The iPhone is a REAL Low-Light Beast

Gear //
The iPhone is a REAL Low-Light Beast

The iPhone 7 has changed raised the bar and changed the expectation for apple users.

With 4K video recording at up to 100mbps with third party apps such as Mavis, full HD recording at 120 frames per second, and excellent image stabilization; the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were REAL shooting tools for professionals. I should know because I used my 6s Plus for client work, when appropriate.


Currently, my main camera body is a SONY a7s, which is one of the best performing full frame camera's in low light conditions to date. So I need a phone that can at least hang with it, right?? Apple users have surely been lacking a decent low light camera on their mobile devices. This is a category that Android based phones have dominated forever.

Not that the iPhone 7 is a game changer; heck; the general consensus is that the 7 is not much of an upgrade over the 6 Plus... and that is correct. But clean, low light shooting is something that is a long time coming and I welcome the addition, even though the other camera specs have not improved much.

I even opted for the smaller screen of the iPhone 7 over the Plus because it just felt too big in my pocket when traveling. It also was not discreet enough for decent hip fire shooting and street photography. I found myself fumbling with it much when trying to steal a quick shot. The trade off was my texting which now suffers far more errors.



In the bridge image above I asked my cell phone to do the impossible: shoot a low light image with bright (streetlight) highlights in the image. This scene was shot late at night (during a rare night out drinking for me) in the Calle Largo (bar district) of Historic Cuenca, Ecuador. The lens flare control is amazing in this image! I think I just got lucky because I had a very clean lens and happen to pick a very flattering angle. It also helps very much that the stone bridge was wet, and produced some beautiful reflections.

In the next image, I wanted to show you an example of the camera performing much less than ideal. The lens flare is out of control, the streets don't give me a nice shine, and the dynamic range is way to punchy if you ask me. This image is not my favorite, but I wanted to show that while the iphone 7 is capable of producing great low light images, it is not fool proof. I guess that makes me a fool.



In the gratuitous selfie above, we see that Apple has also made an effort to improve the low light capability on the front facing camera as well. The highlights are handled terribly, but I was almost completely unlit. Very impressive for a front camera if you ask me. I have no clue who the photo bomber is.

The next image of the happy hour board is an example of what the rear camera can do without harsh highlights or backlights. Not bad for a moving (walking) hip fire snapshot with only streetlights to illuminate my subject. Both of these images are completely unedited jpegs.


The final image of this post is another common situation: dark spots during daylight hours. This bakery in Cuenca, Ecuador (OMG the bread smelled so amazing) was well lit up front, but the light fell off significantly every foot back into the shop. There is some VERY decent dynamic range in this jpeg, that is a huge step forward in cell phone camera tech for apple users.

In summary, the apple iphone 7 has two great cameras, but if you already own the 6 plus, wait for the next model as the improvements are very small.