-sample_low-light-with-flash.jpg

The True Tone LED flash at the rear features two LEDs – one white and one yellow – for a more balanced light source. Using the flash has illuminated the subject evenly without washing it out, and has banished all traces of noise.

From the images taken above, it's clear to see why the iPhone 6s Plus continues to be one of the best for mobile photography. It might possibly be bested by other heavyweights like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4, but overall, it delivers consistently good results that most users will love. For more on the iPhone 6s Plus, stay tuned for our full review.



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