IPhone 7 Plus: Mobile Photography Game Changer

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iPhone 7 Plus review
the iPhone 7 Plus has a new dual-lens camera with optical zoom (Photo by Brad Moon)

When I upgraded to a new iPhone this round, I also made the jump to the larger size model. My iPad Mini’s display has been failing and I thought I might be able to kill two birds with one stone. But primarily, I was intrigued by the dual-lens camera system Apple put in the iPhone 7 Plus.

It took a long time for the new iPhone to arrive. About a month from the pre-order date (they were apparently in short supply here in Canada). All the while the stores had plentiful stock of the standard-sized iPhone 7, but I waited it out and I’m glad I did.

The new iPhone is fast, responsive, and the display is brilliant. For LED, it’s about as good as it gets. The haptic Home button doesn’t bother me, but the missing iPhone jack still does… Yes, I have a collection of Bluetooth headphones—including some very good ones—but I still love my old Sennheiser Momentums. They work with the Lightning adapter Apple sticks in the box, but I know I’ll lose it. The water resistance is long overdue but very, very welcome.

But what I really cared about was the new dual lens camera. I take a lot of product shots, and I also like to snap pictures during hikes and family trips. It’s not always convenient to lug a DSLR everywhere.

The iPhone 7 Plus has two cameras on its back instead of the usual one. The first is the same wide angle, 12MP, f/1.8 unit found on the iPhone 7. The second has a 12MP sensor with f/2.8 telephoto lens. Both are optically stabilized. You switch between the two by tapping a button on the camera app, and presto—instant optical zoom.

Here’s what the effect looks like. Images have not been cropped.

iPhone 7 Plus zoom camera
iPhone 7 Plus shot in standard mode and optical zoom (Photos by Brad Moon)

In my mind, this is a game changer. Other phones have included this capability before, but Apple’s is the first mass market device with it and I suspect its popularity is going to drive eventual mainstream adoption.

The other cool feature Apple implemented with the iPhone 7 Plus camera is called Portrait Mode. It was recently released in an iOS update, and it adds a bokeh effect (or soft blurring in the background) that’s typically reserved for DSLRs. Here’s what that looks like, with a photo of one my dogs, taken as a regular shot and in Portrait mode. There is a little blurring of the lighter fur on her chest and the tip of her tail, but otherwise it looks pretty good.

iPhone 7 Plus Portait Mode
Willow shot using iPhone 7 Plus standard camera and in Portrait Mode (Photo by Brad Moon)

My one complaint is low light photos. In extreme low light situations, they’re still not great with the new iPhone.

I haven’t had the chance to try the Google Pixel’s new camera, but from what I’ve read it can edge the iPhone 7’s for “best” honors on many fronts. However, it lacks the optical zoom capability and its version of the Portrait Mode seems pretty buggy (although that can be improved through software tweaks).

At any rate, I’m an iPhone guy. I’ve had most of the Android bunch through here on a regular basis—the Galaxies, HTC Ones and others—but I’ve never been tempted to make the switch.

If you’re considering a smartphone upgrade and camera performance is big on your checklist, the iPhone 7 Plus is definitely worth checking out.

And yes, it has also taken the place of that iPad Mini quite nicely. I used it primarily for casual gaming and scanning the news in the morning while I have a coffee and the kids get ready for school. The iPhone 7 Plus is big enough to cover those needs nicely, although I do need my reading glasses for websites that aren’t optimized for mobile.

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