Apple is now rolling out the much-awaited iOS 10.1 update for iPhone and iPad line-up. The biggest beneficiary of this new software would be the iPhone 7 Plus—among other new features and improvements, the bigger iPhone’s camera now gets something known as Portrait Mode. The new feature uses a simulated “bokeh” for portrait photos, by adding the depth-of-field effect. This means that foreground subject, whether it is a person or an object, will be sharp, whereas the background will be blurred out to create its own visual impact. The Portrait Mode takes advantage of the dual 12-megapixel camera on the iPhone 7 Plus.
Till now, the genuine depth of field effect was the sole domain of the much bigger DSLR cameras or even the more compact mirror-less cameras. However, this isn’t the first time we are seeing this feature in a smartphone, performance being a different debate altogether. Most recently, Chinese smartphone maker Huawei took the help of optics experts Leica to implement the algorithms for the dual camera and depth-of-field effect in the P9 smartphone—incidentally, Huawei’s software allows you much greater control over the blur effect.
Incidentally, Apple says that the new Portrait Mode for the camera is still in beta, and improvements will continue to roll out over time.
If you already own an iPhone 7 Plus, or looking to buy one, here is how to get the best fix for the photography enthusiast hidden inside you.
Utilize the optical zoom
Digital zoom in smartphone cameras has killed many photos over the years—it is a crude way of getting close to a subject, by cropping away the frame of the photo step by step. However, because of the physical restrictions that slim smartphones pose, telephoto lens cannot really be deployed. But phone makers have found a way around. This is where the second lens, with a longer focal length than the primary one, comes into play. In the iPhone 7 Plus, the primary 28mm lens is complemented by a 56mm lens as well, which allows for the 2x optical zoom.
Two is greater than one
The Portrait Mode will better utilize the 56mm lens in the iPhone 7 Plus, which allows you to stand much further away from the subject, and yet take portrait shots. In the case of the standard 28mm lens thus far, you needed to get much closer to the subject, and that introduced distortions.
Low light isn’t that low anymore
The iPhone 7 Plus has optical image stabilization, a larger ƒ/1.8 aperture compared to the predecessor and a new 6-element lens that should theoretically be able to reproduce brighter and better detailed photos. This means that you will have much more flexibility for playing around with the exposure settings, and during image editing in general. Plus, the iPhone 7 Plus reproduced darker tones very well, which enhances the overall realism of shots.
We are yet to take the Portrait Mode for a detailed run, but the word of caution is simple—software-based blurring tweaks might not always be perfectly smooth, and there still needs to be a lot more optimization before we can even begin to make any DSLR comparisons which relies on bigger hardware.